Chios is the fifth largest island in Greece. There is great variation in its landscape and it is useful, for anyone interested in hiking, to have a general idea of the island’s morphology, characteristics and points of interest.
In the south, the terrain is quite smooth, with plenty of cultivated fields in the plains. For centuries, life here has revolved around the mastic trees. The Genoese have left their mark on this part of the island. They organized the “mastichochoria” (mastic villages) to intensify production, fortified them and built a network of vigles (lookout posts) to protect them against the pirates, built their mansions in the Kampos area and introduced the cultivation of citrus fruits. The medieval castle-villages, the vigles, Kambos and mainly the mastic trees are some of the island’s most important tourist attractions today.
The central part of the island is taken up mainly by the bare and imposing Aipos plateau, a landmark of local history, inhabited since antiquity and a point of strategic importance. Due West lies the byzantine monastery of Nea Moni and the now derelict village of Anavatos, the “Mystras of the Aegean”. These are points of reference for the locals and highly regarded by the island’s visitors.
In the northwest lies the region of Amani. The largest settlement is Volissos. The tiny villages of Amani are small and poor, cut off from the rest of the island, due to the distance and the rough terrain. However, the area was famous in antiquity for its Ariousios wine. Even now, there are many vineyards in the countless terraces. There is a large, well preserved network of footpaths connecting the villages of Amani. The old antimony mines in Keramos and the thermal springs in Agiasmata are also well worth the visit.
The northeast is dominated by the Pelinneo mountain, with its peak being the third highest in the Aegean. Many small villages are strewn around the foot of the mountain, while the most important settlement is Kardamyla, home to many seamen. There are quite a few ancient myths and folk stories about this region, which is by far the most unspoiled on the island, with abundant water and great biodiversity.
For nature lovers, Chios is also interesting for its flora and fauna. Its location brings together both european and asian species, while there is a considerable number of endemic plants, mostly wild flowers and aromatic herbs. So, through the seasons, a hiker may come across thyme, oregano, sage, wild lavender, mountain tea (iron wort), dozens of species of orchids and the famous “lalades”, wild tulips that paint the fields red in the spring.
Finally, the 91 beaches of the island are well worth a mention. If you are looking for cosmopolitan sandy beaches with amenities then you will find almost none. Most beaches are secluded, pebbly, with crystal-clear waters. On most of the island’s footpaths there is visual contact with the sea and, if the weather permits, every hiking excursion can be concluded with a refreshing swim.