Visit This Underrated Greek Destination For A Budget-Friendly Island Vacation

Travelers seeking an exotic but affordable island getaway should consider the Greek island of Chios. The fifth largest Greek island, Chios is located in the Aegean Sea, only 4 miles from the coast of Turkey. The climate of Chios is typically Mediterranean, with mild winters and hot summers, making it an ideal destination almost year-round.

The island is a colorful mosaic of traditional villages, rugged mountains, mysterious gorges, and picturesque beaches. Inhabited since the Neolithic era, it boasts several important archeological sites and a wealth of historic architecture. It's also the alleged birthplace of Homer. The island is famous for producing Chios mastic — a multi-use aromatic resin harvested from small evergreen shrubs. The mastic grows only on the island and has been cultivated since the Roman era when women chewed the resin to freshen their breath.

As a budget destination, Chios also stands out. Its cost of living is lower than in many other European destinations, and it remains relatively undiscovered by mass tourism, keeping prices down. While the island may lack the party scene of Mykonos and the dramatic cliffs of Santorini, it over-delivers in authentic charm and affordability.

Affordable transit and accommodation

The main gateway to the island is Chios Island National Airport, which accommodates domestic flights from Athens and other Greek cities. The average price for a round-trip ticket from Athens to Chios is reasonable, at around $160, but tickets are often cheaper from November through March. A more scenic and cost-effective way to reach the island is via ferry from Piraeus, the port of Athens. A round-trip ferry ticket from Piraeus to Chios costs between $28 and $43 and takes 6.5 to 12 hours. You can also take a shorter ferry ride from Cesme, Turkey, to Chios, a great way to include the island in a broader European travel itinerary. 

Accommodation in Chios caters to a range of budgets, with hotels and guest houses offering stays from as little as $50 per night. Many budget lodgings are within walking distance of Chios town, the island's capital, offering easy access to local eateries, transportation, and attractions. Traveling around the island doesn't have to break the bank, either. The local bus service is reliable and covers most tourist destinations, with a one-hour bus trip costing $3 to $6. Renting a scooter or a car can also be economical, especially if you share the cost with fellow travelers. Car rentals on the island are around $20 in the winter months but can go as high as $80 in peak season. 

Local sights and delights

Chios's cuisine delights the senses and the wallet — a meal at an inexpensive local restaurant will set you back only $10 to $20. Don't miss out on the traditional grilled mastelo, a firm and salty local cheese, and sip on souma, a potent local spirit made from sun-dried fermented figs. Filling up on tasty street foods such as gyros is another way to eat well while keeping within your budget. For something sweet, sample the local citrus and the mastic sweets, which are as affordable as they are tantalizingly delicious.

The island also offers natural beauty in buckets and abundant low-cost activities. Stroll through the colorful streets of Pyrgi, a medieval village, or visit the Nea Moni monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to marvel at its stunning Macedonian mosaics. When it's time to wind down, head to the gorgeous beaches of Mavra Volia, famous for its black and white volcanic pebbles, and Komi, with its long stretch of golden sand; this charming Greek island proves that the best things in life don't have to cost a fortune — and that many are free.