Amani, the northwest part of Chios island, is evidence of the dramatic changes in landscape and nature, as well as of the variety of activities that visitors can experience on Chios island. After climbing Aipos mountain and driving across the lunar landscape of Aipos plateau, devoid of greenery and full of white wild rocks, we move on to the mountain range of Amani, which dominates northwest Chios.
The medieval settlement of Volissos is the capital of Amani. It is the largest and most populated village of the area, consisting of three parishes: Pyrgos, with St. George’s churh, Christos, with a church dedicated to the Saviour, and Pythonas, with a church dedicated to the Virgin, where we can find one of the most beautiful squares of Chios.
Volissos is known for the imposing medieval castle that is built on top of the hill. It was the most important fortification of northern Chios and people from the neighbouring villages would seek refuge there in cases of attack. It is said that it was first built in the Byzantine period, by general Belissarius (500 – 565). It has been constantly used ever since, by all the conquerors of the island (Genovese, Venetians and Turks).
Don’t forget to buy bread and rusks from the traditional bakery of the village, made from an old recipe and baked in a wooden oven. You should not forget to try the local spirit, souma, distilled from figs! At the lively cafes of Limnia, the harbor of Volissos, and at the beach bars you can enjoy local pastries, coffee and drinks and signature cocktails!
Holidays in Volissos
As to where you can stay, traditional hotels and rooms to let at the village or at the seaside areas of Managros, Magemena, Limnia, Lefkathia and Limnos offer a great range of services and prices, and can cover all tastes. Volissos is an ideal choice for your holiday in Chios island, as it offers a variety of close and more remote beaches as well as interesting tours and activities from which you can choose. Even more, it is the perfect spot for complete relaxation.
The tour of Amani
From Volissos we set out for the tour of Amani, a drive around the mountain villages of northwest Chios, with the strange names and the hospitable people. Especially at this time of the year, after a very rainy winter, the nature is in full bloom. Yellow Spartium and other wildflowers cover the hillsides filling the air with their delicate fragrance. Eagles and falcons accompany us through the drive.
The area has been sparsely populated in recent years. However, the villages of Amani are filled with people in the summer, especially Chians who now live in Athens or abroad and always return home for the holidays. Traditional festivals and cultural events add colour to Amani’s summer.
We start with a northwest direction, towards Pirama village. On our right we can see the mountain range of Amani and on our left the Aegean Sea. We follow the narrow snakelike, but well preserved road through stretches of low vegetation, olive groves and pastures. The village of Pirama comes suddenly into sight with the medieval tower standing out in the middle of the village. Similar elements of the medieval defensive network can be found in most of Amani’s villages. There are kafeneia (traditional cafes) in almost every village, like in Parparia and in Trypes, the villages we pass by after Pirama, where it would be ideal to stop for a short coffee break.
Melanios is the next village – it is also the point where we pass from the west to the north side of the island. We get a great view of Psara island from there. A tragic event of Chios history took place in Melanios. During the 1822 Massacre of Chios people by the Sultan’s troops a lot of Chians fled to Melanios, where they were slaughtered. Over 20.000 people died there during the Massacre and it is said that the sea water turned red because of the bloodshed. A monument has been erected there to honour the victims, where every year a special memorial takes place.
The area around the Agio Galas cave and the Virgin’s church has been transformed into a multipurpose space that includes the trail from where we access the area, a traditional restaurant near the small river, and children’s area with wooden toys and rope climbing infrastructure. You can also visit small photo exhibitions dedicated to life in Amani area and to the wonders of nature such as the open-air photo exhibition on the life cycle of butterflies that are found in the area. After following the guided tour of the Cave, we relax under the thick shade of the plane trees by the river and we enjoy delicious traditional meze and local dishes, at the cantina run by Anastasia and Dimitris. Refreshed, relaxed and happy, filled with the beauties offered at Amani, we hit the road again.
We pass through Nenitouria village. The vegetation is now thicker and more varied, apart from olive trees we see pine trees and oak trees. Kourounia village is the next village we come across, which is divided in the lower and upper part. Here, as well as in Egrirgoros village, we see vineyards from which the sweet wine of Kourounia is produced. This local wine is connected to Ariousios wine, the famous wine of antiquity. The travellers of the 16th and 17th century, who visited Chios, refer to Amani area as the land of Ariousios. At Egrigoros, we visit the local Ariousios winery, where guided tours on the history of Chios wine and local wine production as well as winetasting sessions are offered.
Driving on, we arrive at Afrodisia and Chalandra villages. At a lower point lies Keramos village, which had a population of 550 people until the middle of the 20th century, because of the antimonium mines that operated in the area. The French company that run the mines built infrastructure at Agiasmata, the beach after Keramos, from where they would ship the mineral. Relics of this infrastructure are still visible at the beach. We also observe the tunnels of the abandoned mines, as we drive through the valley towards the sea.
Apart for the fascinating history of the area, another point of interest here is the Thermal Center, where the visitor can enjoy a therapeutic thermal bath, a relaxing massage and a variety of herbal drinks. The Thermal Baths of Agiasmata use the natural thermal springs of the area to offer thermal baths that help treat a range of health issues.
The ghost village of Palia Potamia
Heading back to the road to Volissos we come across, Palia Potamia, one of the most impressive abandoned villages of Chios island. This village was abandoned in early 60s because the villagers suffered due to lack of sunlight. They built the new village, namely Nea Potamia, on the road to Volissos. A detour there will lead us to the village of Pispilounta. Palia Potamia with its eerie atmosphere consists a very interesting hike for the visitor, as we can observe the old village’s architecture as well as houses with the whole household intact.
Mountain and sea, wild nature and tastes that bring memories back, legends and history. This is Amani and one visit is not enough to get to know it and uncover its secrets. We always return here, as Amani is our home.