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Butterflies & dragonflies of Chios island, Greece

Nature lovers and observers of rare species will find a paradise-on-earth on Chios island.

According to Mr. Mike Taylor, naturalist and researcher of Chios island’s dragonflies, Chios’ chlora and fauna consists of a mixture of European and Asian/Middle Eastern elements, because of the island’s geography (in Eastern Aegean, close to the Asia Minor coast).  Agricultural activity is non-intensive and the majority of population is gathered in Chios town – these facts have contributed to the preservation of the landscape and the protection of endemic plants and animals.

The intact nature of Chios is habitat for many species of dragonflies and butterflies, which the visitor can observe and admire either alone or with the help of a guide. These are valuable species, since dragonflies control the population of harmful insects, and the butterflies contribute to the pollination and reproduction of many plants.

These species that have impressive colours are also indicators of a stable ecosystem. On Chios island, we are lucky to enjoy the observation of many species, especially in areas that are habitats of the rare species. For naturalists and lovers of observation, here is a list of the species that you can see on Chios:


  • Maniola Chia (endemic of Chios)
  • Archon apollinus
  • Zerynthia cerisyi
  • Arctia villica 
  • Panaxia quantripunctaria

Most butterflies are found in northern Chios.


  • Sympecma fusca
  • Coenagrion puella
  • Coenagrion scitulum
  • Enallagma cyathigerum
  • Ischnura elegans
  • Platycnemis pennipes
  • Anax ephippiger
  • Anax imperator
  • Anax parthenope
  • Crocothemis erythraea
  • Orthetrum brunneum
  • Orthetrum cancellatum
  • Orthetrum coerulescens anceps
  • Cellisiothemis nigra
  • Sympetrum striolatum
  • Trithemis annulata

Dragonflies are found in water habitats, such as the Armolia reservoir, Kato Fana beach, Marmaro marsh, Kampia beach, Malagkiotis river in Volissos, mainly in spring and summer. 29 different dragonfly species have been recorded in Chios.

 Armolia reservoir

Armolia reservoir has been designated as the most important dragonfly habitat in Chios. This is a reservoir that was initially built to cover the needs of the ceramic workshops that traditionally operate in the area. It is located at the north edge of Armolia village, in the Mastichochoria area, about 28 km from town. It is the richest site in dragonflies. The sign and easy access make the reservoir the best spot for observation and photography of dragonflies and birds. 18 species of dragonfly have been observed so far at Armolia reservoir, which also breed there, according to Mike Taylor.  

 Nature observation on Chios island

In recent years, naturalists and nature lovers and observers choose Chios island for their holidays, especially in spring and autumn. A couple of specialized English travel agencies have organized special interest trips for dragonfly observation on Chios. If you are interested in discovering the secrets of Chios nature, either by following organized activities or through a program tailor made to your special interests, you can contact us at Chios Tourism Department at the e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in order to get all the necessary information.


Homer, poet of the world, and his relationship with Chios island

The great epic poet of the ancient world, creator of the Iliad and the Odyssey, is connected to Chios island through a tradition that dates back to ancient times and is alive until nowadays. Homer never mentioned his hometown sparkling thus a long dispute about it, as neither his biographers nor the researchers have agreed upon it. In this long dispute various Greek cities have claimed him, but Chios is always among them, and has become the predominant city claiming Homer’s origin. This connection is supported by a series of evidence from philological sources and archaeological findings to old local traditions. All this evidence has prompted the travelers that visited the island after the 14th century to seek zealously for signs of Homer’s school, his house and his grave. The travelers’ research on Homer added to this tradition that connect the epic poet to the island – a tradition that the people of Chios are very proud of.

On Homer’s trail

Which areas of Chios island are traditionally connected to the great epic poet of antiquity?

The temple of ancient goddess Cybele at Daskalopetra, also known as Homer’s Rock

The rock of Daskalopetra has been traditionally connected to the School of Homer. The main part of the rock has been thought of as the throne where the poet would sit, teach his students and recite his poems. The rock has always been visible since ancient times: an important site and reference for travelers and visitors.  

The interpretation of the ancient monument has long been disputed as well. The archaeological research has now concluded that it was an open-air temple of the ancient goddess Cybele, patron of nature and fertility, whose worship was popular in Chios. However, the misunderstanding with Homer might not be accidental. Some researchers have observed that the goddess’ worship could be connected to poetry competitions and Homerides, bards from Chios, who claimed that their ancestry dated back to Homer himself.

 Volissos &  Pityos

In ancient times there were no authentic historic records on the life and work of Homer, there were a lot of authors who tried to gather evidence that were part of the tradition and the collective memory. This way, the poet’s biographies were created mostly like fairy tales. The oldest and longest biography we know of is by Herodotus of Alicarnassus, known as Pseudoherodotus. The author describes Homer’s arrival and life in Chios. Among other things, he mentions his arrival on the island from Focea of Erythrea, when he spent one night at the beach. After that, he travelled into the mainland and arrived at the village we know today as Pityos. There he wandered in the forest where he had various adventures and he was taken in by a shepherd named Glaucus. The shpeperd led him to Volissos village, where he stayed and worked as a teacher, teaching the local lord’s children. Similar accounts are repeated in other biographies of the poet, connecting Homer to these parts of North Chios.  

 Homer and the travelers: “Epano merea”

 This connection was further supported by the accounts of the travelers that visited Chios from the 14th to the 19th century. They enthusiastically searched “Homeric sites”, recorded their experiences and the locals’ accounts and created maps marking important sites, such as Homer’s settlement and Homer’s grave.

Traveller Christoforo Buondelmonti was a characteristic example. He refers to “Epano merea” the Northwest past of the island, marking on the map he designed "Homer’s grave" and "Homer’s citadel".



The Ypapanti Chapel of Chios & Juliette May Fraser: a cultural bridge between Chios island and Hawaii

In the village of Vavi­li (one of the villages of Kampos area, situated 9 km from Chios) lies one of the island’s most unexpected treasures—the minuscule chapel of the Ypapanti (the ‘Purification of the Virgin’). Its interior is entirely covered with murals, painted by Juliette May Fraser (1887–1983), a famous muralist from Honolulu, Hawaii.

The majority of Juliette May Fraser’s work has remained in the Hawaiian islands, where she was born and died. However, while working in Athens in the early 1960s, she met a gifted woman from Vavili village, Mrs Afroditi Makri, who invited her for a short vacation in Chios. During this trip, she was fascinated by Chios and this small newly built chapel and volunteered to paint these murals. She stayed in Chios during the winter period of 1962-1963 with her collaborator, the artist David Asherman. Under difficult circumstances, but with the help of Mrs Makri, of all the villagers and of the local artist Nikos Gialouris, they painted the murals of the chapel as a gift to the village.

The outside of the chapel is decorated with geometrical patterns recalling the distinctive exteriors of the houses in Pyrgi­, while the interior decoration is created with the fresco technique. The scenes are a hybrid of eastern and western art, Byzantine and representational, modern and ancient, while the perspective comes and goes.  They are a mix of local and Hawaiian topography and eternal landscapes. The whole is unified by an airiness and overall brilliance of colour, and is executed with such genuine joy, that takes the visitors by surprise, once they enter the door of the chapel. The frescoes are one of the best examples of the art of May Fraser and a touching evidence of her love for Chios island!

Tip: The key of the chapel is kept in the house opposite and slightly further north.  Just knock, and the lady who lives there will gladly give it to you.


Wandering around Chios Mastiha villages in the autumn

If you visit the villages of Mastiha (Chios Gum Mastic) at this time of the year in Chios island, Greece, you will come across a familiar image: women mastiha producers, and also men, of all ages are gathered in small groups at the alleys and corners of the village with large traditional sieves full of the recently gathered mastiha. They have already started the long copious process of cleaning the product. The aroma of mastiha fills the narrow village roads at Pyrgi, Mesta, Kalamoti and the rest of the 24 villages of mastiha.  

The first step of cleansing is the “tahtarisma”, that is the sifting of the product in order to separate the mastiha from leaves and soil. The next step is the cleansing in cold water, some even wash it with sea water and then the mastiha is laid out to dry.

After the product has dried, traditionally women take over. Using pointy small knives they clean each and every small piece and granule of mastiha from dirt and soil that may be stuck on it. This is a process that starts now, in the autumn, but depending on the workload and the time they devote to the cleansing, it may go on until spring.

This part of the cleaning process is done in groups. Companies of women gather to work together, while at the same time they exchange news and tell stories and jokes. This is their way to have fun during the difficult and monotonous process of mastiha cleaning.

Solidarity and cooperation between mastiha growers is characteristic of the social organization at the villages. For example, there is the tradition of “danikes”, which means borrowed. According to this tradition, a woman would ask her friends to help her with the cleaning then she would reciprocate. This goes for other agricultural tasks that one might have trouble completing in one’s own. However, it is a big disgrace if someone accepts help but does not reciprocate.

Another tradition which shows the power of women’s networks at the villages of Mastiha are the “syntrofisses” (meaning “comrades” or “companions”) at Pyrgi village. According to this tradition, a teenage girl’s mother would ask an already existing group of girls to accept her daughter in their group or company. The other mothers would talk it over with their daughters to decide whether they would accept the new girl in the group. The syntrofisses would meet daily to provide mutual support, work together and go out together.

Similar companies are found nowadays while wandering around the villages of mastiha. As the Mastiha villages are built as castlevillages, there is not enough room for the houses to have yards and patios, so people use the streets in front of their houses instead. The ladies of the Mastiha villages, despite their hard labour,  will welcome the visitor who passes from their street while they are working, cleaning the mastiha. They will show them the process of cleaning and will even pose gladly for a photograph.

Mastiha cultivation, which is basically unaltered during the centuries, has been inscribed in UNESCO’s list of intangible heritage. If you would like to experience the mastiha cultivation, you can contact Chios Tourism Department at the e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information or you can contact one of the specialized agencies in Chios island that provide experiential tours.


The Chios Mastiha Growers Association

Zacharopoulos C., Barbikas E. (n.d.), Chios Mastiha PDO. Historic and folkloric references. The Chios Mastiha Growers Association


Massourakia from Chios: a sweet indulgence of mastiha and almond

Do you know which sweet the Chians offer as a gift when visiting their friends living outside of Chios? Massourakia! They are delicious, made with a traditional recipe of Chios and mashed mastiha and almond. On your next visit to Chios, do not miss visiting a patisserie in order to try them out. If you still can not wait until then, we recommend a recipe to make them.

1 pack of Phyllo pastry, 150 g of cow butter
For stuffing
400 g sweet Chios mastic (submarine), 500 grams of almonds, zest mandarin or lemon, 2 egg whites, 1 pinch of salt
For the syrup
200 g of sugar, 200 g of water, lemon peel, 1 tsp lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of flowering water

For serving
Icing sugar, ground almonds

First grind the whitened almonds until they are finely chopped and not completely powdered and put in a bowl. In a bain marie, gently melt the Chios mastic preserve, dilute some of its texture so that you can mix it well with the rest of the ingredients. Pour it into the finely chopped almonds and zests. Stir the materials with a spoon. Beat the egg whites and the salt in a soft meringue, until peaks are formed. Gradually pour the meringue into the almonds and with a soft spatula add the other ingredients. Open the leaves on the counter, cut them in 4 pieces and cover them with a fresh towel to avoid drying. Get a square piece of phyllo and coat with melted butter, then put another phyllo on top of it. Fill in along with a little stuffing patterned like a thin cord (here can help the confectionary crown). Close the sides to seal the filling. Wrap in a tight roll. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Butter plate a baking pan and place your massourakia. Coat  them with as much butter as possible. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Prepare the syrup and keep it  warm. Once we've lowered the syrup from the heat, add the rose water, and mix. After the masks are roasted and the rosin is started, we put them all in a baking dish, they are close to each other and there are no gaps between them. As they are removed from the oven, pour them a little with the hot syrup. Let them cool all in the pan and drink their syrup well. After they cool down, we roll them to ground almond to clothe them or crack them with powdered sugar Good luck!


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