"Lesvos island" Top 5 Page for this destination Lesvos by StefanosS

Lesvos Travel Guide: 197 reviews and 348 photos

Lesvos belongs to the islands of the Eastern Aegean Sea and is the third largest island of Greece. Its population is about 100,000 people and Mytilini (Mytilene) is the capital of the island, as well as the administrative centre of Northern Aegean. The Rectorate of Aegean University is located in Mytilini, while faculties are spread to more islands. It has a long history that goes back more than 3,000 years. It has been the birthplace of famous people, such as the ancient poets Sapfo (Sappho) and Alcaeos, Arion the Guitarist, and Pittacos, one of the ?seven wise men? of ancient Greece and ruler of Mytilini, whose face was imprinted on many coins; finally in the recent years it gave birth to the folk painter Theofilos, the "Greek Van Gogh", to Stratis Teriade, the expressionist artist and editor, to the great painter Iakovidis and to the Nobel prize winner poet Odysseas Elitis who all made history in their own way. The cultural tradition that continues even today gives the island that distinctive atmosphere which makes it so different from the others.

Lyrical poetess Sapfo, who today has a reputation as a lover of her own sex, has given to the word "Lesbian" (=habitant of Lesvos) a special meaning with an international currency. This reputation is based on some fragments of her poetry, like: "I was in love with you once, Atthis, long ago...". Nothing has been proved however.

Rich in olives and fish, the island has an economic balance rare in the Aegean Sea and because of its relative prosperity it is very easy for travellers to reach even in winter. By air, one can get two to five flights daily from Athens to Lesvos - and vice-versa - and from Thessaloniki seven times a week. Direct charter flights link the island to various airports in Europe. Large ferry boats which are part of the ?Maritime Shipping Company of Lesvos? (N.E.L.) fleet, sail daily to Chios - Piraeus. Ships also sail to Rafina, Thessaloniki and Kavala. Of course in summer there is much more traffic.

Its coastline forms two Bays in the south - Geras and Kallonis - and a lot of bights and promontories. There are streams flowing through the fertile plains and among the mountains. The mountains of the west and the north of the island are rather barren. The eastern and central part of the island is cloaked in olive groves, pines, firs, plane trees, chestnuts and beeches. Generally the flora and fauna of the island are extremely rich.

The climate of Lesvos is a mild, Mediterranean climate, with sunlight all the year round. The local economy is based on the rural production and specifically on the cultivation of olive trees, producing an exceptional quality of olive oil, as well as on the stock-farm and fishery. The sector of distillery is developed producting ouzo, while a large part of the population is professionally involved with the tourism.

The Eastern Mediterranean was one of the first cradles of mankind. Not only modern man (Homo sapiens sapiens) but also his predecessors Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and Homo erectus settled early on the coasts, islands and inland regions of this area. By the last phase of the Neolithic era (up to about 2000 BC), the Eastern Mediterranean area was densely populated in comparison to general population levels at that time. The inhabitants were racially akin to each other and could be described in one word as "Mediterraneans". They should be considered as the truly indigenous population of the area.

Until today large and small ancient towns are being discovered in Lesvos. The oldest ruins date back to 3200-3100 BC. In Thermi, archaeologist W. Lamb has been systematically excavating the area and five towns were unearthed, one on top of the other. They represent the time period from 3200 to 2400 BC. Remember that excavations in Troy, Asia Minor, revealed 7 successive cities. The first three towns in Thermi correspond to Troy I and the other two to Troy II. Only in the most recent level traces of fortifications have been found. This last level was probably built after some attacks of people of Central Asia because they had begun to constitute a threat as they approached the coast and the nearby islands.

It should be noted that in Lesvos excavations are still in their early stages: Nobody knows what astonishing surprises the future might bring. Nevertheless, we can safely assume that during the next centuries the life of the islanders did not undergo any profound change. This all differed around 1400 BC, when Greeks from Mycenae (Mykines) made their appearance in Lesvos and neighbouring Asia Minor. This was the time of the Trojan War and the sack of Troy and marked the beginning of the fall of the great Trojan nation. It would seem, however, that the Myceneans either could not or would not establish any permanent settlements in Lesvos. The older inhabitants continued to preserve the traditions of their culture up until the Geometrical period. Later, Aeolian Greeks arrived in Lesvos and founded colonies on the island and on the opposite coasts of Asia Minor. They named this area Aeolia. We cannot determine exactly when this influx occurred, but judging from legends and the more general developments of that era, these Aeolians must have arrived from Thessaly about 800 BC. According to one myth, the first Aeolian King of the island was Lesvos, son of Lapithes, King of Thessaly, and grandson of Aeolos, god of the winds. From that time the island was called Lesvos in his honour. The previous name of the island is not known.

As it would seem to be this myth is based on actual events and it demonstrates that the Aeolians of Lesvos and neighbouring Aeolia are originated in Thessaly. This view is also based on the similarity of the Aeolian and Thessalian dialects of those times. Studying the myth in greater depth, scholars come to the conclusion that the Aeolians probably settled peacefully in Lesvos and, as their civilisation was rather more advanced, they absorbed the local residents. Thus from that time on Lesvos began to be regarded as an Aeolian Greek island and its previous history was forgotten.

At the outset of the Aeolian period there were six towns in Lesvos, all governed by kings. During the 7th century BC the kings were gradually driven out and replaced by oligarchies or tyrants. In the 5th century BC the town of Arisbe (Arisvi) was destroyed by the Mithymnians and this reduced the number of towns to five: Mytilini, on the site of the modern town of the same name; Mithymna, on the site of modern Mithymna (Molyvos); Antissa on the coast, north of modern Antissa; Eressos on the south shore, on the site of modern Skala Eressou; and Pyrrha on the deepest recess of the Bay of Kalloni.

Lesvos, as it can be seen from its classical history, its abundance of poets, musicians, philosophers and lawgivers, was one of the great cultural centers of the Greek world. It was second perhaps only to Athens, in its influence if not in its power.

When Alexander the Great began to conquer Asia Minor, the Lesbians lost no time in allying with him after his victory at the Granicus River and so the island remained under Macedonian rule up to 167 BC, the date of the first Roman invasion and its chief town Mytilini, both then and today the capital of the island, was demolished. The Romans settled permanently on the island in 88 BC. The island continued to prosper into the first centuries of the Christian era, as witnessed by the 57 early Christian unearthed basilicas.

The islanders' peaceful life ended at the moment when Lesvos seemed most invulnerable. Although it was part of the Byzantine Empire the Slavs raided it in 769, the Saracens in 821, 881 and 1055, the Venetians in 1128 and the Catalans in the 13th century. In 1204 Crusaders occupied Lesvos and presented it to Baudouin I. From him it passed to the Byzantine Emperor Ioannis III Doukas-Vatatzis in 1224. In 1261 it became a Byzantine Province again. In this year also the first Genoeses settled in Lesvos under a special treaty which granted them certain commercial privileges. In 1335 Emperor Ioannis Paleologos ceded the island to Genoese Francisco Gateluzo. The Turks captured Lesvos in 1462 and Gateluzzi state was gradually broken up. The island then remained in Turkish hands until 1912, when, during the First Balkan War, the Greek navy liberated it again.

Most interesting places I visited in Lesvos island are: (click on them)

Mytilini, the capital.
Varia, Theofilos and Teriade museums.
Thermi, the monastery of St Rafael.
Ayiassos, where the time stoped in 1930.
Eressos, Skala Eressou.
Sigri, the petrified forest.
Petra, a village built arround a rock.
Mithymna and Molyvos castle.

Please have a look at my separate pages, as well as at my tips below.

  • Last visit to Lesvos: Aug 2002
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (7)

Comments (8)

  • basarir's Profile Photo
    Sep 11, 2007 at 10:31 AM

    Very nice pictures.Its really nice to see that you kept all old houses and didnt destroyed them to built such a ugly buildings like what we did in Turkey. I hope next year we will coming from Ayvalik,it will be a gerat pleause.

  • Jan 24, 2005 at 6:51 AM

    Great tips and great information!

  • pepples46's Profile Photo
    Sep 12, 2003 at 8:35 PM

    excellent Stefanos...so many great information

  • fassolia's Profile Photo
    Jul 25, 2003 at 1:36 PM

    Very detailed and VERY good photos.Ayiassos power!

  • Maline's Profile Photo
    Jul 3, 2003 at 12:14 PM

    Very thorough info and background. You must be an expert on this cute island. I wasn't too thrilled with Agiassos though...!

  • peijtertjes's Profile Photo
    Jun 18, 2003 at 5:44 AM

    A lot of information about this wonderfull Island. Lesbos was my first time visting Greece about 7 years ago!!! We still keep going to Greece,,,,a wonderfull country with good food and retsina. JAMAS

  • musti72's Profile Photo
    Jun 18, 2003 at 5:34 AM

    Impressive work! I always wanted to go to Greece, now I know which island to visit, looks great!

  • mardaska's Profile Photo
    Jun 18, 2003 at 5:33 AM

    I believe that Lesvos is the most interesting greek island...Great "must see activities" tips!!


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