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NORTH AEGEAN ISLANDS

INTRODUCTION 

The beautiful natural scenery, the crystal-clear waters, the traditional villages with stone houses, the rich history, the delectable cuisine, the dense vegetation, and the forests with the gurgling springs, transform all the Northern Aegean islands into the most ideal holiday destinations for those looking for a peaceful yet quintessentially Greek experience.

Here, you’ll find islands that are not usually advertised on social media or talked about among people who lean on tourist magazines to find their holiday haven. Regardless of being on the down-low, however, and maybe even because of that, the Northern Aegean islands will offer you everlasting memories and unforgettable moments you will treasure for the rest of your lives.

HISTORY

From the Mesolithic Age, the North Aegean, as indeed the entire Aegean, ceased to be an obstacle and became a bridge joining the inhabitants of the region. Shipping, trade, economy, culture and social interactions developed in the archipelago and surrounding areas on the basis of communication and contact between the inhabitants. This was especially true after the permanent settlement of the islands 5000 years BC.

 

The islands of the north Aegean were in such a position that shipping and trade contributed greatly to the development of a significant culture. The culture reaches its peak around 3000BC. The growth of settlements such as Poliochnis in Lemnos, Emporiou in Chios and Iraiou in Samos, amongst others, are evidence of the importance of these centers at this time.

By ca. 2000 BC the Ionians had installed themselves in Chios while Samos and Lesvos are in the hands of the Achaeans. In the late 12th and early 11th centuries BC, a time when vast numbers of the people moved to Greece, the Aioleis arrived in Lesvos.

From the 8th to the 5th century BC the islands enjoyed great prosperity in their economy, trade and the arts. The islands were conquered by the Persians in the Greco-Persian Wars in the 5th century BC. After their release in 468 BC they made an alliance with Athens. However, during the Peloponnesian War (429-404 BC ) their allegiance swayed between Athens and Sparta. During the Byzantine era there is calm in the North Aegean, but from the 7th century on this was disrupted by Arab raids.

 

The fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the founding of the Ottoman Empire resulted in a period of destruction, plundering and persecution for the islands. The occupation also led to the decline of the Christian population. In the early 16th century, the islands began to enjoy a period of prosperity.

 

The inhabitants of the islands were actively involved in the Greek War of Independence and the emergence of leaders in the struggle such as Lykourgos Logothetis, Konstantinos Kanaris and Dimitrios Papanikolis brought about reprisals from the Turkish authorities. The massacres of Chios in 1822 and Psara in 1824 brought attention from European powers which helped the Greek cause.

 

However, due to their position, close to the Asia Minor coast, the Turks did not let go of their hold on the islands easily. It was not until 1912 when the islands of the north Aegean were finally incorporated into the Greek state during the First Balkan War.

CLIMATE

Average daytime & nighttime temperatures:

north aegean climate

North Aegean is one of the coldest regions in Greece with an average daily high temperature of only 22 degrees centigrade. In 6 months the average temperatures are over 25 degrees. Pleasant water temperatures of up to 23 degrees even invite you to take a bath in the warm season. Due to the warmer temperatures the best time for traveling is from June to August. Less attractive are the cold months from November to April.

HIGHLIGHTS

GASTRONOMY

The island group of the northern Aegean, consisting of nine larger islands and as many smaller ones, is scattered across the meeting point between Europe and Asia: Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Limnos, Ikaria, Fourni, Oinousses, Psara, Samothrace, Aghios Efstratios and more.

Some are more fertile than others. Limnos features granaries and endless pastureland, others have sand dunes and vast meadows, and some, such as Lesvos, stand out for their diverse terrain, with olive groves that stretch as far as the eye can see, and mountains that reach as high as 1,000m above sea level.

On Chios, the plains are redolent with the scent of citrus trees; this island is also where the mastic trees thrive, with their precious “teardrops” of resin, which is used to produce everything from chewing gum to essential oils. Hedges and shrubs, thyme and fig trees are characteristic of Psara, while Samos features dense vegetation, woods with fruit trees and plane trees, as well as vast vineyards. On Limnos, the locals breed rabbits, keep flocks of sheep and goats, and a few cattle. On Lesvos, they produce several varieties of ouzo and fragrant wines.

chios

CHIOS

Famous for its medieval villages, diverse landscape, beaches with wild beauty and ‘miraculous’ masticha, Chios, in Greece’s North Aegean Island chain, is a place of hidden treasures found around every corner. Chios has made quite a name for itself with its mastic villages and proud sea captains. And yet, it’s one of the most unexplored islands of the North Aegean, full of secrets, surprises and hidden gems. Blessed by nature and history, it is fragrant, authentic and irresistible. All the ingredients for an unforgettable holiday in the Aegean. • Head to Kambos, the fertile valley at the heart of Chios: Chios’ most aristocratic families once lived here, in the island’s most fertile valley, and it is where the Genovese built their mansions in the 14th century. • Visit the mastic villages and unearth Chios’ greatest gift Discover the Byzantine past of abandoned Anavatos: An unforgettable sight, the once fortified village of Anavatos lies in ruin, but it still clinging defiantly to the side of the cliff, offering a reminder of Chios’ medieval past. • Discover the 20 mastic villages on the south side (Pyrgi and Mesta, followed by Vessa, Armolia, Nenita and Patrika) of the island Chios, where the rare masticha trees are cultivated; the handsome, stone dwellings of Anavatos near the cliff; and the wonderful yellow-red stone of the 19th and 20th-century villas in Kambos. • Experience the ‘rocket wars’ of Vrontados: is famous for its rocket wars (roketopolemos) which happen every Easter, when thousands of rockets are fired from opposing camps, creating an incredible spectacle across the night sky. The masterful mosaics of Nea Moni Monastery: The most important monastery on Chios, and one of the most notable in Greece, the Nea Moni monastery was established in 1024 by the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachos. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the mosaics by the altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary are amongst the most beautiful in the world. • The treasures of the north: Pelinaio, is full of picturesque villages and dirt roads leading you to some of the island’s most secluded beaches. If you’re looking for a suggested route, try Kardamila-Nagos-Amades-Viki-Kambia-Kipouries-Diefha. • Medieval Castle: Its construction started in the 10th century by the Byzantines and went through some reconstructions by the Venetians in the 16th century. Today it is an impressive and strong building that reminds the historical importance of Chios. • Best Beaches: Emporios Mavros Gialos beach, Agia Irini beach, Managros beach, Tigani Makria Ammos beach, Giali beach, Merikounta beach, Vroulidia beach, Didima beach

lesvos

LESVOS

The island was named after the mythical legend Lesvos, who came over from Lapithes, Thessaly and married a daughter of the settler King Makara in Mithymna. The magnificent island of Lesvos is the third largest of the country. Enjoy the mild mediterranean climate, the rich flora and fauna, the springs, the olive groves, the petrified forest, the picturesque traditional villages, the delicious local products (such as ouzo and olive oil) and the island’s subsequent architecture to the 19th century industrial development. Throughout the ages, Lesvos contribution to the arts is priceless. During antiquity and contemporary times, prominent members of the arts and politics, were born on this particular island. For example: Sappho (poet), Alcaeus (poet), Arion (poet and musician), Terpander (poet). •The villages of Lesvos are an open and hospitable embrace for all. It is worth visiting the following: oPlomari: The homeland of ouzo, with a central market buzzing with life and old coffee shops serving traditional Greek coffee. oAgiasos: A preserved traditional village on the slopes of Mount Olympus. In its cobblestone streets, you’ll find shops selling wooden sculptures and fabrics. Visit the Church of Panagia with its miraculous icon that dates to the 4th century. oPetra: One of the most impressive villages in Lesvos, with an incredible view from the Church of Panagia. oSkala Sykamias: The old stately houses will impress you, as will the chapel of Panagia Gorgona. oAsomatos: Keep an eye out for the wooden sculptures and homemade jams and sweets. oMantamados: Famous for its fresh dairy products and ceramics. Visit the potters in their workshops and discover how they create their works with the wheel. In the same area, outside of the famous Taxiarchis Monastery, you’ll find a picturesque coffee shop serving delicious loukoumades (traditional doughnuts) and other local products in the shade of the plane trees. oAgia Paraskevi: Famous for its ‘Bull Festival’, organized during the last weekend in June. oSigri: The revival of the custom of Ai Yianni Klidona occurs on the July 24, followed by a folk festival where fires are lit and the locals jump through the streets of the village. •Visit the unforgettable beaches: oIn Molyvos, you’ll find organised beaches with beach bars, and you’ll feast on fresh fish at the nearby tavernas. oIn Eftalou, you’ll enjoy the thermal springs as well as the clear water of its famous beach. oIn Tarti, at the Gulf of Gera, eat fresh seafood at the little tavernas. oIn Skala Kalloni, with its beautiful beach, you’ll drink ouzo and try the famous sardines of the same name. oOn the western side of the island, at Sigri, you’ll swim under the castle, while surfers will opt for the nearby beach of Faneromeni. oYoung groups of friends gather at the organised beaches of Skala Eressos, Kanoni and Agios Ermogenis near the capital. oFor family-friendly holidays make your way to Petra, Vatera beach with all the facilities needed for water sports, Anaxos with its tavernas and view of Molyvos Castle, as well as the organised beach of Tsamakia, near Mytilene. oFor those that prefer seclusion, choose the beaches of Tsonia, Chrousso, Chryssi Akti and Antissa. •Lesvos is allegedly the homeland of Pittakos, one of the seven wise men of antiquity. The island's history is also connected with the story of the well-known poets Alkaios and Sapphous. •Archaeological sites: The Ancient Theatre of Mytilene, in the area of Kamares, was built in the early Hellenistic years and had a capacity of 10,000 spectators. The Ionic temple of Messa, near Agia Paraskevi, is one of the most significant monuments and attractions of Lesvos, together with the Ancient Temple of Klopedi, near Agia Paraskevi, and the Roman Aqueduct at Moria, just outside the capital. •Monasteries: The Monastery of St John the Theologian looks like a fortress and, because of its position on the summit of Mount Ordymnos, is called ‘Ypsilos’ (High). The Monastery of Pammegiston Taxiarchon, built in the 16th century. • Thermal springs and waterfalls: 14 waterfalls can be found around the island and at the thermal springs of Thermis, Lisvorios, Gulf of Gera, Eftalou, and Polihnitou. In the area of Eressos, in a large olive grove, there is a meditation centre that provides the treatments of the famous Indian mystic and philosopher, Osho.

lemnos

LEMNOS

An island of sheer beauty, which was shaped by volcanic eruptions in the distant past. It is a place with a centuries-old history, and a popular holiday destination that will capture your heart - the perfect place to chill out. You will see imposing rock formations, peculiar volcanic landscapes, rolling green hills, extensive plots of fertile land, huge sand dunes, and wetlands brimming with life. The winding shoreline stretches and curves for 259km, shaping the island’s sheltered coves, picturesque little harbours, and golden sandy beaches washed by crystal-clear waters. The beauty of this diverse uneven landscape is quite impressive. The island is home to archaeological sites, fortresses, traditional villages, hospitable locals, and a particular & delicious cuisine among the best in the Aegean Sea. • The castle in Lemnos’ principal town – one of the best-preserved in the Aegean – occupies a steep, rocky promontory flanked by two seaside neighbourhoods – the Romeiko (Greek) and Turkiko (Turkish) Yialo (shore). It was erected by the Byzantine emperor Andronikos I Komninos (1118-1185) on the site of older walls, most probably ancient. • The petrified forest, the likes of which exist only on island of Lesvos and in Arizona, and 18th-century towers in the countryside will transport you to another time. • Visit the Church of Panagia Kakaviotissa : This little chapel, located near the village of Thanos, is nestled inside a rock cavity by the peak of Kakavos Mountain. Founded in 1416, the church was used as a shelter for monks and hermits. • Glamp at Keros Beach: One of the island’s most popular beaches, ideal for wind sports, Keros is home to a kitesurfing and surfing centre where luxury safari tents and bungalows are available for rent. Sleep close to nature without sacrificing comfort and wake up to one of the best views on the island. • Visit one of the archaeological sites on Lemnos: The ancient site of Ifestia (or Hephaistia) is located in the north of Lemnos and was founded by the Pelasgians. The second largest town of the island during Antiquity, it used to be an important religious centre until early Christianity. Visitors can admire a cemetery, ancient baths, a Hellenistic theatre and the remnants of a palace. The ruins of a sanctuary devoted to the Great Goddess can be seen, proving the religious importance of the site. • Pop by the Archaeological Museum: Here, you will learn the history of the island, from the copper era (Neolithic period) to the medieval times. Collections include finds from the island’s major sites: Poliochni, Kabeiroi, Imbros and Hephaistia, such as ancient craters, statuettes of sirens as well as archives from the population exchange of 1923. • Check out the cave of Philoctetes: An underwater cave where in Ancient Greek mythology, Philoctetes, the son of a king in Thessaly, was abandoned by his fellow Greek warriors en route to the Trojan War. • Discover the rock formations at Falakro: Cape Falakro with its red rock formations contrasting with the turquoise Aegean waters and the soft surrounding sand. • Beaches: Mikro Fanaraki, Megalo Fanaraki with some great sand dunes, and Havouli. The beach of Kotsinas is a great beach very popular with families. Keros is a great beach for lovers of windsurfing and kite-surfing. Very close to Myrina you will also find the organized beaches of Platy and Thanos. • Lemnos is a place of incredible beauty with wonderful greenery and unique landscape variety, even for the most demanding travelers.

CHIOS

• Masticha Chiou: a traditional product made for many years exclusively on the island of Chios in Mastichochoria or the so-called 'mastic villages'. It is a resin obtained from the mastic tree of Pistacia lentiscus kind. It is known as the 'tears of Chios' because it is produced in tear-shaped droplets. • Mastelo Cheese: There are two types of Mastelo – one is made from Chian cow's milk, and the other one from goat's milk. The cow's milk version is white in color, with a milky aroma and a smooth texture. The flavors are slightly salty and milky. It has a high melting point, making it great for grilling. It's also especially suitable for saganaki fried cheese meze. • Souma: this Greek spirit is distilled from sun-dried and fermented figs in traditional copper stills, similar to those used for making ouzo or raki. • Mandarini Chiou: This variety of mandarins is among the most aromatic in the world. Even when they are unripe, the persistence of their aroma will make anyone love them at the first bite. • Mamoulia: Greek cookies that have been traditionally prepared on the island of Chios, although they are also commonly eaten on other Greek islands. To make the cookies, a dough of flour, butter, fresh milk, sugar, eggs, olive oil, baking soda, baking powder, and brandy is shaped into small balls which are stuffed with a mixture of finely chopped nuts. The filling typically consists of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and confectioners' sugar, and it is usually flavored with flower water, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. • Tsikla Chiou: a type of chewing gum made from Masticha Chiou mastic tree resin, softeners and sugar. • Kopanisti: This cheese is traditionally produced from cow's, goat's, or sheep's milk, or a combination of the three taken from breeds reared on the Cyclades in the southern Aegean Sea. The diet of the animals is based on the area's endemic aromatic plants, which affect the flavor of their milk. • Masourakia : a traditional Greek dessert hailing from Chios. It consists of buttered phyllo kroustas (thin Greek pastry) that's rolled around a filling of mastic-flavored ypovríchio (a Greek sweet, also known as submarine), ground almonds, egg whites, and mandarin or lemon zest. The pastry rolls are baked until crispy and lightly browned, and they are then either dusted with powdered sugar or soaked in flavored syrup before being coated with nuts (usually ground almonds) and sprinkled with powdered sugar on top. These sweet, crispy rolled pastries are commonly prepared for Christmas. • Kordelia: a traditional Greek dish that consists of homemade pasta ribbons made with flour, fine semolina, salt, and whole milk instead of water. These Greek-style pasta ribbons are cooked in salted water, and then they’re usually enjoyed with a simple tomato sauce and plenty of local grated cheese on top. Typical varieties of cheese used for sprinkling atop the pasta dish include myzithra, kefalotyri, or Pecorino Romano. • Fresh Juice Kampos: They contain 100% fruits and no other ingredients, a reason why it is considered the healthiest juices in Greece. • Fresh Chios Beer

LESVOS

• “Sougania” stuffed onions with minced meat and rice • “Sfoufgato” omelet with zucchini and herbs Grilled wrapped in vine leaves sardines and cabbage wraps with cod fish, carrots and celery. • “Giouzlemedes” cheese pies, choose among sweet or salty; • “Hahles” trachana in shape of small boats with tomato, feta cheese and olive oil • “Plantzeta” (a syrupy pastry with almonds or walnuts sprinkled with cinnamon)

LEMNOS

• Rooster with Flomaria: Rooster and Flomaria noodles boiled in tomato sauce. The recipe contains garlic, oregano, onions, laurel, salt and pepper and can also be prepared in the oven. • Kilikia : Snail shaped pastries made of corn flower that are filled with feta cheese, sprinkled with sesame seeds and baked in the oven. • Pumpkin Pie: An extraordinary pie stuffed with pumpkin, local kalathaki cheese, eggs, onions and spices. A pie with no crust top that will tickle your taste buds. • Venizelika: Usually offered in weddings, Venizelika is a different version of chocolate fudge treats with almonds and vanilla icing. • Katimeria: Another delicious treat, Katimeria are a local version of pancakes with cheese, honey or syrup usually accompanied by wine. • Kalathaki: a kind of white hard cheese. • Salamoura feta cheese Gyftofasoula a kind of salad with raw string beans

WHY?

  • Castles and noble mansions, wild beauty and mysterious ancient rituals, majestic mountains and sensational sea.

  • Beaches of virgin beauty.

  • A date with history and mythology.

  • Harnessing the power of nature.

  • Delectable Mediterranean flavours.

  • Lesbos: The Island of Poets

  • Lemnos: The Island of the Amazons

  • Chios: The Island of Mastica

  • Ikaria: The Island Where Time Stands Still

  • Samos: The Island of Fine Wine

  • Samothrace (also spelled Samothraki): The Island of Winged Victory

MAP OF NORTH AEGEAN ISANDS

map of north aegean islands
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