The Greek islands. With so many to choose from, it may be difficult to decide which one to visit. There are many well-known islands such as Mykonos, Paros, Crete, Santorini and more, but with the Covid-19 scare looming, you may wish to visit a quieter and more secluded island situated one hour from Chios by ferry, which overlooks the coastline of Asia Minor. This island is Oinousses.
A Maritime History
Oinousses’ major selling point is that it’s quiet and peaceful. An island of a long maritime tradition, with a maritime museum in the hora, it is the birthplace of many shipowners, merchant marine captains and sailors. The centre (hora) has only a couple coffee shops and restaurants, which all overlook the local port and seaside. Also, along the island there are several small beaches which offer seclusion and extremely clean crisp waters. As Oinousses is not a touristy island, the locals welcome visitors and are hospitable. The centre includes the stunning St. Nicholas Church, perched at the top of wide steps. No visit would be complete to this island without a walk around the characteristically narrow alleyways of the Hora.
The Oinoussian Monastery
Oinousses is not known for its cuisine, beaches or nightlife like other islands. However, it has something that is particularly unique to this island. The Monastery of the Annunciation, (Evagelismos tis Theotokou), located at the Western tip of the island, on top of a hill and overlooking a stunning landscape including trees and the sea.
Like with most Greek islands, Oinousses has what you could call simple beauty. It is quiet, relaxing and perfect for a short romantic break. However, during your holidays to Oinousses you should visit the monastery. Being located only 15 minutes away from the main town (hora) by car, it is easily accessible. The car ride is also stunning as it’s along a scenic seaside road and you are likely to meet a few goats along the way! You’ll be hit by the aroma of a shrub called skoinos and oregano during this ride. Those who feel more adventurous may even dare to walk the route, which only takes a couple of hours at the most.
Its beauty and uniqueness can be seen well before you even arrive in front of the monastery. What makes it unique is that despite it being built relatively recently in comparison to other monasteries, in the 1960’s, it was built according to the Byzantine architecture. Even if you are not religious, when you enter the monastery, you experience a mixture of history, serenity and beauty, which is certainly worth experiencing.
While the monastery and the scenery surrounding it are stunning during the day, a night visit is also highly recommended. This is because at night, the main church is lit up only with candles and no electricity whatsoever. The surrounding stillness is interrupted only by the melodious voices of the nuns chanting during the evening service. The Church is adorned by a multitude of impressive icons, including many by Fotis Kontoglou, the well-known iconographer.
The monastery is run by 17 nuns, who are not only very hospitable and friendly, but most of them have been at the monastery since it was built. Each nun is an expert in her own field such as cooking, gardening, iconography, embroidery etc. and are always willing to share their knowledge and skills with their visitors. Also, upon arrival, all guests are offered the monastery’s hand-made finikia, their own unique version of melomakarona; made by using the locally produced honey. Those treats are delicious and are not to be missed!
How to get to Oinousses island
To get to Oinousses, you must first arrive at Chios, the closest island either by ferry or airplane and then take the local ship that takes you across in an hour. Alternatively, you can rent a car or take a taxi for a half-an-hour ride to Langada, a local port. There, a small Oinoussian boat will take you across in 20 minutes but you need to book the trip in advance over the phone. Another way to get there is to take an excursion ferry direct from Piraeus to Oinousses that takes roughly eight hours. This may not seem easy, but it will be worth your time.
By Dimitris Giannoulis
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