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When the National Tourism Offices of Greece approached me about visiting the island of Lesvos as part of a campaign by the North Aegean Region and the Eresos Tourism Association, I have to say I was intrigued. Aside from the poet Sappho, I’d heard nothing about this island and struggled to learn much about it online. In fact, it was hard to believe that the island of Lesvos was a tourist destination at all.
However, my curiosity got the better of me, and who doesn’t love to get off the beaten path? So, in July I flew out to Lesvos to spend four incredible nights on the island and what I found was unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.
“Traditional” is a word I used a lot during my trip to Lesvos. You won’t find any high-rise buildings here, no McDonalds, no Spar, no Uber. Instead, you’ll find local, family-run businesses. In fact, Lesvos very much reflected the videos and photos my parents shared with me of our trips to Greece when I was just a baby.
That’s what the tourists visiting Lesvos love, and that’s what makes the island so popular with repeat visitors. In fact, most people you speak to here have been coming for 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years. As such, the connection between locals and tourists is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, they are one and the same.
For example, on my first night in Skala Eressos, the village in which I was staying while in Lesvos I spoke to a group of women who had been visiting the island for 20+ years. They shared with me that they’d just attended the funeral of a local resident of the village.
That same group of women knew what felt like everyone in the village, tourist or local. It didn’t matter. In a place where everyone knows everyone, it’s easy to feel like everyone is questioning who you are. Like it’s your first day at a new school all over again.
However, this isn’t high school, and I wasn’t left to sit on my own and feel uncomfortable. Instead, I was invited to talk to people, eat with people, and be introduced to more people. In just four days I knew more people in Lesvos than I do in the city where I live in England.
Is Lesvos Safe?
When I told my parents I was going to Lesvos, my dad’s first response was “It’s not safe!”. I’ve travelled all over the world, to places far more remote and dangerous than Greece and he’s never really questioned it.
However, he was referring to the media reporting from almost ten years ago about refugees coming across from Turkey into Lesvos. In my own research on this topic, I found most articles dated between 2012 and 2015 with little to no follow-up as to what the situation is like now.
So, I decided that the only way I was going to find out whether Lesvos was safe was by going there myself.
I travelled to Lesvos solo on a Jet2 flight from Manchester. However, unlike the majority who book a trip to Lesvos as part of a holiday package, I took the less travelled route and hired a car to drive to my accommodation in Skala Eressos and spent the following five days exploring the island alone.
During my time in Lesvos I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with many locals, tourists and even expats. However, not once did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable. I also saw no refugees personally during my visit to Lesvos and I travelled hundreds of miles across the island to various towns and villages. However, I am aware from speaking to people that there is a small camp (the Kara Tepe refugee camp) in the capital city of Mytilene.
Where To Stay In Lesvos
99% of Lesbians visiting Lesvos stay in Skala Eressos which is situated on the west coast of the island, roughly a 90-minute drive from the airport in the capital city of Mytilene.
Skala Eressos only has one-holiday package, which is offered by Mark Warner to their newly opened four-star hotel, the Aeolian Village Beach Resort. As a result, most tourists bypass Skala Eressos and instead stay in the north of the island in Petra, Molyvos and Anaxos or in Skala Kallonis.
I had the pleasure of visiting both Petra and Molyvos for the day during my time in Lesvos and hope to visit Anaxos and Skala Kallonis on a future trip. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about Petra or Molyvos. They are closer to the airport, they have a beautiful beach, and of course, you have the convenience of a holiday package.
However, you won’t find such strong female energy in these villages as you do in Skala Eressos. As a result, if you are a lesbian or a solo-female traveller (because the village is more than welcoming to all) going to Lesvos then I would highly recommend staying in Skala Eressos.
How To Travel Around Lesvos
Being the third largest Greek Island, you’ll need to think a lot about how you’re going to travel both from the airport or port to your accommodation and then from your accommodation to any other villages or tourist attractions in Lesvos should you wish to do so. With this in mind there are three ways you can travel around Lesvos;
- Hire Car
I personally opted for a hire car since I wanted the flexibility to explore the island of Lesvos at my own pace. However, most regular visitors to the island, as well as the locals in Skala Eressos, were surprised by that decision, and now, given that, I know people personally in Lesvos I’d probably opt to get a taxi when I visit the island again in the future.
Taking The Bus In Lesvos
Taking a bus in Lesvos is the cheapest way to get around the island. However, it also offers the least amount of flexibility, especially since the routes and frequency available are very limited.
All buses in Lesvos are operated by the Intercity Buses of Lesvos with the full timetable available on the website and any updates announced on social media. I never personally took a bus during my trip to Lesvos, and most people I know who didn’t have a hire car like I did opt for a taxi instead.
Getting A Taxi In Lesvos
The vast majority of tourists visiting Lesvos use taxis to get around the island. Taxis are readily available, and you’ll find a taxi rank outside the airport as well as in most villages.
During your first visit to Lesvos, you’ll either want to book a taxi online in advance or take a taxi from outside the taxi rank at the airport upon your arrival.
However, the vast majority of tourists and locals know all the taxi drivers personally and as such it’s highly likely that you’ll be given recommendations for taxi drivers as well as the driver’s number for your journey back to the airport and for future trips to Lesvos.
Lesvos is one of the most traditional Greek islands you’ll ever visit, and therefore Uber doesn’t exist here – and more than likely never will.
Renting A Car In Lesvos
Given that I wanted to explore the island of Lesvos at my own pace, I opted to hire a car for the duration of my trip. Car rental offices are located by the old airport, which is around 1km from the new airport building. As such most car rental store owners will collect you from the new airport upon your arrival and then take you to the office from where you can get your hire car.
The cost of renting a car in Lesvos is relatively affordable (around €20 per day depending on the type and size of the vehicle) and the roads are well maintained. In fact, I saw many roads being resurfaced during my visit. Meanwhile, most road signs are in both Greek and English, I’d still recommend using Google Maps.
I had very little trouble driving in Greece, yet this was only the third time I’d driven a car abroad, and the first time I’d driven a manual car abroad. On most open roads between villages, you can drive for upwards of 20 minutes without seeing another vehicle and traffic is pretty much non-existent across the entire island. However, when you arrive in some of the villages you may find the roads are narrow, so you will need to concentrate and get comfortable with the size of your car.
Things To Do In Lesvos
The island of Lesvos is home to a diverse range of attractions. However, you’ll find very few specifically built tourist sights here. Instead, most attractions in Lesvos are either natural or historic which makes the island popular with birdwatchers, yoga enthusiasts, hikers and cyclists to name just a few.
While I’ve listed the most popular things to do in Lesvos below. I was told of several activities taking place on the island that weren’t documented online. This included the Skala Womens Rock Group (listed below) and a women’s volleyball match that took place on Skala Eressos beach every evening during the summer months.
The Petrified Forest of Lesvos
The Petrified Forest of Lesvos is one of the island’s most notable and unique attractions. This forest was once, many millions of years ago exactly that, a lush green forest, filled with trees.
However, the forest underwent a dramatic transformation during a volcanic eruption, where it was engulfed by lava and ash. Over time, the intense heat and pressure transformed the ancient trees into stone, creating an otherworldly landscape frozen in time.
The Petrified Forest is split into two parts; the museum and the UNESCO Geopark. Off the back of recommendations from regular tourists to Lesvos, I chose to only visit the museum and despite having little to no previous understanding of a petrified forest, I have to say I left feeling very, very impressed.
If you do have an interest in geology and history, then I would recommend reserving at least half a day (roughly five hours) to visit both the museum and the UNESCO Geopark. Although, be sure to wear adequate sun protection and bring plenty of water since as you might expect the Geopark has zero shade.
Castle of Molyvos
Perched on a hill overlooking the picturesque village of Molyvos in the north of the island you’ll find, the Castle of Molyvos. With its origins dating back to the Byzantine era, this ancient fortress has witnessed centuries of human civilization and played a crucial role in the island’s defence.
Inside the castle walls, visitors can explore a labyrinth of narrow pathways, ancient cisterns, and remnants of towers that once stood tall. From the vantage points atop the castle, panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and the surrounding countryside unfold, offering breathtaking vistas that leave a lasting impression.
Hammam Baths & Spas
The history of Turkey and the island of Lesvos dates back to the 14th century when the Ottoman Turks began expanding their empire into the eastern Mediterranean, including the Aegean region. During this time, Turkish influence became more pronounced, and the population of the island became diverse, with both Greeks and Turks coexisting.
However, in 1912, during the First Balkan War, the Greek navy occupied Lesvos, and the island officially became part of Greece in 1923 through the Treaty of Lausanne. As a result of population exchanges between Greece and Turkey, many Turks living on the island left, while Greeks living in Turkey also migrated to Lesvos. However, much of the Turkish influence remained including many hammam baths and spas.
During my visit to Lesvos, I had the pleasure of experiencing my first Hammam, in the Eressian Hammam & Spa. Situated inside a recently refurbished Greek mansion, this hammam offers a variety of spa treatments in a relaxing and peaceful atmosphere.
Skala Women’s Rock Group
The Skala Women’s Rock Group is a daily event I was told about by a group of women I met while having dinner in Skala Eressos. The origins of this swim vary depending on who you speak to, however, it’s a tradition that is very special and symbolic to many women here.
At 10:30am every weekday, women meet at the Oahana Beach Bar and swim 350 meters out to the rock and back. There’s a support canoe should you require it, and many women hang around afterwards to enjoy breakfast and a coffee making it a great way to meet people.
Events In Lesvos
Lesvos holds a number of events throughout the year catering to both locals and tourists. Some of the most popular include;
International Eressos Women’s Festival
The International Eressos Women’s Festival is a vibrant and empowering event that takes place annually in September. Held in the charming coastal town of Eressos, this event is designed to celebrate women from all walks of life. The event is currently being held over ten days and serves as a platform for women to connect, share experiences, and foster a sense of solidarity.
During the festival, a wide range of activities and workshops are offered, catering to various interests and passions including; art, poetry and music. Meanwhile, workshops on topics such as self-care, mindfulness, and women’s empowerment are also available, providing a nurturing space for personal development and reflection.
Lesvos Euphoria International Festival
Also held in September you’ll find the Lesvos Euphoria International Festival. This event is aiming to promote Lesvos for its alternative character and unique energy through the advancement of mental and psychological health.
Since Lesvos has been a popular destination for yoga and alternative sports until the 1960s it’s no surprise that instructors from around the world come to the island for this event in an effort to teach within an ideal environment for physical exercise and mental uplifting.
Lesvos Frequently Asked Questions
Lesbos and Lesvos are the same island. Instead, the only difference is the spelling. Lesvos is the Greek spelling and pronunciation of the island, while Lesbos is the English.
Lesvos was the birthplace of Sappho the famous poet who often wrote about her women love women relationships. Female tourists in particular began to visit the island in the 1970s and 1980s and created a safe community here that still exists today.