For a less touristy feel, Lesvos, or Mytilini, is your best choice to experience real Greece. This lush, green island has been virtually unaffected by the mass tourism. For the do-it-all traveler who likes to stay busy, Lesvos is the perfect destination with fantastic food, beautiful beaches, pine and hardwood forests, and rivers and over a million olive trees.
(Don’t forget to check out our 8 Tips for Traveling to Greek Islands from Turkey!)
From Ayvalik, take the 1 hour and 15-minute ferry ride to the port city of Mytilini. Similarly to Chios, visitors can find enough to do in Mytilini by touring the massive castle and several museums, breaking for lunch, coffee, and ice cream.
However, our road-trip took us in one large loop Northwest across the island over (VERY FULL) two days with a rental car. Here is your 2 Day Itinerary for Lesvos, Greece:
The incredible Chios Mastic Museum pressed us to see other PIOP museums such as the Olive Oil Museum on Lesvos. After renting your car near the harbor, an hour drive west from the port city of Mytilini will take you to the Olive Oil Museum situated in the middle of the island. While it does explain olive oil production, this museum is more about the exemplary restored communal olive press of Aghia Paraskevi, which you can see in action daily at noon except on Tuesdays. The exhibits share the history of the community property and the effect it had on the region’s social fabric and economic structures.
Fifteen minutes from the Olive Oil Museum, the bay city of Skala Kallonis won’t make it on anyone’s tourist list, but stopping here is our favorite memory. Sitting at the shaded beachfront restaurant of Dionysos Fish and Meat Restaurant, we took our time eating our weight in Greek salad, fried cheese balls, and grilled meat plate, while our friend’s kid played in the sand and water.
The next stops on our journey took us to 2 seaside towns on the north side of the island, Petra and Molyvos (also: Mithymna).
Petra’s cliff-top church can be seen from miles away. Stop here for ice cream and stretch your legs from the 35-minute drive with the 114 stairs climb to look at the Orthodox church and panoramic view of the red, clay top roofs lining the north shore.
Molyvos Castle sits on the top of a weaving hillside town and claims first place for city’s attractions. For families, this venture requires steep uphill walks that are not kid stroller friendly. Although it was built by the Byzantines, apparently there are stones here from a previous castle during the Trojan War. From the Venetians to the Catalans, to the Genovese and the Ottoman Turks, this castle has seen it all.
A close second is the winding, narrow walking streets of the town. Springtime means all the hundred-year-old vines draping over the passageways were blooming fragrant, purple wisteria, providing shade for the owners and visitors.
From our morning tour Molyvos, we started our 1.5-hour drive back to Mytilini. Sundays on the Greek islands usually mean many shops and businesses close, but near the still active Moni Agios Taxiarchis Monastery, a small separate cafe sets outs around 100 tables and chairs under the shade of trees. You must order their specialty of fried doughnut-like sweets, called lukumas, dipped in a simple syrup, similar to the lokma you can find on the streets of Izmir. For a little extra flavor, ask for a drizzle of white or plain chocolate with nuts sprinkles.
On days other than Sunday, the port of Mytilini is a thriving city to visit. The castle of Mytilene, one of the biggest in the Mediterranean is located on the top of a hill in the northern part of the town. Visitors can walk around the castle and visit, the cistern, the Ottoman baths, the Crypts and the Queen’s Tower among others. The view of Mytilini town from the castle is magnificent.
From the castle, head towards the main shopping street, Ermou. Start from the Yeni Tzami, a 19th-century Turkish Mosque and walk down Ermou towards the Agios Therapon Church. Take your time window shopping along Ermou street lined with lovely buildings, shops selling souvenirs and traditional products of the island. If time, take some time to learn about the island’s history at the Archeological Museum.
Sundays put a general damper on most of the city for tourists. Outside of the seaside cafes and restaurants, most shops close. However, we made the most of our day by walking and enjoying sweets from multiple little pastry shops we found along the way.
Where to stay:
Our group of six (four adults and two kids) opted for an apartment style rental in Mylos via booking.com. Apartment style rentals are prevalent in this area for more extended vacation stays by the beach.
What to buy:
Near the Moni Agios Taxiarchis Monastery is a small handicrafts town, Mantamados is known for its pottery. Even though its popularity, the handmade ceramics workshop, Stelios Stamatis, remains a small shop packed from floor to ceiling with pottery. Bright flower designs or olive branches adorn all types of dishes to plant holders. All reasonable prices, you need to bring cash as credit cards are not accepted. While photos are allowed of the shop, ask before taking pictures of the ceramic painters.
Olive oil products. The island not only offers olive oil, but also olive oil products such as natural soaps, lotions, bowls and other items made from olive oil wood, and souvenirs with hand-painted olive branches.
I hope you found my 2 Day Itinerary for Lesvos, Greece helpful! We will definitely return for another weekend and explore other parts of the islands! There is so much more to see!
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Read more information about other islands we have visited:
8 Tips for Traveling to the Greek Islands from Turkey