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Greek Islands: Chios
Volissos and West Chios

Monastery Nea Moni, Chios GreeceFrom the traffic-clogged streets of Chios Town you follow the overhead signs towards Avgonyma. Escape is fairly easy once you get past the market area near the port and before you know it you are in the country climbing a pretty steep mountain. First stop is Nea Moni or New Monastery, about 15 kilometers from Chios town. Started by three hermits the monastery is the home of the miracle-working icon of the Theotokos which was found hanging from a tree. The monastery was begun by Constantine the Combatant who was the emperor of Byzantium and completed by the empress Theodora. Decorated with mosaics from the best artists of the 11th Century, many of which survive, the monastery was attacked by the Turks in 1822, its inhabitants slaughtered, and again in 1828. This is one of the most important and interesting religious and national historical sites in Greece and should not be missed for it contains some of the finest examples of religious art in the churches and the museum on the premises. The bones of those killed in the massacre can be seen in the Chapel of the Holy Cross, also within the monastery. One small piece of information. It is advertised as open all day. Its not. Its closed from 1 to 4. We only got to see it from the outside. Go in the morning.

Anavatos, Chios, GreecePast the 11th century village of Avgonima and the island's only Paint Gun Battlefield (listed under eco-tourism for some odd reason in one of the island guides) you come to the (nearly) deserted village of  Anavatos in one of the most dramatic settings of any village in Greece. Perched precariously on a large granite rock on the edge of a cliff, the town was attacked by the Turks in 1822. The inhabitants threw themselves Masada style from the cliff rather than be taken prisoner or butchered. In 1881 the earthquakes that destroyed much of Chios damaged the buildings that had survived. A restoration project has been underway for a number of years and you can walk through the (almost) deserted town. With few survivors there was nobody to repopulate the village and the town has become a national monument. But there are people living here as you will notice as you walk through the streets and see some buildings with doors, and even gardens.

Maria Sarri painting, chios, greeceOne of the inhabitants is the artist Maria Sarri whose beautiful house overlooks the small church at the entrance of the village and has one of the most tastefully decorated gardens you will ever see. One of Greece's most beloved artists she has exhibited all over the world and received many awards. Works of her embellish airports and tourist agencies of Europe and decorate the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Archdiocese of Athens, and the offices of both the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister as well as other public and private places. There is a small cafe-restaurant in Anavatos as well as an information booth. But if you are like me you will head for the sea and a swim before stopping for lunch.

Chios BeachBetween Lithi and Volissos there are a number of beaches. Some like Trachili and Xeropotamos with pebbles and white sand in small coves so blue you can't wait to dive in, others less inviting in terms of color though more interesting if you like snorkeling like Papalia, Gerita and Prastia near the town of Sidirounta. At Papalia there is a small island you can walk to and the rocks make it a good spot for snorkeling and according to the people at the dive shop in Chios town a terrific place for spear-fishing. In Metochi Bay there is a stone beach and a small fish taverna right on the road overlooking the sea that is a popular place to stop that served simple island food and fresh fish. If you want to hold on a little longer continue past the long beach of Managros and follow the signs to Limnos (not to be confused with Limnaria which is right next door) just below the town of Volissos and have lunch at the Limnos Restaurant, right on the beach. Its a clean and well-run place with good food and friendly service.

Volissos, Chios, GreeceVolissos is the ancient city of Voliskos, built on the side of a hill and crowned by a Byzantine castle built by General Velissarius, the leading Byzantine general during the reign of Emperor Justinian I. The city was a center of commerce during the middle ages and after the fall of Constantinople many members of the Byzantine aristocracy moved here. It is also said to be the birthplace of Homer. The town is a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys paved with the pebbles from nearby beaches. In the last few years foreigners have taken an interest and begun buying up the old houses of the village. Its not a bad place to have a house since the nearby beaches are among the best in Chios with the closet one, Managros in Volissos Bay, being one of the longest on Chios. Volissos has hotels, restaurants, rooms to rent, car rentals and many other tourist facilities though it is far from being a tourist town, so far. If you are looking for somewhere to stay Volissos Holiday Homes offer self-catering accommodations with sea-view, free Wi-Fi  and it is within walking distance of Lefkadia beach.

Chios UnexploredVolissos is also the home of Isidoros Tsouros, Ecotourism Operator and founder of Chios Unexplored. Isidoros (known as Sideris by the locals) was born in Athens. In 1992, he made the decision to move to Chios and fulfil his dream. For the next 20 years, Sideris built up a remarkable career as a Lawyer and he was elected President of the local Bar Association twice. In 2005, Sideris purchased a very small but beautiful stone farmhouse called Mourkia, located on the top of a hill outside Volissos village in Chios, Greece. It has been renovated with care for simplicity and respect to its traditional plan. In 2012, a few years after the crisis hit Greece, Sideris migrated to London. However, he never really managed to “fit in” and be socially integrated into the new environment. He frequently felt homesick and that feeling was growing inside of him as time went by. Finally, in 2015 he returned to Chios, determined to get involved with everything that made him happy and whole as a person: The wider Amani area with its traditional architecture and the impressive stone structures, the rare flora and fauna of the island, the old pathways, paleontological findings, deserted beaches and the traditional cooking using local products. His company Chios Unexplored  makes the most of the island’s potential in collaboration with excellent local young experts, in a way that the visitors can experience activities that will leave a positive environmental and social footprint. Activities that are authentic and original and give the opportunity for visitors to experience aspects of the island that cannot be found in tourist guides but, are well known by the locals. For more information see Chios Unexplored

Further north on another long beautiful beach is the Monastery of Agia Markella with its miracle working icon. The panagiri for the monastery is held on July 22nd and is the biggest on the island. People come from all over Greece to celebrate. Further north, about as far north as you can get are the healing waters of the Hot Springs of Agiamata which are said to be very helpful for people suffering from rheumatism. In the town of Agio Galas is a small church called Panagia Agiogalousena built at the entrance of an impressive cave.

Vrontados, Chios, GreeceYou can go back to Chios-town by taking the road from Katavassi which passes through some of the most barren landscape that you will find anywhere. Dotting the miles and miles of bare mountains are these squares of pine forests, each with a name of the organization or people who have sponsored the planting and watering of the trees. Some are twenty years old and others were planted in the last couple of years. The road reaches the end of the mountain known as Marathovouno and begins a series of  hair-raising turns that eventually bring you back to the town of Vrontados, just north of Chios town. But before you get to the bottom, at the first opportunity stop and enjoy the view of the east coast from Vrontados to Chios-town.

For hotels, rooms apartments and houses in and around Volissos see Booking.com's Volissos Page

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