Visit the most important Christian monument of the island, the Monastery of Nea Moni, which is declared by Unesco as a monument of a worldwide cultural importance.
The Monastery belongs to the 11th century, the peak of the Byzantine period of the island.
The main church with famous mosaics is very important as well as the Museum, the cistern, the communal dining room are places worth visiting.
It is also worth visiting the Monastery of Aghii Pateres and Aghios Markos in the vicinity.
The Largest of the Medieval Villages
Drive to Pirgi, the largest of the medieval villages in Mastichochoria, famous for the Byzantine church of Aghios Apostolos, the multitude of churches there, and its medieval tower in the centre.
Pyrgi is a touristic attraction and while there, we saw several taxis bringing tourists from Chios port to see this unique in its kind village. They were spread throughout the village taking photos. I talked to some of them and they were in a hurry as their cruise ship was leaving that same afternoon. They told me that they wished they had more time to explore the whole island. They were sorry that they were moving around so fast and said that taxis cost quite a lot.
The most interesting feature of Pirgi are the decorative designs scratched into the exterior walls of the houses, known as scrafitti or ksista. Mostly geometric forms, ksista has gone through several periods and may have originated in Genoa or in Constantinople.
In the Middle Ages the village was a fortified settlement, with defensive walls and turrets at the four corners. There was also a huge tower in the middle of the village. The name of the village, "Pirgí" came from the Greek word for tower, "pýrgos" .
Part of the Central Tower, found in the south was constructed in the Genoan period, and it functioned as the military and administrative centre.
There was no entrance at the ground level, and to entre inside, people needed to use movable stairs or ladders.
Originally the tower had three storeys, and it was 18 metres high. It was abandoned however during the Turkish period, and both the western and easter parts fell off at the earthquake of 1881. The year 1936 the town authority demolished the upper part of the tower fearing that it might collapse.
Another feature of the village are the tomatoes which hang drying beneath many of the balconies of Pirgi, adding a splash of color to the back and white designs on the houses.
Now, according to locals, this village is the ancestral home of Christopher Colombus, and his house is just off the main square with a plaque placed by the European Union. He has lived here for some time. Many people have their last name of Columbus or Couloumbos and it is know that many of Colombus crew were Greek. He was the one who wrote about the healing properties of mastic.
A HISTORIC VILLAGE
VESSA is one of the famous mastichochoria and along with others have the best-preserved fortified settlements of the island. Vessa was built between the 14th and the 16th centuries in order to control and protect the inhabitants and their valuable product which was the mastic resin.
It is really so historical, and picturesque and I was amazed seeing that many of the original houses out here still survive.
Vessa preserves its medieval character and this is the reason I am here to see all this.
The people are really friendly, and I walked throughout the village where I found women in beautiful small gardens chatting with friends. I sat with them and told them that they are lucky that they live in such a beautiful place.
They however told me that they got tired of these houses they live in, and wished they had more modern houses instead. I added that they were so wrong, and because of these very old houses their little town is so unique and beautiful.
Upon reaching the centre of the village you come to a big square with sycamore trees.
The old school now houses a coffee shop. The lady there is called Lemonia.
She runs this small business and is renting the building from the Municipality.
We had lunch and dinner there the 2 days we spent in this village.
The restaurant and coffee shop offers free internet service to its guests.
Vessa is a medieval village that lies in the center of a big agricultural basin and it has a main gate, which is in a very good condition. The area has a well laid-out streets and high narrow buildings that look like towers. Although the fortified surrounding wall has been split, the whole village stone houses remain in a very good condition but many of them are dilapidated and empty. There are many big and wealthy houses in the area that were built by prosperous emigrants. Among the village churches is Panagia, Agios Dimitrios and Panagia Petrousena, which is considered to be the most ancient church of Chios, according to the locals.
If you are driving to the Northern part of the island, be sure not to miss the following:
1. Aghia Markella and villages of northwest Chios
2. The Cave in Aghio Galas.
3. The Ecclesiastic Museum in Kourounia
4. The Fortress of Volissos
5. The ravine in Kampia
6. Nagos village
7. Pitios village and other villages of the Municipality of Kardamyla.
8. The picturesque harbour of Lagada.
Four of the places that you should visit while in the Central part of the island are the following:
1. Daskalopetra (Sanctuary of Kyveli/ Homer's Stone).
2. The Byzantine Monastery Nea Moni.
3. The beach of Karfas with the golden sand.
4. The Medieval villages, particularly Anavatos and Avgonima.
(I had the opportunity to visit the 2nd and 4th, as the other two I will visit in a couple of months when I am back to the island again, and I truly believe that they are unique in their kind, and should by no means be missed).
Places that should be included in your visit while in the eastern part of the island are the following:
1. The Cave in Olympi
2. The Medieval villages
3. The Pirgi village with the art of "Xysta " on the walls.
4. All the villages (Mastichohoria) in where Mastic is produced.
5. The ancient colonization in Emporios.
5. The beach of Mavra Volia.
6. The Temple of Apollo in Fana.
7. The beaches of Lilikas, Komi, and Emporios.
8. The Folklore Museum in Kalimasia.
When you come to the City of Chios try visiting the following:
1. The Fortress
2. The "Korais" Library
3. The Archaeological Museum
4. The Byzantine Museum
5. The Nautical Museum
6. The municipal Art Gallery
7. The southern of the city, the area of Kampos, with the old mansions.
To the north of Chios's city center and the harbor of Chios lies the Castle or Fortress of the town which played an important role in the medieval and modern history of the island as a center of both civil and military life.
This fortress was built in the Byzantine times around the 9th century AD. The original Byzantine structure was incorporated and repaired as it was taken into the later Genoese fortress.
At first, this fortress enclosed the whole city of Chios, but soon the town expanded outside the precinct of its walls to its present size. Their emblem, three towers and an eagle, still exists in towers and battlements, which are in quite good condition.
In Chios there is a 19th century Ottoman mosque that stands near the central square of Chios Town. Until recently it was used as a Museum. The photo shows the façade of the mosque and its minaret. The entrance area was all blocked off so I am sure that the museum and the mosque have been closed.
Since Chios suffered horrible cruelty and slaughter in 1822 by the Ottoman Turks, during the war of Greek independence, I suspect that the locals probably do not care much for this mosque at all.
At the north part of the island, there is an abandoned village up on a hill, its ANAVATOS. If you dont know about it its even hard to see the village.
The state try to keep it alive like a museum so some houses are under restoration (see pic 2). Go early in the morning though because you’re going to be tired walking up there. The story behind this village goes back in 1822 during the revolution war against the Otoman empire when all the locals tried to hide in this village. At the end they found them so most of them felt from the cliff(see pic 3) trying to escape.
Samos was one of the first free islands so people from Chios thought it was a good idea try to do the same against Behit pasa that was asking a lot of taxes in the villages. So, on 10 of March 2500 came from Samo starting the revolution and the otomans went inside the castle of the idland. Unfortunately on 25 of March, 7000 otomans (and then 8000 more) came and killed almost everyone in the island. The population felt down from 100.000 to 2.000!
NEA MONI monastery is the most famous monastery in Chios, build back in the 11th century.
It has gorgeous byzantine paintings. It’s under construction the last years. There is a small museum with treasures in the first floor of a building and you can also see the bones of Saint Matrona, Saint Panteleimon and Saint Nectarios.
There are some old nice buildings. I liked many of the backyards in some of them decorated by pebbles from beach Mavra Volia. The truth is that you will stroll around the town of Chios for many reasons but not for its beauty. There is too much traffic, especially in the seafront. Of course you will stroll around the town of Chios many times for shopping, relaxing at café/pubs or the museums.
Mesta is another village in masticochoria area 35km southwest of the town.
This is probably the best preserved medieval castle in Greece. Stroll around its small cobbled narrow paths and find your way to the central square. It the past it used to be the ideal style of defense architecture.
When in Mesta, don’t forget to visit the church of the Older Taxiarchi, a vaulted one-aisled basilica although the local stold me that there are more than 30 churches!
Pyrgi means tower and took its name because of its tower at the center of the village. Like in every medieval village the tower was used to check out if the enemy was near. The outside walls of the village dont have windows looking outside for protection. The whole village was build inside the walls and that's a reason most of them are small and build side by side.
I have heard about this village situated 25km south of Hora, but it’s even more amazing looking at all these paintings on almost every house of this village, even at the church of the village!
The décor in almost every building of Pyrgi is black and white geometrical shapes at the outsides walls of the houses and they called “Ksysta”, a technique of geometric motifs made by hand on wall with plastering-sand, carefully painted white, then scraped with the designs.
Walk through the narrow cobbled streets. The whole village is very compact and build like a fortress because they wanted to be protected from pirate attacks.