The 24 villages from where mastiha is harvested are known as Mastihochoria or Mastic Villages. Unchanged since Byzantine times, these charming villages are a must-see when visiting Chios island.
Mastiha is a famous resin, which is known for its strong flavour and natural therapeutic benefits. It’s cultivated exclusively on Southern Chios and used in everything from desserts and liqueurs to beauty products and gum. Having been exported to all parts of the world since the Middle Ages, the Masticohoria were fortified with walls and watchtowers to protect supplies of this precious resin from smugglers and pirates. Each one has its own unique beauty and we’ve put together a list of the most picturesque.
This is the largest in the complex and is referred to as the painted village, as it’s filled with black or grey and white geometrical decorative motifs on the facades of the buildings. Labelled “Xysta” they are created by a plastering-sand applied to the wall, which is then carefully painted white, and finally scraped with the designs. While here, also visit the ubiquitous village clock tower rising above the town and the beautiful Byzantine-era church of Agioi Apostoloi (Holy Apostles). We should also mention, it’s believed that Christopher Columbus is descended from a family in Pyrgi, and some claim he lived here.
This small scenic village with vaulted archways is located 35 km southwest of Chios Town. It’s the best-preserved medieval village on the island and the houses are built attached to each other, forming a fortified wall. The charming narrow cobbled alleys lead to the central square, where you will find a local hotel, a few shops, and restaurants. Here you will also discover Megalos Taksiarhis (church of the Archangels) which is the largest Greek Orthodox church on the island and one of the biggest in all of Greece. It was built in the mid-1800s, at the same place where the original castle tower was also built.
This village was established in the 13th century and stands out for its remarkable architecture. The houses are built in a way where the outer walls are conjoined, so that anyone facing the village will see a fortress with no visible openings, except for one door that allows people in and out; this door is located at present-day Kato Porta. Boasting narrow cobbled streets, there is also a 20 metre high tower that stands at the center of the village, which was used for defense in case of a pirates attack; today, the tower houses a nice restaurant. Also visit Agia Paraskevi church, the Trapeza of Olympi, and the Cave of Olympi, close to Sykia village; it dates back almost 200,000 years and has wonderful stalactites and stalagmites formations.
Around 19 km from Chios town is the village of Vessa, which is dominated by castles. It’s worth wandering around the narrow streets to admire the striking architecture of the mansions, which have remained intact. Also, visit the church of Agios Dimitrios to view its beautiful icons.
The streets of Kambos are narrow and surrounded by the tall walls of the mansions. The arch gates with heavy wooden doors lead to the main garden. Many of the restored mansions are used as guesthouses, which are very popular with local and international visitors who gather over summer and spring when the entire area is blossoming with citrus trees.
This is one of the largest villages, located in the southeast part of the island. Visit Varvakas, the centre of the settlement, plus the church of Agia Paraskevi and Panagia Agrelopousaina. Also, make your way to the temple of Profitis Ilias and at the top of the hill, you will be able to enjoy an incredible view of the island.
Cover image @izkiz