Greek Guide

Lesvos Greece Guide Sappho's Birthplace

Lesvos (Lesbos) Greece Greek Holiday Destinations

Lesvos 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 and is Sappho's birthplace) but Lesvos 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 Lesvos 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.