It has an area of 1,632 square km (630 sq mi) with 320 km (199 miles) of coastline, making it the third largest Greek island, after Crete and Evia. It is separated from Turkey by the narrow Mytilini Strait. The population of Lesbos is approximately 86,000, a third of which lives in its capital, Mytilini, in the southeastern part of the island. The remaining population is distributed in smaller towns and villages. The largest are Plomari, Kalloni, the Gera Villages, Agiassos, Eressos, and Molyvos.
The foundation of Mytilene goes back to the 11th century BC. According to Homer's Iliad, Lesvos was part of the kingdom of Priam. When the Persian king Cyrus defeated Croesus (546 BC) the Ionic Greek cities of Anatolia and the adjacent islands became Persian subjects and remained such until the Persians were defeated by the Greeks at the Battle of Salamis (480 BC). In Hellenistic times, the island belonged to various Successor kingdoms until 79 BC, when it passed into Roman hands. In Middle Ages, it was under Byzantine and then Genovese rule. Lesvos was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1462, although the French briefly recaptured it two decades later. The Ottomans then ruled the island until the First Balkan War in 1912, when it became part of the Kingdom of Greece.
The shape of the island is roughly triangular, but it is deeply intruded by the gulfs of Kalloni and of Gera. The island is forested and mountainous. Its volcanic origin is manifested by several hot springs. Lesbos is verdant, thus named Emerald Island, with a greater variety of flora. Eleven million olive trees cover 40% of the island together with other fruit trees.
Lesbos is the birthplace of several famous persons, the best known is the poetess Sappho. One meaning of the word lesbian derives from the poems of Sappho, who wrote with powerful emotional content directed toward other women.
One of the few known petrified forests in the world, not to be missed, declared a Protected Natural Monument, is situated between Sigri and Eressos and on the shores of the small island of Nissiopi. Pieces of petrified wood and trees still standing cover a large area and the age of the forest has been estimated at twenty million years old.
Twelve historic churches on the island were listed together on the 2008 World Monuments Fund's Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world. The churches range in date from the Early Christian Period to the 19th century. Other sites worth visiting include the castles of Molyvos and Mytilini, the town of Plomari, the roman Aquaduct of Moria, the Christian Temple of Chalinados, the Bridge at Kremasti, the Ancient Theatre in Mytilini with room for 15,000 spectators, considered on a par with the theatre at Epidavros, the Yeni Mosque, the ruins of the Church of Saint Andrew in Eressos, Sigri and many others.
The economy of Lesbos is essentially agricultural in nature, with olive oil being the main source of income. Tourism, encouraged by its international airport and the coastal towns of Petra, Plomari, Molyvos and Eressos, contribute substantially to the economy of the island. Fishing and the manufacture of soap and ouzo, the Greek national liqueur, are the remaining sources of income.
Lesvos is blessed with award-winning beaches - such as Valera, Agios Isidoros, Tavari, Petra, Skala Eressos and Molyvos-, traditional villages , more varieties of birds and wildflowers than anywhere in Europe, pine forests, medieval castles, scenic harbors with cafes and inexpensive seafood restaurants, abundant fish, museums, hotels of every class and villas, hot springs, spas, and some of the warmest, friendliest people. Lesvos has always been a favorite location for artists, writers and romantics. Albert Camus when he visited Sigri, has declared that he wanted to work, live and die in this village.
Lesvos' wonderful landscapes can be seen by donkey or horseback, cycling, jeep, or on foot. There are yachts for charter and excursion boats. The numerous festivals held throughout the island of Lesvos, are celebrated in their traditional ways. Spring is unique, visitors are rewarded with one of the most incredible displays of wildflowers and wild birds. Lesvos is a main stop in the migration routes for European birds coming from Africa and has an amazing variety of local birds.
Lesvos is simply amazing in its archaeology, scenery and lifestyle. A unique place for real Greek holidays.
You can reach Lesvos by plane with regular flights from Athens and Thessaloniki and with charter flights from several cities in Europe and by ferry boat from Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Kavalla and Alexandroupolis.