Lesbos, an island in Greece
Lesbos is one of the largest Greek islands. You will find beaches, vineyards, some mountains and olive trees. In short, a Greece in miniature.
This is how I suspect Lesbos looked in ancient times, and this is how Lesbos still looks today.
On this poetic stamp in the Aegean Sea, the men are still called Aristotle or Adonis. The diet comes straight from the olden times: honey, yoghurt, fish, bread, grilled vegetables, olive oil, and wine. After a week on the island, I can only conclude that little has changed since Zeus was in power.
Tourism Lesvos, more than sun, sea and beach
Although the beach attracts most tourists, history buffs will undoubtedly enjoy themselves here. The Romans left behind an aqueduct, a fortress and a theatre. In addition, a petrified forest, a Unesco heritage site, was formed millions of years ago.
More ‘modern’ is the castle of Molvinos. Still, the debilitated Hammans, Orthodox monasteries and Greek folklore are reminders of previous centuries.
Places of interest Lesbos
The touristic potential of Lesbos is enormous. A sunny climate, delicious food and thousands of years of history. If the island government had the money to refurbish its monuments and build a decent infrastructure, it would attract many more tourists. But they don’t.
The European Union treasure trove, so generously dipped in by Mediterranean other countries, is apparently a bridge too far for the Lesbians. It is unfortunate for the average island resident, who might welcome more tourism income. Still, for the traveller who prefers authenticity above mass tourism, it seems better this way. That is why you will only encounter the occasional lost tourist beyond the beaches of Ploumini, Mykonos and Petra.
Mytilene, the capital of Lesvos
Collapsed ruins, rubbish, triple parked cars, beggars, migrants, Roma and un-European poverty set the tone in the capital of Lesbos. The roads of Mytilene are full of potholes; monumental villas border a junkyard. Yet, sparks of hope in the form of cheerful flower pots decorate the coloured facades of the Lesbian houses.
At the same time, terraces flank the port of Mytilene, and the town has hundreds of restaurants and a lively shopping street. It takes a while to find the sights, but they are there.
Hellenistic theater Mytilene
A two-thousand-year-old theatre is located between the pine trees in the northern suburbs of Mytilene. With 15,000 seats, it was one of the largest in Greece in Hellenistic times. The theatre was built between 300 and 100 BC. The entrance is opposite the cemetery of the Ekklesia Agia Kiriaki church on Agias Kiriaki. Entry is free.
Ekklisia Agia Kiriaki cemetery
If you visit the theatre, cross the street to see the cemetery of Ekklesia Agia Kiriaki. The tombs of white marble and the smell of pine needles, flowers and crates of bones give you an idea of how the Greeks experience death.
Castle of Mytilene
The castle of Mytilene is located at the highest point of the peninsula.
It is one of the largest castles in the Mediterranean, with an area of 60 hectares. The 6th-century fortress was probably built on the foundations of a castle from the time of Justinian I (527-565).
At first, it seems like a large ruin. Still, as soon as you walk around, you notice a large crypt, several bathhouses, madrassas and, of course, a fantastic view over the city and the sea.
The gigantic Byzantine castle of Mytilene has a cleverly hidden entrance, so it doesn’t get too crowded for the minimal entrance fee of 3 euros. So keep walking along the walls. At some point, you will inevitably arrive at the entrance.
The castle is closed on Tuesdays.
The Roman aqueduct at Moria is part of a 28 km long structure that supplied daily about 127 million litres of fresh water to Mytilene.
It was probably built at the end of the 2nd or the beginning of the 3rd century AD. A section 170 meters long with seventeen arches has been preserved. The arches are up to 26 meters high. The site is free to visit.
To get an idea of its size, notice the males in yellow vests in the photo above.
Sleeping & eating in Mytilene
- Blue Sea Hotel is a clean hotel with a somewhat dated interior. The hotel has a fantastic location on the harbour, walking distance from the shopping centre and a 5-minute walk from the ferry. A breakfast buffet is included in the room rate.
- Orfeas Hotel is a small friendly family hotel opposite the port of Mytilene. The rooms are small but cosy. Breakfast is not included but can be ordered.
- Nan restaurant has Iranian, Pakistani and Greek chefs. The food is delicious if you want something different from Greek fare. There are various vegetarian dishes on the changing menu. The address is Kominaki 30 81100 Mytilene.
Petrified Forest Sigri
The Petrified Forest of Lesvos is the largest petrified forest in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Fossilized remains of plants and trees between Eressos, Antissa and Sigri form the Petrified Forest of Lesvos. The Natural History Museum of the Lesbos Petrified Forest provides a glimpse into the geological history of the island.
Accommodation in Sigri
At 200 meters from the Natural History Museum is a beautiful apartment with a terrace overlooking the sea.
Orthodox churches and monasteries
Lesbos is known for its historic churches and monasteries. These monasteries were founded by monks who fled the Roman (Byzantine) capital Constantinople during the iconoclasm. The most important are:
- Agios Therapontas in the port of Mytilene
- Panagia Glykofilousa. This small church is built on an imposing rock 40 meters high in the village of Petra.
- Panagia Agiasou was built in 1170 AD and rebuilt in 1806. The church is located in the mountain village of Agiasos.
- Moni Taxiarchis Mantamados in the town of Mantamados is dedicated to the Archangel Michael.
The village of Molyvos is located in the northern part of Lesvos, about 60 km from Mytilene. It is the second largest castle in Lesvos and can be visited for 3 euros pp.
If you want to read more about ‘undiscovered’ parts of Greece, check out the blog about Epirus.
There are daily ferries from the harbour in Mytilene Lesbos to Turkey and within Greece. The crossing to the Turkish Ayvelik is short. It takes about two hours. You can arrange tickets through the many travel agencies in Mytilene or online. The ferry (Blue Star) to Athens takes about twelve hours.
You can reach most places in Lesvos by bus. However, many buses only go once or twice a day. The journey takes longer than you would expect due to the mountainous landscape. It is challenging to see most sights on the other side of the island and travel back to your starting point on the same day.
So if you want to see a lot of the island, rent a car.
The bus routes and departure times are here.
Time is an elastic concept in Lesvos. Therefore, an agreed time is more a sign of goodwill than a firm agreement.
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