We have plunged ourselves into the world of commercial charter tourism and visited Lesvos. The third largest island in the Aegean and the birthplace of the famous liquor ouzo. Curious as to how things would be after the refugee crisis hit the island a couple of years ago which brought the world’s attention to this eastern corner of Greece.
With line of sight to Turkey across the Strait of Mytilini, the island of Lesvos has a closely-knit history with its neighbors. It originates from the ancient world and shifting rulership amongst empires up through time. Remnants of this can be found across the island, most noticeably in the main city of Mytilene with its castle overlooking the strait.
We settled into a small quiet fishing village called Skala Kalloni on the shores of Kalloni Bay. Arriving in early autumn, the season is just about over, so neither beaches nor restaurants were particularly overrun by tourists. Warm evenings would still draw out families to share a meal and have a talk. Boys would roam the harbor looking for an easy catch in the dark waters, while the girls chatted on benches along the square. Life in the village had begun to fall into its own pace after the tourist season.
Out Exploring the Western Part
After enjoying a couple of sunny days in Skala Kalloni it was about time to explore the western part of Lesvos, calling on Eresos, Petra and Molyvos. Driving west revealed a rough terrain completely absent of the large portion of olive groves and pines that covers more than half of the island. Reaching Skala Eresou before noon, we parked our pretty little orange Fiat Panda rental car just outside the town and wandered down to the beach. Clear water and a pretty view to the ocean. We will never tire of that blue ocean, no matter where in the world we travel to. Somewhat chilly swim, but a nice dip!
Tip: If you walk down past the restaurants, you will find a sandier and wider beach.
Petra is a picturesque town with cozy small streets and plenty of restaurants to choose from. Lunch was enjoyed on Restaurant Kalderimi in the shades of banana palm trees. From the backyard, you can see up to the beautiful church on the rock, called nothing short of Panagia Glykofilloussa. Yes, really 😊
A short walk up the 104 steps to the top will provide you with a nice view from above the town and bay. Should you wish to visit the inside of the church, please respect the guidelines of not wearing shorts or t-shirts. You have been warned 😉
Should you wish to visit the petrified forest and geopark outside Sigri, it would be a fine stop on the way from Eresos.
Down in Kalloni Bay, the sun would always set rather quickly behind the mountains. Therefore we were looking forward to enjoying the sunset from the small town of Molyvos. Bathed in the setting sun and with its castle overlooking the bay, Molyvos was postcard pretty in its warm orange colors. The fishing harbor with its small boats and relaxing restaurants right next to the harbor front. Most houses are stone and brown, a mirror of their castle above, whereas Petra had more colorful houses with red tile rooftops.
Heading east on the island the following day brought us past the salt panes outside Kalloni. Here flamingos are scattered across the bay of Gera where occupied in searching for food. The flamingos migrate to the island and are most abundantly during the spring along with hundreds of other bird species. If you are into bird watching, remember to bring your favorite binoculars. There are bird watching towers erected next to the bay for a better view.
City of Mytilene
Approaching Mytilene, you have a brief view towards Mt. Olympus, approx. 1.000 meters high (3,173 ft.) If you wish to get a closer look, you should head up to the town of Agiasos, which is located close to the mountain. Amongst other things, it is famous for its art ceramics.
The City of Mytilini is a hectic city compared to the quiet and calm towns along the coast. Along the busy pedestrian streets of Ermou, you can search for bargains in the plentiful clothing and shoe shops located right next to fish stores and fruit stands.
We visited the Castle of Mytilini and managed to do the rounds in approx. 1 hour. Interesting history evolving the Genovese rule and Ottoman installments such as the cistern and mosque. Castle grounds closed at 15:00 (3 PM) so make sure you have enough time. The entrance was only from the south gate (#G2). Make sure you head down into the crypts; these vaulted rooms are quite interesting, and we even spotted some bones. Spooky!
An Island of self-sacrifice
Has Lesvos fully recovered from the refugee crisis a couple of years ago? It would seem so. Did Lesvos really had a problem or was it just the world’s reaction of what we saw in the news.
Did you know that the inhabitants were nominated for the Nobels Peace Prize?
People are very friendly and smiling, only very happy to see tourists and perhaps silently hoping the island will soon fully recover from the inevitable downturn in tourism.
Some tourists come back to this island year after year. They enjoy the safety in knowing that Christos, his family and his hotel or restaurant will still be open for business next year. The sun will shine, great food will be served along with a cold Mythos beer. Perhaps even with a glass of the famous ouzo and Lesvos will rise again.
Have you visited Lesvos?
Please share your perspective on this Island…