Nestled in the eastern Aegean Sea just off the west coast of Turkey, Lesvos is Greece’s third-largest island and an enchanting destination for travellers in search of a serene and picturesque holiday.
Known for its traditional villages, ancient monuments, and captivating natural locations, Lesvos offers a myriad of experiences waiting to be explored. With its warm hospitality and rich cultural heritage, the island ensures an unforgettable adventure for those who seek to discover its charm.
A treasure trove of unique landscapes, Lesvos is home to a world-famous petrified forest, pristine beaches, and magnificent olive groves. The island’s diverse topography comprises of rugged desert-like western plains, sandy beaches, and salt marshes in the centre, and thickly forested mountains and olive groves to the east. This wide range of natural settings provides the perfect backdrop for a variety of activities and sightseeing opportunities.
Lesvos or Lesbos lies among the north-eastern Aegean islands and close to the Turkish mainland.
Also called by its capital town of Mytilini, It’s relatively isolated with the nearest islands of note being Chios to the south and Limnos to the north, both some distance away.
Big and beautiful, Lesvos is the third largest of the Greek islands and although it has stretched its arms wide to embrace the tourist market it still exudes a traditional small Greek island atmosphere.
The island has its own airport that can take regular holiday charter flights so Lesvos doesn’t have to rely on ferries to bring in the business.
And where holiday tourism is evident on Lesvos, it does not dominate. The production of exceptional olive oil and trademark ouzo are still two of the island’s most important industries.
Lesvos islanders have a proud identity marked by long cultural traditions and this has tempered the demands of holiday companies.
The beaches may not be as many, nor the landscape as lovely as some other Greek islands but this is still a quietly impressive destination for discerning holidaymakers.
The main attractions are the traditional Greek way of life, the varied landscape, the quaint hill villages and a sprinkling of splendid beaches.
As the birthplace of the renowned Greek poet Sappho and the original home of Ouzo, Lesvos also boasts a rich cultural scene.
Visitors can delve into the island’s history by exploring its noble mansions, castles, and ancient monuments.
With so much to offer, Lesvos is truly an ideal destination for families, couples, and adventurers alike.
Getting to Lesvos
Lesvos, also known as Mytilene, is a beautiful island located in the eastern Aegean Sea near the west coast of Turkey. It’s the third-largest island in Greece and an ideal destination for travellers seeking a serene scenery, traditional villages, ancient monuments, and unique natural locations.
There are two main ways to reach Lesvos: by air and by ferry.
The most convenient and quickest way to reach Lesvos is by air. The island’s main airport is Mytilene International Airport (MJT). It serves numerous domestic flights from major cities in Greece, such as Athens, Thessaloniki, and Rhodes.
During the peak tourist season, which runs from April to October, there are also various direct flights to Lesvos from several European cities.
Airlines operating flights to Mytilene include Aegean Airlines, Olympic Air, and Sky Express.
Here’s a brief list of flight durations from major cities in Greece:
- From Athens: Approximately 1 hour
- From Thessaloniki: Approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes
- From Rhodes: Approximately 1 hour
Alternatively, you can reach Lesvos by ferry.
The island is well-connected to the Greek mainland and other nearby islands through the ports of Mytilene and Plomari. There are daily ferry services from Piraeus (Athens) to Mytilene operated by companies like Hellenic Seaways and Blue Star Ferries.
The journey from Piraeus to Mytilene takes roughly 10-12 hours, and ferries usually run overnight.
A shorter route is available from the Turkish coastal city of Ayvalık to Mytilene, taking approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. This service is typically available from April to October and is operated by the Turkish company Turyol.
Keep in mind that ferry schedules may change seasonally, and it’s best to book your tickets in advance during the peak season.
In summary, both air and ferry services are available for travellers planning their visit to Lesvos.
While flying is undoubtedly the fastest option, taking a ferry offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Aegean Sea and explore other nearby islands en route.
Major Attractions in Lesvos
The Petrified Forest of Lesvos
The Petrified Forest of Lesvos is one of the island’s most unique attractions. This UNESCO-protected site dates back approximately 20 million years ago and is home to a variety of fossilised trees and plants. Visitors can explore this fascinating natural wonder along designated walking trails, learning about its history and geology from informative signs placed around the area.
Perched atop a hill in the picturesque village of Molyvos is the impressive Molyvos Castle. Built in the 13th century, the castle offers breathtaking panoramic views of the village, coast, and surrounding countryside. While exploring the castle, you’ll be able to admire its well-preserved stone walls, arches and towers. The castle also hosts various cultural events and concerts during the summer season, making it a vibrant destination for visitors.
Skala Eressos Beach
Skala Eressos Beach is a must-visit spot on Lesvos island, known for its crystal-clear waters and beautiful scenery.
This 3.5 km long beach offers a perfect place to relax, sunbathe, and swim in the warm Aegean Sea.
There are several beach bars and tavernas along the shoreline for refreshments and tasty snacks. Additionally, Skala Eressos is also known for its vibrant nightlife, providing a mix of fun, relaxation and entertainment for visitors seeking an enjoyable beach experience.
Cultural Experiences in Lesvos
The Theofilos Museum in Varia area, outside Mytilene, introduces visitors to the world of self-taught Lesvos painter Theofilos Hatzimihail (1867-1934). Known for his eccentric artistic style and unique talent, Theofilos is an important figure in the development of Greek modern art. The museum houses a vast collection of his works, depicting Greek mythology, traditional customs, and daily life of the island’s inhabitants. Don’t forget to take a stroll around the museum garden, where you can admire the captivating natural landscapes of Lesvos.
Barbayannis Ouzo Museum
Lesvos is considered the homeland of ouzo, the famous Greek spirit. To gain insight into the island’s history and culture related to this delightful beverage, visit the Barbayannis Ouzo Museum in Plomari. This family-owned museum showcases the production process, tools, and traditions involved in creating ouzo. Additionally, the museum offers insightful guided tours and tastings, allowing visitors to truly appreciate this emblematic Greek spirit.
The Monastery of St. Raphael
The Monastery of St. Raphael, nestled in the lush Karyes forest, is a spiritual haven and an outstanding architectural gem. Dedicated to St. Raphael, the recently built monastery commemorates the life and the martyrdom of St. Raphael, St. Nicholas, and St. Irini. The impressive main church features stunning frescoes, Byzantine-style architecture, and a serene atmosphere. Within the monastery grounds, visitors can light a candle and pay their respects, while also discovering the captivating history of the monastery through its collection of religious relics and post-Byzantine icons.
Dining and Local Cuisine
Visiting Lesvos offers a great opportunity to explore its diverse dining experiences and indulge in the island’s local cuisine. In this section, we will focus on traditional Greek tavernas and local specialities.
Traditional Greek Tavernas
When on Lesvos, be sure to visit the traditional Greek tavernas to savour authentic Greek food and engage with the friendly locals. Some of the best taverns and cafes are scattered across the island, including the historic coffeehouse of Ermis known for its traditional Greek offerings and Koutsomitis, an atmospheric taverna-ouzeri nestled within the refugee neighbourhood.
A few tavernas you may want to visit are:
- Ermis: Historic coffeehouse renowned for its classic Greek dishes and warm ambience.
- Koutsomitis: An ouzeri with a welcoming atmosphere in the refugee neighbourhood.
- Oinomageiremata: Known for homemade traditional dishes, set in a charming spot near the beach.
Apart from the classic Greek favourites, Lesvos offers several local delicacies that one must-try while on the island. Some of these specialities are:
- Yoghurt lamb meatballs: Succulent meatballs made with lamb and yoghurt, perfectly seasoned for a delectable experience.
- Ouzo and cumin burgers: A unique fusion of Greece’s favourite spirit, Ouzo, with cumin, cooked into juicy burgers.
- Liver oregano wine spleen: A sumptuous dish featuring a well-seasoned blend of liver, oregano, and wine, cooked to perfection.
- Orange leaf-cooked meals: A true testament to the island’s creativity and use of natural ingredients, meals cooked on orange leaves are an essential part of the Lesvos gastronomy.
When on Lesvos, do not miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the island’s rich culinary traditions and indulge in the local cuisine at their charming Greek tavernas. Happy feasting!
While in Lesvos, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the island’s stunning nature through its various hiking trails. One notable trail is the Eressos-Antissa route, which leads you through lush olive groves and wild landscapes full of diverse flora and fauna. There are also shorter trails in the area surrounding the town of Molyvos that provide splendid views of the castle and surrounding villages.
Lesvos is a birdwatcher’s paradise, thanks to its rich biodiversity and the presence of many protected areas. The Kalloni salt pans are an ideal location to start your birdwatching adventure, as thousands of migratory birds flock to the area annually. Some species you may encounter include:
- Black-winged Stilts
In addition to the salt pans, the Achladeri forest is another excellent spot for bird enthusiasts to explore.
The crystal clear waters surrounding Lesvos are perfect for indulging in various water-based activities:
- Scuba Diving: Lesvos Scuba Centre in Petra offers diving excursions for both beginners and experienced divers, allowing you to explore the underwater beauty of the island. Contact details: phone (+30) 6945998764 or (+30) 6981026085; email: [email protected]
- Boat Tours: Take a boat tour along the picturesque coastline and discover secluded beaches or visit the nearby islands.
- Kayaking: Lesvos offers numerous kayaking and canoeing opportunities along its coast and within the island’s calm waterways.
Remember to always respect the local environment, stay safe and enjoy the unforgettable experiences Lesvos has to offer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to visit Lesvos?
Yes, Lesvos is a safe destination for travellers. As with any destination, it’s essential to exercise normal precautions and pay attention to local advice.
What are the top attractions on Lesvos?
Lesvos offers a range of attractions for visitors. Some must-see spots include the picturesque village of Molyvos, the historic Mytilene Castle, the Petrified Forest, and numerous ancient monuments. Furthermore, don’t forget to sample the island’s famous ouzo beverage and explore its olive groves.
Where should I stay in Lesvos?
There are various accommodation options on Lesvos, ranging from luxury hotels to budget-friendly guesthouses. Popular areas for tourists to stay include Molyvos, Skala Eressos, and the island’s capital, Mytilene.
Are there sandy beaches?
Yes, Lesvos is home to numerous sandy beaches. Some of the most popular ones are Vatera Beach, Anaxos Beach, and Skala Eressos Beach.
What is the best time to visit?
The ideal time to visit Lesvos is from May to September when the weather is warm and sunny. During this time, you can enjoy outdoor activities and explore the island’s beaches, villages, and natural surroundings.
How to reach Lesvos?
Lesvos can be reached by air or sea. There is an airport in Mytilene (MJT) that connects the island to Athens and other Greek and European destinations. Alternatively, you can catch a ferry from the mainland Greece ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki or from nearby islands in the North Aegean.
Hailing from the historic city of Thessaloniki, Nikos Tsakiris is a passionate explorer, seasoned writer, and co-founder of Greek Island, the definitive travel blog for the Greek Islands.