If there’s one place in the world I could call “home” without ever having lived there, it’s the island of Chios, Greece. It’s always been a special place because it is the place where my mother’s family originated. If I seem partial to it, it’s because I am.
While I’ve spent several weeks over the past few years exploring the island, most people can spend three or four days there and see a lot.
First of all, most people arriving will enter through the airport, just a few kilometers from Chios Town, with daily flights to and from Athens and select other cities on Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air. A list compiled by ChiosOnline.gr has all the necessary transportation links for Chios.
Most ferries come from nearby islands and Athens. There are also some companies offering morning and evening ferries to and from Çeşme, Turkey, which is only 45 minutes away, for under €20 (as of October 2013). Ferries will drop you off at Chios Town.
A car will be necessary if you want to explore the island. Taxis are plentiful, but they can get expensive, and you may be affected by a taxi strike as I was in August 2011. Buses are slow and infrequent, although cheap. An automatic car during the off season can be as low as €30 and €40 during peak seasons (as of October 2013). I use Travelshop, which is located on the harbor in Chios Town. They will even pick you up from the airport or ferry.
Driving on the island is generally safe and easy, but some minor attractions and beaches are not well signposted. Be careful up in the mountains, be aware of crazy drivers who take chances on blind turns, and watch your speed because the road can turn quickly. If you’re not experienced at driving in small villages with roads made for donkeys, it can get stressful. My advice is to park and walk – don’t attempt driving through a tiny village unless you’re prepared to come head to head with another car moving in your direction. Parking is usually free unless you are in parts of Chios Town.
As for accommodation, I’m lucky and can usually crash with relatives when I visit, but for the times I’ve had to use hotels, I’ve stayed at Haus Fay in Emporios and Theoxenia at Agia Fotia. Both are great places, complete with kitchens, wifi, and a TV, but both have different advantages:
- Haus Fay is at the southern tip of the island, which means it can be far from other attractions. It takes a good 45 minutes to drive to Chios Town from there. However, the rooms are very nice and spacious and it’s a short walk to the most famous beach on the island, Mavra Volia. There is also a good selection of authentic Greek tavernas next door. If you don’t plan on seeing much of the island, this is a good, quiet, relaxing place to stay.
- Theoxenia is more centrally located on a popular beach that’s full of action in the summer, Agia Fotia. The rooms are very nice, and the owners, Maria and Dimitris, are wonderful people who were very helpful during my stay with a group of friends. You wake up to the sun in your window and the beach literally a few steps away. The rooms on the top floor are phenomenal with amazing views, and they can sleep three. It’s only a 15 to 20 minute drive to Chios Town or 10 to 15 minutes to the popular resort town of Karfas. No matter what your plans are for Chios, this is a great place to stay.
There are several attractions and museums in Chios that I will list in my posts. A good rule of thumb is that they are closed on Mondays. It’s a good idea to check ahead of time in the low season for the working hours of attractions you plan to visit.
When should you visit Chios? I’ve been at various times throughout the year. In May or June, the weather is great but the sea is still pretty cold. In July and August, it can be super crowded and super hot, making it uncomfortable to be outside at times – although this is prime panigiri season, when villages have traditional festive celebrations with food, live music, drinking, and dancing that can run well into the next morning. In October, the weather can still be good and the sea is warm, but many restaurants close.
In my opinion, the last week of August or the first few weeks of September are the best times to visit Chios. Restaurants are still open, the weather has cooled down a bit from the sweltering August heat, the swarms of people usually leave after the August 15th holiday, and the sea is the perfect temperature for swimming. Another advantage – things start getting cheaper for the low season.