Places of interest on Lesvos and Chios
As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Lesvos & Chios, here's our pick of places to visit.
You can't help but get in touch with your inner history buff on these ancient islands, where Homer and Sappho wrote verses, where the Genovese, Byzantine and Ottoman styles have influenced the architecture and where every village merits a day of your time, from the magical, wisteria-covered streets of Molyvos on Lesvos to Chios' medieval walled villages.
Prehistoric Thermi and the charming Teriade art museum on Lesvos are highlights, and Chios' beautiful Nea Moni monastery and abandoned village of Anavatos bring the island's history to life. When you've had your fill of culture there are myriad natural wonders to discover, too, from jaw-droppingly huge caves and a surreal petrified forest to midnight waters sparkling with phosphorescence.
Google map: shows the location and details of all the places to stay, local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities in our Green Traveller's Guide to Lesvos & Chios:
Green = Places to stay Blue = Local food & drink Yellow = Attractions Purple = Activities
Places of interest on Lesvos & Chios
Plomari Town, Lesvos
Plomari, Lesvos's second biggest town, is full of life. Locals zip around on mopeds and laze away afternoons in alfresco coffee shops shaded by huge trees. The small shops here are great for an afternoon's browsing - buy local olive oil, handmade soap and ouzo. Find time to visit St Nicholas cathedral then cool off with a swim at Aghios Isidoros Beach a few kilometres along the coast road towards Mitiline. Swim out a little way to see the multitude of fish making their home in the reef here.
Skala of Eressos, Lesvos
The inland village of Eressos is the winter residence for many locals; chilled-out Skala of Eressos is where they flock in summer. This lively beachfront village on the edge of a fertile valley prides itself on diversity. It has a vibrant international lesbian scene thanks to the goddess Sappho who was born here around 600 BC and wrote of the beauty of women. The pretty beachfront is a wonderful place to while away a weekend, popping in an out of tavernas or into the sea for a spot of skinny-dipping. As darkness descends you may see phosphorescence glimmering on the surface of the water.
A traditional village with cobblestone alleys and wonderful buildings, such as the elementary school and the former communal olive-press that is now a cultural centre. The trademark of the village is the olive-press chimney and its inhabitants: a pair of storks! Near the village there is the small seaside settlement of Skala of Polichnitos, ideal for a quiet swim and a tasty meal in one of its tavernas. Just beyond there are thermal springs and the island’s longest sandy beach, Vatera (about 10 km).
Gulf of Kalloni, Lesvos
The bigger of the two gulfs of Lesvos and haven of rare fauna that find shelter in the wetlands, Kalloni is a popular holiday resort. It’s famous for its tasty sardines called “papalina”, which are served grilled or even raw and salt-dried – they make an excellent accompaniment to ouzo.
Picture-perfect Molynos: warm red roofs spill down from a towering castle high on the hill to the sea and stone alleyways are full of curiosities. See ladies making orzo pasta in the sunshine and try to resist the patisseries full of delicious pastries. The light here in the early evening is magical - wander downhill as the sun sets and choose from many tempting restaurants. The tavernas hang precariously over the cliffsides and are often full of jamming musicians playing traditional Greek tunes.
Agiasos Town, Lesvos, Greece
A mountain village that is an oasis nestled in olive groves under Mount Olympus. Sleepy by day and full of life at night, Agiasos is a town of artisans - from famous woodworkers to pottery families - and walking its narrow streets is a pleasure. Street vendors sell cherries and chestnuts and old-fashioned island life is very evident. The famous church of Panagia, to which pilgrims flock each year, is located at the heart of the settlement. The cultural centre of Agiasos, Anagnostirion, founded in 1894, possesses a significant archive of publications and is still a very active institution, especially in music and theatre, all of which adds to the rich cultural tradition of this village. Nearby, there's the brightly painted chapel of Zoodohos Pigi, set in a charming village square overflowing with flowers.
Mytiline Town, Lesvos, Greece
The capital of Lesvos - a beautiful town with great architectural interest. Admire a variety of buildings: stately mansions, built mainly in the late 19th early 20th century, imposing churches, such as Aghios Therapon in the heart of the town, and other buildings that have been here since the times of Ottoman rule. Its vibrant town centre is frequented by many young people enjoying the buzzing night life, and its picturesque market in Ermou Str. is ideal for a stroll. Don't miss tasting local flavours at the many traditional tavernas hidden in its side alleys.
Museum of Olive Oil Production
There are an astonishing 11 million olive trees peppering the island of Lesvos and a large part of the community still makes a living from the tree’s health-giving golden oil. This beautifully designed museum, once a communal press, now has working machinery showing the different stages of olive production. You can also walk around the little storage houses that used to belong to individual families.
Teriade Museum, Varia
Discovering this museum feels like you’ve unearthed a secret - it's down a quiet road between private dwellings. You probably haven't heard of Stratis Eleftheriadis, whose art is here, but he was a Lesvos native who moved to Paris and changed his name to Teriade. He became friends with Picasso, Matisse and Miro and when he founded the art review magazine Verve, he would include original work by his friends. Find here a display of issues of colourful artwork from 1937 onwards. Teriade was also the patron of Theophilos, a famous local naïf painter, and some of Theophilos’s paintings can also be found here. museumteriade.gr
Barbayannis Ouzo Factory and Museum, Lesvos
Love it or hate it, ouzo is one of Lesvos's most famous exports. Learn how the strong aniseed liquor is made at the Barbayannis museum and factory where the family have been making 100% distilled ouzo since 1860 using a secret combination of aniseed, pure alcohol and a herbs. By the way, Ionnis Barbayannis recommends drinking "half a glass of ouzo with half of water. Avoid ice!" barbayanni-ouzo.com
Agiasos Folklore Museum, Lesvos
A small and very charming folklore and rural life museum in the centre of Agiasos. Downstairs are beautifully preserved pieces of machinery such as looms, and upstairs is a reconstruction of a local house, complete with traditional baby basket winched high into the air. Find also a room full of richly decorated dress from Lesbian weddings and festivities.
Lesvos was once divided into six states and the leaders built a temple bang in the middle in which to meet and pray in the open air to their trio of gods: Zeus, Hera and Dionysius. Hence the name Mesa, which means centre. Now this once-huge Ionic temple lies in ruins but enough remains, along with an excellent if tiny museum full of reproductions, to give you a good idea of its stature and importance.
Wander the streets of Petra and you’re likely to see women busily weaving rugs outside their cottages. A pleasant if touristy few streets along the sandy beach at the lower end of town lead up to quieter alleys and the beautiful Holy Panagea Temple on the hill - the 114 steps up are worth the effort for panoramic views towards the sea.
Prehistoric settlement of Thermi, Lesvos
This pretty, windswept site on the edge of the sea doesn't immediately convey quite how unique an achaeological find it is. Five separate Bronze Age settlements have been found here, and you can still see the remains of the stone houses where dwellers once were busy weaving and spinning and making utensils - an old pottery kiln unearthed at Thermi was very similar to those still used by Lesvos locals today. A little museum next door houses beautiful clay figurines found at the site.
Olympi Cave, Olympi
Chios' abundant limestone favours the formation of caves, but Olympi is the only one you can safely explore. Tours take place each hour, and guides ask you to speak in hushed tones before you're ushered down a spiral staircase and into the huge, 52-metre-high chasm. The whole experience is like stepping into an enormous natural cathedral made of calcite. Vast stalagmites rise up to almost touch their ceiling-hugging counterparts and a metal staircase lets you wind your way through the eerie silence.
Mesta Medieval Village, Chios
Arguably the island's most beautiful and best-preserved medieval village, the thick stone walls of Mesta don't look much from afar. Yet within the town gates lie a secret gem. This fortified, maze-like town, built by the Genoese to protect local farmers and their precious mastic crops from invading pirates, is a warren of higgledy-piggledy stone houses and archways, often covered in drooping vines and strings of tomatoes hung up to ripen in the sun. Over 300 people live here all year round but many more come to stay in the summer, when the shady main square becomes a hub of activity - a great place to people-watch over a coffee.
Byzantine Museum, Chios Town
A small but captivating museum housed in Chios Town's 19th-century Ottoman mosque, in the central square. Wander around a collection of Byzantine paintings and relics, early Christian sculptures and colourful frescoes and folk art. There's also a copy of Eugene Delacroix's famous and moving painting, The Massacre of Chios.
Pyrgi Medieval Village, Chios
One of the most distinctive of the island's medieval centres of mastic cultivation is Pyrgi, where the houses are clad in unmistakeable and intricate black and white designs, said to bring good luck. Pyrgi is also a pleasure to visit because it's still home to an active community - you may see ladies sitting outside their houses gossiping as they sort and wash nuggets of mastic sap, and the main squares are full of playing children and chatting locals.
Anavatos Abandoned Village, Chios
Only butterflies inhabit the upper levels of this ruined village, towering over the surrounding landscape from a rocky outcrop. During the massacre of Chios the Turks invaded this community of woodcutters, and all inhabitants were killed or enslaved. Now their stone houses are open to the elements and you can walk (carefully) amongst the ghostly ruins, including the old school and church. Back at the bottom of the hill one little house echoes what life was once like in Anavatos - folk artist Maria Sarri makes her home here each summer in a restored cottage, from which she sells paintings and rock sculptures.
For ideas of local food and drink, visitor attractions and outdoor activities, see our