Paradise of mastic gum: Chios, a Greek wonder off coast of Türkiye

I reached Chios, one of the easiest Greek islands to access from Türkiye, from Izmir’s Çeşme Port. When viewed from Çeşme, Chios is just across the water. It was one of the islands I wanted to see the most, and after a 30-minute ferry ride I was able to wave back to Çeşme from across the water on the other side.

Chios is nick-named “the Mastic island” as it is one of the most important places in the world for the production of gum trees and mastic.

The island winks at you from a distance with its untouched coves, clear blue Aegean waters and villages that make you feel as if you are in the Middle Ages.

I recommend you visit the villages and the unspoiled beaches where you can enjoy the sea to the fullest.

Ormos, Lo Giosonas, Agia Dynami, Agia Fotia, Karfas, Komi, Mavra Volia, Nagos and Didymes are a few of the beaches you can visit on Chios. One of the most striking beaches on the island with its volcanic black stones is Mavra Volia Beach.

Agia Dynami was the cove I liked the most and enjoyed swimming in the most.

Chios is just across the water from Türkiye's Çeşme with a 30-minute ferry ride. (Shutterstock Photo)
Chios is just across the water from Türkiye’s Çeşme with a 30-minute ferry ride. (Shutterstock Photo)

Truthfully, no matter which bay you go to in Chios, the sea will not disappoint you. There are no facilities in most of the bays, so I recommend you bring your necessities with you. But this actually made me very happy, I am very glad that the natural beauty of the bays has not been spoiled by facilities. In this sense, throwing a towel on the shores of the untouched bays before throwing myself into the deep blue waters while taking in the lush nature around me when I lift my head with every stroke gives me more pleasure.

Compared to the more popular Greek islands, Chios is not very touristic and stands out in terms of how down-to-earth it is. While walking around its narrow streets, you will see the warm smiles of the locals sitting in front of their doors chatting.

You can see traces of Chios’ multicultural history across the island, which was under the rule of Alexander the Great as well as the Roman, Byzantine, Genoese and Ottoman Empires before becoming a part of Greece in 1912.

In Chios, chewing gum is a very important source of income today and there are many gum trees concentrated in the southern part of the island.

It takes a very difficult production process to develop the fragrant mastic gum, which has an array of uses. While walking around the island, you will come across some trees that have a white powder spread across the soil surrounding them. These trees are gum trees.

At the beginning of summer, the surrounding ground is cleared of weeds and a white soil made of clay is spread. Then twice a week for five to six weeks, crevices are made in the branches and trunk of the tree from where the resin is expected to flow.

Almost all of the houses in Pyrgi, in Chios, are in the
Almost all of the houses in Pyrgi, in Chios, are in the “ksista” style. (Shutterstock Photo)

After the resin is collected, it is cleaned and dried. This process, which takes quite a long time, occurs twice during the season. In other words, mastic gum can only be collected twice a year.

Chios is a must-see not only for sea lovers but also for history buffs.

The Nea Moni Monastery, Chios Archaeological Museum, Chios Mastic Museum, Argenti Folklore Museum, Panagia Krina Church, Chios Byzantine Museum and Apolichnoi Castle are some of the places worth seeing.

You can also visit Armolia, which is known for its ceramic production, Olympi with its narrow streets and Anavatos.

Chios also allures visitors with its medieval villages, where you enter through the doors that open to fairy tales and one can risk getting lost in its streets.

I will touch on two wonderful villages that make you feel like you have gone a thousand years into the past.

One of them is Mesta.

If visiting Chios, do not leave the island without seeing its magnificent historical structures. (Shutterstock Photo)
If visiting Chios, do not leave the island without seeing its magnificent historical structures. (Shutterstock Photo)

Village fortresses, pirates

Mesta is a village that I entered almost bursting through its ancient door. I love towns and villages with entrances like this. Although the village has many entrances and exits, if you want to feel like a time traveler, you can enter by using one of the two gates from the Middle Ages. These doors, which were made for defense purposes nearly a thousand years ago, open up to fairy tales today. Mesta is a village where you can easily get lost but you don’t need to worry about it. Just bask in the atmosphere.

Of course, they didn’t build their narrow labyrinth streets and houses with castle-like walls positioned close together like embroidery so that we could capture magnificent shots. Here, I learned that the maze-like configuration of the streets was so pirates who came to the village would get lost and not be able to reach the important buildings in the center.

The fact that the houses are adjacent to each other without any gaps is not an example of unplanned urbanization from the Middle Ages. The design allowed the villagers to move easily and escape from the roofs of these houses during an occupation.

It is no coincidence that the exteriors of all houses look like a strong fortress.

It seems that this small village, which has been subjected to many attacks, was built like a fortress itself.

The houses in Pyrgi, in Chios, while creating harmony in terms of design throughout the village, offer photographers wonderful frames. (Shutterstock Photo)
The houses in Pyrgi, in Chios, while creating harmony in terms of design throughout the village, offer photographers wonderful frames. (Shutterstock Photo)

Taxiarchis Church, one of the 10 largest churches in Greece, is also one of the places you can visit in Mesta.

A cross brought from the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and icons of angels are exhibited in the church as well as icons brought by Greek citizens from Izmir and Çeşme during the population exchange period. The historical paintings in the church and its renowned icons, particularly the two of Michael and Gabriel, attract the attention of the Christian world.

If visiting Chios, do not leave the island without going to Mesta and seeing this magnificent structure.

While there, climb the stairs leading to the tower and take a look at this labyrinth village from the top.

You can also eat at the cafes and restaurants in the village square, drink frappes and visit the shops selling local products.

You can easily get lost in Chios, but you don’t need to worry about it, just bask in the atmosphere. (Shutterstock Photo)
You can easily get lost in Chios, but you don’t need to worry about it, just bask in the atmosphere. (Shutterstock Photo)

Mastic center

Another must-see on Chios is the village of Pyrgi, one of the best producers of mastic gum on the island.

In Pyrgi, the houses were built adjacent to each other just like in Mesta in case of pirate attacks but now offer a visual feast from a touristic point of view.

At the same time, almost all of the houses were constructed in the “ksista” style, which typically features black and white hand-crafted geometric motifs. While creating harmony in terms of design throughout the village, it offers photographers wonderful frames.

Chios is a place where you can’t ignore the warmth of the locals sitting in front of their doors with their tomatoes hung to dry on balconies, adding even more color to the scene.

In Pyrgi, in Chios, the houses were built adjacent to each other in case of pirate attacks but now offer a visual feast from a touristic point of view. (Shutterstock Photo)
In Pyrgi, in Chios, the houses were built adjacent to each other in case of pirate attacks but now offer a visual feast from a touristic point of view. (Shutterstock Photo)

Language of love

I traveled to Chios for the first time, taking advantage of a holiday break during the bayram holiday.

While getting lost on the side streets of the island, we came face to face with a very sweet smiling grandmother on a bench in front of a house decorated in the ksista style, with her balcony adorned with dried tomatoes.

We greeted each other with our eyes.

She did not speak Turkish or English, and I did not speak Greek.

“Sit down,” she gestured with her hand.

I sat down … We looked and laughed for a long time.

It was as if we had butterflies in our stomachs.

It was as if we were celebrating the bayram together in Chios.

I was almost going to kiss her hand and wish her a happy bayram, I would take the sweets she procured out of her pocket and fill my bag.

She pointed to the camera in my hand, I understood that she wanted to be photographed.

We took pictures together and one of my best memories of Chios was made.

I will say one thing: The feeling of love has no language.

It was possible to agree, to feel loved and love without speaking.

It was very easy to come to an understanding, to come to terms, with the language of love.

So, I returned home, having ticked off Chios from my travel list and left dreaming of a beautiful world where the power of love speaks.

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