On the way to Agiassos you’ll come to a beautiful spot called Karini. It’s a lovely place to stop for a drink or meal in one of the cafés shaded by perennial trees. One of these cafés has a mural painted by the folk artist Theophilos. The itinerant painter frequently relaxed in the hollow of the plane tree there.
Just outside Agiassos on the way to Polichnitos is a place called Agios Dimitrios. It’s an inviting place to stop and sample the homemade spoon-sweets made by a grandmother, mother and her daughters – three generations serving tradition. Continuing on your drive you come to the famous Tsingos springs. From there turn left at the fork of Megali Limni and take road that goes to the summit of Mt. Olympos, where you’ll find half the island at your feet.
To reach hillside Agiassos, you’ll pass through the most densely forested part of the island and across ravines, gullies and streams. There, you’ll also find an ancient trail with lush vegetation, which, if you enjoy hiking, will take you up to Olympos.
Agiassos is located on the slope of Mt. Olympos at an altitude of 475 meters, 27 kilometers from Mytilene. With exceptionally lush vegetation, traditional architecture, and inquisitive residents, Agiassos is a listed artistic and religious settlement with a characteristic dialect and a cultural atmosphere that visitors are sure to find interesting.
The Agiassos Carnival is well-known, and is distinguished from other carnivals in Greece for its idiosyncrasy, and the caustic, spirited satirical verses recited by local folk poets in the classic vernacular idiom.
Agiassos also has a number of crafts workshops that contine a long tradition of pottery and wood carving.
The textile shops where you can watch women in traditional dress weaving on looms are completely authentic.
Light a candle to the Virgin and visit the Folklore Museum in the church’s courtyard. On display are works of folk art and a reconstruction of an Agiassos period room. The icon of the Virgin Mary dates from the 4th century and the village’s monastery was founded in the 9th century. It is said that the settlement grew up around the church. The icon is considered miraculous and attracts the faithful from all over the world.
The old coffee shops in the square are particularly interesting. Try some of the delicious mezes with ouzo or Greek coffee, made the old-fashioned way, and buy some fresh touloumotyri (cheese) when in season at the grocery. Farther up at the top of the hill is Stavri, another neighborhood of Agiassos. It has a restaurant with excellent home-style cooking. The place is surrounded by chestnut trees, and in October holds a Chestnut Festival. Kastanades (chestnut vendors) grill chestnuts on their foufou (charcoal brazier).
And village homemakers make various specialties such as chestnut bread, meatballs with chestnuts, pork with chestnuts, candied chestnut spoon-sweets, and other dishes. The vassilopita (New Year’s pie) with fyllo pastry, spices, and soft myzithra cheese made by the Women’s Collective is excellent.
The entire region of Agiassos is encircled by offshoots of the rocky mountain and is known for its dry climate, its lush vegetation, its chestnuts and its gurgling waters.
At the entrance to the village is the privately owned Stratis Tsinis folklore collection with examples of local handicraft production. The well-known Anagnostirio Anaptyxi, the village cultural center was founded in 1854 when Agiassos was still under Turkish rule. Today the Anagnostirio (Reading Room) has a library building and auditorium for films and plays, as well as a Folklore Museum that also houses the Picture Gallery with paintings by Lesbian artists.
The Chestnut Tree Forest
An exciting trail with one of the most beautiful routes on the island begins at the Apesos quarter and ascends southward along the stream. You’ll pass through a chestnut grove alongside the gushing waters. After encountering chapels, farm houses, pine trees and gullies, you can then take the road to Megalohori, the old capital of Plomari. If you visit in October, in addition to the stunning route with its view of the Bay of Yera, you’ll be able to sample the most delicious chestnuts you’ve ever tasted.
Instead of taking the route to Megalohori, you can turn left onto the little rural road that leads to Skopelos – there’s a small sign on the left – to cross the impressive Karionas plateau. If you call ahead, you’ll find a meal waiting for you of stewed rooster and noodles, hot savory pie, boiled goat, and kid baked in a wood-burning oven. But don’t worry – even if you haven’t made arrangements, they’ll surely be able to rustle up something for you in this quaint little taverna located at the edge of nowhere.
This village is the starting point for wonderful excursions along dirt roads surrounded by ever changing scenery. Take the time to ramble the footpaths and you’re certain to discover something special. Approximately 3 kilometers from Megalohori are the other Plomari villages: Paliohori, Neohori and Akrasi. From there you can also reach the deserted village of Milies
Milies is a nearly deserted village at the top of the mountain. Several years ago, an idealistic local resident began a program of volunteer tourism that has breathed new life into the village. This is an excellent starting point for excursions into the mountains, hikes along the trails, free camping, or a stay in one of the renovated houses. Ask for Kostas Moukas, the heart and soul of the village.
If you encounter the old granny who lives in the “rag-house,” take a look inside her remarkable shack, which is covered from top to bottom in rags and cloths. Until a few years ago she was the village’s sole inhabitant. Nowadays in the summer you’re sure to find some locals returning from the big city to enjoy their holidays in the fresh air.
Your route next leads to an enormous olive grove and a marvelous view. At a crossroad you’ll see a sign to Kournela. Don’t miss out on seeing this virtually deserted village, perched like an eagle’s nest on the mountainside, with its olive trees, olive oil presses, wooden balconies, large terracotta storage jars, overgrown gardens and kalderimia all ravaged by time. These villages literally hang facing one another and have breathtaking views of the valley. The hamlet of Kournela was recently purchased by a private entrepreneur who plans to restore the entire village to attract visitors into the mountains of Lesvos.