Celebrated for its rare and indigenous mastic tree, the island of Chios in the northeastern Aegean Sea to this day maintains a romantic flair reminiscent of medieval times in a number of its well-preserved villages.
Located in the southern part of Chios, along with the mastic tree groves, the island’s medieval villages include Mesta, Armolia, Kalamoti, Olympi, Elata, and Pyrgi, among others. Appropriate to the times when the conquering of other nations was a popular sport, these villages were built in a special way as to protect inhabitants (and their cherished masticha) from pirates, invaders, and other unwelcomed guests.
When visiting some of the more preserved settlements, you will notice details that clearly suggest that the architecture of these villages follows a defense protocol, with fortresses, strong stone walls, winding maze-like paths, and more. Following such tradition, these villages were built around a central fortress, with residences and other structures erected wall to wall, allowing just enough space for stone paths that connected one part of the settlement to another.
Though many were hurt by earthquakes that have struck Chios in the past, a number of the island’s medieval villages still stand today. Some of the most impressive are Olympi, Pyrgi, and Mesta. At the scenic village of Mesta, enjoy exploring the winding paths nestled tightly between imposing stone walls and arches. At Pyrgi, you’ll find one of the island’s most beautiful settlements characterized by uniquely decorated houses etched with geometrical and ornamental designs in the colors of white and gray. In the 13th century village of Olympi to the southwest of Chora is a collection of historical structures built in the middle of a green valley.
When visiting Chios, experiencing a walk through the history-filled paths of at least one of these medieval settlements is a must. And don’t forget to bring your camera!