General Information on Lesvos
The island of Lesvos lies among the Aegean islands in the northeast, close to the Turkish mainland. Lesvos is the third largest Greek island after Crete and Evia with a surface area of about 2,154km² and a population of about 100,000 people.
The island is famous for producing the best ouzo of Greece and for being the land of famous Greek female poet Sappho, who lived during the 7th century B.C. The island is also the birthplace of writer Aesop, philosophers Aristotle and Epicurus and famous poet Odysseas Elytis. The inhabitants of Lesvos have a strong and proud identity of their own that is marked by its long cultural traditions. To visitors, the attractions may not be as many nor the landscape as lovely as some of the other Greek islands, but Lesvos is quietly impressive especially to those looking to experience the delights of more provincial Greek life.
History of Lesvos
According to Mythology, Lesvos took its name after the brother-in-law of Makaras, son of Helios, who was the personification of the sun. The towns of the island were named after the daughters and sons of Makaras. According to a different myth the island is connected to the famous lyre-player and singer Orpheus, whose music touched every living soul on earth. The young musician was killed by some evil deities called the Furies, who got angry when Orpheus managed to touch them by his music. They dismembered his body and threw the pieces in the Evros River. The head and lyre of Orpheus were washed ashore in Lesvos. In a sign of devotion, the inhabitants of the island placed the head in the Temple of Apollo.
The starting point of Lesvos history has been lost in the past. Archaeological excavations on the island found evidence that the inhabitants of the island worshiped Cybele, great mother-goddess of Anatolia. Those finds suggest the cultural continuity of the populations from Neolithic Times. The island was settled by the Pelasgians in 1507 B.C. who were followed by the Achaeans in 1393 B.C. and by the Aeolians around 1100 B.C., who gave its inhabitants their civilization and language. During the 7th century B.C., the island became a centre of artistic and philosophical achievement and a great maritime power.
In the 6th century B.C., Lesvos was conquered by the Persians and in 479 B.C., it was captured by the Athenians and became a member of the Delian League. In 334 B.C., the island became a part of the Macedonian Empire and in 88 B.C. the Romans took control of the island. A period of partial self-governing followed from 62 B.C. to 70 A.D., while during the division of the Roman Empire in Eastern and Western State, Lesvos was included in the Eastern or Byzantine State. In 1354, Lesvos fell under the rule of the Genoese which lasted until 1460, when they were replaced by the Ottomans. In 1824, the islanders revolted against their oppressors but the revolution was drenched in blood. The island was liberated by admiral Koundouriotis and his fleet in 1912. With the Treaty of Lausanne, which was signed in 1932, the island of Lesvos was united with the rest of Greece.
Towns & Villages in Lesvos
Mytilini: This is the capital and the main port of Lesvos, situated on the eastern coast of the island, opposite the shores of Turkey. The settlement is built amphitheatrically on seven hills and is composed of old neighborhoods and picturesque suburbs. The waterfront, though noisy and crowded –one third of the total island population lives here– is very beautiful with a double harbor separated by a 6th century castle-topped headland. The southern harbor receives all tourist ferry traffic, while the northern one has recently been restored. The main attraction of the city is its castle. Founded in the 6th century and rebuilt by the Genoese in the late 14th, it has buildings from all periods and dominates the capital along with the impressive church of Agios Therapon.
Molyvos: The official name of this beautiful settlement is Mithymna, but locals refer to it as Molyvos. The village is situated on the northernmost part of Lesvos and it is the main holiday destination on the island. Solid grey houses with red tiled roofs and many old timbered buildings have recently been restored. Narrow alleys wind around the houses as they climb the hill towards the old castle which dates to the Byzantine period. Molyvos is so beautiful and tasteful that looks unreal.
Kaloni & Skala Kalonis: Situated near the centre of the island, the town of Kaloni and its beach village Skala Kalonis, are nowadays one of the biggest tourist resorts of Lesvos. The village itself is nothing special, but has a big market and many shops. Also its position makes it a major intersection for buses. Skala Kalonis has an interesting long sandy beach with shallow waters and tamarind trees. There are plenty of taverns, apartments and small hotels to cater for tourists and may be overcrowded and busy.
Plomari: This is the second biggest town of Lesvos situated in the south part of the island. It is a fairly charming town which despite the lack of beaches, has become a tourist resort with luxury hotel units. The settlement has many flowered stone houses, overhanging galleries and several Turkish fountains and Ottoman-style architecture. There are also a number of good taverns around the harbor and a small stony beach in the Amoudhelli suburbs to the west. Plomari is famous for producing the excellent ouzo of the same name, and high-quality olive oil.
Eressos & Skala Eressos: The settlement of Eressos and its beach village Skala Eressos, are situated in the northeastern part of Lesvos. The area has been a Mecca for lesbians, thanks to the ancient Greek lyric poet Sappho who lived here. The town of Eressos is quite beautiful. It is built at the bottom of a wild and grand mountain gorge and has interesting old houses, tasteful shops and good taverns. The beach village of the settlement, Skala Eressos, is the main western resort of the island. The village is modern but nicely laid out with car-free streets and a lovely small harbor. Skala Eressos has the most beautiful beach of the island with tamarind shaded taverns and clear waters.
Petra: This seaside village is located 57km northwest of Mytilini, spreading over a verdant plain. Petra has more recently become a main target for package tour operators, causing a sprawl of tourist development along the back of the long, wide sandy beach of the settlement.
Polichnitos: This small town is situated 45km west of the capital and it is famous for its hot springs. The village is full of houses and mansions made of heavy stone. The domed and recently restored thermal baths boasting the hottest waters in Europe (91ºC), is the main attraction of this village.
Agiassos: The village of Agiassos is situated high on the slopes of the pine covered hills and it is a favorite target for excursion tours. It is one of the most picturesque and beautiful villages of Lesvos with 3000 inhabitants who still retain their traditions and customs. The narrow paths, the flowered balconies and the houses with their impressive wooden “Turkish style” balconies form amazing scenery. The village is also famous for its potteries and wood carvings.
Beaches in Lesvos
Vatera: This is the largest and one of the most beautiful beaches of the island. It is located 50km southwest of Mytilini and stretches over about 8km. The beach has fine golden sand and is sheltered from northeastern summer winds. Only a small part of the beach is organized, most of it being untouched and ideal for anyone seeking solitude. Vatera itself is nothing more than a beautiful beach resort and the nearest shops are 4km inland in the village of Vrissa.
Agios Isidoros: This beach is located 46km southwest of Mytilini near the village of Plomari. The beach is long, sandy and has shallow waters and tourist facilities.
Eftalou: This beach is located 65km northwest of the capital to the east along the coast road. It is a sandy beach overlooked by several hotels and it is served daily by buses from Molivos. The beach is fringed with trees and has an excellent tavern and a bath house for those wishing to enjoy the thermal springs.
Melinda: This pebble beach is located 48km southwest of the capital and about 6km from Plomari. The beach is organized and many taverns and cafes can be found in the nearby villages of Paleohori and Drota, and at the town of Plomari.
Mytilini: The city sandy beach in Mytilini is very well organized. There are changing rooms, a café-bar, and showers. Of course, the beach gets very crowded during summer.
Molyvos: The always crowded beach at the town of Molyvos is one of the best of the island. It is sandy with shallow and calm waters.
Petra: The big tourist resort of Petra is located 55km northwest of Mytilini, in front of the village with the same name. The beach has fine, grey sand, umbrellas, sunbeds, showers and changing cabins and it is dominated by the prominent 18th century church of Panagia Glykofilousa which crowns a sheer rock outcrop.
Sigri: The beach of the coastal village of Sigri is long, sandy, with shallow waters and tourist facilities. To the north lies the beach of Faneromeni which is a lovely arc of sand set at the mouth of a river and has deep waters.
Skala Eressou beach: The beach at the seaside village of Skala Eressou is, simply, the best beach on the island. It is long, wide, sandy and well-organized.
Top Things to Do in Lesvos
1. Petrified Forest: The petrified forest of Lesvos was formed some 20 million years ago when volcanic mount Ordymnos erupted and covered the trees in ash. Earth tremors helped submerge the forest further and eventually turned the trees to stone. The forest, today, extends over a large area between the villages of Eressos and Sigri, on the western part of Lesvos. In Sigri, you may find the natural history museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest, which has lots of information about this phenomenon.
2. The Acropolis of Eressos: Eressos was founded in the Late Bronze Age along with other towns of Lesvos. In the Hellenistic period, it extended to the south, towards the harbor. In medieval times, the Gateluzzi constructed a castle which was abolished in 1757 when the Turks founded the fortress of Sigrion. The site, even today, has not been systematically excavated. The acropolis is located on a naturally defensive hill on the southwest coast of the island, and in antiquity, it was called “Mastos”. Several parts of the ancient fortification wall are preserved near the foot of the hill. Remains of a medieval castle are also preserved on top of the hill.
3. The fortress of Mytilini: the fortress is situated on a small hill between the north and south port of the city and it was the biggest as well as one of the strongest castles in Eastern Mediterranean. The irrational use of building materials from the castle after 1912 in order to build new refugee dwellings resulted in its gradual destruction. The fortress includes the Acropolis, on the northern and highest part of the hill, the Main Yard, the biggest part, and the Lowest Yard, which was constructed during the Turkish domination.
4. Lesvos Thermal Springs: The island of Lesvos has many thermal springs. The one in Thermi has a relatively modern bath house built in front of the ancient ones which are now closed to the public. The largest baths on the island are located in the village of Gera. The temperatures here are around 40ºC. Other thermal baths on the island are situated at the villages of Polichnotis, Lisvouri and Eftalou.
5. The Archaeological Museum of Lesvos: The archaeological museum is situated in the capital of the island and opened its doors in 1978. It consists of two buildings: a traditional mansion and a new structure, built in the neoclassical style. The museum is very rich and particularly interesting. The various collections contain finds from all over the island, such as prehistoric potteries and clay statuettes, Geometric and Archaic vassals and many more.
How to Reach Lesvos
Air: There are several flights from Lesvos to Athens and Thessaloniki every week. There are also connections to Chios and Limnos. The airport is 8km south of Mytilini.
Ferry – Domestic: During summer, there are regular ferry connections to Piraeus (12 hours) via Chios (3 hours), as well as Kavala (10 hours) via Limnos (6 hours), Thessaloniki (13 hours) via Limnos, and Alexandroupolis (11½ hours).
Ferry – International: Ferries to Ayvalik in Turkey run several times a week in high season.
Hydrofoil: In summer, there are a few hydrofoil services a week to Chios (1 ½ hours) and Samos (5 hours).
Getting Around in Lesvos
Bus: Lesvos transport hub is the capital Mytilini. In summer, from the long-distance bus station, there are three buses daily to Skala Eresou (2½ hours) via Eresos, five buses daily to Molyvos (1 ¾ hours) via Petra and two buses to Sigri (2 ½ hours). Also there are five buses daily to the south-coast resort of Plomari (1 ¼ hours). The timetable is posted at the bus station.
Ferry: During summer, there are hourly ferries between Perama and Koudouroudia, near Loutra.
Weather in Lesvos
The island of Lesvos has the same climate as the other northeastern Aegean islands, i.e. a typical Mediterranean climate, with strong north and northwest winds. Winter is mild and short with a lot of rain, and summer is hot with a cold breeze that keeps the temperatures less than 27 degrees Celsius.
Top 10 Destinations in Lesvos
All Destinations in Lesvos
Map of Lesvos