Home Destination Guides Accommodation 20th February 2019





General
Greece 

LESBOS
(pronounced LESVOS)
 
 
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GENERAL
 
Located in the North East of the Aegean, just a short hop away from the Turkish mainland, lies the third largest of the Greek islands, Lesvos, often referred to as Mytilini, after the island’s main port and capital.
 
 
LEGEND, ARTISTRY & the FEMALE CONNECTION
 
Lesvos is a diverse island offering something for everyone, full of rich history, artistic and local traditions, and a heady mix of many legends. One of the most famous legends involves the discovery of the head and lyre of Orpheus, washed up on the shores of the island. This seemingly prompted the building of a temple near the spot, devoted to music and poetry and marking the birth of the island’s great artistic tradition.  There follow tales of the beautiful aristocratic Sappho, who was born around 630 BC in Eressos, and was famous for her eloquent poetry and verse. Her verses included reference to female relationships and lesbianism, and led to her achieving almost iconic status. 
 
Since ancient times women have played an important role in the community of Lesvos, in fact the first women’s agricultural tourism co-operative in Greece was established here in Petros, in 1983, where visitors were offered accommodation in local households.  The co-operative movement caught on and now there are a number of women’s co-ops on Lesvos, offering anything from traditional food to a variety of local handicrafts.  In addition, an emphasis on the arts has attracted many poets, writers and artists from all walks of life, who gather here to draw inspiration for their work and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this unspoilt island.
 
 
BIRDS, HIKING and WILD FLOWERS
 
Lesvos is a volcanic island and as such some of the scenery is quite stark and barren. It is not a lush island like so many others and this may be one of the reasons why it has escaped the popularity of other better known islands.  In the west there is a modest area of Petrified Forest, with the remains of some petrified tree stumps which are particularly bleak and sombre.  However, Lesvos offers more varied pursuits for the visitor than some other islands do.  The western side of the island is a great spot for ornithologists (see also Skala Kalloni below), as it is located on a seasonal migratory route and is a popular resting place for birds travelling to and from the warmer continents of Africa and Asia.  The island has areas of salt pans which attract an assortment of wading birds and the olive trees provide a temporary haven for many other species, including masked shrike, rock nuthatches and long-legged buzzards.  Nightingales too, fill the air with harmonious bird song.  For hikers and wild flower enthusiasts there are opportunities to explore the hills and dunes to discover the delights of endemic orchids, sea daffodils and blue fenugreek. Finally, one should not forget that the Lesvos coastline has some great beaches and a wicked stretch of black volcanic sand at Skala Erissos which runs for almost 3 kilometres!
 
 
"SELF-SUFFICIENT" LESVOS
    
Lesvos has always been self sufficient and has never needed to rely on tourism for an income.  Despite appearing barren in places, the island is in fact very fertile, purporting to have over 10 million olive trees spread across the island – who’s counting them(?) – and the olive oil produced on the island is said to be some of the best in Greece.  There are two stunning horse-shoe shaped bays in the south of the island; Kalloni Gulf in the South West and Yeres (or Gera) Gulf in the South East near Mytlini. Both of these Gulfs have very narrow necks where they meet the Aegean and this makes them look like two inland lakes, but they are teeming with salt water fish, another great commodity for sale in the numerous fish tavernas that abound on the island (grilled sardines being a local speciality). Fishing and agriculture have therefore remained major economic forces on the island right up to this day.  Last but not least, Lesvos is also famous for its ouzo distilleries (adding a further boost to the island’s economy) and there are plenty of opportunities to sample the local brands during your stay.
 
 
EAST and MYTILINI
 
The capital and main port of the island - Mytilini - is located on the southern end of the east coast overlooking the Turkish mainland.  Mytilini is a bustling commercial town and port, so most visitors tend to head away to the more tourist-orientated resorts on the northern coast.  However, Mytilini has some good examples of neo-classical architecture on some of the old mansions and numerous other interesting aspects that should not be overlooked.
 
Nearly all sites of interest are within walking distance of the lovely waterfront, around the inner harbour, which is lined with restaurants and café bars and proudly displays a fine marble statue of Sappho. Most of the ferries berth on the eastern quay of Mytlini harbour with the tourist boats and the Turkish ferry berthed in the inner harbour. On the western side of the inner harbour is St Theodore’s Church and the Byzantine Museum and a short walk further on is the main bus station.  On the eastern side of the inner harbour is the Tourist information office and next to that is the notable Archaeological Museum which houses some excellent mosaics unearthed from the ancient town.
 
On a headland behind the waterfront sits an impressive Byzantine Castle built in 1373, standing guard on the site of a former acropolis.  There are some fantastic views from the Castle across the narrow stretch of water that separates Lesvos from the Turkish mainland, but relations between the Greeks and the Turks can be strained and photography is usually prohibited in sensitive areas such as these.  If taking pictures, do not be tempted to break the rules – stiff penalties apply!   Beneath the Castle is a pleasant wooded park area and a town beach run by the Greek Tourist Organization (NTOG), which charges a small entrance fee for the use of its facilities.
 
As well as the sights, Mytilini has great facilities, with banks, a University, a Cathedral, an ancient theatre, a hospital, doctors, chemists, a variety of shops including a street market, café bars, tavernas, restaurants, car hire and taxis.
 
Whilst there is quite a good bus service from Mytilini to some of the main villages on the island, this service is not very frequent and those wishing to visit other areas of the island would be well advised to hire a car. This is especially so, as the alternative is to travel to Mytilini (if you are not already staying there) every time you want to go somewhere, before being able to catch a connecting bus to alternative destinations on the island.
    
Just 4 kilometres outside of Mytilini is the tiny hamlet of Moria where you can see the fascinating remains of a Roman Aqueduct dating from the 3rd Century AD and built to supply water to the island capital. There are also natural hot water springs within easy reach of the capital - to the north at Pirgi Thermis and 5 kilometres to the south at Loutra. Travelling north from Mytilini along the east coast is the hill village of Mantamados, renowned for its local pottery, and close by the tranquil Taxiarches Monastery, a popular destination for pilgrims. 
 
 
THE NORTH, MOLYVOS, PETRA and ANAXOS
  
The most popular area for tourists is along the north coast, with the resort of Molyvos standing out in the popularity stakes - and it’s not hard to see why.  Molyvos lies some 62 kilometres from Mytilini and is still officially known as Mithyma, the name originally given to the town in ancient times. It is as picture-postcard pretty as any a Greek island town.  Traditional stone built houses with their red tiled roofs cascade down the hillside to the pretty fishing harbour below, lined with cafés, bars and tavernas. Crowning the village are the ruins of a Genoese Castle, built in the 14th Century, with panoramic views across the Aegean to the Turkish mainland.  Sometimes the Castle is illuminated at night, giving it an almost ethereal feel, and occasionally in high season the Castle plays host to the village arts festival.
 
The twists and turns of the narrow cobbled streets reveal small shops selling local handicrafts, jewellery and souvenirs.  The resort has mini markets, car hire (essential if you wish to explore the island) and money exchange facilities. Boat trips are available from the harbour and there is a long pebble beach offering sun beds and some water sports in high season.  Nightlife is what you make of it, lingering in one of the waterfront restaurants or trying something a bit more energetic in one of the clubs or discos which are set on the outskirts of town.  A visit to the Museum should not be missed either, where ancient artefacts including sarcophagi, are on display.  Generally this is a typically Greek resort, popular with families and perfect for a relaxing break.
 
A couple of kilometres to the east of Molyvos are the natural hot springs of Eftalou, a legacy of the island’s volcanic history and renowned for their therapeutic properties.  Domed spas have been built around these springs so that visitors can soak away their aches and pains in the steamy depths, before cooling off in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean.
  
Five kilometres to the south of Molyvos is the smaller village of Petra, meaning ‘Rock’, so named because it huddles round a large rock topped by the striking 18th Century Church of the Virgin Mary.  Also worth a visit is the church of Agios Nikolaos painted with frescoes in the 16th Century.  Petra is becoming more popular in its own right because it has a better beach than Molyvos, a long buff-coloured sandy one, which many people staying in Molyvos are willing to take a 15 minute bus ride to reach.  Petra also has a selection of shops, restaurants, and café bars.
 
Just 2 kilometres to the west of Petra, neighbouring Anaxos is a small, intimate hideaway, with a great sandy beach.  This tiny village has only a handful of traditional tavernas and café bars with a few mini markets and is the ultimate in relaxation.  There is no ATM machine here, so be sure to change enough money when visiting either Petra or Molyvos, both of which are within easy reach of Anaxos.
 
 
WEST, SIGRI, SKALA ERISSOU & SKALA KALLONI
  
On the western side of the island is where the scenery is most bleak, but where some of the best volcanic beaches are to be found.  In the far west, close to the area of Petrified Forest is the delightful fishing hamlet of Sigri, where many locals still earn a living from the traditional fishing industry. An imposing 18th Century Turkish fortress overlooks Sigri and the hamlet has a sandy beach with a handful of tavernas and café bars.  If the peace and quiet of Sigri becomes too much to bear, you can always hop on the early morning bus to Mytilini and enjoy the scenery for the two and half hours it takes to get there.
 
Further around the coast in the south west is the resort of Skala Erissou, with its fine beach of volcanic sand and shingle that stretches for around 3 kilometres, fringed by the cool clear sea.  There are sunbeds and umbrellas for rent as well as pedalos in high season and with such a wide expanse of beach there is always room for everyone.  The section of beach in front of the village has a long pedestrian promenade lined with tavernas and café bars, where evenings can become quite lively in high season.  There are other restaurants and shops scattered throughout this small resort, and you can walk to the hill of Vigla, where the ruins of the ancient town of Erissou lie.  Erissou is the birthplace of the poet Sappho, champion of feminism, and a small but ardent following visit the resort to pay homage to her.  In the hills behind Erissos there are some fine monasteries, both at Perivolis and Ipsilou, which are enclaves of peace and tranquillity, but (again) car hire is essential for those wishing to explore the surrounding area.
 
On the south west facing coast of Lesvos lies the entrance to the vast Kalloni Gulf which occupies the centre of the island, and at the Northern end of the Gulf is the attractive fishing village of Skala Kalloni.  This is another village with the fishing industry at its very heart and those lucky enough to be visiting towards the end of July will be able to partake in the renowned annual sardine festival.  There is a great beach at Skala Kalloni, wide, with buff coloured sand as opposed to the more granular volcanic ones, and because the Gulf is virtually enclosed from the open sea, it has warm, gently shelving waters perfect for learning at the local water sports centre.  Shelter from the hot sun can be found under the pleasant tamarind trees which line the beach or sun beds and parasols can be hired.  The village has a choice of restaurants, tavernas, café bars, shops and a disco, most of which are clustered around the quay to the side of the picturesque fishing harbour where the local caiques are moored.  For those looking for some exercise, bicycle hire is available and Skala Kalloni is a favourite haunt for birdwatchers, with the nearby salt flats attracting migratory birds, particularly in spring, when the nesting season is in full swing.   In the hills to the west of Skala Kalloni is another atmospheric Monastery at Limonas with a museum of ecclesiastical treasures, and to the east ancient ruins of a Temple dedicated to Aphrodite.   Coupled with a laid back and friendly Greek atmosphere, Skala Kalloni really does offer something for everyone.
 
 
SOUTH, PLOMARI & inland village of AGIASSOS
 
On the southern coast of Lesvos lies the harbour town of Plomari, best known for its ouzo distilleries, many of which will be pleased to offer a free tasting of their wares!  From Plomari harbour there is a beach boat shuttle to one of the island’s best beaches at the unspoilt village of Vatera – a sun worshippers paradise with almost 7 kilometres of sandy beach comprised of stone particles so fine that they turn the sea a magical turquoise.  Alternatively there is a local bus to Vatera which passes through magnificent scenery, skirting the highest peak on the island at Mount Olympos, (968 metres above sea level) and passing through the beautiful, old mountain village of Agiassos, almost hidden amongst the surrounding pine trees.  Preserving local tradition, Agiassos has unique timber built houses scattered along narrow cobbled streets, with shops selling lovely pottery and elaborately carved woodwork which make great gifts to take home. In fact the village has been recognized by the Greek Government as such a fine example of cultural heritage that it is now protected by a conservation order.             
         
 
ISLAND CONNECTIONS
 
Being a large island, Lesvos has its own international airport located on the southern-most tip of the east coast and package holidays are available from Greek specialist tour companies.  Charter airlines fly direct from the U.K. to Lesvos during the summer months, usually from April to October.  Flying time from the U.K. is almost 4 hours.  Olympic Airways offer scheduled flights from the U.K. to Lesvos via Athens or via Thessalonika.  Timings vary depending on how long you need to wait for the connecting flight to Lesvos and may require an overnight stay.  The Olympic Airways domestic flights from Athens and Thessalonika to Lesvos run all year round, although the flight schedule will be less frequent in the winter months.  Lesvos also has domestic flights to and from Limnos and Chios.
 
Lesvos has numerous ferry connections to the Athens ports of Rafina and Piraeus, as well as ferries to Limnos, Kavala, Alexandroupolis, Chios, Samos, Leros, Kos, and Rhodes.  However these ferries are usually circuitous, calling at several islands on the way.  There is also a daily ferry to the Turkish mainland from Mytilini. Frequency of sailings and timetables are subject to change depending on ferry operators and adverse weather conditions.  The circuitous routes tend to be more susceptible to delays than direct sailings and information should always be checked locally. 
 
 
 
The foregoing information was last reviewed in February 2007. Things change, and whilst we are often travelling in Greece we do rely to some extent upon others to provide updates in order to keep the site as current and accurate as possible!  If you have updates or information that you think should be included here, please mail the webmaster@aguide2greece.com  - thank you.
 
 
          
 

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