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Lying within sight of the Turkish mainland, Chios is (by Aegean standards) a big and prosperous island. Its rolling hillsides are covered with olive groves, vineyards and mastic plantations which made the island wealthy during the Ottoman era. Chios is also the ancestral home of several of Greece’s leading ship-owning dynasties, many of whom maintain holiday villas on the island, and its main port bustles with merchant shipping and, in summer, a scattering of opulent yachts. There is little to remind you of the ancient world, but Chios has more than a few relics of its years as a fief of the Giustiniani, a medieval Genoese trading clan who controlled many of the North Aegean islands, and as part of the Ottoman Empire (the island was liberated and became part of Greece only in 1913).
Chios Town (also referred to as ‘Chora') is a surprisingly modern city. With a crescent harbour overlooked by office blocks, warehouses and workshops; it is dominated by the forbidding walls of the Kastro. This Genoese castle partially encloses an old quarter of narrow streets, tall stone houses with wrought iron balconies and shuttered windows, and drinking fountains bearing Koranic inscriptions that hint at their Turkish ancestry.There is plenty to do on and around the island - from active pursuits to sightseeing and relaxing beach time.
Chios has more than a dozen good beaches, ranging from stretches of white and black pebbles to bays of coarse sand. The busiest are those closest to Chios Town, and most have a range of places to stay and eat.
With its strong culinary tradition and an equally strong Greek clientele, Chios is one of the best islands on which to sample authentic Greek cooking, and has an excellent assortment of tavernas and restaurants. A meal usually begins with an assortment of cold starters, or "meze", before proceeding to the more substantial main courses. The best tavernas are located in Chios Town, with a number of summer-season beach tavernas catering to those staying at the island’s scattering of beach resorts.
Cafes are abundant on the island, many serving food and coffee during the daytime and slowly transforming into lounge bar-type evening venues as the sun begins to descend. There are quite a few stylish cafes in and around Chios Town dotting the waterfront and harbor area.
Like most Greek islands, Chios has a short summer season. Its discos and music clubs really flourish from mid-June until the end of August and there is no guarantee that all of last summer’s hot spots will reopen the following year under the same name and the same management – or even reopen at all. For a real Greek evening, visit an "exoxiko kentro". These countryside venues combine open-air dining with live music, singing and traditional dancing (by patrons as well as professional performers).
Chios is famous for its mastic products, including pure mastic gum and loukoumi sweets, all of which are sold in shops all over the island. It is also known for the best ouzo in Greece, and this high-octane, fennel-flavoured liquor is also on sale everywhere. Pistachio nuts and almonds are also plentiful. In several of the masticochoria villages, including Thimaina, Amolia and Notiochori, local Women’s Associations run folk art shops which sell traditional pottery, embroidery and woven fabrics.
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