It is a birthplace of numerous poets and writers since the Greek antiquity till the recent years; the island of Lesbos is still inspiring, through this cultural heritage and its natural beauties of landscape contrasts, an easygoing lifestyle, expressed by its people as a familiarity towards all its visitors.
Even though they inaccurately say it is due to the erotic element in some poems by the famous Sappho, instead of Lesbos (Λέσβος) it is popular to refer to the island by the name of its capital town of Mytilene (Μυτιλήνη). Spellings of Lesvos and Mitilini are widespread transliterations, reflecting the actual Greek pronunciation.
Of all the islands of Greece, Lesbos is only preceded in area by Crete (South) and Evvia (Centre). However, in terms of administration, the prefecture of Lesvos comprises of three major islands, Lesbos, Lemnos at the northwest, and the tiny Agios Efstratios, located in the middle between the first two islands.
Geographically, Lesbos includes two seawater gulfs, with narrow openings both to the south, that elongate the coastline and shaping the island characteristically like a fig tree or plane tree leaf, as described by the native nobelist poet Odysseas Elytis. The landscape is different in the various regions; most striking is the contrast of the far west region, rocky with low vegetation, to the east and central parts, where olive and pine tree forests dominate. Its elevation reaches almost 1000 meters at both points: the north at mount Lepetymnos and the south at mount Olympos, a name identical to the original Olympus in Thessaly.
People of Lesbos have admired culture since the ancient times, and throughout the centuries many poets, writers, philologists, painters emerged.
Two of the famous ancient classics were the poet Sappho (whose erotic poems gave rise to the word lesbian), born in Eressos and the lyric poet Alcaeus of Mytilene, an older contemporary. A glimpse of the ancient life in Lesbos is exhibited in the new Archeological Museum of Mytilene building. Bypassing some notable people before the 19th century, the naive painter Theofilos would depict not only the lifestyle of his time, but also the ancient myths survived in the tradition; Teriade, an art critic, preserved Theofilos' work among his collection of Picasso and Matisse in his own gallery, the Teriade Museum in Varia, a suburb of Mytilene on the way south to the airport. Both museums are worth visiting.
The town of Mytilene shows architectural variety. The recent expansion to the southwest suburbs are mostly simple modern buildings; on the south way to the airport one can find a neighbourhood of old mansions, called Sourada, extended to the airport road, impossible not to be noticed; the north part called Epano Skala (meaning upper port) is the oldest, hosting one of the largest castles of the archipelago and some villas; a careful eye can notice some temples for the muslim population that used to live in the Ottoman times. The heart of the town is the market street, Ermou street, just behind the quai. While walking on this busy street, pay a visit to the baroque-style temple of Agios Therapon, a "trademark" site of Mytilene. This variety in styles is not bounded only in Mytilene; one can notice small mansions and villas (serving as public buildings usually) scattered in the villages of the whole island.
Lesvos is quite well-known for the great number of its local, traditional products. As mentioned before, Lesvos is very famous for Ouzo, as it is considered one of the places it originates from. Also, Lesvos is quite famous for its pottery. Agiasos and Mandamados are the two villages that have the biggest tradition in ceramic art. Many ceramists live and work in these villages. Some of the ceramists there are Antonia Gavve( and Demetrios Hadjigiannis. Except for ceramics, woodcraft is also very developed in Lesvos.
Towns and villages
The capital of Lesvos is Mytilene (Μυτιλήνη), at the east end. A busy town as it concentrates the hospital, the university, the port, the airport, the court, the prefecture and other administrative headquarters.
Kalloni is the largely modern second-in-size town, located in the center of the island, at the north of the greater of the two gulfs (thus called "Gulf of Kalloni").
Molivos, the ancient Methymna (spelled also as Mithimna), the most important destination for a visitor, because of its attractions: the Gattilusi Castle and the whole preserved traditional architecture. Its cobbled, winding streets, stunning views towards the sea, and considerable number of restaurants, bars and cafeterias make it an ideal place to spend an enjoyable evening. It is one of the two lungs of tourism in Lesbos, the other one being Eressos.
Eressos is a small dale town at southwest paving the way to the sandy beach, or Skala Eressou, thus being mostly a summer resort. Notably, its fame as the birthplace of Sappho attracts some lesbian (homosexual) couples, but they consist a part of the whole number of Eressos' visitors, as it is a place too beautiful to become isolated.
Plomari at the south coast in the middle of the two gulfs' openings, is the homeland of Ouzo, the well-known Greek alcoholic beverage.
Mandamados, at the northeast, for the ceramic art tradition and the locally produced dairy products.
Agiasos, the picturesque village while ascending onto Olympos.
Greek is the official and most common language spoken on the island. Many people, especially younger ones, know English as a second Language. Most signs are bilingual or even only English, but spelling usually follows a transliteration the Greek alphabet, which can lead to some confusion.
The island is served by Odysseas Elytis (Οδυσσέας Ελύτης) airport, named after the 20th century poet, and located in the far South-East of the island, around 8km South of Mytilene. Flights run regularly to/from Athens, Thessaloniki, Chios and Lemnos. Internationally, the island is a popular holiday destination so is served by regular charter flights.
The island is also connected with the mainland and other islands by ship. Many major companies offer routes between Lesbos and Athens.
Currently Hellenic Seaways and Blue Star Ferries link Lesbos with Athens as well as Chios. The trip takes between 9-11 hours and is usually overnight. During the Summer ferries operate every day, whereas during the Winter usually only one company operates and there is no departure some days. Prices are around 50 euros for an aircraft-type seat and 70-140 for a cabin depending on the type, with cheaper offers also available. Ferries are relatively new and comfortable. Two or three times per week, depending on the season, ferries also operate to Kavala in northern Greece.
Jale Tur maintains a year-round ferry service between Mytilene and Ayvalık, Turkey, a city opposite Mytilene on the Aegean coast. During high season there are boats every day; outside season a few times a week (weather permitting). The crossing takes about 90 minutes. The ferry does take cars, but is fairly small. Advance reservation is recommended. Contact: Jale Tur, Atatürk Caddesi, Güzide Apt. No:5, Ayvalık, Turkey / Tzeims Aristarchou Street 1 (around the corner from Kountouriotou), Mytilene, Lesvos, Greece (both in Ayvalık and in Mytilene directly opposite the entrance/exit of the immigration/customs building on the waterfront), ☎ +90 266 331 31 70 / +30 22510 41400 ([email protected], fax: +90 266 331 41 30 / +30 22510 41402), . € 40 p.p. one way, € 50 return trip; compact car € 70. edit During high season several other companies also maintain ferry services between Mytilene and Ayvalık. This ferry is mostly used by locals to go the Bazar in Ayvalik.
Local buses run on the island to the bigger villages on the island. You can buy tickets on the bus. The major bus stop and information center is located in Mitilini.
Taxis are cheap and the taxidrivers are obliged to use the taximeter. Taxis based in Mitilini are yellow. Taxis not based in Mitilini are grey-colored.
A good way to see the island is to rent a car. Most cars can be rented around Kountouriotou Street on Mitilini's harbor front. It is recommend that those renting cars be experienced drivers, as locals on the island drive quickly, and often disregard traffic rules and regulations. Almost all roads on the island are maintained and are in good condition.
The island offers nice hiking routes between the villages. The hiking maps are available in tourist offices.
Other than water,coffee is the most consumed drink on the island.
Alcohol is sold at every Coffee shop in every village or bars in the capital Mitilini near the wharf where the ferry will drop you off. Almost all Major hotels serve Alcohol as well.Price : 3-12 Euros.
Lesbos is famous for its Ouzo.
Never take photos of Military compounds/bases.
Lesvos is not regarded as dangerous in the slightest; simply use common sense while traveling and problems should not arise.