Travel guide to the island of Lesbos Greece

Lesbos island GreeceLesbos is one of the Greek North Eastern Aegean Islands located off the east coast of Turkey 348 kilometres from the mainland port of Piraeus. It’s probably best known as being a favourite holiday haunt of gay women (the island gave its name to lesbianism) but Lesbos has much to offer visitors of most tastes and persuasions.

This is the third largest island in Greece, after Crete and Evia, and it boasts a rich variety of landscapes. You’ll find everything from pine-clad mountains and flower filled valleys to salt marshes, long sandy beaches and even a petrified forest. If you’re on an island-hopping holiday you’ll need at least four or five days to even scratch the surface of this island’s many attractions.

The island is shaped like a huge, triangular jigsaw puzzle piece, indented by two virtually landlocked gulfs. Many people refer to Lesbos as Mytilini which is the name of its east coast port and capital.

You can fly directly to the island from Athens via Olympic Airways and there are regular charter flights to and from several north European countries (note that most air schedules refer to the island as Mytilini).

There’s at least one ferry daily from Piraeus in high season and less frequent Flying Dolphin services to and from the mainland and other islands in the archipelago.

The lesbian label comes from the fact that the island was the birthplace of the great 7th century BC poet Sappho, who was widely believed to be homosexual. She was renowned throughout the ancient world for the power and passion of her highly sensual poetry, much of which was inspired by her female companions (causing speculation about her sexuality). These days hordes of women gay trippers descend on Sappho’s birthplace at Eresos, in the west of the island, to pay homage to their hero and take advantage of the female only tourist facilities which have inevitably sprung up here.

Bird fanciers of a different kind migrate to the salt marshes at the southern edge of the huge Gulf of Kalloni between March and May each year when many different bird species use the area as their nesting ground. More than 270 species, from waders to raptors, either live on the island or make it a stopping point on their migratory route.

Keen hikers are also attracted to the island which has many wonderful walking trails particularly in the south where marked paths wend their way through the olive groves, pine and juniper forests and lush valleys awash with wildflowers and pistachio orchards. You may even be offered free accommodation from the local villagers if you offer to help clear and mark the ancient paths.

One of the most popular tourist spots on the island is the picture-postcard town of Mithymna (also known as Molyvos) on the north coast. The town is a delightful concoction of cobbled lanes, street fountains and Ottoman-style mansions with wooden balconies overflowing with flowers – all crowned by an imposing 14th century Genoese castle.

There are many lovely hill villages to visit, some fascinating museums and monasteries, a good choice of sand and pebble beaches and several hot springs which have attracted visitors seeking cures for various ailments since ancient times.

About Lesbos

LesbosThe green island of Lesbos or Mytilene is a popular summer resort without being too busy. This is where the 7th century BC poetess Sappho lived, as well as Alcaios, another ancient poet and allegedly Sapphos lover. The philosopher Theophrastus was born here in the 4th century BC, and the poet and Nobel Prize winner Odysseas Elytis also came from Lesbos.

The Greeks call the island Lesbos or Mytilene after its capital. It is large and has a wonderful landscape, well worth exploring on your own. Because there is a big military camp here where young Greeks do their national service, the nightlife gets quite wild, without being extreme like on Ios or Kos. There are very quiet villages on Lesbos for those that want their peace and quiet, and it is very close to Turkey.

The island has its own airport that can take regular holiday charter flights so Lesbos doesn’t have to rely on ferries to bring in the business.

And where holiday tourism is evident on Lesbos, it does not dominate. The production of exceptional olive oil and trademark ouzo are still two of the island’s most important industries.

Lesbos islanders have a proud identity marked by long cultural traditions and this has tempered the demands of holiday companies.

The beaches may not be as many, nor the landscape as lovely as some other Greek islands but this is still a quietly impressive destination for discerning holidaymakers.

The main attractions are the traditional Greek way of life, the varied landscape, the quaint hill villages and a sprinkling of splendid beaches.

Being such a large island, Lesbos demands both time and transport for a full appreciation. Resorts are scattered widely.

Lesbos is blessed with beautiful villages, picturesque ports, cultural and historical attractions. In a strange way the light here seems brighter and nature untouched. Its bays seem to have enclosed other Aegean islands within them, the whole island is a representative sample of Greek nature.

The island generally has the greatest variety of wildflowers and birds of any place in Europe. Lesbos is a major stop on the spring migration corridors from Africa.
More specifically, the coastal areas of the Gulf of Kalloni have been included in the “Natura 2000” network, as they are the ideal refuge and breeding ground for rare and protected bird species.

The salt marshes of Kalloni gather many birds, making the area an ideal spot for birdwatching.



Lesbos-historyThe island was probably inhabited by peoples from Asia Minor in the 2nd Millennium BC, or even earlier than that. It was a prosperous island, and Sappho had her school for young noble women in the 7th century BC. The famous philosopher Epicurus also founded a school here.

Because of its location, Lesbos was ruled by the Persians during the 6th and 5th century BC, but the island was a member of the Athenian League, doing its best to sabotage the Persian enemy. The Romans invaded in the 2nd century BC, and archaeological remains tell us that many wealthy Romans had villas on the island.

Genuans took the island after the fall of Constantinople and Byzantium in the beginning of the 13th century, and the Turks came in the 15th century.

The war of Independence started in 1821, and 91 years later, Lesbos was finally freed.

What to See

Mytilene has an interesting archaeological museum as well as a folklore museum. You can also visit the 14th century Kastro, as well as the Roman theatre from the 3rd or 2nd century BC.

The most beautiful part of the island is by the Kallanis Bay in the center of the island. There, you can visit the picturesque villages Kalloni and Molyvo. At the ancient town you can still see walls from the 8th century BC. There is a Byzantine castle.

Not far from there is Petra, a village with a strange, tall cliff with a church from the 18th century dedicated to the Virgin Mary the Sweet Kisser (Panagia Glykofilousas) on top of it.

The monastery Limonos holds invaluable treasures in its museum. Parts of the monastery can only be visited by men. The nunnery Ag Raphael is also open to the public .

At the village Mantamado there is a church dedicated to the saint Taxiarchon. It has a famous icon which allegedly was made out of clay and blood.

Another famous icon is kept at the church of the Virgin Mary Zion (Panagia Sion). It was allegedly made by the evangelist Lucas, and is believed to have healing powers.

A little further north, the picturesque village Mithymna is situated by the sea. The village is full of traditional houses and winding streets, and there is an old Kastro here.

Eressos is another lovely village of special interest, since both Sappho and Theophrastus lived here. There is an archaeological and a folklore museum here, as well as a petrified forest well worth a visit..

Archaeological Museum of Mytilene

Housed since 1995 in a modern building in Kiosk, it houses unique mosaics and murals from luxurious villas, which testify to the economic prosperity of the city during the 2nd century BC. century, tomb reliefs, statues and portraits of important figures of Hellenistic and Roman times.

Museum of Folk Art

In the building of the old port authority, on the waterfront of Mytilene, with unique exhibits, which will take you back to times past. The private collection, with a representation of a traditional lesbian house is interesting.

Byzantine Museum of Mytilene

It has been around for about three decades and you will find it in the city, in Agios Therapontas Square. Wood carvings, vestments and sacred utensils but also a collection of icons of the 13th-19th centuries that will impress you.

Theofilos Museum

It is located in Varia and since the mid ’60s is the home of the popular painter, who was born and spent part of his life in the lesbian capital. With stone and soil from the island and between olive trees, it consists of four continuous rooms, in which you will see 86 of his paintings, with themes from history, mythology, folklore and everyday life.

Thermal springs of Lesbos

thermaIn Therma of Gera Bay, the water is poured rapidly by marble taps, creating the conditions for a natural hydromassage (temperature: 40 degrees, open all year round).

Just outside Polichnitos, in Lisvori, you will find one of the hottest springs in Europe, which is a huge geothermal field with 16 springs.

In winter the area is filled with water vapor, as the gushing water reaches 60 degrees (temperature: 42 degrees, open all year). In Thermi Spa you will find this spring, which is said to be suitable for gynecological diseases and rheumatism (temperature: 46 degrees, open from June to October). In Therma of Eftalou, near the beach of Chrysi Ammos, the common bathing of men and women is allowed, which is rare in Greece (temperature: 46 degrees, open all year round).

Petrified forest of Lesbos

fossil-forestIn the triangle of Antissa, Sigriou and Eresos, here you will learn what the phrase games of nature means.

It is a real miracle and it will cause you a strange attraction when, observing the fossilized trees with their roots, you will realize that they are in the exact same place for millions of years (before they even turn to stone)!

Also visit the famous Museum of Natural History of the Petrified Forest of Lesbos in Sigri with a variety of exhibits (trunks, leaves, shoots, etc.). Here you will be informed about the events and the agritourism exhibition, while you will also watch multimedia presentations around the geological history of the Aegean.

George Iakovidis Digital Museum

george-iakovidis-museumIn the birthplace of the painter, Hydira, is the first completely digital art museum of the country. Starting with a museological study based on new technologies, it presents the life and work of the renowned painter through electronic systems of digital projection and interaction. With thematic units and the use of various tricks, such as isolating elements of the painting, comparing with other works either of the painter himself or his teachers as well as with the combination of narration and graphics, the works come to life and become more familiar to visitor.

Stratis Eleftheriadis Museum and Library

Its doors opened to the public in 1979 and since then it has been a reference point for works of art by great painters such as Matisse, Picasso and Chagall but also Giacometi, Vakirtzis and Tsarouchis.

Olive Mill-Museum Vrana

olive-museumThe historic Vrana olive mill in Gera – the current Olive Mill-Museum of the company Archipelagos – is one of the first steam-powered factories on Lesbos.

It was built in 1887 by the grandfather of Odysseus Elytis, Nikolaos Vranas, at the eastern end of Papados.

Its restoration and transformation into a museum with the machines of older times led to its substantial contribution to the cultural, tourist and productive development of the island.

Churches in the city of Mytilene

Walking in the alleys and streets you will find from majestic temples to small churches. Who has not admired the famous Agios Therapontas with its imposing architecture and Venetian style, the Metropolitan Church of Agios Athanasios with its Gothic features or the church of Agios Theodoros, which dates from 1795.

Holy Monastery of Saint John

The Monastery, located in the western part of Lesbos, before Sigri. You will be impressed by the fact that this monastery of the Byzantine period was in a position of defense against enemy invasions.

Virgin Mary the Mermaid

You will be connected with Skala Sykamia, this fishing village in the north of the island, where the church of Panagia Gorgona, the “beloved” in the book of the same name by Stratis Myrivilis, dominates. It is said that it took its name from the mural of an unknown folk painter depicting the Virgin Mary with the tail of a mermaid, in a unique marriage of religion and tradition.

Holy Monastery of the New Martyrs

After a winding route among olive trees is the hill of Karyes, with the monastery emerging from nowhere in front of you, as it is said that the saints appeared around 1950 to the inhabitants of Thermi to reveal their martyrdom from the Ottoman invasion in 1463 and indicate the location of their tombs and relics.

Monastery Leimonos

In the center of the island, 3 km northwest of Kalloni. During the years of Ottoman rule it was the most important educational and spiritual center of Lesbos. It was named so as it is built in the middle of a meadow (meadow). Inside there is a museum where gold-embroidered vestments, gilded and silver-plated gospels, church utensils, antimony, portable icons, jewelry and relics of the founder of Agios Ignatius are exhibited.

Holy Monastery of Taxiarchis Michael

monasteryMake a stop in Mantamado for the patron and patron saint of the area. Head to the sanctuary of the church and stand in front of the relief image that causes awe due to the strict style of the archangel, the imposing face and the gilded wings. According to legend, centuries ago, Saracens attacked the monastery and killed the monks.
A probationary monk who escaped saw the archangel fluttering over the corpses and from their soil and blood making the present image.

Holy Church of the Virgin Mary in Agiasos

The Virgin of Agiasos, as the locals call it, is a church with Byzantine origins. Look for the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, which was transferred to the temple in the 8th century BC. century to be saved from iconoclasm.

Beaches of Lesbos

Lesbos-beachThe Bay of Kalonis almost splits the island of Lesbos in two. North of the Gulf is the main tourist area with popular resorts on the north coast. To the east of is the capital Mytilini and the low-key resorts of the Gulf of Thera and west the wild and rugged mountains with few roads and few people.
Kalloni and Petra are just two of the island’s wonderful beaches, which are also good for families with children. Ag Isidoros and Skala are also very nice places for swimming, but there are many, many more beaches in the area.

North of the Gulf of Kalonis, the main tourist area has several popular resorts from the bigger beach resorts of Petra and Anaxos in the west to the small coves of Mandamos and Aspropotamus in the east.
kalloni-beachThe south-east is dominated by the mountain of Profitis Ilias and flanked east and west by the gulfs of Kallonis and Geras. Olive groves and pine forest dominate and this is one of the most beautiful parts of Lesbos, with pretty villages flung around the rolling hillsides. The Bay of Yeras is almost an inland sea and it has some of the most important wetlands of Greece.

The western half of Lesbos is much less developed than the north and east and dominated by impressive mountains with the coastal areas backed by large, fertile plains and gentle roiling hills. The only two beach resorts of note are Skala Kaloni in the Kaloni Gulf and Skala Eressos in the south-east. To the far west is the world’s second largest petrified forest of Sequoia trees.

Villages and towns


plomariIn Plomari, the homeland of ouzo and the third largest settlement in population of Lesbos, which used to be a base of soap factories, olive mills and shipyards.

Stroll to the central market with its picturesque alleys and flowery courtyards and visit one of the traditional cafes on the embers.
Here you will find hotel facilities, taverns and various kinds of shops, while you can visit one of the many ouzo factories to see how ouzo is produced.


molyvosIn Molyvos or Mithymna, as was the ancient name of this preserved traditional settlement. It is undoubtedly very picturesque and it is no coincidence that many Northern Europeans have settled here who were enchanted by its beauty.

Amphitheatrically built on a rock, with the castle dominating at the top, what makes Molyvos special is the architecture of its stone mansions.

Take a tour of the cobbled streets, drive to the picturesque square and reach the traditional harbor at the edge for fresh seafood and fish.


agiasosAt an altitude of 460 m. On the slopes of Mount Olympus, the traditional settlement of Agiasos will enchant you with its cobbled streets, shops selling wood carvings and fabrics and the hospitable people who speak a typical local dialect.

Although it is not rained by the sea, it presents intense tourist traffic even in the summer months. It is worth coming on the 15th of August for the festival of Panagia Agiasos.

Skala Sykamias

On the northwest side of the island, thefishing village, Skala Sykamias, is located 45 km from Mytilene. Take to the road by the sea to admire the imposing mansions that testify to the flourishing of the area in the past decades and ask about the mulberry tree of Myrivilis, where the famous novelist sat and wrote.

Make a stop at the white church of Panagia Gorgona, one of the most photographed places on the island, which dominates the rock at the edge of the sea.


The village of Kalloni lies in the centre of Lesvos, 45 kilometres west of the capital Mytilini, where six rivers flow, and a main island crossroads for centuries.

To the south lies the Gulf of Kalloni, known for the quality of its fish, particularly sardines, cockles and mussels and a major eco-tourist centre with a great number of rare birds.

Nearby Limonas Monastery was built in 1523 and its library contains about 5,000 books, manuscripts and other documents, some from the 9th century.


Lesbos has a good nightlife, and you’ll find bars and discos in Mytilene, Mithymnia and Skala for example.
On the road between Petra and Molyvos, the Oxy club (formerly “Gatelouzoi”) dominates. And when I say dominant, it’s not a figure of speech.

This is a huge club built on the hill, which has the shape of a boat. Fridays and Saturdays especially, the place is full of fun and you are not expected to “disembark” before dawn. For a few years it was closed, but now it has returned dynamically with new owners and a new name.

If you stay in Molyvos, you must spend at least one night in the summer cinema of the island. In the heart of the village, in the green and with a different movie every night, it will offer you an ideal two hours to start your night


:You’ll find everything you need in Mytilene. A typical souvenir from Lesbos is the olive oil and of course ouzo on of the most famous famous products of Lesbos.



Lying close to the coast of Turkey, Lesbos is 70 by 45 kilometres with an area of 1,630 sq. km. The island has two very large narrow-necked bays to the south at Kalloni and Geras. Abundant springs and tidal rivers ensure some areas remain wet even in high summer and large salt pans attract migrating birds.

The hilliest areas are in the north around Molyvos and to the south-east above the Gulf of Gera. Uplands are cloaked in pines and oaks, with olive, vine and citrus groves on many hillsides.

Lesbos weather is typically Mediterranean with mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers. The northern meltemi wind blows in high summer but Lesbos is considered one of the sunniest Greek islands. The mean annual temperature is 18°C and rainfall is 750 mm.

Summer months are dry and high summer brings more than 12 hours of sunshine with thermometers often topping 30°C in July and August.

Winters are mild with long spells of sunshine. The rainiest months are December and January.

Local food and cuisine

In Mytilene and Mithymna you’ll find both Greek and International restaurants, but all the villages also have small, traditional taverns with good food. The island is known for its olives and ouzo, and there are several local sweets. Food in Lesvos is directly proportional to the size of the island. In whichever of the beautiful and relatively untouched villages you find yourself, you will find a tavern that will offer you unlimited taste stimuli.

Ouzo puts its stamp on the whole island and as accompaniments you will taste an endless array of dishes such as fish ,cheesecakes with mint, courgette flowers stuffed with cheese, salted sardines. Another characteristic dish is the sweet fava made from green peas.

You will also taste high quality meats, since the island has its own livestock. Notably, the locals do wonders with the abundant fresh fish and seafood, vegetables, herbs and of course, their own cheeses, ladotiri, feta and mizithra.

Where to stay

Lesbos-accommodationLesbos has a wide variety of accommodation to suit most budgets. Large hotels aimed at the package holiday market are found in the big tourist centres. If you plan a visit in August it’s probably best to book ahead as hotels can be block-booked weeks in advance.

For cheap rooms, the capital of Mytilini is probably the best. There are many small hotels and domatia off the main thoroughfare of Ermou, near the harbour. Small hotels also line the waterfront but the prices rise and night noise can be a problem.

Accommodation is available in the picture-postcard resort of Molyvos and several inexpensive hotels are sited on the waterfront below the old town. Those on a tight budget can opt for Molivos Camping site just outside the resort.

Lesbos hotelsThere are plenty of hotels and apartments at the popular beach resort of Petra, five kilometres south of Molyvos and, if you fancy something unusual, try contacting the local Women’s Agricultural Tourism Collective in the central square for a room in local family home. You can reserve a room online.

Skala Eressos in the south-west is Lesbos’ busiest beach resort and has plenty of hotels, pensions and apartments, including a couple of women-only hotels. More holiday accommodation can be found at beach resorts along the south coast, including a large camp site at Vatera.

Getting Around

The local buses all start in Mytilene, and there are connections to most villages around the island. There are also taxis and vehicles for rent, as well as boats that can take you to some of the beaches.

Taxi services: Taxis on Lesbos are useful for transportation around the island. Basically they run 24 hours daily. The drivers are kindly willing to drive you safely to your destination for economical prices. We transfer our guests from/to airport and port of Mitilini to the Northern part of the island which is mostly touristy, excursions and local fares. Theo the taxi driver based in Petra and much more fares can be executed from Petra to any part of the island.

Roads on Lesbos are generally good but driving can be tiring on such a large and mountainous island. Although there are no express ways, roads are usually uncongested. Those heading into the mountains will find that roads can narrow quickly and the surface deteriorate.

Car rental is available in most of the larger resorts or you can book online

Lesbos buses

Lesbos has two bus stations in Mytilini. The station based at the harbour car park runs services to the city suburbs, to the airport and to Thermi in the north.

Cross-island services based at Mytilini’s main square are operated by KTEL. The main routes are to to Petra and Molivos with journey times of about two hours.

Local services connect more remote villages to the main routes but timetables can be unreliable.

Regular buses link Mytilene with Ipio, Sikounda, Agiassos, Vassilika, Lisvori, Polichnitos, Vrissa, Vatera, Kato Tritos, Paleokipos, Plakados, Papades, Skopelos, Trigonas, Plagia, Plomari, Kaloni, Filia, Skalohori, Vatoussa, Andissa, Eressos, Sigri, Petra, Mithymna, Agia Paraskevi, Parakila, Agra, Messotopos, Mistegna, Nees Kidonies, Mandamados and Klio

Timetables are usually published at Lesbos Online but I can’t vouch for the accuracy.

Lesbos taxis

Taxi ranks are found at the airport and in Mytilene town centre near the country bus station. Taxis are usually painted silver or yellow and are found at all the main resorts such as Petra, Molivos and Kalloni. Most villages will have at least one local taxi driver on call in the main square. Outside the capital, drivers may prefer not to use a meter but will charge about one euro per kilometre. Always agree a price before getting in. Typical inter-village taxis fares are found at Lesbos Taxi Service which operates all over the island and claims cheap rates for island excursions

Getting there

Lesbos has its own airport, and if you can’t find a direct flight, it also has good connections with both Athens and Thessaloniki. There are also ferries to and from Pireus, Thessaloniki and Alexandropolis, as well as islands like Chios, Samos, Rhodes and Kos.

Useful telephones

Buses 229973
Medic 228412
Port 228888
Airport 261590
Tourism 242511
Tourism Police 222776


Size 1,632 sq km

  • Population 90,000
  • Season May – Oct
  • Special interest Spas
  • Island hopping Poor