The Lesbos region (currently the regional unit of Lesvos) consists of the islands of Lesbos, Lemnos and Agios Efstratios.
Lesbos at a glance
Lesbos, also known as Mytilini, is the largest island in the prefecture and is the third largest island in the country after Crete and Euboea, and is one of the largest in the Mediterranean. It is located in the northeastern Aegean Sea, quite close to the coasts of Turkey and opposite Ayvalık. The terrain is mountainous and semi-mountainous, mainly in the inland, while lowlands meet on the coast.
The island is famous for its olives and the famous olive oil, ouzo, figs, cheeses, chestnuts and others. Although volcanic, Lesbos has rich vegetation. Apart from the millions of olive trees, there are rich pine forests, but also oak and chestnut forests. The many streams that flow through it have created important wetlands in the estuary, especially in the two largest bays on the island (Kalloni and Geras).
The island is the birthplace of some famous people of art and literature like the philosopher Theofrastos, the musicians Arion, Sappho and Alkaio, Pittako one of the seven wise men whose face was imprinted in many coins, and finally, the great painter Theofilos, the Nobel prize winner Elitis and some other who made history in their own way.
Lovely Villages of Lesbos
The capital is Mytilene, which is also the capital of the prefecture as well as the headquarters of the region. It is located on the southeast of the island, 6 km from the airport. It is the city that welcomes thousands of visitors to the island every year. It has all the public services and banks and is perfectly organized in the tourist sector, as it enables the traveler to choose among dozens of accommodation, catering, and entertainment. Other popular settlements are Plomari, about 40 km away from Mytilene, known for its ouzo and traditional local delicacies and the beautiful Eressos. Also, the settlement of Molyvos, a traditional tourist destination, Polichnitos, 43 km east of the capital, with the famous hot springs, Kalloni, Petra village, the traditional settlement of Agiasos, the picturesque Mantamados, etc.
Geography of Lesbos island
The highest mountain in Lesvos is Lepetimos (968 m), Lemnos the Watchtower (470 m) and Agios Efstratios (Agios Efstratios) (298 m) Plains: The main plains of Lesvos are the Gulf of Gera and Kalloni Bay. Lemnos is a whole plain. Falls: From all over the prefecture, only Lesvos has rivers. The most important are: Tinheia, Kalamiaris, Evergetoulas, Kavouropotamos, Tsouknias, Tsichilandas, Voulgaris and Kechrada. Lakes: There is a small lake in Limnos, the Great Lake, which has salty waters and was formerly a lagoon. Coasts: Lesvos is one of the most diverse islands in Greece. Its physiognomy is characterized by two deep bays: Geras and Kalloni. Lemnos is shaped like an uneven quadrangle, which penetrates two bays in the middle, the bay of Moudros and the bay of Pournia, dividing it in two, leaving a narrow strip of land. Agios Efstratios has a triangular shape, with the peaks of Trypiti, Roumbos and Agia Apostoli. Climate: The climate of the prefecture is temperate, with mild winter and cool summer.
Some of the most beautiful beaches on the island are : Bigla, Neapoli, Varia, Kratigo, Thermi, Skala Mistegon, Xambelia, Melinta, Skala Eressou, Sigri, Gavathas, Amoudeli, Agios Isidoros, Vatera, Petra, Skala Sikaminias, Nifida, Agios Ermogenis, Skala Polihnitou, Aspropotamos, Molyvos, Drota, Skala Kallonis and Palaiokastro.
Eat & Drink
A place so beautiful filled with charms, like the land of Lesvos, celebrated and inspiration of poets, painters, writers filled with sunshine and an excellent variety of aniseed and other aromatic herbs, it is, therefore, natural for it to bear and to include in its tradition for centuries the production of ouzo.
Ouzo of Lesbos
Ouzo has a tradition for more than 200 years. Ouzo was already known on the island before the year 1800 and was a renowned product which was mainly exported to the East. It is the period where commerce blossomed on the island.
Many distilleries that were established the previous century did not manage to survive for various reasons, but those who did survive have an acceptable presentation in the local market and some even managed to escape the narrow boundaries of the island and to spread not only throughout the rest of Greece but throughout the world.
Ouzo is an alcoholic beverage which is exclusively produced in Greece by traditional procedures, with the use of aromatic herbs from the Greek countryside and copperware of a particular type. Extracted from a mixture of alcohols, which have been aromatized from the distillation of aniseeds and other aromatic herbs, seeds, and fruits such as fennel, gum, etc.
The proportion of alcohol in ouzo ranges from 37,5 – 48%. Ouzo is a traditional and well-loved Greek drink. The ouzo of Lesvos has its own personality, its own taste, its own heritage and it hides its own secrets, so well known to our distillers. These secrets associated with this product have established it as a high-quality product and it is requested either as ouzo of Mytilini or ouzo of Plomari.
It is drunk mainly as an aperitif, dry or with water. Enjoyed together with traditional meze (appetizers) mainly fish, octopus, and calamari (cuttlefish). Some like it dry or on the rocks as a long drink.
Ouzo has reached the competitive stages of many world-renowned alcoholic beverages.
Salted Fish - Shell-Fish - Oyster
One of the characteristic products of the Prefecture of Lesvos is the salted fish. With the term salted we mean processing fish, entirely preserved in salt, packed in cans of various sizes. Salting is one of the most ancient methods of the preservation of fish and is used until today due to its simplicity and its relatively good results. Based on the antiseptic qualities of salt with a concentration above 10% and the dehydration of bone which it causes due to its liquefying identity.
For many years now, in the Prefecture of Lesvos exist handicraft companies that process and package fish products. The ability of these establishments to process fish varies from 20 tons and may reach 400 tons yearly depending on the size of the establishment and magnitude of the fishing trawlers.
The processing procedure is done completely based on know-how experience with a distinct method of use of salt where no other ingredients are used. This procedure is learned from one generation to the other and is constantly improved. The procedure is completely traditional and is done only by hand with no use of specialized machinery.
The assortments of fish that are processed are sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and tuna fish. The fishing season begins in March and ends in October except for the tuna fish which begins after the month of October.
The quality of the specific fish, in the seas of Lesvos, is relatively high most probably due to the climate and the rich natural food (plankton) available in the seas. We all know the renowned sardines from the Gulf of Kalloni which even though small in size, their taste is considered the best in comparison to sardines from other areas of Greece. A great number of consumers prefer these sardines which they purchase small amounts from the fish market and after cleaning they are tasted with oil and vinegar as an appetizer of great taste and quality. All salt processed fish acquire taste, aroma, and dryness and are canned in various sizes and are also packed in vases of different shapes and sizes. The progress achieved in the canning techniques these past years has given these establishments the ability to offer these products to the consumers in greater demand having a powerful perspective in expansion.
Quinces, shell-fish, oysters, and clams are the natural wealth of the Gulfs in the islands of Lesvos and Lemnos. The most selective and delicious appetizers that can decorate a table with fruits of the sea accompanied with white wine from Lemnos or aromatic Ouzo of Mytilini with two or three dishes, can be the setting of a traditional table in a local tavern. They can be eaten fresh out of the sea raw with lemon or grilled. Shell-fish and oysters can be also cooked with rice and never forget the ouzo.
Even though the gathering of the sea fruits depends mainly on the weather conditions, the season and the regulations that are controlled by law, our islands have succeeded in having a year around supply, covering local demand and the fish farms dealing with shell-fish are exporting large numbers mainly to European counties.
Their perfect quality and their endless supply from the seas of Lesvos and Lemnos have made the shell-fish high in demand. From all the local production of sea fruits, the oysters of the Gulf of Kalloni are the most popular.
Dairy products from Lesvos Island
An intense feeling of the visitor of Lesvos is that this island has preserved its traditional color and has resisted the leveling raid of the extreme modernistic trends which alter many of the urban and even agricultural areas of the rest of the country. Both older and newer generations have remained loyal to a great extent to traditional nourishment practices, thus increasing the demand for local agricultural and stock-breeding products.
The unaltered quality of traditional dairy products (Ladotiri, Feta cheese, Gruyere, and Kalathaki) could be responsible for the trend to the Greek way of nourishment up until today, from the local producers and their unchanged preferences not only from the consumer public of Lesvos but from the remaining country.
The natural flora and the local breeds of sheep affect the creational factor of the excellent contents of sheep’s milk in the area, which could under certain conditions be characterized as ecological and which traditional cheese-makers convert and apply the traditional know-how and expertise that have been passed on from generation to generation.
The human factor determines the uniqueness of the taste identities of these dairy products because their excellent qualities are connected with the knowledge of the bio-regions, the systematic feeding of local breeds and the traditional techniques of cheese-making.
For many years now we can enjoy the peppery taste of Gruyère of Mytilini, the characteristic freshness of Feta cheese, and the ripe sentiment of Ladotiri.
Some time, many years ago, Kekropas, king of Athens was a referee between goddess Athena and Poseidon king of the sea, resolving their differences who would give his name to this city. The myth says that Poseidon hit the earth and water welled up, but Athena was the one who planted an olive tree and thus gave her name to this city.
Ancient Greeks used olive branches as the highest reward to winners of the Olympic Games, although the oil was used for therapeutic reasons, beautifying, enlightenment and of course nourishment. The fruit of the tree of victory and peace was used for the therapy of headaches, throat aches, ear pains, dislocations, fractures, wounds and as a means of rubbing medication, massage and as a medical plaster, as a disinfectant and a cosmetic, even as an antidote for poisoning. Olive oil is believed to help the development of the central nervous system and of the brain and has been proved of having beneficial properties with regards to heart-related illnesses, cholesterol, constipation, gall-stone, indigestion, and aging problems.
The Gold Liquid of Homer is the backbone of Greek nutrition from his era to ours and justifies victoriously with worldwide success and proclaims the “Mediterranean Diet” as the most beneficial and healthy “diet system” that one might select. The how and why olive oil together with bread, pulse, vegetables, and fish contribute to such a nutritional triumph you will discover once you basically adopt such a diet and enjoy later the results in your bodily system.
The virgin Lesbian olive oil is rich in single insatiable fatty acids as opposed to other seed-oils which basically have multi insatiable fatty acids. It is known the fatty acids in oil firstly effect the degree of oxidation when frying and then separate in unhealthy substances having a bad odor.
The olive oil has the charismatic identity to have special stamina to frying due to the natural anti oxidation contents allowing it to be used repeatedly without the fear of oxidation. With the use of seed-oils for frying, not only do we affect the taste and odor of the food but the oil achieves health hazard identities.
On the other hand, the consistency of the organic characteristics of olive oil even after frying and cooking transfers a pleasant taste and aroma in our nourishment. As a result, the synthesis of the gastric fluids is modified and digestion is facilitated.
The virgin olive oil of Lesvos which exceeds the color of gold contains only a minimal amount of chlorophyll as a result of the traditional way of gathering of olives and their special variety. The crop is gathered picking by hand along with the use of special nets. The crop is delivered from the olive grove to the olive press in small sacks made of natural fibers immediately after the gathering without being stored. The procedure of olive pressing takes place in olive mills on the island at temperature, not over 32°C and the olive oil that is produced is kept in stainless steel storages under specially controlled conditions. Thus our packed olive oil has better resistance to time because of chlorophyll when exposed to light speeds oxidation. This is the virgin olive oil of Lesvos, a natural thin liquid of the olive tree and a unique source of precious Vitamin E.
Windsurfing, sailing, basket, volley, tennis, football and more.
In Mytilini, you can find pubs, bars, discos, and cinemas. Discos and bars can also be found in Skala Eresou, Skala Kallonis, Plomari, Sigri and Skala Polihnitou.
Churches and Monasteries in Lesbos
The Taxiarchis Monastery is located in Mantamados, in the north-east part of Lesvos, 36km from Mytilini and it is considered to be the protector of the island. During the 9th and 10th centuries, the Saracen pirates had become the terror of the entire island.
During one of their raids, the Saracens slaughtered all of the monastery’s monks. In his attempt to escape the inevitable, one of the monks climbed up on the monastery’s roof, but the pirates were in hot pursuit. As they approached him with swords drawn, Taxiarchis suddenly appeared in front of the Saracens with his own sword drawn, forcing them to retreat in panic and saving the life of the monk. In a show of respect, the monk decided to create an icon out of clay and his fallen comrades’ blood in honor of the saint. Pilgrims come to pray at the monastery’s church from throughout Greece and abroad and leave various offerings in his honor, that include everything from swords to shoes.
The Monastery of Ypsilou is an active men’s monastery. It is dedicated to St. John Theologos and it is built in 1101 on the crater of a dormant volcano on a road to Sigri right past the turnoff to Eressos.
The Limonos Monastery is the largest monastery on Lesvos, as it contains 35 churches within its walls. It is located just outside of the town Kalloni and it was built in 1523. The monastery, still inhabited by monks, has been the intellectual center of the island during the years of the Turkish occupation. Only men may enter the central church, while women are admitted only to the outer monastic buildings.
The Pithari Monastery, which lies in a valley between Eressos and Antissa, was founded in the 17th century. It is a Byzantine Monastery with a big variety of icons, ecclesiastical objects, and hagiographies.
The Monastery of Perivolis is situated in a country road between Antissa and Vatousa. Although the church was built in the 1300s, the wall paintings were not made until the 1600s.
The Church “Virgin Mary Glikofilousa” or “Sweet Kissing Lady”, is built in 1747 in Petra, on the top of a rock, 30 meters high. This strategic place of construction has to do with the period of pirates’ attack. You can reach the top of the rock by climbing the 114 steps carved into the stone. It is said that a fisherman, who had the icon of the Blessed Virgin, one morning noticed that it was missing. He looks for it everywhere but he didn’t manage to find it. That evening he saw a strange light in the sky. He climbed up the rock and found his icon. He took it back to his boat but again it disappeared and again he found it on the top of the rock. He interpreted this as a sign from above and he built there the church in 1747. Every year there is a big celebration there on the 15th of August.
The Church of Virgin Mary (Panagia)in Agiasos hosts the miracle-working icon of the Virgin Mary Vrefokratousa. There is an anannual celebration that takes place on the 15th of August in honor of the Virgin Mary. Thousands of pilgrims, locals, and visitors come to the village to see the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, while the recent year’s hundreds of them, mostly the young walk all the way from Mytilini as well as from other villages and arrive at the village on foot.
Museums in Lesbos
The New Archaeological Museum of Mytilini
It is located since 1999 in the Kioski area in Mytilini.
The Archaeological Museum of Mytilini
This museum is housed in a 3-storied mansion near Mytilini’s “Statue of Liberty” and was built in the eclectic style in 1921. Numerous significant findings from excavation sites all over the island are displayed in this museum such as prehistoric figurines, pottery and jewelry, relief sculptures, statues and coins, funeral gifts, exquisite mosaics etc. The philosophy of the exhibition is to enable you to gain some insight into the island’s history and the role it played throughout the ages.
The Byzantine Museum
It is located in the Agios Therapon Church courtyard, on the ground floor of the Philanthropic Foundation of Mytilini. The Museum has a great collection of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine icons and ecclesiastic relics.
The Folk Museum
It is housed in the beautifully restored old Port Authority on the waterfront. The folk collection includes plates illustrating scenes from daily life, traditional costumes, household utensils, furniture, exquisite examples of needlecraft etc.
The Museum of Theofilos
It is located in the Mytilini’s suburb of Varia, just off the road to the airport. The museum has five exhibition rooms and houses 86 works by the folk painter Theofilos Chatzimicheal who was recognised as a great folk painter only after his death. He lived in poverty and had to paint the walls of houses and cafeterias in order to get some food. The paintings are all from the private collection of Stratis Eleftheriadis, or Teriade, who finances the building of the museum in 1965.
The Teriade Museum and Library of Modern Art
It is located in the grounds of the Theofilos Museum and it is also erected by Stratis Eleftheriadis at his own expense. The museum exhibits 19 rare books with hundreds of pictures done by great modern artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, Chagall, Le Corbusier, Leger, Miro and others. There are also works by Greek painters such as Giannis Tsarouchis, Orestis Kanellis, Giorgos Vakirtzis, Manolis Kalligiannis, Giorgos Rorris and 40 paintings by Theofilos that Teriade presented at the Louvre which made the folk artist known world-wide.
The Museum of Natural History in Vrisa
Just 2.5 km away from Vatera, contains a big collection of Paleolithic fossils, unique not only to Greece but also to Europe. Animal fossils were discovered like the jawbone, tusks and skeleton segments of the proboscidean and mastododon “Anancus Arvenensis” which became extinct more than 1.6 million years ago and a family of giant apes of the species of “Paradolichopithecus”, the earliest in representative age ever found in Europe. The fossilised bones of a giant tortoise that have been also found indicate the size of a 2.5 meters tortoise. Furthermore, plant fossils were discovered such as aquatic carnivorous plants and bulrushes which also don’t exist today.
Digital Art Museum at Chidira
In the remote and tiny hill village of Chydira, near Antissa, Eressos and Sigri, is a remarkable museum dedicated to local artist Georgios Iakovides. The artist was born in 1853 in Chidira and studied painting in Athens and Munich, spending much of his early life in Germany. In 1900 he was appointed the first director of the newly established Athens National Gallery and was Honorary Director of the Athens School of Fine Arts. The museum is set out on two floors like an ordinary gallery but digital technology is used to show the painter’s work through flat TFT panels, cinema projections and holo screens.
The Olive Press Museum
The Museum of Industrial Olive-Oil Production in Lesvos in Agia Paraskevi is housed in the premises of the old communal oil-mill, restoring both its architectural and mechanical features to their original condition. The old machinery and equipment that have been preserved, and fully restored and are being exhibited in a unique way by being put into use for demonstration’s sake, which is supported by digital shows. One can witness the development of the various machines, while special emphasis is given to the changes the introduction of mechanical power brought into the process of oil-production.
The Ouzo Museum is located next to privately-owned distilleries of the Barbayannis ouzo production facilities. The Ouzo Barbayannis family has been preserving the traditional distillation techniques for five generations.
In the Museum visitors can see the original equipment used to bottle and label the Ouzo Barbayanni.
Opening days and hours:
April 1st to October 15th: Monday-Friday 9am-4pm
October 16th to March 31st: Monday-Friday 10am-2pm
Saturday-Sunday: Holidays, upon request
Entrance: free of charge
Petrified forest of Lesbos
The intense volcanic activity buried below the ash the oaks, sequoias and other trees of the region, of which there are no modern equivalents. Today, two-thirds of Lesvos is covered by volcanic rock.
There are three different trails which all lead to the major petrified trunks in the park. Trail one “Discovering the Petrified Forest” is common for all visitors and is an introduction to the Petrified Forest. Trail two, ” The History of the Petrified Coniferous Forest”, is referred to the creation of the forest, while trail three, which is the longest walk, consists the tallest tree standing trucks, the majority of which belong to the Taxodioxylon family.
The petrified flora that was found in the area indicates that the Petrified Forest was developed in a subtropical climate, similar to that of Southeast Asia and America. It is said that the Petrified forest could be named “the Pompeii of the plant world” as the forms of the trees and especially the fruits, the leaves, the branches, and the roots are impressively well preserved.
The diameter of the largest standing trunks exceeds 3 meters and their height 7 meters, while many lying trunks exceed 20 meters in length.
Excavations in the area brought to light the bones and a large complete jawbone with teeth of a dinotherium, a large trunked ancestor of today’s elephant, which lived on the edges of a lake that once existed there 25 million years ago.
The region of the Petrified Forest is included in the “NATURA 2000 Network” which was created in 1999 within the institutional framework for the protection of natural regions of European Importance.
In Sigri there is a Museum dedicated to the forest which hosts some stunning examples of petrified wood. The Museum is open in summer (01/07-30/09) every day from 09.00-19.00 and in winter (01/10-30/06) every day from 09.00-17.00 except for Mondays. The Museum is closed on public holidays. The general entry fee is 5, 00 euro.
Lesvos was and still is one of the most significant and known centers of traditional pottery. Possibly due to the Lesbian clay’s composition, Lesvos is full of traditional ceramic’s workshops, which the natives call “Tsoukaladika”.
The most famous and significant were established and still, today exist in Agiassos and Mantamados, where pottery is a tradition inherited from generation to generation without any changes.
Wood-carving is another popular tradition art characteristic of the Lesbian civilization. Experienced workers were carving and still today carve the wood of olive trees, chestnut-trees and cherry-trees, converting it into various shapes inspired from the Christian life ( items for monasteries or churches – iconostasis, throne of the Patriarch) or for the decoration of the Lesbian house (consoles, sendouki), items immortal through time. Nowadays the wood-carving tradition continues in Agiassos, Mytilini, and Asomatos.
Also weaving still exists today. This popular art has been rescued through women who used to make their houses apparel (a necessary piece of their dowry) to the traditional Lesbian loom. Fortunately, our ancestors have rescued and still try to teach all these traditional techniques to the new generations. And today we can see all these young people reproduce this popular art using the same techniques and methods.
Mytilene has an International Airport and the main port. It has transport links (by air and sea) with Athens, Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Volos, Kavala, Alexandroupolis and the islands of Limnos, Chios Samos, Ikaria, Kos, Rhodes, Crete, etc.
From Athens, there are many flights daily (duration: 45 min.). For more information contact Olympic Airways in Athens, tel. (01) 9666666.
From Thessaloniki, there are also flights to the island. For more information contact Olympic Airways in Thessaloniki tel. (031) 260.121-9.
From Piraeus to Mitilini there is one ferry a day (distance: 188 nautical miles, duration: 15 hours). For more information contact the Coastguard of Piraeus tel. (01) 451.1311-19.
Useful Telephones :
Automatic dialing code: 0251
For the local connections of Lesvos contact the Coastguard of Mytilini: 28827
Port Authorities: 22776
A tour of the island
Mytilini (the capital)
Surrounded by seven green hills rooted in the heart of the Aegean, Mytilene, the capital of Lesvos, one of the oldest cities in Greece, spreads over from the 3rd millennium BC.
Today’s Mytilene, with about 30,000 inhabitants, is built on the ruins of the ancient city of the same name, which gave birth to great intellectual personalities, such as Pittakos, one of the seven wise men of antiquity and the greatest lyric poets of all time, Sappho (700- 600 BC) and Alcaeus (640-560 BC). The tradition continues to our day with the poet Nobelist, Odysseus Elytis (1911-1996).
Mytilini is also the capital of Prefecture of Lesbos (the islands of Lesvos, Limnos, and Aghios Efstratios). The city has two harbors. The southern one for the large ships and the coastal communications and the one in the north for the smaller vessels. Along the quay are many modern buildings and hotels (which provide all modern comforts).
The city of Mytiline has a very interesting Archeological Museum which houses findings of all eras. Most important findings are copper, marble and clay idols; one of them belonging to the prehistoric ages.
Further Mytilene has a museum of “Popular Lesvos Art” and a Library with many thousands of classified volumes and some rare books and old manuscripts.
The most important churches are the cathedral St. Athanasios (16th or 17th century) with a Gothic style steeple, the St. Therapon church (there is an interesting Byzantine Museum, in the courtyard of the church), St. Symeon church and several others.
It is worth visiting the prominent castle which was built by the Genoese on an older Byzantine one (6th century). In the northwestern hill of the city, there are ruins of a Hellenistic theater (300-100 BC) with excellent architectural construction.
Mytilini is a beautiful town, especially when viewed from the sea coming in on a boat. There is an architectural mixture of old and new elements with streets surrounded by trees. The town is decorated with several parks. The commercial center is alive with banks, shops of all sorts and travel agents. The “Town Theater” was built in 1952 and seats 756 persons and is basically used for cinema, showings, cultural events, congresses, seminars, etc. In town, one can find a wide variety of hotels, rooms to rent and the ability to sign up for tours to other areas of the island.
The city is adorned with beautiful churches from which the Metropolis (17th century) with the Gothic-style bell tower and the imposing ‘Agios Therapies (1880) stand out. The Monastery of Saint Raphael is located only 12 km from the city on an olive-tree area of Karyon Thermi. Mytilene is the seat of the Ministry of the Aegean and the University of the Aegean.
A walk in the picturesque neighborhoods, the waterfront, and the traditional market, from the Ancient Harbor of Epano Skala to Kioski and Surada, gives the visitor the opportunity to see the warm hospitality of the residents and to admire the beautiful listed mansions of various architectural styles.
Near Mytilini, one can swim at Tzamakia – an organized beach – and visit Varia (3,5km), the village where the painter Theophilos was born. The “Theophilos Museum” in honor of the great Greek naive painter is located there. It contains 5 rooms with 86 of his works of art. It is open daily.
Not far away is the museum of Elefteriadis-Teriant which contains rare publications and reproductions of Picasso and other outstanding painters of the 20th century.
At Agia Marina (5 km), you can find the homonymous church which has a very impressive iconostasis. Continuing on the coastal road you’ll reach Neapoli with its beautiful beach. Here you can find tavernas, pubs, rooms for rent and hotels. Just beyond the airport is Kratigo, with a sparkling beach, heavy vegetation, and many villas. The coastal road continues towards the scenic villages of Haramida, Aghios Ermogenis, and Loutra. Not far is Skala Louton with its many fish tavernas.
West of Mytilini you’ll find the villages of Alifanta, Kentro, and Pyrgi.
Near the village of Moria (6 km NW from Mytilini), it is worthwhile to visit the Roman aqueduct. The village has a lot of vegetation, old settlements and the beautiful church of Agios Vasilios. Afalonas is a village 7km from Mytilini. Panayiouda (6km), a seaside village with clear water, hotels, and tavernas. Also Pamfilla (7km), with the impressive church of Aghia Varvara.
To the north, one meets Pyrgi Thermis, full of old traditional houses. It is a village which once had 150 small castles. An excellent architectural gem is the church of Panagia Trouloti which was built in the 14th century. Then we reach Loutra Thermis (12km), a well-known spa ever since antiquity. The spa has 49,9 degrees Celcius and 0,8 radiation. Local excavations have brought to light ruins of five cities consecutively built on the same site. Kato Thermi (or Paralia Thermis) is near the sea and has many tavernas, restaurants, and places for accommodation. Above the village is the monastery of Agios Rafael.
Pigi (19km), is a village surrounded by olive groves and is known for its festival. Mistegna (16km), is known for its crystal clear beach and entertainment facilities. Skala Valtzikiou (24km), has an outstanding beach and many tavernas. Progressing north (36 km) the road leads to Mantamados village with its ruins of a medieval castle. The village is also known for its miraculous church of Taxiarhi, built in 1700. There was a monastery in the past where the Saracens massacred all the monks except one, who with his own blood painted the miraculous icon. Klio (42km), has the church of Agia Triada with a beautifully carved iconostasis. there is a fine sandy beach at nearby called Tsonia.
Sikaminia (46km) is on the northern side of the Lepetimnos mountain. It is the home-town of Stratis Mirivilis (famous Greek writer) and nearby is the small church of Panagia Gorgona. It is a marvelous tourist area where one can find plenty of rooms for rent, as well as a number of tavernas and the picturesque small port of Skala Sycaminia (49km). Pelopi (47km), is a small village with cool spring water and plenty of vegetation. It is become known of late because it is where US politician Michael Doukakis’ relatives reside. Stipsi (53km), is a small farming village and at nearby Kastelli there are the ruins of a medieval castle.
Keramia (15km), is known for the church of Aghios Georgios which is built at the site of a ruined castle. Ippios (17km), contains ruins of the Byzantine period. Asomatos (22km), hosts the Taxiarchis church with some fine frescoes.
An asphalt road to the NW of Mytilini leads to Agiasos (27km), a village built in an area of abundant vegetation on the slopes of Mount Olympus (height 967 m) and which with its old traditional houses, its stone-paved streets and its squares, strongly appeals to the visitor. It is considered one of the most scenic areas of the island.
In the village, one should visit the Museum of Popular Art, the Church Museum and will find many shops and interesting cafes. Finely-worked ceramics of Agiasos are famous for their originality and art. Folk traditions revive here in the festivities of Profitis Elias and the Madonna (15th of August – the brightest folk feast in the area), also in the carnival known as “Vallia”. Lambrou Mili (18km), is a small village with an ancient Roman aqueduct.
Bay of Geras and Plomari area
The road leading from Mytilini to Plomari passes through the Bay of Gera and its picturesque villages on the coast. It is four miles in length and 2,5 miles wide. Here we see Therma Geras (8km), with ancient ruins, probably of a temple of goddess Hera. The spas of Therma have a temperature of 39,7 degrees Celsius and owned by the municipality. At the broader point of the bay lies the monastery of St. Hermogenes – this is an unforgettably beautiful place. Paleokipos (23km), has a number of houses with beautiful gardens and an impressive church of Agios Ermolaos, with its wooden, hand-carved iconostasis. On the western side of the bay, we see the picturesque village of Skopelos (26km), with its monastery of St. Magdalene; early Christians on the island found refuge in its catacombs. Northwest of Mesagros (25km), built in 1500, are ruins from the Byzantine period.
We pass by the round pebbled beach of Agios Isidoros and reach Plomari (42km), a beautiful town famous for its ouzo, with a picturesque harbor. It is the second largest town of the island after Mytilini. The old harbor (which is active) has an impressive church of Agios Nikolaos. In the town, there is a museum of Popular Art. Nice beaches located close to Plomari are Melinta and Ammoudeli. There are hotels, hostels, restaurants, tavernas, bars, pubs and discos. Plomari is a starting point for excursions with small boats to other areas of the island.
Akrasi (58km), hosts one of the best beaches of the island called Drota. At Ambeliko (63km), at a height of 400m, is a beautiful church of Agios Nikolaos. The village was founded in 1565.
Lisvori (43km), where the traces of a settlement from 2000 BC were found. You can also see the remains of a Byzantine mine as well. There is also a spa, called Agios Ioannis, with a water temperature of 69 degrees Celsius and radiation 2.5.
Moving west to the small town of Polychnitos (45km), the visitor will be acquainted with its spas. It is a cosmopolitan town with commercial and tourist activity, beautiful beaches and lots of places for entertainment. At Halakies archaeologists found the oldest settlement of the island. The spa of Polychnitos is also well-known and has water temperatures of 76.1 and 87.6 degrees Celsius with radiation of 1.6 to 6 units.
Vrisa (50km), is a traditional village. As we move to the south, amidst the dense greenery, we reach the vast sandy beach of Vatera (55km) stretching 8km long and 30-40m wide. Here the visitor will find hotels, restaurants, tavernas, bars, cafes, etc.
Aghia Paraskevi (40km) has some archeological sites of interest in the Klopedi area. At the Mesa Mera area, the remains of a 3rd century BC temple were found, at Halinados an ancient pre-Christian building was discovered, while in the agricultural area of Achladeri there were the ruins of ancient Pirras of 231 BC destroyed by an earthquake.
The island’s central road, from Mytilini to the NW, leads to the bay of Kalloni (41km), full of beautiful beaches. North of the gulf lies in the homonymous village. If one stays here for a meal or a glass of ouzo, it is worthwhile to try the local sardines. There are two impressive churches, Zoodochos Pigi, and Agios Ioannis. In the area ancient, Byzantine and medieval foundations have been discovered. There are rooms for rent, hotels, restaurants, bars and excursion options to other areas of the island. At Skala Kallonis there is a beautiful beach with hotels, tavernas, etc.
From here, a side-road of 5km leads to the Limonos Monastery, decorated with wonderful frescoes. The monastery has an ethnographic museum (many works of religious art, icons, ceramics, etc.), a library endowed with rare manuscripts (about 3000 old), and a hostel. It was built in 1527 by the Metropolitan Bishop of Mithimna, Ignatio Agaliano. It is one of the most outstanding monasteries, not only in Lesbos but all of Greece. Mirsiniotissas Convent, built in 1523, is 1.5km from Kalloni. Here is a tomb of Agaliano. Men are forbidden to enter the convent.
Anemotia (55km), is known for its fine grapes and two interesting churches, Agios Georgios and Metamorfosi tou Sotira. Skalochori (58km), is a farming village with traces of an ancient settlement in the Tsamur harbor area. At the Ovriokastro Cape, the is the remains of ancient Antissa. Perivolis Monastery was built between 1600 and 1650 and includes outstanding frescoes of that period.
Antissa (77km), is located on the slopes of a mountain. Ancient Antissa was built 12km from the current village, towards the sea and was one of the first settlements of the island. Here we find the ruins of Pelasgian walls and medieval age fortifications and the monastery of St. Ioannis Theologos Ypsilos (81km). It was founded in 800 AD by Agios Ioannis of Sigrianis and it is built on the summit of Mt. Osdimnos. There is a museum in the monastery with a rich collection of ecclesiastical items. At Vigla there is a castle built by the Genovese.
At Sigri (94km), the visitor is led to an amazing and breathtaking view of the Petrified Forest, which is one of the best in Europe. It was formed after a volcanic eruption of Mt. Ordimnos. Thousands of visitors are attracted every year here. Experts place the petrified wood as being half a million years old and perhaps as much as 20 million years old. The height of the petrified trunks reaches 6,5m and they still preserve their roots and their branches. You can also visit the Turkish castle, which was completed in 1757 and the church of Agia Triada. Here you will enjoy the quiet and peaceful landscape. There are plenty of rooms for rent, restaurants, and tavernas where you can find always fresh fish.
Eressos (89km), is a village with impressive churches such as Panagias, Agia Irini, and Agios Konstantinos. It was the birthplace and home city of Sappho (612 BC) the poetess; excavations here have brought to light important archaeological findings: the ruins of the ancient city of Eressos, the ruins of a Byzantine castle. At the museum of the area, you can see an archaeologically interesting collection of Greek-Roman and old Christian objects. At a distance of 4 km lies the Scala Eressou with its beautiful sandy and sparkling beach extending 4km and with a width of 70m. Many consider this beach as one of the best in Greece. There are hotels, rooms for rent, restaurants, tavernas, pubs, discos, etc.
Pitharios Monastery is located 4km from Eressos and was founded in the 17th century.
Petra (55km), is a small scenic village with ideal fishing opportunities and plenty of small boats available for hire. The beautiful beach extends 4km in length. In this village, the first women’s agrotourism cooperative was founded, with help from the Secretariat for Sex Equality. Here women members of the cooperative put up visitors in their own homes, offering them the opportunity to participate in family life and agricultural work. In Petra, it is worthwhile to visit a private collection of Theophilos’s works, as well as the monastery of Panagia Glykofilousa, built on a rock with 114 steps. It was built in 1609. Another interesting church is Agios Georgios which was built in 1880 on the ruins of a Byzantine edifice.
History Of Lesbos
During the period between 3200 B.C. – 2400 B.C. the Thermi area becomes a large coastal urban settlement, with building blocks and paved roads. Actually, the excavations that were carried out in the nineteen-thirties by the English archaeologist Winifred Lamb, exposed settlement structures of small towns. Other settlements have also been located on the island (in Lisvori), while there are many smaller locations built on the fortified rocky hilltops, which possibly served as homes for farmers and cattle-raisers. The stone tools and the vessels that have been found reveal the purpose which these sites served. These excavations have revealed that the civilization developed on the island is similar to the Trojan and Mycenaean.
Lesvos is mentioned in the Homeric epics. Achilles, during one of his many invasions to the island, captured the beautiful Vrisiida, who later provoked the feud between himself and Agamemnon. The poet Parthenions tells us that Achilles conquered Mithymna with the help of the king’s daughter, Pissidiki, who had fallen in love with him.
Homer says that Lesbos was the kingdom of Makaras. Makaras had 5 daughters, Mitilini, Mithimna, Issa, Antissa and Arisvi and 4 sons, Ereso, Kirdolao, Neandro, and Lefkippo. Some of the greatest cities of ancient Lesbos were named after Makaras’s daughters and Ereso.
In the prehistoric times, the island was known by a number of names such as Lasia, Imerti, Pelasgia, Makaria, and Aeolis. During the Ottoman rule, the Turks called it Altin Antasi, in other words, the Golden Island. Today’s name of Lesbos, according to one version, came from a Phoenician word esvou meaning seven, while another version says that the island got its name from the word lespis which means precious gem. Historian Diodoros of Sicily said that Lesbos got its name from Lesvo, son of the Thessalian king Lapithou who married the daughter of Makaras, Mithimna.
Life on Lesbos, as revealed by excavations by archaeologists in the Thermis area, has been traced to 3000 BC and the civilization is similar to that in Troy and Mycenae. The first inhabitants of Lesbos were the Pelasgians from Argos or Thessaly. They were succeeded by others, namely the Makares (around 1826 BC) who were joined by the Pelasgians lead by Lesbos. The Pelasgian walls, which can be found at Perados, Kerania, Arisbe and Tsinia are the evidence of the presence of Pelasgians on the island.
The island was abandoned during the destruction of Defkaliona around 1680 BC. In 1507 BC, it was once again inhabited by Xantho and his followers. Between 1393-1184 BC it was inhabited by the Achaians. In 1393-1184, Lesvos was ruled by the Achaeans and from 1100-1000 by the Aeolians who intermingled with the old population and gave the island their language and culture. Thus from that time on, Lesvos began to be regarded as an Aeolian Greek island and its previous history was forgotten. Lesvos was in fact so powerful that for a long time they controlled the other Aeolian towns and regions of Asia Minor.
In 1290 B.C. Eteoklis helped gain independence for the island.
Lesbos took part in the Trojan War on the side of the Trojans and their leader Pileo. Sixty years after the downfall of the Trojans, Aeolians inhabited the island and king Penthilidis led the island to prosperity and to the gaining of the entire western part of Asia Minor. He governed the island until he was assassinated by Megaklis. In the classic age, Lesbos was a major sea power which prevailed in the Aegean for 60 years. Its ships reached Carthage and the Black Sea. The island had a large population and letters and arts were thriving. Lesbians had established colonies on the opposite coasts of Asia Minor.
During the 6th and 7th century B.C. the island truly became a center of civilization, flourishing both commercially and culturally. Amongst the many who lived and worked on the island was Terpandros (700 B.C.), poet and great musician, who invented the seven note musical scale for the lyre , Pittacus (648 B.C.) one of the seven wise men of ancient Greece, Arion (625 B.C.) a charismatic lyrical poet and musician who developed the type of poem called dithyramb, the progenitor of tragedy, Alkaeos (600 B.C.) a great lyrical poet, Sappho (620 B.C.) a highly respected poet, whom Plato referred to as “the tenth muse” as her poetry was distinguished for its passion and depth of feeling, Theophrastus (372 B.C.) a philosopher and botanist, and finally Theophanes, a significant historian who accompanied Pompey in his Asia Minor expeditions.
In 428 B.C., a short while following the start of the Peloponnesian War, Mytilini seeks to join forces with Sparta but is betrayed by Mithymna. Thucydides documents the disputes between Athenians over the imposition of the death penalty on all citizens of Mytilini. At the last moment, the harsh decision is withdrawn and Mytilini is saved from complete annihilation. With the final, however, Athenian defeat, Lesvos temporarily passes to the realm of Spartan influence.
The island was taken over by the Persians in 527 B.C. and joined the battle against Egypt (527 B.C.), Darius against Skythes (513 B.C.) and the Ionian Revolution (499 B.C.) when Lesbos gained its independence. That was the era of the historian Ellanikos. In the 494 B.C. Persians again took over the island and the islanders had to joint Xerxes in his battle against the Greeks (480 BC) and then joined the Greeks in their naval victory in Mykali (479 B.C.), gaining once again their freedom.
Lesbos took part in the Attica League until 428 B.C. at which time all towns of the island, except Mythimna, were controlled by the league. That’s when a long war between Athens and Lesbos occurred, the Islanders being supported by Sparta. The war lasted until 406 BC when the island became the property of Athens.
In 387 B.C. the island becomes self-governing while in 375 B.C. it took part in the Second Attica League. By 334 B.C. the Macedonians make their appearance and Lesbos becomes part of Macedonia and follows its destiny.
The Romans destroyed the island in 168 BC, but by 88 B.C. the island is back on its feet enjoying economic and cultural prosperity.
When Mithridates, king of Pondos is ousted by western Asia Minor (approximately 80 B.C.), Lesvos, accedes without condition to the Roman Empire. Pompei granted the island a degree of autonomy which it last until 70 A.D., in the time of Emperor Vespasian. Later Hadrian gave the people of Lesvos their privileges again. Monuments of great beauty are produced while Lesvos is under the Roman rule: the Aqueduct of Moria, the exquisite mosaic floors which decorate the villas in Epano Skala, the ancient Theatre and the Holy Altar of Thermias Artemis.
Contrary to the political instability and foreign domination there is an intense cultural activity that takes place on the island. In the middle of the 4th century B.C., the Athenian orator Isocrates, writes in a letter addressed to the noblemen of Mytilini that “your city, it is commonly believed, that stands apart in all dimensions of cultural life and has given birth to all celebrated artists”.
The philosopher Epikouros lectures on Mytilini, while the Apostle Paul visits the island (52 A.D.). Following the predominance of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman State, many basilicas are constructed.
During the Byzantine era, the island suffered from invasions from the Saracens, Turks and Enetons. In 1204 A.D. the Franks gave the island to Valdouino I.
Lesbos witnessed many other difficult times until 1354 when Francisco Gatelouzos of Geneva, son-in-law of the great Byzantine Emperor Ioannis Paleologos, took over the island as part of a dowry. He kept led the island through calm waters until the Ottoman Turks took over the island on October 14, 1462.
Lesbos was freed once again in 1912 and it was given over to Greece in 1923. The Germans took over in 1941 during World War II and three years later independence finally came to Lesbos.