Chios is a unique Greek island with distinct architectural villages, olive and citrus groves, and legendary aromatic mastic trees. It offers a mix of hotels and vacation rentals.
Karfas is a crowd-pleasing resort with a long beach, hotel and vacation rentals, and seaside tavernas. Guests here can feast on seafood and try new water sports at the safe-for-children bay.
Karfas is one of the best places to stay in Chios if laying down on a sandy beach first thing in the morning is a must-have. The tourist-friendly area features hotels and vacation rentals as well as beach cafes and restaurants, a mini-market and a bakery. It’s also an easy drive to the airport and port.
Families will find that Karfas and the surrounding coastal region are a great place to stay in Chios because of their kid-friendly beaches, private pools and play areas. The waters are shallow and calm, making them safe for kids to swim in. In addition, the town has a few restaurants that serve fresh fish and seafood.
The southeastern part of the island is also a good choice for families, as it has more affordable hotels and vacation rental options. Lithi is another family-friendly resort, and its beach has a good selection of water sports and activities.
Couples, meanwhile, can choose to stay in Chios’ hilly interior, where stone-built villages and old mansions have been transformed into boutique hotels with peaceful roof terraces. Kambos, a village set among orange and olive groves, looks different to the rest of the island and has an interesting citrus-based history at the quirky Citrus Museum.
Avgonima is a pretty hillside village with west-facing views and easy access to Nea Moni, an 11th-century monastery famous for its immaculately-preserved frescos. It’s also the gateway to remote mountain peaks and the stunning Cave of Sykia Olymbi, which has an incredible display of dazzling 150-million-year-old stalactites.
The capital of Chios, meanwhile, is a fascinating mix of historic architecture and modern shopping and dining. It’s a great base for exploring the awe-inspiring temples of the Aegean Sea, as well as the historic monastery of Vouliana and the 11th-century Church of Agia Triada. The town also has some of the island’s most cosmopolitan bars and nightclubs, as well as a couple of excellent museums.
A good time to visit Chios is from mid-May through to late October. The warm weather is perfect for swimming and sightseeing, while the mild winter temperatures make hiking and other more strenuous activities possible. July, August and early September are busiest times, when it can be too hot to enjoy some of the island’s attractions.
If you love beach life, the main beach resort of Karfas is ideal. It has a spacious beach, great restaurants and apartments. Families will especially enjoy staying here, since it has everything to offer a vacation with kids. You can try water sports in the safe for children bay, feast on seafood at taverns and relax on the beach. Another popular beach is the secluded Mavra Volia. This is also a great place to stay, but the hotels and apartments are not as big as in Karfas.
The main town of Chios is located around the island’s international ferry terminal. The quay is stocked with trendy bars, tasty gyros shops and top-notch seafood restaurants. A bus station on the water-front connects to beaches, villages and historic sites, while taxis operate within town and across the island.
A range of hotels in Chios is available, from luxury establishments to family-friendly properties and budget options. The best hotels in Chios include Sea View Resorts & Spa and Greek Castle Chios, which is a converted medieval castle that offers a unique experience.
Those on a budget can stay in one of the many hostels in Chios. They’re typically less expensive than a hotel and provide a comfortable bed, shower and kitchenette. Another option is a private room or apartment in the town center, which are often cheaper than renting a whole house.
If you want to avoid high accommodation prices, consider visiting Chios in the off season. The months of May, June, September and October have moderate weather and lower hotel rates. They also coincide with the annual mastic tree harvest, which is worth checking out if you’re interested in watching locals execute this labor-intensive process.
Using an online travel site like KAYAK or HotelsCombined will help you find cheap hotels in Chios. It’s a good idea to book your hotel at least 90 days in advance, as prices will increase closer to the date of arrival. You should also avoid booking a hotel on a Friday, as it’s the most expensive day of the week.
The best place to stay in Chios for a family vacation depends on your travel goals. Families with children are well-served at the beach resorts on the island’s southeastern coast, where hotels offer kid-friendly pools and private beaches. The sheltered bay of Karfas also has calm water and is well-served by beach bars that rent out all kinds of equipment for spending the day on or in the water. The secluded beaches of Daskalopetra and Elinta are another good choice for families looking to get away from the crowds.
Traveling around Chios is easiest by car, which can be rented at the airport or at most of the island’s main towns. A car also gives you freedom to explore the island’s many picturesque villages, which are often a short drive from each other. Public buses line the waterfront and are a good way to save on transport costs, but be aware that they can run less frequently than ferries. Locals and Greek tourists often prefer to hire mopeds instead of cars, as they can easily maneuver the twisty mountain roads between the island’s towns.
Young couples who are eager to experience Greek ‘panigiri’ (fests with live music, food, and drinking) may want to stay close to Chios Town’s nightlife, shopping, and tourist attractions. This area is also a convenient base for exploring the island’s untamed north, which offers old Ottoman hiking trails, wineries, and gorges.
On the northernmost tip of the island, Nagos rises to a peak overlooking the crystalline waters of the Aegean Sea. A cliff-top monastery is a highlight of this picturesque village, which sits in a pine forest and is surrounded by mountains and secluded coves. It is home to many of the island’s finest Byzantine frescos. Accommodation in the village varies from four-star hotels with pool suites to rustic vacation rentals.
Avgonima, a quiet village in the interior of the island, is another excellent option for nature lovers and history buffs. It is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 11th-century Nea Moni monastery, whose immaculately-preserved frescos are some of the most impressive on the island. Its central location also makes it easy to explore other historic sites and churches, including the carved-out church of Agios Nikolaos.
The arid landscape and medieval villages of central Chios are less populated than the beaches and resorts on the island’s south coast, making it an ideal place to stay for peace and quiet. Here you can hike through mastic trees – Chios is the only place in the world where these fragrant plants are grown – and explore ancient castle ruins with no other soul in sight.
The most famous of the island’s ancient mastic-growing villages is Pyrgi, nicknamed the “Painted Village.” Almost every building in this walkable maze of tumbling-stone streets is decorated with dazzling monochrome geometric patterns, a technique known as xysta. The village is also the closest to the Mastic Museum, an engaging and interactive learning center that explains all of the stages of the mastic tree’s cultivation and harvest.
Another walled Byzantine village, Mesta, has a distinctly romantic feel. Bougainvillea saturates the tightly packed stone walls, and the sleepy village square comes to life after sunset when the restaurants open and fairy lights twinkle in the tavernas. The town is dotted with boutique hotels like Lida Mary, where four-poster beds fill medieval cubbyholes and a peaceful roof terrace is the perfect spot for sipping a sunset cocktail.
Inland, Volissos is a rocky citadel town dominated by the 11th-century castle. It’s worth a visit for the views, but it’s especially rewarding in summer when the mastic harvest is underway and locals can be seen performing the labor-intensive process of extracting the resin from the mastic trees.
The best time to visit Chios is between mid-May and mid-October, when temperatures are warm but not too hot. The peak season in late July, August, and September can be too crowded for swimming, hiking, and sightseeing, but the crowds thin out by early October. You might be able to see the mastic tree harvest in action at the Mastic Museum and Nea Moni Monastery, or take part in the three-day Volissos Summer Festival, but accommodation prices are at their highest this period.