The second largest of the Greek islands after Crete, ÉVVIA (Euboea) – separated only by a narrow gulf from central Greece – often feels more like an extension of the mainland than an entity in its own right. At Halkídha, the old drawbridge spans a mere 40m channel where Évvia was mythically split from Attica and Thessaly by a blow from Poseidon’s trident. Easy access from Athens means that in summer Évvia can seem merely a beach annexe for Athens and the mainland towns across the Gulf.
Nevertheless, Évvia is an island, often a very beautiful one, and in many ways its problems – long distances to cover, poor communications, few concessions to tourism – are also its greatest attractions, ensuring that it has remained out of the mainstream of tourism. Exceptionally fertile, Évvia has always been a quietly prosperous place that would manage pretty well even without visitors. The classical name, Euboea, means “rich in cattle”, and throughout history it has been much coveted. Today agriculture still thrives, with plenty of local goat and lamb on the menu, along with highly rated local retsina.
Évvia divides naturally into three sections, with just a single road connecting the northern and southern parts to the centre. The south is mountainous, barren and rocky; highlights are low-key Kárystos and hiking the nearby mountains and gorges. The centre, with the sprawling island capital at Halkídha, is green, wealthy and busy with both industry and agriculture, but for visitors mainly a gateway, with the bridges at Halkídha and onward transport to Skýros from the easterly port of Kými. In the north, grain fields, olive groves and pine forest are surrounded by the bulk of the island’s resorts, most dominated by Greek holiday homes.