The Island of Oinousses
For photos of the isle, scroll to bottom of page
Where is it?
The tiny Greek island of Oinousses (also known as Ignousses) is situated in the east Aegean, about 8 kilometres from the Turkish coastline. It is reached by daily ferry or water taxi from the neighbouring Greek island of Chios to the southwest or biweekly/weekly ferry from Athens. Click here for information on how to get there.
The island is one of a cluster of nine, tiny islands. Only Oinousses is now inhabited, and the village of Aignousa is the sole inhabited settlement on that island's south coast.
References to this tiny complex of islands and its rich wine crops first appeared in the ancient writings of Thucydides. The name Oinousses derives from οινοσ, the Greek word for wine. Farmers eventually abandoned their wine crops for trade and transportation during the Turkish occupation, laying the foundations for a significant contribution to Greece's naval history. The island and its pristine beauty earned it a coveted spot on the European Commission's Network of Natura 2000 list, categorized as a Place of Special Beauty. Equally fascinating is its location at the intersection of East and West, giving rise to some of its dramatic history.
Because the island can only be reached by sea, it has largely escaped tourist development. But it's not some poor backwater: the island has spawned some 30 millionaire shipping families which once owned one of the world's largest merchant fleets. Their descendants are active in preserving nautical traditions and contributing to infrastructure improvements. The island continues to produce seafarers for the global shipping industry. Its unique maritime history has been described in numerous books and newspaper features. There are about 500 - 1,000 permanent local residents, with the population swelling in the summer when non-residents return to their roots. The atmosphere is of a picturesque, charming simplicity.
What is there to do?
The sea, oh, the sparkling sea
Luxuriate in the warm, azure Aegean waters. The closest beach is about 5 minutes' walk with several other beaches accessible by foot (from 10 minutes to 2 hours' walk) or by boat. Most offer shade and seclusion while Bilali beach attracts a livelier crowd, with music and memorable cocktails. The rich marine life is ideal for snorkelling and spearfishing enthusiasts. Explore rocky reefs and deserted islets by kayak.
Linger over traditional fare, freshly squeezed orange juice, iced coffee and beer, or inexpensive domestic wine at one of five tavernas or the yacht club, while absorbing the waterfront activity, reading and playing board games (backgammon, called "tavli," is a national pastime). All offer live and recorded music and Wi-Fi.
Learn about the island's strong maritime history at the nautical museum, housed in an imposing mansion. Take in a concert or theatre performance at the cultural center or at the stadium specially built for the 2003 Olympics. Attend mass at Agios Nikolaos, the impressive cathedral which dominates the center of the village. Visit the Monastery of Evangelismos, founded in 1965 by our great-aunt and uncle, and famous for its frescos, byzantine architecture and serene setting. Wander around the back lanes to get a glimpse of local life. Watch the sun set from a perfect vantage point: the Chapel of Prophet Elias. Or watch a film at the outdoor cinema, while indulging in ice cream or souvlaki.
Exploring on foot , bicycle or by car
The island's size is ideal for exploring on foot, bicycle or by car. An asphalt road of about 18 kilometers traverses the island, with easy access to most beaches. Combined with a dirt road on the east coast, the total road network is about 25 kilometers, all offering breathtaking views.
The day trips
Picnic and swim in privacy on one of the deserted islands. Or explore Chios: medieval villages producing mastic products (using sap from the country's only mastic trees), beaches of wild beauty strewn with volcanic pebbles, Genoese mansions nestled in citrus groves, pre-medieval hamlets on the west coast, the 11th century Nea Moni monastery (a designated UNESCO World Heritage site) with impressive mosaics. Choose seclusion in the many quiet, unspoiled villages or an active social scene in the main town, also called Chios.
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