Besides the towns of Eressos and Antissa, whose names come from the cities of ancient Lesbos, the Municipality of Eressos – Antissa also includes five other communities: Mesotopos, Vatoussa, Chydira, Sigri, and Pterounta. It occupies the most mountainous region of western Lesvos, which is dominated by bare rocky hills and a volcanic landscape – the result of the huge volcanic eruption that shook the island and the entire Aegean region in Prehistoric times.
Traditionally an agricultural and herding area, it also contains some of the island’s major tourist destinations, including Skala Eressos and Sigri.
The area is inundated with a rare yellow shrub, the rhododendron, which blooms in the spring and intoxicates you with its scent.
Eressos, Skala Eressos
The village of Eressos has been inhabited since the late Bronze Age and has interesting architectural features.
In its center is the seaside settlement of Skala, with its spectacular sandy beach.
A Brief History
Ancient Eressos had a stadium, theatre, agora and prytaneion (city hall), and, according to sources, temples dedicated to Apollo, Athena, Dionysus and Poseidon. The Eresii also minted their own coins. At Xokastro there are the ruins of an ancient city and at Vigla those of an Acropolis. These are the Archaic-period walls, a Genovese and a Turkish castle, a medieval fortress and a Roman cistern. Eressos is also the birthplace of Sappho (630 BC), the greatest lyric poet in the history of world poetry, and Theophrastus, the founding researcher of plants, rocks and ecology.
The Archeological Museum
The Archeological Museum displays Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic pottery and relief carvings, coins, engraved funerary stele and the anchor of a Turkish flagship that was blown up by Papanikolis in the Bay of Eressos in 1821.
Skala Eressos with its Blue Flag
A beautiful 4 kilometer-long road lined with mulberry trees and poplars takes you from the mountain village to its seaside settlement, Skala Eressos (also called Yialos). The fragrant plain or kambos of Eressos extends before you with its tidy gardens and holiday homes. On your left is Vigla hill and behind that is historic
Xokastro in the most privileged spot with the best view in the area. On the right is the rock with the chapel of the Prophet Ilias, and between that is the stunning beach with much to offer. The water is cold and crystal clear, and the beach is 2½ kilometers long with fine greyish rice-like grains of sand that won’t stick to your skin. On the beach you’ll see the Blue Flag of Europe, which awarded to the cleanest seas and beaches in the Mediterranean.
Eressos: A Matchless Lifestyle
Here on the organized beach of Skala Eressos, idyllic beauty meets history and mythology. You’ll enjoy carefree holidays amid the fragrant heather when you stretch out on this vast beach. This is the place of alternatives. The aura of the place and the people who frequent it will entice you into all sorts of internal quests. The sand alone will cause you to abandon yourself in its embrace.
Water sports are at your command: canoeing, peddle-boating, sail-boarding, waterskiing and every other sort of beach game, including volleyball and racket-ball.
You’ll be enchanted by the picturesque tavernas and cafes, stylish lounge bars and excellent restaurants built on wooden balconies suspended over the sand just meters from the water’s edge. Here you risk becoming addicted and hopelessly entrapped in the unique atmosphere of Eressos. But do take the chance! You’ll only come out a winner.
Monuments to the Greatest Poet of All Time
There are four sculptures dedicated to the poet Sappho between the square in Skala Eressos and the little harbor at the far end. They were created by leading Greek sculptors – G. Houliaras, Theodoros Papayiannis, Kyriakos Rokkas, and Loukas Loukidis – and intalled in the summer of 2006. Two are marble, one is steel and the other is bronze.
The Neighborhoods of Skala Eressos
Going down towards the beach, the area on the left is almost completely renovated, with trendy Mykonos-type bars, all-day cafés, chic restaurants and postmodern tavernas.
In the center is the charming square and one of the village’s oldest tavernas with delicious traditional dishes. There are also youth-oriented fast-food hangouts, authentic Greek kafeneions and cafés. Here you can find yourself in the midst of an old-fashioned festival or a contemporary Latin party. Locals stay up all night playing cards or engrossed in endless philosophical discussions. Life in the square has something to offer at any time of the day or night.
To the right, the west side offers authentic local color with shops, tavernas and cafés of a more old-fashioned type, defensively clinging to the pace and décor of earlier days. One or two stand out, though, boldly operating in a contemporary style. You might question whether or not things should change with the times or if they are right to resist. Opinions are always at odds, and this is a spirited part of the Eressos culture.
All throughout Skala Eressos there are shady balconies right on top of the surf, giving the place an otherworldly air. Everywhere you go you’ll find something to eat, drink or purchase. Spend a late afternoon on one of these balconies and witness an incredible sunset.
Home cooking in Eressos is particularly interesting. Homemakers adhere to many traditional recipes and the custom of putting up fig jam, caramel, molasses and cereals every year.
The Village of Eressos
The village 4 klm above Skala Eressos is perfect for quiet evenings and dinners of locally raised meat and fresh fish. The village square offers a tranquil escape from all the hustle and bustle of the beachfront.
The road to Tsichliontas
If you take the southbound road through the hillside village of Eressos, you’ll come to the large valley of the Tsichliontas River, which empties into the sea at a deserted beach. There are other bays with empty beaches – good stops for boaters – scattered with petrified remains from the nearby barren mountains. The desolate dirt road from Eressos will take you to picturesque Sigri.
Following the main road after Antissa, heading west at the crossroads for Moni Ypsilou, you’ll arrive at Sigri, a lovely fishing village and the western sea gate of Lesvos.
It has stone houses, quaint little streets, and a fortress built in 1757. It is surrounded by sandy beaches, the first and foremost being Panagia Faneromeni. Sigri is an ideal spot for tranquil, family holidays close to nature and the sea. Surfing enthusiasts can find windswept bays to practice their sport. It’s also a well-known fishing ground, perfect for spear-fishing and fresh fish. The little island, Nisiopi, with its lighthouse and petrified tree trunks, is a favorite sight. Sigri has a well-organized tourism infrastructure, with charming rooms, hotels, bars, cafés and tavernas. In Sigr don' t miss the Petrified Forest abd the unique Museum of Natural History.
Gavathas, Antissa, Liota
Farther west, the road will take you to a peninsula crowned by the medieval Ovrikastro fortress. This area and its surroundings hills comprise Ancient Antissa, a region of the Lesbian Exapolis, whose remains are scant. Behind this point is a plain into which the Voulgaris River empties. The next bay contains the small settlement and harbor of the Gavathas plain. Houses, tavernas, a beach with shallow water for swimming and a little islet out in the bay compose the sight you’ll see.
The asphalt road from there takes you to Antissa and just beyond to Liota – yet another isolated hamlet clinging to the hillside with a charming square shaded by a perennial plane tree. The taverna here is famous throughout the island for its grilled meat.
This is the birthplace of Terpandros, the founder of ancient Greek music. His fame is directly associated with the mythical Orpheus, whom it’s said Terpandros inherited the divine lyre that Apollo had bestowed on the former. When the Maenads tore Orpheus to bits, they threw his head along with the lyre into the sea off the coast of northern Lesbos, near Antissa, at a place now known as Orphikia. Terpandros recovered the lyre and gave the head an honorable burial, founding on the grave a sanctuary of Orphic worship. Descending towards Gavathas, you’ll encounter the famous 16th century Perivoli Monastery nestled amid dense oak and plane trees.
Vatoussa is a listed traditional village and one of the island’s most beautiful. Its highlights are the 19th century building (also called the Gogos Mansion) that houses the Cultural Center along with the Folklore Museum and Library, the Church of the Assumption (1850), and the Community Guesthouse.
Near Vatoussa is the village of Chydira, the birthplace of the important Greek painter Giorgios Iakovidis. Iakovidis was the first director of the National Gallery in Athens, a post he held for 30 years, as well as the director of the Athens School of Fine Arts. Chydira is located in the exact geographical center of western Lesvos.
The original location of Chydira is believed to have been in the region of Lapsarna, one of the island’s most enchanting deserted beaches west of Gavathas. The inhabitants moved from there during the Middle Ages to protect themselves from the frequent pirate invasions. The village’s great treasure is its ancient settlement. The prehistoric city found above the village, on the summit of Koirania Hill, is testimony of its significance in Prehistoric times. Excavations have yet to be carried out, but the area is well worth visiting by jeep or by foot for its stunning view and the visible foundations of a large prehistoric building that was probably a temple or palace.
Chydira also has the only working winery on the island. This wine comes from a variety unknown in the bibliography of viniculture, which the locals call krasostafilo (wine-grape). Farther along you’ll come to the village of Pterounta, the birthplace of the important art collector Euripides Koutalidis, and the tiny hamlets of Tzithra and Rema.
This Byzantine monastery dedicated to St. John the Theologian is perched atop Mt. Ordymnos, which dominates western Lesvos. It is built like a fortress with loopholes and castellated cells.
Just outside of Eressos is the Monastery of Taxiarches. Popularly known as Moni Pithariou or Pithari, it most likely dates from the Byzantine era. It was recently renovated and is a male order.
This lively village is a beacon of Lesbian folk culture and is renowned all over the island for its artisans. Its celebrated builders and stone masons have earned their reputation for the construction of the island’s superb manor houses, churches, retaining walls, and paved kalderimia. Stop off in the shady village square for an ouzo, coffee or spoon-sweet.
Its harbor, the picturesque Tavari, its virgin beaches, Xrouso and Podara, and its excellent food attract many summer holiday-makers.
Mesotopos is also home to the Women’s Agrotourism Collective, which produces homemade sweets, fruit beverages, liqueurs, and noodles, all from natural ingredients. The Collective has a new shop on the left side of the main road before the entrance to the village. Be sure to stop there to purchase some of the most interesting traditional sweets on the island.
Mesotopos is also famous for its carnival and the Koudounati – men who dance in costumes of animal skins and animal bells.