North-west of Chios lies an island cluster encompassing seven islets, the largest of which is Psara. With its rocky terrain reaching out to the sea, Psara looks like a castle in the middle of the open sea. The island’s serene landscape is an ideal environment for the visitor looking for peace and tranquillity. Psara’s history goes back to ancient times. Homer refers to the island in the Odyssey (with the name Psirii), whereas archaeological excavations have revealed the existence of Mycenaean civilisation in the settlement at Arhontiki.
The island boasts a fascinating history – since its powerful naval fleet played an important role in the 1821 Greek War of Independence. Psara used to be the third naval power in Greece, after Hydra and Spetses, and it was also the homeland of many heroes, such as Admiral Constantine Kanaris, Constantine Nikodimos and Antonios Vratsanos. However, Psara paid a heavy price for its heroism, with the Turks destroying the island and slaughtering 27,000 of the 30,000 inhabitants on the 24 June 1824.
This tragedy inspired many artists, like the painter Nikolaos Gyzis, and his famous painting After the Destruction of Psara, and Greece’s national poet Dionysios Solomos, who composed the poem The Destruction of Psara:
On the all-black ridge of Psara
Glory walks alone
She meditates on her heroes
And wears in her hair a wreath
Made from a few dry weeds
Left on the barren ground.
The Psara Holocaust is commemorated every year on the last Sunday of June with a variety of cultural events.
Walk around the island to discover
• The Dormition of Virgin Mary Monastery
• Palaiokastro (old castle)
• Agios Nikolaos Church
• Kanaris’ house, the hero of the Greek War of Independence and also prime minister of Greece
• The hill of Mavri Rahi, where the Psara Holocaust Memorial stands.
If you are a passionate beachgoer, embark on a day-tour to the neighbouring island of Antipsara with its beautiful sandy beaches.