Located in the northern Aegean Sea, amongst five other governing islands of the region, Lesvos is Greece’s third largest island that will take you off the beaten track as it has preserved its authenticity from major tourism influx. It was in fact one of the first Greek city-states founded in the 11th century BC, and is mentioned in the Homeric epics multiple times.
The island has held many names throughout history such as Imerti (longed for), Lassia (densely forested), Aiyeria (the place of the sun-browned people), Aithiope (sun-drenched island), and Makaria, which was the name of the mythical originator of the race, Makaras, son of the Sun, who came to the island and was received as a prudent and enlightened sovereign. During his reign five towns were built: Mytilini, Issa, Antissa, Mithymna and Avrisi, which took their names from the five daughters of Makaras. Eressos was named after his son and his successors lasted until the flood of Deucalion, when the island was laid desolate.
Lesvos’ great cultural legacy stretches from the seventh-century BC musical composer Terpander to 20th-century figures such as Nobel Prize-winning poet Odysseus Elytis and primitive painter Theofilos. The ancient philosophers Aristotle and Epicurus also led a philosophical academy here.
There are many different locations on the island that will expose you to the authentic Aegean way of life. Mytilini, the capital is an ideal base offering often bus and boat rides to several villages across the island. Recommended towns to stay in include Molyvos, Eressos, and Plomari. These cultural havens vary from port side towns to beaches but no matter where you are on the island, you are never too far from a true experience.
Mytilini is the capital and one of the only “places in the world [where you] can get off your 737 jet, walk through the terminal, cross the street and go swimming at a beach with a fish taverna next to it,” as quoted by travel and Lesvos expert, Matt Barrett.
The island’s capital is a charming compilation of city and sea, providing a seaside port aesthetic with an urban city charm. Make Mytilini your first point of access, as it is here where either your ferry or your plane will arrive.
Where to stay:
– Theofilos Paradise Beach Hotel
– Pyrgos of Mytilene Hotel
Molyvos is one of Lesvos’ biggest town, which combines history and architecture to produce one of the Mediterranean’s most charming aesthetics. Overlooking the entire town and perched on top of Molyvos is a stunning Byzantine castle from where you can get amazing views of the town and the sea.
Where to stay:
– Sea Horse Hotel
Eressos is a bohemian beachside beauty where you can revel in the sun at the beach, or in the summer, eat by the sea at one of the many on-the-beach taverns.
Where to stay:
– Galini Hotel
Plomari is located in the island’s south; it is a picturesque portside town, where homes are perched on a hillside facing the town’s port. It is the second largest town in Lesvos and home to the famous ouzo distilling industry. In Plomari, days can be spent consuming local produce, with taverns offering some of the best and freshest seafood ever tasted and local cafes offering locally produced ouzo.
Where to stay:
– Sandy Bay Hotel
– Frini Studios
Lesvos is home to some of the most authentic Greek food in the whole of Greece. Perhaps what makes it so authentic is the spirit of its makers, who distil a strong Lesvian sense of spirit and immense amounts of homely love into their culinary creations.
– Platanos Tavern is located in the village of Skalohori in the town’s square under a beautiful Platanos tree. The authentic food of the tavern embodies the true spirit of the village and you get to dine with the company of local villagers.
– Panorama Tavern is located at the very top of Skalohori village. Panaroma resembles a traditional Greek restaurant, as it is family-run by locals of the village, and offers stunning views of the village below. The sunset from here is spectacular and the food includes traditional daily Greek specials.
– Soulatso Tavern is located on the beach at Eresso and specialises in traditional Greek food. Favourite specialities include the pickled octopus, battered and feta-stuffed zucchini flowers and tuna salad.
– Jalouse Beach Bar is the perfect place to enjoy a drink or coffee by the sea at Jalouse beach bar located at Anaxos beach.
While Lesvos is not known for its party life, its night life offers so much variety that you are always guaranteed to have fun. There are many venues throughout the island, with certain locations renowned for their clubs and others for their bar scene. Most bars are located on the waterfronts of Mytilini, Kalloni, Molyvos, Petra and Eressos.
A special part of the nightlife in Lesvos are the Greek celebrations called panayiria which occur all over the island from early June until the end of August.
– OXY Club is in the shape of a boat protruding off the cliff’s edge on the main road between the towns of Petra and Molyvos, OXY may just be the coolest club on the island. Its location means that OXY is home to a stunning ocean view while you club. It hosts a variety of Greek electronic talent, as well as specialised parties over summer.
– Congas is a club located in Molyvos. It offers an amazing view of the sea, amazing cocktails, great music and delicious food to suit.
– Anaxos is a beach side resort with a long strip of pool and beach bars. Here, you get to experience a Greek summer with everything you need right at your fingertips for full summertime enjoyment while basking under the sun enjoying the Greek hospitality.
– The Petrified Forest of Lesvos pays a particular ode to the multidimensional nature of wildlife on the island. The forest is comprised of fossilised plants that were petrified by volcanic material over 20 million years ago, thus the forest is considered to be one of the most rare and fascinating monuments of geological heritage in the world.
Best beaches in Lesvos:
– Skala Eressos
– Skala Kalloni
– Agia Barbara
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK:
Skalohori is by far one of Greece’s most beautiful villages, where you will find Greek authenticity at an all time high. The cobblestone streets are coupled with the village’s concrete houses and multi-coloured shutters perched at the bottom of two meeting hills. Its residents are constantly happy to engage you with their way of life, welcoming you into their homes.
Eressos, on the other hand, encapsulates the modern vibe of the island. The beach called Skala Eressos is home to some of the best street art in Greece, greatly suited to the village’s bohemian nature. Eressos is also famous for being Lesvos’ main city in antiquity, where Sappho – or Psappha in her native Aeolic dialect – was born around 615BC to an aristocratic family. In antiquity Sappho was regularly counted among the greatest of poets and was often referred to as ‘the Poetess’ while Plato hailed her as the tenth Muse, and she was honoured on coins and with civic statuary as a lyrist.
As it is located in the far east of Greece there are several ferries conducting daily trips from Mytilini to Dikili or Ayvalik, offering tourists a unique and low cost Asia Minor experience. Lesvos is also famous for its thermal springs and the many medieval monasteries including Mini Ipsilou, Limnionas, Taxiarhis in Mandamado and the Monastery of Agios Raphael, the protector of the island. It is ideal to experience food, music, dance and hospitality in their most raw and pure Greek states, treasured and unspoiled from external factors. Its landscape is entirely multidimensional and a place where you can go from lush greenery to petrified forests in just one hour. For the Greek island traveller who is worried about not having enough to do, Lesvos is the perfect destination catering for all tastes and budgets.
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