Lesvos is a much more beautiful island than one might think before visiting it. In reality, what might be scary is its large size! But also the fact that the -very- self-sufficient locals never really tried to turn Lesvos into a very touristy island, resulting in the illusionary image of this place escaping us. The refugee crisis that Lesvos has been carrying on its shoulders almost alone since 2015 pushed even deeper into the mind of the visit to this island.
Lesvos is indeed a beautiful island with a unique beauty and identity. It has been a source of inspiration for artists, painters, writers, and poets.
Lesvos is an ideal island for groups of friends, families, solitary vacations, relaxation, adventurous situations, and of course for all seasons of the year. It is charming in autumn and winter but also in spring. For summer, it’s amazing!
It’s worth noting that Lesvos is the third largest island in Greece after Crete and Evia and one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean with a coastline of 370 kilometers long.
Lesvos is also a very fertile island, full of pine trees and olive groves. About 11,000,000 olive trees (!) grow in Lesvos, creating a continuous, large olive grove. The alternations of the landscapes are very intense.
The island has two bays. The largest is Kalloni Bay, famous for its sardines, and the smaller one is Gera Bay. Another intense element of the island’s identity is that it is full of geological monuments as well as areas with natural beauty and ecological value. An example is the Petrified Forest, which has been designated as a protected natural monument (UNESCO World Heritage site). We have gathered some (we emphasize some, only!) of the stops you can make on your trip to Lesvos.
Six beautiful stops in Lesvos
The port, old town, and old market of Mytilene are some of the attractions you can find in Mytilene. The port is large and satisfying and gives a lively, colorful image. Along the harbor, you will find many shops that include everything. Mainstream cafes and bars, taverns, souvlaki shops, commercial stores, cafes, pastry shops, supermarkets, tourist shops whatever your appetite desires in general. It is worth mentioning that Mytilene is the seat of the University of the Aegean, the Regional Unit of Lesbos, and the Region of Northern Aegean but also of the Ministry of Aegean.
Just behind the port, equally large and complex, full of small and even smaller alleys, lies the old market of Mytilene, highly picturesque and well-dressed. The Holy Temple of Agios Therapon is its trademark, which dominates imposingly from the beginning of the last century. In addition to the shops that are glued to each other, most of which have almost half a century or more of life, the route on the cobbled streets of the old town and market of Mytilene reveals significant monuments.
The Geni Mosque and the Tsarsi Hamam are witnesses that this was the reference point of the Ottoman period, while around them very beautiful Christian churches are developed. Worth mentioning and visiting are the Metropolitan Church of Mytilene, Agioi Theodoroi, Agioi Apostoloi, and Agios Symeon. Returning to the shops, it is interesting that next to the most famous brands and large commercial chains there are some of the oldest shops on the island that sell everything from fresh fish to handmade olive oil soaps from Mytilene, all the wonderful handmade cheeses of the island (such as the famous oil cheese but also fantastic mizithra cheese), ouzo (of course also from Lesvos), pots, ceramic decorations, and all the things one can imagine.
The old market and town of Mytilene is by far the most beloved spot of the Mytilenians and it is no exaggeration to say that modern city life beats here, with locals enjoying sweets, drinks, ouzo, meze, and meals in one of the many shops located in this area. Moreover, the most interesting new catering and entertainment shops in this part of the city are located. You will see them popping up in front of you alley by alley.
The route ends at the old port of the city, where the statue of the Asia Minor Mother dominates. However, this is a walk that cannot be exhausted at once and that you will want to do and redo yourself. And on your last walk don’t forget to load up on local products such as - obviously - ouzo (there are many brands that you can’t find in Athens), oil cheese, honey, oil, ceramics, cheeses, pastes sardines, etc. Another interesting statue is the Greek “Statue of Freedom”.
Thermal Baths at Thermi.
The hot springs are located very close to the city of Mytilene (at the 7th kilometer of the national road Mytilene-Kalloni) in an excellent location overlooking the beautiful Gulf of Gera. The location here is called Thermi. The thermal water that you will enjoy in your baths starts its journey towards the surface from a depth of 2,500 meters from the bowels of the earth and gushes out like an artesian well at a temperature of 39.5 degrees Celsius. On their long journey, until they reach this location, they pass through various rocks which enrich them with precious health ingredients. Just as the water gushes out of the earth, it is led to the two pools (one for women, one for men) at an ideal temperature for the body.
These baths have been recently renovated but without losing their intensely mythological aura (they give a sense of atmosphere to a story by Xanthoulis). They are now very modern - with outdoor pools overlooking the Gulf of Gera during the months when the weather is good - very clean, very economical (3 euros per bath) and there is also a café bar on their premises. If you want to cool off immediately after your hot bath, you can take a dip on the beach right in front. And if you want even more relaxation and fun, you can ask for one of the many massage treatments offered there.
A walk in Kagiani.
You will find it by leaving the city of Mytilene, heading towards the airport, and following the uphill road with the sign towards Kalloni, 6 kilometers from the city. People come here for three main reasons - one is for the wonderful panoramic view that this location offers to the city of Mytilene. The second is for the café-patisserie in the courtyard of the large and imposing church of Taxiarchs. Delicious and very cheap appetizers, varieties, and sweets but also plenty of space for children to play.
Best Ouzo Place
The third - and for others the first - is Antonis’ ouzo place (third-generation ouzo and coffee shop). The locals drink water in his name and it is probably the most popular ouzo place on the whole island. The store has been operating since 1990 and its appetizers are simply dreamy. Some that you can try here are the guzlemédes (pan-fried cheese pies with handmade dough), the marinated anchovy, the stuffed sardines, and the bean soup.
The impressive Petrified Forest
It is located in western Lesvos and is considered one of the most important natural monuments in our country. There, where lava and volcanic ash meet the deep blue of the Aegean Sea, time and waves gradually bring to light fossilized parts of trees that lived in the distant past. In fact, the area of the Petrified Forest can be compared to the book on the geohistorical evolution of the Aegean, which records in a unique way the entire geological history of the Aegean basin over the last 20 million years and provides information not only on flora and fauna but also on the ecological conditions that prevailed, the climate as well as the major tectonic movements that shaped the current structure of the region.
It is actually one of the two largest petrified forests in the world (the other is the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona). Fossilized trunks are scattered over an area of 150 square kilometers enclosed by the settlements of Sigri, Eressos, and Antissa. Isolated fossils are also found in many other parts of the island, including the villages of Molyvos, Polichnitos, Plomari, and Akrasi. Information about visiting the park and museum can be found at lesvosmuseum.gr.
Agiasos, the visit you must make
Visit Agiasos. The town of Lesvos is built on the slopes of Mount Olympus. The trademark of this beautiful traditional village is the church of Panagia. The village is 27 km from the city of Mytilene and is located in the interior of the island at an altitude of 460 meters. As we said, the village retains unchanged elements of traditional architecture, which is why it is declared a traditional settlement. As for the church of Panagia Agiasos, it celebrates in August and then a big festival takes place with residents from all over the island flocking here, even on foot. The monastery was built to house the icon carried by the monk Agathon from Jerusalem. From the inscription on the icon ("MOTHER OF GOD HOLY ZION") comes the name of Agiasos.
However, all the streets of the village lead to the large paved square. The tone here is set by the colored tables from the surrounding cafes in combination with the climbing plants above them covering them like a hug. In short: a Greek coffee with spoon sweets or incredible donuts with cinnamon, is a must in this square. Going down the cobbled alley towards the exit of the village, your gaze will be stolen by the shops with their clay and ceramic objects. Even if you resist the markets, it is worth talking to the merchants to show you their art.
Molyvos, the pedestrian street, and the picturesque harbor
A walk in Molyvos. Another beautiful traditional settlement that is visited by all tourists, especially during the summer months. The settlement is built around a medieval castle and its trademark is the picturesque, cobbled streets and the stone-paved houses. It is said to be the Greek village that has one of the most beautiful pedestrian streets in the world
The settlement whose ancient name was Mithymna and became Molyvos during Byzantine times is located at the northeastern tip of Lesvos. It is 64km from the capital of the island and the picture it gives is really a postcard.
The charming port of Molyvos is the icing on the cake in this fairytale picture. It is still complemented by vines and bougainvilleas, a traditional market with even more traditional cafes and restaurants. Their hanging terraces and balconies overlook the blue of the Aegean Sea. The castle of the settlement has recently been renovated. At the bottom, at the height of the port, the majestic neoclassical houses steal the show. These houses were created by the ruling bourgeoisie of the early 19th century and feature pediments and plaster decorations.
The Lesvos of Elytis...
We close this winter tribute to Lesvos (since another full-time guide of the exploringgreece.tv will follow in
the summer) with a few words by Odysseas Elytis, (a Greek Nobel-priced poet) who came from Lesvos.
"Nowhere else in the world, the Sun and the Moon do not co-rule so harmoniously, they do not share so fairly their power, as on this piece of land that once, who knows in what times unlikely, which god, to make his mood, cut and blew away, same plane leaf in the middle of the sea. I’m talking about the island, which later, when it was inhabited, was named Lesbos and whose position, as we see it marked on the geographical maps, does not seem to correspond much to reality. It may seem strange, but an hour or two after the ship of the line leaves Chios it is as if it leaves the whole known world. It enters seas that suddenly seem unexplored and the unannounced traveler, who swings with the rhythm of the morning bubble sea, held by the railings of the bridge, stares at the horizon with the same feeling that he would have in times of old a lucky sailor"