Greece’s second-largest Island is separated from the mainland by the narrow Strait of Euripus.
With a fierce, mountainous spine and roads that often degrade to dirt tracks on the coast, Evia still isn’t accustomed to tourism.
But there’s much to see, as those mountains have waterfalls, gorges and can be admired in all their splendour on winding roads.
To call the beaches on Evia “remote” doesn’t sum up just how far removed from civilisation they can be.
Many double as campgrounds where people pitch their tents right by the water.
But if you’re tired of noisy beach bars and sun loungers packed like sardines, Evia’s beaches like Thapsa and Kalamos, are a breath of fresh air.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Evia:
1. Ancient Eretria and Theatre
Some 20 kilometres along the strait southeast of Halkida lie the ruins of the ancient polis of Eretria.
The oldest finds date back to the 9th century BC, but by the 1st century BC Eretria was in decline after being ransacked in the First Mithridatic War against Rome.
The site has two palaces, four temples, baths, a gymnasium and a house with mosaics.
But the show-stopper is the theatre, one of oldest in Ancient Greece, dating from the 5th century BC. What’s so special about this monument is that it was laid on a man-made hill supported by retaining walls, much more of a feat than if it had simply used the slopes of Eretria’s citadel.
Those earthworks are still visible, and the lowest tiers still have their limestone benches, while behind the skene is a vaulted passageway leading to the orchestra.
2. Archaeological Museum of Eretria
Eretria is important enough that a lot of its ceramics and statues unearthed are now on show at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens or the Louvre.
But the museum at the site still has lots of interesting things to see.
One is a terracotta figurine of a centaur, dating to the 10th century BC and found in a tomb at the village of Lefkandi.
From 560 BC you’ll find a stunning funerary amphora showing Heracles fighting the Centaurs and a depiction of Potnia Theron (Mistress of the Animals) behind.
One of the many noteworthy sculptures is a damaged representation of Theseus and Antiope, a 6th-century work, possibly by the acclaimed Athenian sculptor Antenor.
3. Karababa Castle
Right across the strait from Halkida is a fortress put up by the Ottomans in 1684 to defend the town against the Venetians.
The stronghold caps a cypress-dotted hill with arresting views of Halkida, Evia and the strait,. And if you’re wondering why the architecture is European, the fortress was designed by a Venetian, Gerolimo Galopo and then held out during an unsuccessful siege by the Venetians in 1688. Facing Halkida is a hexagonal bastion armed with two Russian cannons from the 19th century.
In the fortress vaults there’s also a lapidarium, with ancient building fragments, Venetian ornamental carvings and renditions of the Lion of St Mark.
4. Drimona Waterfall
In Evia’s north, at an elevation of 620 metres is a waterfall in a heart-lifting mountainous landscape.
The waterfall is wrapped in fresh oak and fir forest, and is served by a flight of stone steps.
The flow can be pretty lean in the hot summer, but even when the water level is low the falls are no less beautiful, and this is down to the rocky overhang behind and the clear emerald pool below.
Visit in spring and there’s more of a torrent due to the melting snow running off the mountains.
At the top of the steps by the road is a cafe and forest ranger’s office with a small exhibition of fossils found in the area.
5. Edipsos Springs
Directly on the strait in Edipsos is a thermal spring that was mentioned by the both Aristotle and Plutarch.
In 1897 the high luxury Thermae Sylla Spa was built on the spring and in its time has attracted famous figures like Aristotle Onassis, Winston Churchill and Omar Sharif.
Fortunately you don’t have to book into that establishment to experience the mineral-rich waters.
These are claimed to soothe muscular and skeletal problems, as well as the endocrine system due to their trace radon levels.
Outside the gates of the spa, where the spring cascades into the sea, is a small beach with a layer of smooth rock formed by the build-up of minerals.
Here and there you’ll find little pools in the rock filled with warm therapeutic water to soak in.
6. Chiliadou Beach
If you like your beaches to be wild and open to the elements, Chiliadou is the one for you.
The journey there isn’t easy as it takes more than an hour from Halkida, but for the last third the serpentine road weaves through a sublime mountainous landscape, past the 1,742-metre Dirfi peak.
Finally you’ll be at three beaches in an otherwise fearsome environment of gnarled limestone cliffs.
The largest of these beaches is Chiliadou, formerly just for naturists as it’s so remote, but now visited by all.
The beach is broad sweep of sand and pebbles, sometimes lashed by waves, but with transparent water on calmer days.
Parents with children need to take care as the shore drops off suddenly.
Nudists meanwhile have moved along to the more private beach around the headland.
7. Drakospita (Dragon Houses)
Scattered around Styra in the south of Evia are some 25 megalithic structures, all perched on hills and mountains.
Made with huge slabs of grey limestone, these pyramid-like buildings have drystone walls, bound purely by weight and without any sort of mortar.
They also blend with their rocky backdrops, and often hardly look man-made until you see the rectangular doorways framed by massive slabs in their lintels and jambs.
The best and most researched example is on Mount Oche at almost 1,400 metres, where the lintel is four metres long and two metres wide, weighing a mind-boggling 10 tons.
Ceramics found at this building go back as far as the 8th century BC during the Archaic Period, which hints at the great age of the Dragon Houses.
8. Kalamos Beach
Holidaymakers will travel all the way from Athens, 120 kilometres away, for this beach on the east coast of Evia.
Kalamos is actually two beaches side by side: The larger is “Kali”(Good), as it has calmer waters, while the smaller of the two is “Kakia” (Wicked), as the sea is a bit rougher here.
The latter is normally lined with tents as many visitors camp overnight or for whole weekends rather than making the long drive back the same day.
Kali is worth every mile of the journey, with a surface of pale sand and fine pebbles, and sun loungers that come free with the price of drink at the bar.
The water is completely transparent but the beach does fall away suddenly.
9. Dimosari Gorge
After sizing up the Dragon House on Mount Oche you can embark on the hike of a lifetime on an old shepherd’s path through this gorge.
Walking the Dimosari Gorge takes around half a day and the path through a forest with oaks, holly, chestnut trees plane trees and wild olive and pear trees.
Half-way along the gorge is the bucolic village of Lenoseoi , while the terrain varies from a gentle valley to a rocky ravine with waterfalls and rapids.
Go quietly and you may have some animal encounters as the forest is a habitat for rich birdlife including buzzards, eagles, owls and nightingales.
At journey’s end is Kaliani Beach where you can cool off with a dip in the Aegean.
10. Thapsa Beach
Of all the far-flung beaches on Evia, Thapsa Beach may be the most demanding to get to.
You’ll need a 4×4 vehicle to navigate the 10 kilometres of dirt road from the village of Koutorla.
And before you leave you need to make sure you have everything you could require, because there are no facilities at all at Thapsa.
But even with this in mind, you can’t turn down the chance to see this spellbinding beach with your own eyes.
In a crucible of vertiginous scrubby hills, Thapsa Beach is a white sand and pebble cove with light blue water commonly described as a “blue lagoon”. Camping is allowed on the beach if you want to spend the night somewhere out of this world, but surely it’s just a matter of time before real tourism arrives at Thapsa.
11. Agios Ioannis Rosos
In Prokopi, an hour north of Halkida, is a church of real status in Eastern Orthodox Christianity as it houses the relics of St John the Russian.
He was born in Ukraine in 1690 and was captured and sold as a slave during the Russo-Turkish War of 1710-1711. His fame comes from a refusal to convert to Islam, and his relics were brought to Evia by immigrants from Anatolia who were forced to move to Greece following the Greco-Turkish War in the early 1920s.
The church dedicated to St John dates to 1954 and there’s a steady stream of pilgrims all year round as he is believed to help people suffering from long-term illness.
His feast day is 27 May, when people come to Prokopi on foot from surrounding villages and you can see traditional music and dance performances specific to northern Evia.
12. Monastery of St David
Just four kilometres from the Drimona Waterfall is a monastery established in 1540 by St David of Evia.
According to tradition, David hit a nearby rock near the stick and it started gushing holy water.
The old building burnt down by the Ottomans during the Greek Revolution in the 1820s to punish the monks who had harboured insurgents, but was reconstructed in 1877. For non-pilgrims the monastery’s location is half the magic, as it’s couched beneath the Xiron Oros and Kavalaris peaks.
St David’s is a functioning monastery, and if you make the trip in winter you’ll get a warm welcome from the monks with loukoumi (Greek Turkish delight) and tea or coffee.
13. Euripus Strait and High Bridge
The channel separating Evia from Beotia on mainland Greece is the scene of a strange natural phenomenon.
Unlike the remainder of the eastern Mediterranean, the Euripus Strait has strong currents, flowing at up 12 kilometres an hour.
At peak flow small vessels are unable to sail against the tide.
What’s more, the tidal flow changes direction around four times a day, and when that flow is reversed vortices form in the water.
The most eye-catching of the two bridges crossing the strait at Halkida is the cable-stayed High Bridge, 600 metres long and completed in 1993. One of this structure’s unique features is its concrete deck, which is just 45 cm thick.
14. Lighthouse of Kakokefali
In Halkida you can walk to the pine-shrouded Bad Head Cape, which juts out into the Euripus Strait in the north of the town.
From the Neolithic period, right through Classical and Hellenistic Greece the cape was a burial site, and it later gained notoriety in Ottomans times as gallows were placed on Kakokefali as a warning.
At the northernmost point is a functioning lighthouse constructed in 1886 with a square tower like a Medieval castle.
The most remarkable thing about the lighthouse is that it is one of just six in all of Greece to still be manned.
15. Wine Tourism
Evia has a high reputation for its wine, which is produced around the island but especially on the semi-mountainous Lilantio Plain outside Halkida.
A dominant grape in this region is Savatiano, a white grape that is resistant to Evia’s long dry spells and benefits from the cool air drifting in from the North Evian Gulf.
If you’re in Halkida, the most convenient of Evia’s ten visitable wineries is the multi-award-winning Avantis in the village of Mytikas.
Avantis grows a selection of grape varietals like six types of Syrah, Muscat, Grenache Rouge, Merlot, Greek white Assyrtiko and Sauvignon Blanc.
The venue is a revived early-20th century vineyard, which has a grape press from the 1930s.
As well as the usual tour and tasting session you can sample the winery’s line of cosmetics crafted from grapes.