Chios in detail


Worth a Trip: Inousses, Tycoons' Hideaway

Just northeast of Chios Town, serene Inousses is the ancestral home of nearly a third of Greece’s shipping barons (the arhontes), whose wealthy descendants return here annually for summer vacations from their homes overseas. Their desire to keep the island for themselves partly explains the scarcity of accommodation on the island.

Inousses was settled in 1750 by ship-owning families from Kardamyla in northeastern Chios, some of whom amassed huge fortunes during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Traces of this history linger in Inousses’ grand mansions and the ornate family tombs of the Mausoleum of Inousses, high above the sea in the leafy courtyard of Agia Paraskevi Church.

Although Inousses is little visited, it does get lively in summer, with an open-air cinema, friendly residents and a buzzing night-time waterfront. The island’s port attests to its seafaring identity. Arriving by ferry, you’ll see a small, green, sculpted mermaid watching over the harbour. In the port, the striking statue of Mitera Inoussiotissa (Mother of Inoussa), a village woman waving goodbye to seafaring men, is incredibly photogenic at sunset.

The island's main attraction, the Nautical Museum of Inousses showcases the collection of local shipping magnate Antonis Lemos. Many of the models on display (some intentionally half-completed then set flush against a mirror so that you 'see' the whole vessel) were made by French prisoners of war during the Napoleonic Wars. There’s also a swashbuckling collection of 18th-century muskets and sabres, a WWII-era US Navy diving helmet, a hand crank from a 19th-century lighthouse, and paintings of Nazi submarines attacking Greek sailing vessels.

Inconveniently for travellers (but conveniently for locals), the daily ferry Inousses ferry (€5, one hour) leaves Chios Town in the afternoon and returns early next morning. You can construct a day trip with the help of a large ferry, Nissos Samos, that calls at both islands in the evening once a week.

In July and August, agencies such as Sunrise Tours run day trips to Inousses out of Chios Town (€20 to €50), which is how most people come to the island. Otherwise you can use water taxis out of Langada or consider staying overnight. The latter is easier said than done: the only reliable accommodation option is – quite aptly – a luxurious shipowner's villa and three cheaper flats that go under the collective brand of Evgenikon. You'll have to commit to a three-night stay.

Worth a Trip: Psara, Island of Heroes

Celebrated Psara is one of maritime Greece’s true oddities. A tiny speck in the sea 16km northwest of Chios, this island of scrub vegetation, wandering goats and weird red-rock formations has one settlement (also called Psara), a remote monastery and pristine beaches.

Psara looms inordinately large in modern lore. The Psariot clans became wealthy through shipping, and their participation in the 1821–29 War of Independence is etched into modern Greek history, particularly the daring exploits of Konstantinos Kanaris (1793–1877), whose heroic stature propelled him, six times, to the position of prime minister.

Kanaris’ most famous operation occurred on the night of 6 June 1822. In revenge for Turkish massacres on Chios, the Psariots destroyed the Turkish admiral's flagship while the unsuspecting enemy was holding a post-massacre celebration. Kanaris’ forces detonated the ship's powder keg, blowing up 2000 sailors and the admiral himself. However, as on Chios, their involvement sparked a brutal Ottoman reprisal, assisted by Egyptian and French mercenaries, that decimated the island in 1824.

Psara village is tucked within a long bay on the island’s southwest. When you disembark the ferry, you can’t miss the jagged Mavri Rachi, or ‘Black Shoulder’, the rock from which thousands of Psariots are said to have hurled themselves during the 1824 Ottoman assault.

In the centre of Psara village is the Monument to Konstantinos Kanaris, where Greeks honour their national hero; he's actually buried in Athens while his heart is kept in the Naval Museum in Piraeus. The hyper-photogenic wall of a ruined Ottoman-era mansion on the waterfront looks like a stone version of Edvard Munch's The Scream, or a web-chat emoticon.

Psara’s main cultural attraction, the Monastery of Kimisis Theotokou, 12km north of town, is a smallish chapel surrounded by protective walls; it contains rare hieratic scripts from Mt Athos and a sacred icon that is paraded through the village on the night of 4 August. In all, there are 67 chapels across the island, each cared for by a local family.

There are only a couple of domatia on the island, the better one being Studios Psara at the back of the village. For a truly romantic sunset dinner, head to the old quarantine building on the far side of the quay, which now houses the excellent Spitalia.

The incongruous Psara Glory leaves Chios Town in the late afternoon on working days and returns early next morning (€12 return, three hours). The larger Express Pegasus frequently calls at Psara on the way to Limnos and the mainland port of Lavrio, or as it returns to Chios.