Beautiful Lesvos with many streams, rich flora and fauna, famous olives groves, the mild climate, charming traditional villages and remarkable examples of industrial architecture (olive presses, soap factories, tanneries) dating from the Island’s industrial development in the 19th century, impress all Lesvos is the third biggest island in Greece with a coastline of 370km. Mytilene is the Capital of Lesvos and of the Prefecture and is one of the most ancient Greek cities, the administrative center of Lesvos Prefecture and the North Aegean Region. The inland is dotted with mountainsides and large olive groves. Lesvos produces high-quality virgin olive oil, apart from the famous ouzo. In the 19th century and during the Industrial Revolution, Lesvos supplied the European markets with first quality olive oil.
Lesvos’ great cultural legacy stretches from the 7th-century-BC musical composer Terpander to 20th- century figures such as Nobel Prize–winning poet Odysseus Elytis and primitive painter Theophilos. The ancient philosophers Aristotle and Epicurus also led a philosophical academy here. Most famous, however, is Sappho, one of ancient Greece’s greatest poets. Her sensuous, passionate poetry has fuelled a modern-day following and draws lesbians from around the world to the village of Skala Eresou, where she was born (c 630 BC).
Along with hiking and cycling, Lesvos is a mecca for birdwatching (more than 279 species, ranging from raptors to waders, are often sighted). The island boasts therapeutic hot springs that gush with some of the warmest mineral waters in Europe.
Vatera is one of the longest beaches in Greece and the best place to be if you are traveling with your family or are looking for a quiet place to enjoy the sea and nature as well as good food. It stretches for 8 km in length and has a width of almost 30 – 50 meters. It contribute to the consistent awards of the EU Blue Flag each year. The village of Vatera itself stretches for 8 kilometers and is made up of some really nice taverns, several beach bars and coffee shops, mini markets, bakeries and pharmacies. On its western edge, at Cape Agios Fokas, the sparse ruins of an ancient Temple of Dionysos occupy a headland overlooking the sea. In the cove between the beach and the cape, evidence indicates an ancient military encampment. Indeed, some historians believe this is the place Homer was referring to in the Iliad as the resting point for Greek armies besieging Troy.
Vatera’s ancient history includes fossils dating back 5.5 million years, including remains of a tortoise as big as a Volkswagen Bug, though possibly faster, and fossils of a gigantic horse and gazelle. The inviting Vrisa Natural History Museum, in Vryssa’s old schoolhouse, displays these and other significant remains. Polyhnitos, 10km north of Vatera on the road back to Mytilini town, is known for its two nearby hot springs, among the hottest in Europe. The more popular of the two, the Hot Springs of Polyhnitos, await just 1.5km east of the village, set in a pretty, renovated Byzantine building, with some of Europe’s warmest bath temperatures at 40°C (104°F). Rheumatism, arthritis, skin diseases and gynaecological problems are treated here, along with the chance to simply enjoy a relaxing soak. Professional massage is available, and there’s a small cafe on the grounds for drinks, lunch and dinner. A nearby, smaller hot spring, Lisvorio Spa, 5km north of Polyhnitos, is popular for baths and massage. About 5km northwest of Polyhnitos, the fishing port of Skala Polyhnitou lies on the Gulf of Kalloni, where caïques bob at the docks and fishermen untangle their nets. It’s great for low-key seafood dinners at sunset. If you want lower-key yet, head 6km west to seaside village of Nifidha.
Lesvos’ port and major town, Mytilini, is a lively student town with great eating and drinking options, plus eclectic churches and grand 19th-century mansions and museums. Indeed, the remarkable Teriade Museum boasts paintings by Picasso, Chagall and Matisse, along with home-grown Theophilos.
Interspersed groves of olive and pine trees mark southern Lesvos, from the flanks of Mt Olympus (968m), the area’s highest peak, right down to the sea, where the best beaches lie. This is a hot, intensely agricultural place where the vital olive oil, wine and ouzo industries overshadow tourism.
Western Lesvos was formed by massive, primeval volcanic eruptions that fossilised trees and all other living things, making it an intriguing site for prehistoric-treasure hunters. The striking, bare landscape, broken only by craggy boulders and the occasional olive tree, is dramatically different to that in the rest of Lesvos.
With rolling hills covered in pine and olive trees, peaceful beaches and the aesthetically harmonious town of Molyvos (also called Mithymna), northern Lesvos offers both solitude and low-key resort action. Traditional seaside hot springs and intriguing Byzantine monasteries round out the region’s offerings.