After Crete, Evia is the second largest Greek island.
A pleasant one-hour train ride from Larissa Station in Athens
takes you to Halkidha (Chalkida), the island’s capital city with a population of 50,000, stopping in the old station
under the old Turkish fortress, on the mainland side of the 120ft (40 meter) channel which is all that separates this long
island from the mainland at this point. From there you can walk over the old bridge into town, which handles both pedestrian
and foot traffic.
The currents in the Evripous Channel below the bridge are known to change direction seven times daily, a
bewildering phenomenon yet unexplained.
There is also a newer suspension bridge connecting the mainland with Evia that
bypasses Halkida, and there are seven ferry crossings at various points.
This long island runs northwest to southeast, with
its northern tip just south of the Pelio peninsula and its southern tip just north of Andros island (the northernmost of the
Cyclades). There are points in the southernmost portion where the island is only about ten miles across.
Halkidha (ancient Halkis) is a heavy industrial town, and not a pretty island port, but it has some interesting features.
Its names derives from the Greek word for copper, and by extension to bronze, which was manufactured here in antiquity. An
important ancient city-state, Halkidha had colonies in various parts of the Mediterranean. Kastro is the old Ottoman
district, as well as the area near the fortress above the train station. After crossing the bridge into town, you’ll find
the entrance to the kastro on the right, with a locked mosque making it obvious, and then an Ottoman fortress, an aqueduct
and the church of Ayia Paraskevi.
Finds from all over the island can be seen at the archeological museum, which is at
Venizelou 13 (Tues-Sun 8am-2:30 pm;1.50 euros). There was a large Jewish community in Halkidha, dating back around 2500
years. Nearly all of them survived the Nazis, due to the heroic action of the bishop of Halkidha who put himself at risk by
ordering the Christian population to hide and feed them.
A church was built to honor him: the Church of
Ayios Ioannis Rosses, and there a St. John’s Festival on 27 May, is attended by pilgrims. Prokopi is referred to locals as
Akhmetaga, which was its name when it was a Turkish fiefdom. After the War of Independcence, it was purchased by an
Englishman nobleman, Edward Noel, cousin of Lord Byron, whose descendants give summer crafts seminars in the old manor house.
The largest village of northern Evia is a little farther north along a beautiful stretch of road. This is Mandoudhi.
From there you can continue north to the resorts on the northernmost part of the coast, or to the fishing village of Limni on the west coast. A town built with the wealth from the nineteenth century shipping industry, it is replete with
neoclassical houses with tiled roofs, lovely narrow lanes, and a very pretty waterfront. There are plenty of rooms and
good eating places and the place is relatively quiet considering its beauty. There is an interesting convent to visit, 7 km.
to the south, the convent of Ayhiou Nikolaou Galataki, sits on the the slopes of Mount Kandhili, above the Evian Gulf. The
convent was once a temple to Poseidon (god of the sea); later a Byzantine church, and still has the thirteenth century tower
which was built for protection from pirates. There are frescoes as well, dating from the sixteenth century. The gates shut
in the afternoon, so best make your visit early in the day. There are nice beaches at Glyfa, with paths to some, while
others can only be reached only by boat.
Rovies, to the northwest of Limni, boasts a medieval tower, and the route north along the coast to Loutra Edipsou is very
scenic. The distance from Halkidha to Loutra Edipsou is 119 km (about 74 miles), but slow going, what with the terrain.
Loutra are mineral springs and/or spas with such springs, and that is what you will find here, as people have since ancient
times. Such notables as Aristotle, Plutarch, Strabo and Plinius praised these therapeutic springs. Though said to cure many
ills, the waters are noted especially to help with rheumatic, arthritic and gynecological problems. There are many rooms at
the spa, and the entry fee to the baths is very low: 1 euro for a twenty-minute soak. There is a hydrotherapy-physiotherapy
center there as well. This is the 4th most effacious spa in Europe.
There are also hot springs at Yialtra 15km to the west, with hot water bubbling up on the beach. If you took the
road east from Limni, back to the fork at Strophilia, you will have seen Ayia Anna where the older women still wear
traditional costumes. To the east 5km is Angali Beach, which is one of the best in the area. The nicest spot along the
northern tip is at Ellinika, below the village of the same name by about 2000 feet. The sea is cleaner here than at the
other beaches to the south and there is an islet to swim to with a church on it. The resort of Pefki (which means pine
trees) a little further on is a Greek tourist resort, visited by hordes of Greeks from the mainland in summer and the
campsite oriented more towards caravans than towards tents. Hydrofoils leave from here for the Sporades once a day in
summer. The fishing village of Orei has a statue of a bull from Hellenistic times, pulled out of the sea in 1965.
Ayiokambos serves as a port for ferries crossing over to Glyfa on the mainland, at this northernmost point of Evia. It has a
small beach, some rooms and tavernas.
This is the widest part of this long island, There is a bus route going to the northeast from Halkidha to the village of Steni (which means narrow) at the foot of Mt. Dhirfys (1743 meters/5700 feet). The village is sizeable (population 1300)
and very pretty, with springs and plane trees. There are beaches to hike to as well as to the peak of Mt. Dhirfys and
Xirovouni. Hiking guide-books essential.
It is also possible to reach Steni from Kymi (which is to the east, and in turn reachable by an alternate bus route) but
only via dirt-road requiring a four-wheel drive vehicle. Kymi has a population of 3850, and is built on the edge of a cliff
250 meters(820 feet) above the sea. Below it 4km down, is the only harbor on the rugged east coast, with ferry connections
to Skyros. Kymi is not a touristic place. It has an upper and lower town, and in the latter you can visit the Folklore
Museum with its large collection of local memorabilia: household and agricultural implements, costumes, photos of local
personalities. (Open 5pm-7:30pm Wed and Sat,10am-1pm Sun; free). On the bus route to Kymi from Halkidha, one heads
eastward for the most part, passing at first through an industrial zone.
Eretria follows, which is an unappealing resort
with a population of 5000. Ancient Eretria though, is of interest, especially its excavations which revealed a theater with
steps leading down into an underground chamber used for rapid exits and entrances; and ruins of a gymnasium and sanctuary.
There is also a House of Mosaics from the fourth century BC which can be viewed if one asks the guard from the museum. The
latter is open Tues-Sun 8am-2:30; 1.50 euros). Right from the museum, during battle and smitten by Eros, Theseus is abducting a smiling Antiope Queen of the Amazons. There is also an agora and a temple of Dafniforos Apollo closer to the
town. 11km west of Eretria on the coast there is a very nice campground (Milos Camping: 2211 060 460; fax 2211 060
There is a tourist complex on an islet linked to the bay by a causeway and a nicer resort farther on at Amarynthos with a good waterfront with many restaurants. The fishing village of Karavos, near Aliveri, is also nice. From there the road heads east and inland, passing through Lepoura, and after that the landscape becomes much more appealing. There are nice beaches via sideroads if you have a car, at Kalamos and Korasidha. At Avlonari,to the north, you will find the basilica of Ayios Dhimitrios (fourteenth century). The town itself boasts a Venetian tower that sits up on a hill and the slopes of the town have some nice neoclassical houses (but no rooms). The chapel of Ayia Thekla, on a side road nearby, features frescoes (or pieces thereof), and there are other chapels at Ayios Nikolaos and Ayia Anna. At the coast, you can swim in a river mouth at Stomio, and there is another river before Kymi, at Platana.
The fork for the road to the south (southeast actually), is at Lepoura, from which you can see both side of the island, though the narrowest point is farther south. This very different part of Evia shares both geological and ethnic similarities with the northern Cycladhic island of Andhros off its southernmost tip. Both have marble and slate, and Arvanitika (a medieval dialect of Albanian) was spoken as a first language in many villages up until recently in both places as both areas had been settled by Albanians from the fifteenth century on. Ancient Dystos which consists of a few fifth century BC ruins, is on top of a hill in the basis of a large lake that was drained for farmland, eliminating yet another wetland for migratory birds. There is a ferry crossing to Ayia Marina (on the mainland) at Nea Styra to the south, as well as a resort.
Styra (Nea Styra beach far left), the hill village above it, is known for its Drakospita (Dragon Houses), made of enormous blocks of masonry. These structures can only be reached by trail, and may have been sixth century BC temples. The ferry link with Rafina is further south at Marmari. The main town of southeastern Evia is Karystos (harbor near left) (population 4500) which sits on a good bay below Mt. Ohi (1398 meters/4585 feet) and has nice beaches and a resort. The town isn’t terribly exciting though, designed on a Bavarian grid plan by an architect in the hire of of King Otho, though there are some neoclassical buildings. The ruins of a fourteenth century Venetian castle-the Bourtzi, sits along the waterfront (background R pic right above). This is a tower, which was once part of extensive fortifications. Opposite the tower is the archaeological museum (Tues-Sun 8am-3pm;1.50 euros). It exhibits mostly temple carvings, statues, and votive offerings.