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What is it Like to Tour the Greek Island of Lesbos?
In Search of Sappho
Lesbos is the third largest island in the Greek archipelago. Apart from the obvious links with women-only holidays, the island has something for everyone. It has a rich and interesting history with a long list of notable occupants dating from antiquity, the most widely known of these being the poet Sappho. The island is thus a popular destination for many Grecophiles wishing to discover the past. The island’s capital, Mytilene, is the site of a bygone civilisation dating back to 3000 BC, comparable to that of ancient classical Athens.
Situated nearer the coast of Turkey than mainland Greece and at less than four hours' flying distance from Gatwick, this rare jewel of an isle set in the Aegean Sea is becoming an increasingly popular destination with British tourists.
Less commercialised than some of the more widely known Greek islands, Lesbos still maintains its traditional atmosphere. Tourism is not, as yet, a great source of income, the main revenue being derived from olive production - the island's major industry. Most of the fertile landscape is thus covered with olive trees, apart from the more mountainous, pine-clad regions. Ouzo, Greece's national drink is also produced here.
Mytilene (which is also the name of the airport) is a bustling town and port. Visitors will no doubt hire a car here to begin their tour of the island which will be discussed later in this article.
The terrain on the island is surprisingly verdant and lush; wild hollyhocks grow in abundance adding to the already attractive vistas. Even in the hotter, drier months of July and August there is never any shortage of water.
A pleasant coastline boasts some of the best beaches and sea-views in Greece - Anaxos, Molyvos, and Petra, to name but a few outstanding resorts. Places where the Greeks themselves, from the mainland, come for their own summer holidays. What better advertisement than this?
You will find that the major resorts are situated on the northernmost and southernmost sides of the island. It is easy to combine a week's touring with a further week in one of the popular resorts. ‘Manos’ tour operators provide an excellent fly-drive package and as long as you stay at the pre-booked accommodation it is still feasible to wander extensively from the path of the main tourist attractions.
Petrol is no more than fifty pence per litre, and with unlimited mileage it is possible to stop leisurely at more isolated tavernas along the way for traditional Greek food and drink. Or why not stock up with local produce at a village shop and enjoy a picnic in some secluded cove? Buy some bread, red wine and cheese made from goats' milk - the same simple fare of Odysseus and his followers as they tried to find their way home to their beloved Ithaca after fighting the Trojan War.
A Grecian Urn
Ferries from the Greek Islands to Turkey are Frequent
A History of Sappho
Guide to the Greek Islands
Lesbos is not far from Turkey
Due to it's proximity to the Turkish mainland it is possible to incorporate a day trip to Turkey during your stay on Lesbos. Turkey can also be reached from other Greek Islands such as Rhodes and Kos, Ferries are inexpensive and will enable you to view some beautiful scenery as well as enjoy a pleasant sea journey. Turkish prices are considerably cheaper than Greek prices so you might prefer to take a day trip to Turkey in order to buy souvenirs. Items such as clothes, bags and shoes are so cheap, you will not be surprised when you see locals making the short journey too!
An Introduction to Lesbos
Here is a Suggested Round Trip of Seven Days' Duration which Covers Most of the Accessible Coastline:
From Mytilene airport drive due north towards the capital some nine miles distant. Although the area is predominantly industrial it maintains a certain unpretentious charm and the busy harbour is home to a profusion of colourful fishing boats. The city boasts several museums for those of an archaeological bent, and there are remains of a Byzantine fortress nearby.
After an overnight stop in Thermis; so named because of the hot spring baths, renowned for curing all manner of ailments; drive leisurely towards Molyvos, pausing to view breathtaking coastal rock formations en route. Looking out from the shore at Homer's "Wine-dark" sea, it is possible to see the coast of Eastern Turkey from this side of the island.
The road now veers inland, where villages surrounded by olive groves eventually give way to a wilder, moorland landscape. Molyvos, the next resort, is set in near idyllic surroundings. Neat, little, whitewashed houses with red, tiled roofs, cascade down the hillside to an inviting beach. This is the place to enjoy the relaxed Greek way of life at its best. Here you will spend your second night.
On day three, travel south to Petra where a long sandy beach beckons. Smaller, and less busy than Molyvos, it is only just beginning to realise its potential as a holiday resort. Nearby Anaxos too, is a sleepy village nestling beneath a pastoral backdrop. Here you can enjoy a stroll along the scenic taverna-lined sands, or climb to a vantage point to take scenic photos.
Continuing in a south westerly direction you will pass the mountainous village of Antissa and then arrive in Eressos, the birthplace of Sappho. Here the visitor will find a recent sculpture of Sappho in the square. Travel on to Skala Eressos, a wide stretch of sandy beach for your third overnight stop – ‘Skala’ is the Greek word for beach.
On the fourth day, travel north again to Skala Kalloni, a small fishing hamlet at the head of a huge crescent-shaped bay. Stop here for your next night's board. The golden sands are ideal for water-sports in the bay's safe, shallow waters.
The following morning drive on to quaint Vatera, a shingle beach of almost four kilometres long, passing through many bucolic villages of ‘Sugar-cube’ houses along the way. This is the real Greece where roads are primitive and where islanders go about their daily existence largely unaffected by tourism.
After a night at Vatera, travel through the Olympos mountain range to the neighbouring resorts of Aghios Isadoros (Saint Isadore) and Plomari, in the south east corner of the island. Plomari has a tiny picturesque harbour and Aghios Isadoros is proud of its splendid beach, lapped gently by calm, crystal clear waters. This location is popular with artists, poets and writers from the mainland. You can spend your sixth day and your penultimate night at a Plomari hotel before journeying back towards Mytilene on day seven.
Travelling around the gulf of Geras you will see two further beaches before arriving back in Mytilene. You can remain in the capital for the final night of your Island tour, having time to hunt for souvenirs before you leave. The main area has shops of every description where diverse goods are available; bronzed statues of ancient hero's and Grecian urns, to name but two.
Lesbos is perhaps not tor the tourist seeking exciting nightlife or vast, high-rise hotel complexes. But if it is unspoiled beaches, natural landscapes, aquamarine seas and resorts of real character you are searching for, then it could be your ideal holiday destination.
The Greek Island of Lesbos
© 2016 Stella Kaye