Oinousses, or Oinoussa, is a cluster of islands in the Northern Aegean, consisting of one inhabited island and eight smaller ones. They are located approximately 2 kilometers northeast of Chios and 8 kilometers from the shores of Turkey. The island has 826 inhabitants according to the 2011 census.
A complex of nine small islands and islets, with names such as Oinoussa, Panagia, Vatos, Gaidouronisi, Pontikoniso, Archontoniso, Pontikoudiko, Laimoudiko, and Prasonisia, make up Oinousses. In the last census, their population numbered over a thousand souls. The people here are proud of their homeland and their ancient roots.
Oinousses is a retreat for summer travelers. A protected area, part of the Natura 2000 network, it is full of beautiful coves for swimming and beaches for those who find it easier to connect with nature when they are alone in its sweet embrace. The island is crisscrossed by an asphalt road that allows easy access to most of the beaches, even on foot, as its length does not exceed 18 kilometers.
Oinousses has always been the island of shipmasters. The first Greek merchant steamships were Oinoussiot and they wrote the first chapter in modern Greek shipping. It is no coincidence that many shipowners come from here. Nor is it a coincidence that at the harbor, visitors are greeted by the statue of Oinoussian Mother, who, with her scarf, blesses her children when they depart on their journeys across the oceans, as well as a bronze mermaid with a crown and a sailboat in her left hand, the eternal companion of the seafarer on the high seas. On the island, with an area of just 15 square kilometers, all levels of education operate, but above all, the Naval Lyceum and the Merchant Navy Academy, which have produced more than 1500 captains who competently serve global commercial shipping.
The Naval Museum houses the designs of sailing and steamships that propelled Oinousses into the international shipping scene in the early 20th century. During the summer months, shipowners, captains, and emigrants with roots here return to their homeland, to the birthplace of their parents, open their mansions, and transform the island of the Aegean into a cosmopolitan resort.
At the center of the traditional settlement with its tile-roofed houses stands the magnificent church of Agios Nikolaos, the patron saint of seafarers. Richly decorated with elaborate frescoes and thousands of ex-votos, it comes to life on August 15th, when the Oinoussians revive the religious custom of the burial of the Virgin Mary.
In antiquity, the island was famous for its good wine, and it is believed that the name "Oinousses" comes from the Greek word for wine, "oinos." The local name "Egnousa," used by the islanders, derives from the ancient name for the plant "lygaria," which is found everywhere on the island.
It is mentioned as early as the 6th century BC by Hecataeus and later by Thucydides. Herodotus informs us that when the Phocaeans asked the Chians for permission to settle there after the destruction of their city by the Persians, the Chians refused to sell them the island to avoid losing their trading privileges. Although no systematic excavations have been carried out on the island, few antiquities have been discovered (settlement remains, mosaic floors, etc.).
In the harbor of Oinousses, there is the statue of the Oinoussian Mother, a bronze mermaid with a crown and a sailboat in her left hand. The statue is a reference to the island's maritime tradition, as the limited resources of the islands turned its inhabitants towards seafaring. It is no coincidence that many shipowners come from here. On the island, there is the Naval Lyceum, the Naval Museum, the Academy of Merchant Navy, the Cultural Center, the historic church of Agios Nikolaos, and the Monastery of Evangelismos of Theotokos.
Oinousses is not known for its cuisine, endless beaches, or nightlife like other islands. However, it has something unique on the island. This is the Monastery of Evangelismos of Theotokos, which is located on the westernmost point of the island, atop a hill in a breathtaking landscape that combines forest and sea.
What makes the monastery unique is that, despite being relatively recently built compared to other monasteries, in the early '60s, it follows the architectural style of Mount Athos. For this reason, even if you are not religious, entering the monastery, you feel a mixture of history, tranquility, and beauty that you must experience.
To reach Oinousses, you'll first need to travel to Chios, the nearest island, by ferry or plane. Then, you can take the local boat to your destination, which takes about an hour. Alternatively, you can rent a car or take a taxi from Chios Town to Lagkada, which is half an hour to the north. From Lagkada, small boats can bring you to Oinousses in about twenty minutes, but it's advisable to make a reservation by phone. Alternatively, you can join an organized excursion directly to Oinousses by boat from Piraeus.
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