Situated in the northeast Aegean, poised between Anatolia and the West, this was the birthplace of the poets Sappho and Alcaeus, the naïf painter Theophilos and the novelist Myrivilis. Greece’s third-largest island possesses a rare natural beauty, architectural marvels, a petrified forest, mediaeval fortress towns and a Mediterranean climate. Olive trees carpet much of its land mass, which is indented by two deep, almost closed, fish-filled bays.
Other attractions include bustling traditional villages, beaches that stretch for miles, ouzo distilleries to visit and exquisite delicacies to accompany your drink. These are just some of the treats awaiting you on this fascinating island that Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis compared to a “plane-tree leaf that someone threw into the sea”.
Start your visit at Mytilini, the main port and biggest town, and from there cross to the northeast coast to check out Molyvos and Petra. Then head west to Eressos and Sigri, to see the petrified forest, before moving south to Plomari, where the ouzo factories are, and swinging inland to the mountain village of Agiassos. That’s Lesvos in a nutshell but we’ve left out the beaches, the spas, birdwatching in the wetlands, the long leisurely feasts of local seafood and some of the most breathtaking views in the Aegean.
The true capital of Lesvos and a magnet for visitors in the eastern Aegean, Mytilini displays its handsome old buildings along the waterfront with the impressive church of Agios Therapon as the centrepiece. All of this is crowned by the Franko-Byzantine castle rising out of a pinewood on the hill behind.
Over the centuries Lesvos has produced an astounding number of brilliant Greek intellectuals. Starting with Arion, Terpander, Theophrastos, Alcaeus and Sappho in antiquity, it also inspired Theophilos, novelists Ilias Venezis and Stratis Myrivilis, artist Georgios Iakovidis, art critic and publisher Teriade, and even claims Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis as a native son, whose family hailed from the island.