Lesvos, Greece's third largest island, has a long history, a varied, fascinating scenery and some of the loveliest beaches of Greece. It is well known for its production of oil, soap and wine.
The birthplace of the illustrious ancient poets Sappho and Alkaios, the guitarist Arion, the musician Terpander and Pittakos of Mitilini, one of the Seven Sages of antiquity, it continues even today the tradition of producing famous artists, poets and writers. The island's capital is Mitilini, built like an amphitheater above its ancient namesake and with its Byzantine castle (14th century) towering over it from the top of a pine-covered hill. On the northeast edge of the town there is a Hellenistic theater with superb acoustics which once accommodated an audience of 10,000, while to the east of it you can see a section of an ancient polygonal wall. The Archaeological Museum contains a wealth of finds and the Byzantine Museum has exhibits from both the Byzantine and post- Byzantine periods.
Of interest are the old town, the Tarsi (market), the House of Menandros. (Roman villa), the Yeni Tzami (mosque), as well as some interesting churches: the Cathedral dedicated to St. Athanassios, Agios Therapontas and Agii Theodori, which has wonderful wood carvings and icons' In the town's southern suburbs, Sourada, Avlidou and Varia, there are some of the most beautiful houses of the island (end 19th beginning 20th century). Moreover, Varia is the site of the Theofilos Museum with works by Greece's best-loved naïf painter Theofilos and the Teriade Museum-Library housing the Great Books and art magazines published and donated by Lesvos' famous art critic, Stratis Eleftheriades (Teriade). Its walls are hung with lithographs from the Great Books done by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Leger and other famous 20th century artists. Six kilometres away at Moria there is a section of Roman aqueduct erected in the 2nd century A.D. In the northeast part of the island, after passing a series of charming coastal villages, the first major place you should visit is Mantamados, known for its characteristic stone houses, fine pottery, wood carvings, and delicious local cheeses. Don't miss a stop at the Monastery of the Taxiarch, which possesses the only relief portrait of the Archangel in the Orthodox world. Farther north you come to Sikamia, the birthplace of the famous novelist Stratis Myrivilis, and its port Skala Sikamias, a picturesque fishing harbour with a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Gorgona (Mermaid) described in Myrivilis' novel of the same name. The next stop is Molivos or Mithimna, the island's best-known resort and artists' colony, whose mediaeval castle and traditional architecture give it a distinctive atmosphere. Among its sights are its archaeological museum, library and a small picture gallery. From Mithimna, it is worthwhile to visit the areas of Eftalou and Petra. Another of Lesvos' well known places is Agiassos, near the middle of the island.
This attractive village has kept its old flavour and the fame of its pottery and wood carving has traveled well beyond Greece. It also has an Ecclesiastical and Folk Art Museum and a Reading Society with a theatre and a goodsized library. Don't miss the Church of the Virgin (Panagia) with its collection of old icons, which includes an icon of the Mother and Child (Vrefocratoussa) attributed to St. Luke. Farther west, Agia Paraskevi, a market town with old mansions, is known for its curious Festival of the Bull, celebrated since 1774. Near here, at Klopedi, are the remains of the ancient Aeolian temple of Napaios Apollo, while Messa, also nearby, boasts the ruins of a big Ionian temple (late 4th-early 3rd century B.C.), possibly dedicated to deities Zeus, Hera and Dionysos. A monument from a later date, the Early Christian basilica of St. George, restored by the noted mediaevalist, professor A. Orlandos, may be seen at Halinados, not far away. Just a short distance from Agia Paraskevi, in the island.s centre, is Kaloni, a modern town and transportation hub, famed for the anchovies and shellfish caught in its bay. Its port, Skala Kalonis, is a thriving summer resort with a long sandy beach. Things to see in the vicinity of Kaloni include the Limonos Monastery (1527), whose church dedicated to St. John contains interesting 16th century frescoes, a library with 2,500 volumes (450 of which are manuscripts) and a ecclesiasticalfolk art museum. Sigri, at the western tip of Lesvos, is a pretty fishing port with a lovely beach and an 18th century fortress. Not far from here is the island.s celebrated Petrified Forest, dating back some fifteen million years. The fossilised trunks, some fallen, some still erect, some in the sea, are unusual for the brilliance and diversity of their colours. Also near Sigri are Eressos, the birthplace of Sappho and Theophrastos, and its port Skala Eressou, which has a magnificent beach and full facilities for tourists. Worth seeing here are the archaeological collection and the ruined 5th century basilica of Agios Andreas with its stunning mosaics. On the south coast, other resorts have sprouted alongside superb beaches. These are Vatera and Plomari, Lesvos. second largest town, famed for its exceptional ouzo and interesting architecture. It is also worthwhile to visit the scores of industrial buildings (olive presses, soap factories, tanneries, et al.) that are scattered all over the island's villages and towns. Lesvos abounds in mineral springs, where health spas have been developed, as at the Gulf of Gera, Thermi, Lisvori, Eftalou, Polichnitos, etc.
USEFUL TELEPHONE NUMBERS:
Regional Directorate for the North Aegean: 22510 28.935
Directorate for Tourism of the North Aegean 22510 42.511,3
GNTO Information Office: 2510 42.510, 22510 42.513
Port authority: 22510 40.827
Police: 22510 22.776
First Aid: 22510 57.700
Ambulance: 22510 41.111