Sigh … This island is my second home, my childhood playground…
The place where I first set eyes on and fell in-love with the Olive Tree, it’s silver-green leaf, her fruit, and golden olive oil (unique to Mytilene). The island of poetry and myth, from the 6th Century BCE poet – Sappho’s, to Stratis Myrivilis, Eftaliotis and Nobel laureate poet Odysseys Elytis and others.
An island that is inhabited by more Olive Trees than inhabitants on the island. An island enriched with culture, tradition, an abundance of local fresh produce, medieval castles and fortresses, 19th Century mansions, ancient sunken villages, hot thermal springs/baths and archaeological sites.
Whenever I get asked to describe the island of Lesvos, Mytilini – it takes a discerning sigh – that if i were to reveal her secrets, it might change the outset if hoards of tourists began to take-the-shape of the island. On a good note, it is indeed the Island and it’s inhabitants itself that have managed to safe-guard the authenticity of the island.
Moreover, thanks to the geographic location, large agricultural community and it’s sweeping hills of olive trees. The traditional love and co-dependence for the olive oil as produce is what has saved this island from the masses. It comes as no surprise why the French (Marseille) were importing the golden liquid and its by-product for their production of soap in the 1950’s – leaving traces of French styled villa’s and a strong flair of je ne sais quoi!
There are times that I think I am in Tuscany, or strolling through the cobbled streets in Istanbul. It is an island that is appreciated by the well-traveled guest, “who has been there, done that” – who has seen the Vatican, traversed the hills of Salzburg and have dined on the beaches of Mozambique.
Ok, so maybe I’m pushing it a bit too far … as I too have had guests who had never set foot abroad – and yet they too have managed to live the moment in all it’s senses, and have left with a tear for their hopeful return.
It’s a place where tradition still stands for guests departing from the island to be splashed with local spring water – for the honor of their safe return (as the tide of the ocean pulls back and forth). An island that offers horse-back trails to pampering hot thermal springs that have been around since antiquity, catacombs, a beautifully preserved Roman aquaduct and minarets to ouzo tasting in Plomari.
Ordering seafood is yet another treat – and a daily feast for even the locals. From Octopus and sardine festivals to Religious pilgrim paths that lead to the central mountain village of Agiasos – with fresh mountain streams, a petrified forest (UNESCO site) Pine, Oak and Chestnut groves live in harmony with the Olive Trees.
Whether you are travelling with family and children, solo, or with a loved one -the island is the third largest and therefore offers long stretches of beach to tiny intimate coves. Soaking up the sun, or mingling with the local potters of Mandamados – Lesvos accommodates the traveler with so much to do to enrich one’s soul. From hyphenology for the kids, to Sailing the coastline in reach of further-afield islets and shrines of worship.
Byzantine architecture stands beside Turkish Hammam’s and Arabic water fountains, well preserved traditional Olive Press Museums to Baroque / Neo-Classical and Turkish architecture. Needless to say Mytilene even holds house to the acclaimed Teriade and Theophilos Museums filling the island with splashes of color, history and heritage.
Some activities to add to your bucket list:
- Sailing or Sunset Tours
- Olive & Ouzo Tasting Tour
- Visit the Monasteries and Pilgrim sites
- Horse Riding Tours
- Archaeological sites of Lesvos
- Bird Watching
- Day or overnight trips to Turkey, Ephesus, Troy, Pergamon
- Donkey Trails
- Hiking Trails
- Cycling Trips
- Day or Trip to Ayvalik Market (Turkey) or Overland
Lesvos (Lesbos), Mytilene (Capital). Location: North Eastern Aegean
Lesvos is the real Greece!