The 11th-century monastery of Nea Moni is one of the great architectural and artistic treasures of Greece. The monastery is in a spectacular setting in the mountains overlooking Hios town. Its grounds are extensive -- the monastery was once home to 1,000 monks -- but the population has dwindled to several elderly nuns. The focus of the rambling complex is the katholikon, or principal church, whose square nave has eight niches supporting the dome. Within these niches are sequences of extraordinary mosaics, among the finest examples of Byzantine art. You can see the portrayals of the saints in the narthex, and a representation of Christ washing the disciples' feet. The museum contains a collection of gifts to the monastery, including several 17th-century icons. Also of interest is the cistern, a vaulted room with columns (bring a flashlight); and the small Chapel of the Holy Cross at the entrance to the monastery, dedicated to the martyrs of the 1822 massacre by the Turks (the skulls and bones displayed are those of the victims themselves). The long barrel-vaulted refectory is a beautiful space, its curved apse dating from the 11th century.
The bus to Nea Moni is part of an island excursion operated by KTEL, departing from the Hios town bus station Tuesday and Friday at 9am and returning at 4:30pm. The route takes you from Nea Moni to Anavatos to Lithi beach to Armolia and back to Hios town; it costs 25€ per person. A taxi will cost about 40€ round-trip from Hios town, including a half-hour at the monastery.