The Gulf of Kalloni is Lesvos's larger of two gulfs and is fairly central to the island. It is a Natura 2000 protected area owing to it's ecological environment which consists of two salt pans, small rivers, estuaries, reedy marsh areas and pine and olive woodlands. To the west of Skala Kalloni fruit trees are in abundance which makes for a very green landscape.
The Gulf attracts all manner of rare birds and is an ornotholigists delight, especially in early spring with the migrating birds, including flamingoes. The sea also provides a constant supply of mussels, cockles, scallops and sardines, though the latter are not so numerous now.
Beaches abound on the Gulf, with long sandy stretches to shingly, shell covered bays, all being shallow for miles into the water, creating a very picturesque, blue sea. Skala Kalloni is the biggest resort on the Gulf, catering well for the tourist with all manner of accommodation, water sports and plenty of tavernas.It's a popular spot for Greeks as well as foreign tourists and being centrally located island-wise, makes a good base for exploring the island from.
The inland town of Kalloni is a bustling, typical market town which is the region's administrative centre. It is also a very noisy place with traffic constantly roaring through it's streets.
Nearby is the island's largest monastery, Limonas, which holds priceless archives of books and manuscripts of the area.
There are some stupendous views of the gulf from many of the island's roads, with the large green plain spread out around, reaching out to the blue, blue waters of the gulf.
Petra is another mega resort for the Brits but is still pleasantly low key away from the beach. It is package holiday booked, in the main, but there is still much evidence of accommodation to rent for the independent traveller.
Petra's beach is long and mainly sandy and offers no end of those dreaded sunbeds for hire. I would hate to see this beach in high season. Water sports are also on offer.Bars and tavernas line the beach street behind, all trying to outboast the next with their offers.
Petra now has a one way system as tyou enter the village although the coastal route is still two way. There are two or three car parks on the front and on road parking in various places.
Petra gained it's name from the 300 metre high rock that is home to the Glykflousa Panagia monastery,(Our Lady of the Sweet Kiss) perched right on the top. It was built in 1747 and 114 steps, carved into the rock, climb steeply up to the entrance. Enter only if you are suitably attired. I wasn't, so simply climbed the steps to admire the views of Petra.
There is a square just off the beach road, where cafes serve drinks and breakfasts. We felt badly done to, we had a beer and a latte and it cost €3.50 and €3.80! Wow, we were robbed!! Never to return..........
Behind the square is a minor road, pedestrianised and well shaded, full of both intriguing shops and tat shops as well as tavernas. Beyond here, take time to wander further back towards the church and you will be rewarded with old houses, tiny streets and less touristy tavernas. I wish we had known this before we sat down in the square!
In one of these small streets, I stumbled across an interesting looking house. This turned out to be the 18th c. Vareltzidaina mansion, one of the early Turkish style buildings with ornately engraved wooden balconies overhanging the street and housing murals and carvings inside. It is open to the public at certain times.
Yes, Petra is touristy, but don't just come here for the beach life. In fact, we managed to avoid the beach all together and just enjoyed wandering around.
We didn't particularly want to use the thermal baths but we were interested in seeing the boiling hot river.
We parked in the baths car park and instead of going round the back of the taverna and baths, we opted to walk over the bridge and to the old, disused baths on the opposite side of the river. From here, we managed to scramble along a vague path through the undergrowth (bit worried incase there were snakes!)and made our way down to the water. It was quite fascinating, we could see where a number of hot springs were rising from the river and cliffside, steam billowing out. The river and riverbed are coloured a rusty brown with shades of coppery blue and green. On this side of the river, there are no signs but when we went back to see the contained springs by the baths, there were signs warning not to touch as the water was boiling.
At the back of the baths is a pleasant area to walk round, viewing the bubbling springs contained in concrete tubs and you can reach the river we had looked at, but the views are better from the other side. There was also a long concreted tunnel, obviously channelling the hot water at some time. We couldn't understand why it was covered.
Polichnitos hot springs are the hottest in Europe,with a water temperature of 76 - 91 c and are said to help rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica, gynaecological problems and skin compaints.
There is a small taverna here.
A pleasant fishing village with some interesting looking eating places, Skala Polichnitou is some 4 kilometres down on the coast from Polichnitos. It has a long, narrow beach and the road from Nyfida to S. Polichnitou runs all the way along the coast.
I must admit, if we come back to Lesvos, we will re-visit here with the intention of eating. There were a good few places open and even some tourists!!
We followed the dirt track out eastwards along the coast and eventually joined the main road near Achladeri. We stopped by a stream and saw,- guess what/ Terrapins!! Our first of the holiday!!
We loved this noisy, rural agricultural town, set amidst rolling fields and olive groves.
The town has some wonderful architecture, with imposing mansions telling of it's past wealth and importance. We sat and watched the pigeons who seemed to be the only residents in the beautiful building across from us.
There is a small square with a few cafes and tavernas and a chemist. Here is also the taxi rank and it was generally a noisy corner, as the road here turned sharply and narrowly. We laughed at the antics of some of the drivers and in particular, one of the cafeneons was right on this corner, old men sitting almost on the road. We did feel some concern for their feet and walking sticks which tended to encroach onto the road!!
In Polichnitos there are a couple of old, tall chimneys, one of which has a stork's nest complete with bird in residence.Amazingly, in the underside of the nest were hundreds of tiny birds, catching insects and removing small pieces from the nest for their own, no doubt. Quite fascinating.
There is very little concession to tourism here, probably the main attraction being the thermal baths, further south.
We stopped twice at the Tulip cafe where we had a beer and a dish of crisps for €2.5. Nice and friendly, as well.And we were served icey cold water as soon as we sat down. Back to the good old ways.
Eftalou has a string of stony, shingly beaches, some only accessible on foot. The main attraction here is the thermal baths. This has recently been modernised and includes a communal natural bath or you can hire private bath tubs where you can control the heat of the water, which has a temperature of 43 - 46c. from the spring. The water is supposedly beneficial for rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica, neuralgia, kidney and gall stones and gynaecological problems. I think it cost €4 for a bath.
If you walk through the old communal bath, you can peak at what's going on! This also leads onto the beach where I actually lay in front of the baths, wwhere the hot thermal water seeps out under the building. You can dig yourself a pool in the shingle but it can get hot!!
In the Eftalou area there are numerous largish hotels and apartments and a few tavernas.
Parking for the baths can be tricky as the place fills up from early in the morning, with people also walking from here over the headland to other beaches. The access road to the baths was being stabilised with some new shuttering shoring the sea wall up when we were here, which again, didn't make access easy.
From here, the dirt track continues all the way to Skala Sykaminias, a beautiful road but rather bumpy in an ordinary car!
Pretty as a picture, working fishing village. Brightly coloured boats bob about in the harbour as you sit at one of the tavernas , relishing the location.
No mass tourism, I think there was a Danish or Dutch company here, occupying the Gorgona Pension. Whatever nationality they were, they liked a good time and were Greek dancing and cavorting about very loudly until the early hours, one night we were here.
Only bseemed to be a couple of places with rooms but a choice of at least four tavernas.
An excellent lunch stop and an interesting place to stay a few days.
Returned here in May 2009. Oddly enough, we didn't stop for a drink. The place is now a lot more upmarket and well and truly on the tousist trail. Boats ply back and forth from Molyvos in season, as well as to nearby Kagia beach, over the headland. It is still a beautiful place, renowned for it's fresh fish and seafood. We looked into a tank of lobsters at one of the retaurants and couldn't even guess how much one of them would have cost.
We took the dirt track from Eftalou here, a long, rough road with delightful countryside views. There is a rustic taverna somewhere along here, which we vowed we would go to one day but alas, we never got round to it.
The climb out of Skala Sykaminias on the main road, up to Sykaminias is a steep, twisting pull. We actually saw a fox on this road, which just stood and stared at us!
Anaxos is not everybody's cup of tea. It is a fast growing package resort, catering mainly for the Brits but still (so far) manages to retain some Greekness.
The main road is where most of the proper village is, with an excellent bakers we frequently called in on passing. His cheese pies were delicious and much cheaper than in Molyvos. Philip also had a huge slab of gooey chocolate cake packed in a cake box, which lasted him two days! On this road are a few businesses including car hire and some tavernas, one offering full Sunday roast, which rather put me off! There are a couple of roads off down to beach and the rest of the resort, but not easy to spot from a car. They pass little mini markets, tourist shops, more tavernas and lots of accommodation, although again, much of this is on the main road.
Anaxos's beach is 3kms in length, mainly sand with some shingle, especially at the water's edge. Bear in mind the seabed shelves quite steeply so keep an eye on children. There was much evidence of beach sweeping and sunbeds and parasols are the norm here. There is not a lot of beach without them, again a fact I didn't like, not being an in with the crowds on the beach type of person. As Nichk had a drink at the Seadide taverna, I used one of the "free" sunbeds but was a little put off by the sunbed man constantly patrolling and when I happened to put the cameras on a second sunbed, he pounced on me and said only one sunbed per person. That finished me off and I left Anaxos with a sour taste in my mouth.
Even so, take the beach experience out of the equation and I guess Anaxos is still small enough to be Ok. Certainly there were enough places to eat and indeed, we did eat here one lunchtime (before my sunbed experience) and hads a great meal at a very Greek place.
People return here year after year, I guess they enjoy lying on sunbeds amongst the crowds. If we stayed here, I don't think I would bother with the beach at all, just use the place as a base, as we did in Molyvos. The island has to be explored and I couldn't contemplate staying in Anaxos for two weeks without ever leaving the place, but then I would say that about staying anywhere!!
To the west, there is smaller Avlaki beach, with a man-made footpath from Anaxos. There is a taverna.
A bus service runs from Skoutaros (beyond Anaxos) to Petra, Molyvos and Eftalou, but only from June, supposedly. I did notice this year the service started running in May.Maybe they had a new, enthusiastic driver!!
Plomari is the second largest town in Lesvos and is a noisy, bustling old place with some intriguing architecture. Narrow streets full of old fashioned shops meander behind the modern seafront and there is no shortage of cafes and tavernas.
Plomari's industries were varied and included soap making, olive oil, fishing, tanneries and of course, ouzo.It was in a strong position to trade with it's proximity to Turkey and the Middle East.The town peaked about a century ago and today, there is much evidence of it's declining businesses, with empty buildings and other fine architecture being put to good use. Ouzo is one of the remaining main industries here today and is rated as the best ouzo on the island. The Barbayanni ouzo factory is open to the public where there is a museum, a look at the ouzo making process and of course, tasting!
We parked on the harbour front in a car park and had a wander round the back streets. We had a laugh at the dry river beds now used as streets for parking and found our way to a tiny square with a massive plane tree, over 200 years old. We had a drink at a cafe and made friends with the English owner, Katerina, who had married a Greek and lived there for 30 odd years. She told us they had fought for a ferry service from Plomari to the mainland but Mytiline authorities didn't want the competition. She also told us that many people from Lesvos emigrated to South Africa, America, Australia, Sudan and other fast money earning countries. Some returned, others didn't. There are also lots of people who send their children to English Universities from the island, so there is not a shortage of money in some families.Katerina was a mine of information so we asked her what landmass we were looking at from Plomari. Chios and Turkey.
From this square, we watched a local chair repairer mending chairs and also became involved with a Danish man who had had a few brandies with his morning coffee. Between him and Katerina, we couldn't get a word in edgeways! Oh, and then we were stung for €3 for a beer!! (I don't know what prices are like in Plomari but this was the most we had paid so far and it came as a shock.)
We called in at a butchers and bought some mince and eggs and once again, we couldn't escape, the butcher kept talking and talking. Maybe it's something to do with living in Plomari that the residents like to talk!!!
Vatera is somewhere on Lesvos I have always wanted to look at, reputably having the longest and best beach on the island, over 8 kms in lengt and being the proud owner of the Blue Flag award.. During our stay on Lesvos 2009, we made the long journey south, from Molyvos. We stopped off in Polichnitos for a drink and from there it was a fairly straight forward 7 or 8 kilometres to Vatera.
The road meets the coast and travels in both directions. For solitude, turn left and you can drive all the way along the beach for miles before the road turns inland to Stavros and then becomes a dirt track. The further you proceed, the more shingly and stoney the beach becomes. We never saw another soul and stopped about halfway along for me to have a dip. My goodness, the water was cold! I put this down to the steeply shelving seabed which was also uncomfortable upon entering as the waves were churning the shingle and pebbles over my feet. Quite painful. I didn't linger too long, anyway!
There are a few establishments and at least one hotel and plenty of signs for rooms, further back along the beach. We only saw a couple of places open and to be honest, I wasn't that impressed with the place. A bit too much of a "made" resort and nothing old here. The place apparently buzzes in summer, mainly with Greeks and northern Europeans and water sports, sunbeds etc. are all available.
There is a campsite somewhere in Vatera but we didn't notice it, so obviously it wasn't on the beach or if it was, it was well and truly closed.
One thing I regret when we were in this area was that we didn't press on along the coast westwards along a dirt track to Aghios Foka. It had been such a long journey already and the road looked a little dicey for an ordinary hire car. Apparently there are a few good tavernas there, as well as the ruins of the Temple of Dionysos. Oh well, we had to leave some places for next time.........
Kagia beach is close enough to beautiful Skala Sykaminia to make it popular. The day we visited, it was windy and overcast, so the beach was empty.
It is a shingley/sandy beach, some half a kilometre in length and has shade from trees backing onto the beach. There are boat trips here from Molyvos and Skal Sykaminias daily in season. Behind the beach are a few tavernas and some properties or apartments. It is reputedly good for snorkelling.
The road to the beach is now surfaced, so is not difficult to reach.Parking is on the road behind the beach, under the shade of the trees.
People kept mentioning a terrapin pond so one day, we decided to track it down. Actually, we had passed it a few times but hadn't twigged this was the pond mentioned.
It is a small, manmade? pond in natural landscape, with a wooden pagoda, complete with two resident, very friendly cats. There is some rustic furniture and nothing else. Sit and watch the antics of the many, many terrapins,their heads jutting forwards like some prehistoric relic. Try and feed them bread and hundreds of fish will beat them to it, creating a frenzied,swirling mass.
One sound you will hear is that of frogs, some calling so loudly you can't believe the sound is from such tiny creatures. Birds flit about and the place is just magical.
One other sound you will hear is that of the cats purring VERY loudly. Oh, and they eat the bread as well!!
Make sure you find this place.
Although we don't normally like large resorts full of package tourists, we were pleasantly suprised with Molyvos. It's beautifully located on a hill, with a Genoese Castle looking down to it's harbour.
There's a long, narrow beach, not very exciting, with far superior beaches to the east.
Any number of eating and drinking places, a lot perched on the cliff-side, with superb views down to the coast. We were suprised to find prices weren't any dearer than anywhere else. I suppose the competition kept things at bay.
The day we visited, we were desperate to change traveller's cheques. That was also the day that the road through Molyvos was being re-surfaced and we had to park a way out and get covered in tar on our walk back in!!!
The big downfall was the number of people, including coach loads of Greek school children. Not what you would call peaceful!!!
May 2009 update. We stayed on the outskirts of Molyvos but usually went into the town to eat at night. There are so many places to eat, it is difficult to make a choice. the one good point is that most have menus with prices displayed outside so you can work out some of the better options. Even then, in a fortnight's stay, no-one could possibly do justice to even a third of the restaurants. It is also a long trek from one end of the town to the harbour, where the more expensive, up-market places are. Prices compared with the less touristy villages are definitely higher in Molyvos, but then what else would you expect for such a beautiful place? The standard of food is excellent, with so much choice availabe.
The castle is well worth a visit and costs €2 for adults, free for children. I have written a seperate tip for the castle.
In season, (which began the third week of May this year,) there is a bus service between Anaxos, Petra, Molyvos and Eftalou.
I noticed an open-air cinema on the main road in and there are a few pool bars and internet places for the teenagers to hang out at.
You can't stay in Molyvos for any length of time and not visit the castle!
It is the second largest castle on the island (Mytiline being the largest) and is Medieval and rebuilt in Byzantine times. The best preserved parts are actually the entrance and the walls, there's not a lot to see inside. There is a modern stage and seating as concerts are held during the summer. What a setting!
What really makes the hike up to the castle are the stunning views all the way round. Down to the beach and all the way along, outand down towards the town and out to the countryside towards Eftalou. We were imopressed we could spot our apartments from here.
You can walk all the way round the castle; there are seats to rest awhile and admire the views. There is also a nice old donkey tethered by the castle!!
In the evenings, the castle is spectacularly lit up. I never managed to get one decent photo of it illuminated .Shame.
Admission is €2 per adult and as in all Greek sites, children are free. I think the castle was open from 8am - 8pm.
While we were in Sigri, we thought we might as well make the effort to visit the castle. We parked on the harbour and walked through the village. The castle is free entry, and to be honest, there is not much to see. It's best feature are the views of the town and seascapes.
The interior is rather overgrown and some parts we didn't bother investigating, not wishing to disturb such creatures as snakes that might have been basking in the undergrowth!
The castle is of Turkish origin, built in 1757 during their occupation of the island.It sits prominently on a small headland, above the harbour, where the Turkishish fleet would have been anchored The stone used to build the castle was transported from Turkey, paid for by taxing the locals vast sums of money.
The old door remains much intact and is quite an impressive piece of work.