Area of island: 1,630 sq. km/629 sq. miChief town: MytilíniLésbos (popularly called Mytilíni; Turkish Midilli, Italian Metellino), the third largest of the Greek islands (after Crete and Euboea), lies in an angle formed by the Anatolian coast, which is only 10km/6mi away on the north side of the island and 15km/9mi away on the east side.
An island of great scenic beauty, Lésbos is also one of the most fertile parts of Greece. It is broken up by the gulfs of Kalloní and Iéra, which cut deep inland on the southwest and southeast sides of the island. The island's proximity to the mainland of Asia Minor was a major factor in the vicissitudes of its history.At Thermí, 12km/7.5mi north of Mytilíni, excavation has brought to light a pre-Greek settlement established about 2700 B.C. which belonged to a cultural group embracing also the Troad and the offshore islands as far away as Lemnos. Around 1000 B.C. Aeolian Greeks from Thessaly arrived on the island and founded the cities of Mytilene and Methymna, ruled by aristocratic families who were constantly at odds with one another. About 600 B.C. the tyrant (sole ruler) Pittakos put an end to faction and arbitrary government, retired voluntarily after 10 years and thereafter was accounted one of the Seven Sages. From 546 to 479 B.C. Lésbos was under Persian rule, and after its liberation became a member of the Attic maritime league. Throughout this period, however, and in Hellenistic and Roman times, it was able, like Chios, to maintain its independence.Lésbos was the home of the poet Terpandros (seventh century B.C.), who was credited with the invention of the seven-stringed lyre; and about 600 B.C. the singer Arion was born in Methymna, the poet Alkaios was born in Mytilene and Sappho, the greatest Greek poetess, was born in Eressos. Sappho instructed young girls in the arts. Another native of Lésbos was the philosopher Theophrastos (322-287 B.C.), who became head of Aristotle's Lykeion (Lyceum) in Athens.In 1355, a Genoese nobleman named Francesco Gattelusi married a daughter of the Byzantine Emperor, who received Lesbos as her dowry. Thereafter, the Gattelusi family ruled the island as a Byzantine fief until 1462, when Lésbos was captured by the Turks. During the period of Turkish rule, which lasted until 1913, many of the inhabitants moved to the mainland, particularly to the nearby town of Kydonia (now Ayvalak in Turkey). After the catastrophe of 1922-23, their descendants returned to the island, the economy of which was badly hit by the loss of its Anatolian hinterland.There's an airport eight km/five mi southeast of Mytilíni. Regular flights from Athens five times daily; from Salonica, daily; from Lemnos, several times weekly.Regular boat service from and to Athens and from and to Kavála, several times weekly (cars carried); from and to Salonica, Rhodes and Kymi, weekly in each case. Ferry connection with Dikili (Turkey).Lesbos was affected by the forest fires that swept across areas of Greece in the summer of 2007.
North of the Island
12km/7.5mi northwest of Mytilíni is the little spa of Paralía Thermís, near which is the prehistoric settlement of Thermí, dating back to 2700 B.C.
Mantamados & Mithimna
The road from Mytilini to Mantamádos runs 38 km/24 mi), with an icon of the Mother of God which is venerated as wonderworking (pilgrimage on November 8), and Sikaminéa (50 km/31 mi), birthplace of the contemporary writer Stratis Mirivillis, and then, following the coast for part of the way (some stretches in poor condition), to Míthimna (63 km/39 mi), also known as Mólyvos, on the site of ancient Methymna. Above this little port is a Gattelusi castle, from which there is a view extending to Asia Minor. As H. G. Buchholz explains in his monograph on Methymna, the first settlement was established here in the third millennium B.C. in the area known as Palaiá Míthimna, to the east; in the latter part of the second millennium it was moved to the present site, and in the first millennium the city developed extensive trading connections, reaching in the Hellenistic period as far afield as Egypt.
Míthimna (Methymna - Fortress)
Built on top of a hill is the 13th C fortress of Methymna. The exact date of the structure is under debate but by 1373 it was being restored and in the late 15th C it was under Turkish occupation.During the summer months cultural events are held in the courtyard.
Opening hours: 8am-2:30pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Good Friday - Christian, Easter - Christian
Entrance fee: Adult Admission Cost, Concession or reduced rate Discount, Students from EU Free, Child 18 & under Free
Useful tips: Admission is free on Sundays from November to March.
Petra & Kalloni
Petrá lies at the foot of a high crag topped by the interesting church of the Panayía (approached by a stepped path). Nearby is Kalloní, 4km/2.5mi north of the Gulf of Kalloní, which reaches 21km/13mi inland.While in Petra, it is worthwhile to visit a private collection of Theophilos' works, as well as the Monastery of Panayía Glykofílousa, built on a rock with 114 steps.
Near Kalloní, on Lesbos, is Límonos monastery, with a church containing a richly carved iconostasis and completely preserved wall paintings. Only men may enter the church; women are admitted only to the outer monastic buildings. The monastery's large library, its archives and a museum are housed in new buildings.
At Lámpou Mílli (also called Mória) in southern Lesbos are remains of a Roman aqueduct.
West of the Island
Going west from Mytilíni, we come to Skalakhorió (54 km/34 mi), just beyond which a poor road goes off to the remains of ancient Antissa (about 8 km/5 mi).
Beyond Vatoúsa (61km/38mi), to the right of the road, is Perivólis monastery (17th century frescoes). Beyond the new village of Ántissa (69km/43mi), on Mt Ordímnos, is Ypsiloú monastery (museum containing 12th century manuscripts and vestments of former patriarchs; magnificent views).
Sígri, is a little seaside resort on the west coast with a beautiful sandy beach in a sheltered bay. In the village itself (in the main square) and to the southeast (shortly before Ypsiloú monastery, on the right; one and a half hours walk) are petrified trees, buried under volcanic ash at least 700,000 years ago.
From Eressós (98km/61mi; museum) it is worth making a detour to Skála Eressoú (101km/63mi), on the south coast, which has a beautiful sandy beach. This is the site of ancient Eressos, birthplace of Sappho and Theophrastos. To the west, near the beach, are the ruins of an Early Christian basilica known as the Skholí Theofrástou, the School of Theophrastos.Also in the village are remains of another three-aisled basilica dedicated to St Andrew, with a large mosaic pavement, much of which has been preserved. Behind it is a small museum containing local finds.
South of the Island
An interesting trip in the south of the island of Lesbos is to Ayiássos (30km/ 19mi), on the northern slopes of Mt Ólympos (967m/3,173ft). Its central feature, the church of the Dormition (last restored in 1816), attracts thousands of pilgrims on the feast of the Dormition (August 15th). In the monastic buildings is a small but very interesting museum (good icons, liturgical vestments and utensils; folk art). Fine pottery and homespun cloth can be bought in the shops of the little town.Folk traditions revive here in the festivities of Profítis Ilías and the Madonna, also in the carnival known as "Vallia".
From Ayiássos it is worth driving to Polykhnitos (24km/15mi), its port of Skála Polykhnítou and the Damándri monastery (frescoes of 1580). Beyond Polykhnitos, to the south, is Vaterá, with a good beach.
For an excursion to the south coast of Lésbos, leave Mytilíni on the road which runs along the north end of the Gulf of Iéra and down its west side to the beach of Áyios Isídoros and the little town of Plomárion (42 km/26 mi).
Bay of Gera, Greece
The Bay of Gera, near the town of Gera, is a scenic coastal area on Lesvos. Of interest at the bay is an old monastery.
Ayia Paraskevi Bull Fair & Feast
The annual Bull Fair, with sacrifice of calf, equestrian events and folk songs and dances is held at Áyia Paraskeví on Lésbos annually in late May or early June.
Map of Lesbos Attractions