Chora, the capital of Ios island. As Chora means "country", here in Greece we usually use this word to characterize the main village or the capital of an island.
When we talk about Chora of Ios, we talk about a spectacular beauty, as it is considered as one of the most unique among other capitals of Cyclades. It's built amphitheatrically on the cliffs of a hill. It's quite breathtaking to see Chora from distance because you get the impression that the houses are climbing up to the top of the hill. On the way to the top, there are three small chapels, each at different elevation. That picture, along with the characteristic palm tree, is one of the most famous in Greece. If you see it somewhere, on a post card or TV, you immediately know that this is Ios island. Before you reach the first of the three chapels, you will see a bigger church called Panagia Gremiotissa. It took its name from the icon of Virgin Mary (Panagia Gremiotissa) and it holds a romantic history behind it. During the Turkish occupation, the residents of Creta island used to throw the icons in the sea in order to save them from destruction by the Turks. One of the icons, Panagia Gremiotissa was found on Mylopotas beach by a shepherd. The icon was placed in a church in Chora, but the next day it disappeared. Eventually, it was found in a cave on the hill and the local inhabitants started to build a church on this spot, but every morning when they were coming back they were seeing the church destroyed. At some point, Virgin Mary appeared to one of the locals and showed where they should build the church. The chosen spot was very difficult, so every inhabitant of Chora, even women and children, helped to transfer the building materials, almost to the top of the hill. In order to build the church bells, people of Ios donated their silver and metallic possessions to the foundry. Inside the church, there is an unusually big window in a unique spot facing south. Its goal is to enable Panagia Gremiotissa to see Crete, the place of the icon’s origin.
Leaving Panagia Gremiotissa behind and walking uphill you will reach Agios Eleftherios chapel, then Agios Georgios chapel and on the top of the hill, Agios Nikolaos church. You should know that every day hundreds of Chora visitors gather on the hill to watch the spectacular sunset. When the meteorological conditions allow it, you will see Santorini island, Naxos, Paros, even Crete.
The architecture of Chora is typically Cycladic. The houses built from rock are painted white and the windows and doors are painted blue or green. The narrow alleys between the houses are paved, full of gift shops, bakeries, traditional and modern cafes, as well as hidden bars and taverns. One of the things you should do, is to get lost in the alleys in order to experience the peaceful daily life of locals and discover hidden chapels built by the families of the island.
Another attraction of Chora is the windmill area, where you can take pictures of the twelve windmills.
In Tsoukalaria area of Chora, you will find something impressive, the Odysseas Elytis open theater. Odysseas Elytis was a Greek poet, honored with Nobel prize.
You should know that if you are a photograph enthusiast, you won't be disappointed when you visit Chora. You should do your excursion in the alleys of Ios capital both during the day, as well as during the night.
Ios island is well known for its nightlife, but when you visit Chora, you will almost immediately notice that it maintained its tradition. The people are warm and hospitable. They will be happy to give you any information, not because they have to, but because they love to.