We had spent 4 days in Chios, and it was time to move on to our next island, Lesbos (also known as Lesvos.) We took the same ferry, the Hellenic Seaways Ariadne, that we had taken from Pireaus. We got up with the chickens at 4:30 to catch the 6:00 am ferry. We bought the ferry tickets from a travel agency at the port which was already open at 5:00 am to sell ferry tickets. You can buy ferry tickets from any travel agent for no extra fee. We bought economy tickets, but had no trouble finding comfortable seats for the voyage. The ferry took about 3 hours to arrive at Lesbos’ largest port, Mytiline, and as usual on any sea voyage I napped on and off like a baby.
We had reserved a room on booking.com for Angelos Rooms, a studio on the old harbour of Mytilene for 31E. We went to our room for a short rest (napping on the ferry was hard work! and our excuse is that we were still recovering from jet lag) and then went out to explore the town. After a snack of moussaka, salad, and beer (14E) we headed to the fortified Kastro at the top of the hill. A common theme in all of the port towns is a natural harbor, and a promontory on which to build a large stone fort, or castle (Kastro.) The following image is from inside the Kastro.
We had inadvertently chosen our room wisely. The hotel is run by Angelo’s son and wife and they were so pleasant and helpful. We found a place to swim off of the rocks near the hotel, and it was a short walk to a choice of several good harbor-front tavernas. We rented a car from Holiday Car rentals on the new harbor for 25E/day, and arranged to pick it up the next day.
We left Mytilene the next morning and made several stops on our way to the south coast of this island. The first stop was the Roman Aqueduct at Moria, just 6 km from Mytilene. It was built in the late 2nd or early 3rd C AD. I am crazy about aqueducts, and we spent a hot dusty hour unsuccessfully trying to find where the conduit left the underground channel and entered the arched causeway
After our hot endeavors at the aqueduct, and more hot sunny driving, we made a pleasant stop at Karini Spring. The photo below shows where the spring enters a large pool. There is a taverna here and a large hollow plane tree where the artist Theophilos lived for awhile. You can dip your feet into the spring outflow while you watch the ducks wade in and out of the cool spring water.
We drove all the way to the south coast to the beach town of Vatera. We had again booked our room via booking.com at the Morfoula for 25E. They were just getting up and running for the season but already had several regulars who, like us, like to travel during the off-season. The next morning we drove to Eressos, near the birthplace of Sappho, the lyric poet from the 7th C BC. Her love poetry inspired the Victorians to coin the phrase lesbian, a moniker with which many of the inhabitants of Lesbos are not thrilled. The seaside town of Skala Eressos has become a place of pilgrimage by gay couples of both sexes. It is a cute tourist town where we did notice many same-sex couples, but there are many other tourists of all types. We would have preferred to stay here last night rather than at Vatera.
While driving the Greek islands, it is hard not to stub your toes on antiquities as you travel around. The wellhead of the Well of Achilles has been carved from a single piece of stone.
Not far north of Eressos is the Petrified Forest of Lesbos, which is designated as a protected natural monument. Twenty million years ago a primeval forest was covered in volcanic ash. The molecules of the trees have been replaced over the millennia one-by-one by harder silica. We thought we would just be stopping by for a few minutes, but we were astonished at the sheer number of fossils and their extraordinary preservation. We ended up spending almost 2 hours here. The site covers several 150 square km, so if you go take water, snacks, and be prepared for intense sun.
We were ready to spend the night in a more picturesque and less-touristed area as we headed north to Mithymna (also called Molyvos). We had booked our next room at Marianthi Paradise (25E) on booking.com, which showed the hotel as being just outside the city walls. Booking.com has a huge number of listings and is convenient to use to book rooms, but many times the hotel locations are shown incorrectly on maps. We spend about 45 minutes looking for the hotel, and finally found it about 1.5 miles outside the city. It was a nice facility with a swimming pool, but it was apparently built to house English tourists visiting Lesbos on package vacations. This was only a slight annoyance, as we enjoyed an afternoon swim in the pool, the walk to and from town, and the English breakfast (with eggs!) the next morning (8E).
Mithymna is extremely popular with British tourists, as is nearby Petra, so named for the huge rock which bisects the town. The best view of the rock is from a boat in the harbor, but a hike up to the church gives you a great view of the surrounding town.
It was an already hot 10 am when we arrived at the Eftalou Hot Springs a few km east of Mithymna. Bodies were packed like sardines in the small building which houses the springs, so we took a bracing dip in the ocean just downstream.
With trepidation we turned the car onto a very small dirt road which would take us the back way to the small fishing town of Skala Sikamineas. We ground our way up and down hills and ravines, and eventually dropped down to the coast, where we came upon this scene.
We just had to stop for beer at this table 2 feet from the water’s edge. As we sat there, two hikers walked by. After we got back in the car we passed more and more hikers, and we realized that this was not a deserted back road, but a popular route for people trekking Mithymna–Skala Sikamineas.
Heading back to Mytilene for our last night on Lesbos, we passed through the town of Pirgi Thermas. We could not resist looking for the hot springs that must have given the town its name. We found the abandoned springs in a Byzantine-esque building in the center of town. Adjacent to the springs were ruins from the Classical Period (4th C BC.)
We decided to return to Angelos Rooms for our last night on Lesbos, which was convenient for parking the car and was close to the harborside restaurants.