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info North Eastern Aegean islands

Islands that invite us along with the gods to take an imaginary voyage “through the waters of the Aegean”, to places in close contact with the dream, legend, poetry, and brine that adorn the olive trees of Mytilini, the vines of Samos and the mastic trees of Chios. Here Europe is just a stone’s throw from Asia and history is interwoven with legend. It was here that Icarus fell into the sea during man's first attempt to conquer the sky. Here you find the natural surroundings that call forth poetry, not in the sense of versification but of true creation . Here you see beautiful Neoclassical houses next to crystalline water, here folk art has done wonders with wood, clay and color, reaching its peak in the paintings of Theophilos. Here philosophers like Pittakos once governed, and governors like Polykrates philosophized. Today its fresh fish and aromatic ouzo provide pleasure, not just for the gods but for all who visit. Here, apart from the larger islands of Lesvos,Samos, Chios, Limnos, and Ikaria, you'll also find countless smaller ones – little jewels like Fourni, Inoussai, Psara, Lipsi and many others. Here you’ll find early Christian churches and country chapels with dazzling white belfries. Here blinding white coexists with grey dry stone walls, cool mornings with hot nouns, tranquil days with windy ones, fishermen and poets, who from Homer, Sappho and Alcaeus down to Seferis and the living Nobel laureate from Mytilini, Odysseas Elytis, have written about and been inspired by the Aegean.

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Lesvos, Greece’s third largest island has a long history and varied, fascinating scenery. The birthplace of the illustrious ancient poets Sappho and Alkaios, the guitarist Arion, the musician Terpander and Pittakos of Mitilini, one of the Seven Sages of antiquity, it even today continues the tradition of producing famous artists, poets and writers. The island’s capital is Mitilini, built like an amphitheatre above its ancient namesake and with its Byzantine castle towering over it from the top of a pine-covered hill. On the northeast edge of town there is a Hellenistic theatre with superb acoustics which once accommodated an audience of 10,000, while to the east of it you can see a section of ancient polygonal wall. The Archaeological Museum contains a wealth of finds and the Byzantine Museum has exhibits from both the Byzantine and post-Byzantine periods. The town also boasts some interesting churches: the Cathedral dedicated to St. Athanassios, Aghios Therapontas and Aghii Theodori, which has wonderful wood carvings and icons. Varia, a suburb of Mitilini, is the site of the Theofilos Museum with works by Greece’s best-loved naif painter Theofilos and the Teriade Museum Library housing the “Great Books” and art magazines published and donated by Lesvos’ famous art critic, Stratis Eleftheriades (Teriade). Its walls are hung with lithographs from the Great Books done by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Leger and other famous 20th century artists. Six kilometers away at Moria there is a section of Roman aqueduct erected in the 2nd century A.D. In the northeast part of the island, after passing a series of charming coastal villages, the first major place you should visit is Mantamados, known for its characteristic stone houses, fine pottery, wood carvings, and delicious local cheeses. Don’t miss a stop at the Monastery of the Taxiarch, which possesses the only relief portrait of the Archangel in the Orthodox world. Further north, you come to Sikamia, the birthplace of the famous novelist, Stratis Myrivilis, and its port Skala Sikamias, a picturesque fishing harbor with a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Gorgona (Mermaid) described in Myrivilis’ novel of the same name. The next stop is Molivos or Mithimna, the island’s best known resort and artists’ colony, whose mediaeval castle and traditional architecture give it a distinctive atmosphere. Among its sights are its archaeological museum, library and a small picture gallery. Another of Lesvos’ well known places is Aghiassos, near the middle of the island. This attractive village has kept its old flavor and the fame of its pottery and wood carving has travelled well beyond Greece. It also has an Ecclesiastical and Folk Art Museum and a Reading Society with a theatre and a good-sized library. Don’t miss the Church of the Virgin (PanAghia)with its collection of old icons, which includes an icon of the Mother and Child (Vrefocratoussa) attributed to St. Luke. Futher west, Aghia Paraskevi, a market town with old mansions, is known for its curious Festival of the Bull, celebrated since 1774. Near here, at Klopedi, are the remains of the ancient Aeolian temple of Napaios Apollo, whil.e Messa, also nearby, boasts the ruins of a big Ionian temple (late 4th-early 3rd century B.C.), possibly dedicated to three deities, Zeus, Hera and Dionysos. A monument from a later date, the Early Christian basilica of St. George, restored by the noted mediaevalist, professor A. Orlandos, may be seen at Halinados, not far away. Just a short distance from Aghia Paraskevi, in the island’s centre, is Kaloni, a modern town and transportation hub, famed for the anchovies and shellfish caught in its bay. Its port, Skala Kalonis, is a thriving summer resort with a long sandy beach. Things to see in the vicinity of Kaloni include the Limonos Monastery (1527), whose church dedicated to St. John contains interesting 16th century frescoes, a library with 2,500 volumes (450 of which are manuscripts) and an ecclesiastical-folk art museum. Sigri, at the western tip of Lesvos, is a pretty fishing port with a lovely beach and an 18th century fortress. Not far from here is the island’s celebrated Petrified Forest, dating back some fifteen million years. The fossilized trunks, some fallen, some still erect, some in the sea, are unusual for the brilliance and diversity of their colors. Also near Sigri are Eressos, the birthplace of Sappho and Theophrastos, and its port Skala Eressou, which has a magnificent beach and full facilities for tourists. Worth seeing here are the archaeological collection and the ruined 5th century basilica of Aghios Andreas with its stunning mosaics. On the south coast, other resorts have grown up alongside superb beaches. These are Vatera and Plomari, Lesvos’ second largest town, famed for its exceptional ouzo and interesting architecture. Lesvos abounds in mineral springs, where health spas have been developed, as at the Gulf of Gera, Thermi, Lisvori, Eftalou, Polichnitos, etc.


Chios, south of Limnos claims to be the birthplace of Homer. Its landscape is very varied and its main crop is mastic, the “chew in chewing gum”, produced by trees that grow nowhere else in the world. Its capital and chief port, also called Chios, is a lively town on the east coast of the island, opposite the shores of ancient lonia. A happy blend of traditional and modern, Chios has a large mediaeval castle which dominates the harbor. Its walls enclose the old section of town, whose houses are embellished with lattice windows and balconies. The town also has two distinguished museums, the Archaeological Museum with finds from the island, and the Museum of Modern Greek Sculpture with works by the internationally famous sculptor, Halepas, among others. In addition, the Korai Library, one of the most important in Greece, contains 95,000 volumes, including the founder’s collection of rare books, and an exhibit of local costumes. The south part of the island is where the mastic trees grow in abundance. An unprepossessing, bush-like plant, its sticky sap forms crystals, which are gathered for use in many products, including pharmaceuticals. The villages in this district, the so-called Mastichohoria or Mastic Villages, have retained their vivid mediaeval character. The first one you come to is Armolia (24 km.), known for its pottery and its ruined 14th century Genoese castle. Pirgi (30 km.) is the second in line. It looks as though it has emerged intact from the Middle Ages, with its narrow, often roofed alleyways and its house facades covered with the unique “xysta” decorations, geometric patterns in grey and white. Eight kilometres from Pirgi there are traces of a 6th century B.C. temple of Apollo in the archaeological site of Phanes. Emborios, 10 km. south of Pirgi, is a typical seaside village, whose wonderful beach is composed of black pebbles. Another well-preserved village, Mesta, lies 10 kilo meters west of Pirgi. Many of its traditional houses have been converted by the GNTO into charming places for visitors to stay. Eleven kilometers from Pirgi is the fishing hamlet of Limenas where there are delightful beaches for bathing. ln the northern half of Chios the first stopping point is the village of Vrontados (5 km.), which boasts the famous “Daskalopetra” (“Teacher’s Rock”), where legend maintains Homer used to teach. Langadas (15 km.) is a picturesque fishing village not far from Delfinio, an ancient naval and military base founded by the Athenians in 412 B.C. Kardamila and Marmaro are two more typical fishing villages set at the back of little bays with a variety of delightful places to swim. Continuing northwest, you will arrive at Volissos (40 km.), one of Chios’s most beautiful villages, spread over the lower slopes of a hill where the remains of a Byzantine castle stand sentinel. Tradition has it that this is one of the many possible birthplaces of Homer. The road to Volissos passes through impressive mountain scenery with wonderful views towards the sea. Two kilometers away, the fishing hamlet of Limia is where you can board the cacique that sails to Psara and the Monastery of Aghia Markela (5 km.). Finally, in the hills to the west of the capital, stands Nea Moni, the island’s most important Byzantine monument. Founded in the 11 th century by a monk named Constantine, the monastery contains extraordinary frescoes and mosaics. In the same area, the evocative buildings in the semi-abandoned mediaeval villages of Avgonima and Anavatos transport the visitor to another era. Swimmers will find a variety of lovely beaches on Chios. These include the resort of Karfas, not far from town, Aghia Ermioni, Komi, Vrontodo, Aghia Markela and others. For a new taste experience, try some of the traditional Greek “spoon sweets”, preserves made from.


Samos, one of the most easterly Aegean islands just a stone’s throw from the coast of Asia Minor, is renowned for its wines, particularly for the white Muscat wine found nowhere else. The birthplace of many philosophers and mathematicians of antiquity, such as Epikouros, Aristarches, Pythagoras and others, Samos delights today’s visitors with its lush greenery, varied landscapes and fascinating archaeological sites. Among the island’s first inhabitants were the Pelasgians, who established the worship of the goddess Hera on Samos.
Samos reached its greatest prosperity during the reign of the tyrant Polycrates, becoming one of the most powerful city-states of Ionia, dominating the seas with its famous samaines, boats with five tiers of oarsmen. The capital, Samos Town or Vathi, is built on the verdant slopes that surround the island’s deepest bay. It has retained its individual appearance, with its attractive neoclassical houses, old mansions with pastel facades. The town boasts two major museums: the Archaeological Museum with displays of ancient sculptures, including the celebrated Kouros of Samos, vases and objects from the Geometric and Archaic eras, most of which were found at the Heraion (Sanctuary of Hera), the island’s chief ancient site; and the Byzantine Museum with heirlooms from Samian monasteries. From Vathi, if you take the road heading south, your first stop will be Pithagorio (familiarly known as Tigani, 14 km.), a small, picturesque port occupying the site of the ancient capital. The present-day jetty has been constructed on top of the ancient foundations. The area abounds in important ruins: the Polycrates Wall (2nd half 6th century B.C.), the ancient theatre, and the famous Eupalinos Tunnel, a technical marvel dating to the 6th century B.C., which used to supply the town with water. The small archaeological museum houses local finds. To the right of the port the castle of Lycourgos Logothetis can be seen atop a hillock. This 19th century edifice most probably rests on the ruins of the former acropolis. Within its walls are two Roman colonnades as well as the remains of Early Christian churches. Not far from Pithagorio is the archaeological site of the Heraion, with its sanctuary to Hera of Samos, one of the biggest of antiquity. Within its precincts, where tradition maintained that the goddess was born and raised, are the ruins of a temple dedicated in her honour, Hellenistic and Roman buildings and even part of an Early Christian basilica. Karlovassi, on the north coast of the island, is its second largest harbour, composed of three districts, Old, New and Middle Karlovassi. Here, too, you will find imposing neoclassical houses, reminders of earlier prosperous times, while kilometres away bathers will love the sandy beach of Potami, rimmed with luxuriant greenery. The drive between Samos (Vathi) and Karlovassi runs along the magical coastline, cutting through riotous vegetation and picturesque villages. Six kilometres south of Karlovassi, setin marvelous surroundings, is the village of Marathokambos, which acts as a “balcony” over the island’s southern beaches and has both old churches and caves to explore. Still further south is the tiny harbour of Ormos, good for fishing and swimming, while beyond it lies a string of lovely beaches-Votsalakia, Hrissi Amos, Ai Gianis Eleimonas. If you return to Samos by the inland road, you will come to the village of Mitilini, a market centre for the island: Here there is a very interesting paleontological museum filled with the fossilized remains of early horned beasts, mammoths and carnivores. The island is well endowed with facilities of all kinds for tourists. Accommodation possibilities range from luxury hotels to family-style pensions and camping sites.


In ancient times, according to myth, Limnos, a volcanic island, was the home of the god Hephaistos and his most important place of worship. The island’s history is long; two of its cities, Mirina and Hephaistia, were extremely prosperous during antiquity. Today, the island’s capital, still called Mirina, or Kastro, sits at the back of the bay in exactly the same location as its ancient namesake. A Venetian castle presides over its characteristic captains’ houses adorned with wooden balconies. Mirina has an important Archaeological Museum with finds from the region as well as from Hephaistia, Cabeiria and Poliochne. Representing every period from the prehistoric to the Hellenistic, they consist primarily of relief works, idols, pottery and sculptures. The second largest town is Moudros, 25 kilometres east of Mirina, one of the safest anchorages in the Aegean. During World War I it was used as a base of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, which launched its attack on the Dardanelles from here in 1915. Taking Moudros as a starting point, it is possible to visit all the island’s archaeological sites. A dirt road to the northeast leads to a rocky promontory with the ruins of Hephaistia, Limnos’s leading city in antiquity. Excavations have brought to light sanctuaries of the 5th and 4th century B.C. and the necropolis with Greek, Roman and Byzantine tombs. Three kilometres further north at a place called Chloe there are the Archaic and Hellenistic remains of the Sanctuary of the Cabeirians. East of Moudros near Kaminia you will find the ruins of ancient Poliochne, where seven successive settlements have been excavated, one dating back to the Neolithic, the others to the Early Bronze Age. Finally, north of Moudros is the site of the Byzantine state of Kotsika with its fortress. This is where Maroula, the heroine of Limnos, died fighting the Turks in 1478. On the east side of the island, at Hortorolimni, there is a large stretch of marshland, a major habitat for rare birds. The road continues on from here to the tip of Limnos and the fishing hamlet of Plaka with its monastery dedicated to Aghios Haralambos. Jumping over to the southern tip of the island and another monastery, Aghios Sostis, where there is a big celebration every September 7th, one enters a desert landscape with sand dunes, so unusual for Greece that it has been dubbed “the Sahara of Limnos”. The island’s inland road network, asphalted as far as Moudros, leads to picturesque seaside and mountain villages, such as Livadohori, Atsiki with its interesting view of the Gulf of Pournia and tavernas serving fresh fish, and Nea Koutali with its marvelous empty beaches, delightful tavernas and sponge-fishing caiques anchored offshore.


<Ikaria, a mountainous, thickly forested island, perpetuates the myth of Ikarus and his fall into the sea near its shores after his bold attempt to reach the sun with his waxen wings. In antiquity the island was called Makri (Long) and Aeoliki because of its rectangular shape, and Ichthyoessa because of its abundant fish. The south coast of the island is barren with steep cliffs, while the north is somewhat more gentle. Its scenery is wild and rugged, with the Atheras mountain range (called Pramios in antiquity) running the length of the island, furrowed by lush ravines, gorges and gullies that descend all the way to the coast. Aghios Kirikos, the island’s capital and chief port, is built on a hillside, the balconies of its houses almost invisible amongst their flowers. Though small, its archaeological museum, containing Neolithic, Geometric and Roman finds, is of considerable interest. Southwest of the capital, the first village you come to is Therma Lefkadas, where mineral springs bubble up through its sands. Beyond it, there is a string of sheltered ports and hamlets with houses made of dry stonewalls until the road ends in the wooded village of Hrissostomos. Returning to Aghios Kirikos and taking the road to the northeast this time, your first stop might be Therma, known since antiquity for its radioactive springs. There is little trace of the ancient settlement. Continuing on in this direction, you nextcome to Evdilos, Ikaria’s second port and its former capital. The little village of Kambos, 2.5 kilometres from Evdilos, is of interest thanks to its small archaeological museum with finds from the area. It occupies the site of ancient Oinoe, (Inoi), once renowned for its grapes and, according to some myths, the first place in Greece to cultivate the vine. All that remains of it today is the ancient walls, an aqueduct and a building known as Palatia (the Palaces). In the mountain hamlet of Kossikia, the 10th century castle of Nikaria is a typical example of Byzantine architecture. Armenistis is the next stop, a region of thick pine forest with an abundance of fresh water and a superb beach. Hristos tis Rahis, a village jutting into the open sea like a stone balcony, is also picturesque. If you continue on, don’t miss the 11th century Monastery of the Virgin of Mounte, which has frescoes and a panoramic view. Not far from Armenistis is the miniature port of Nas, once the site of one of antiquity’s most celebrated sanctuaries dedicated to Artemis. Today nothing is left but traces of the quay and parts of the temple floor. To visit Ikaria’s other charming villages and beaches, particularly those on the south coast, you will have to take a caique from Aghios Kirikos. There is a yacht refuelling station at Aghios Kirikos.

Small Islands Aegean

Aghios Efstratios
This small volcanic island lies 18 n.mi. south of Limnos. It owes its name to Saint Efstratios who lived and died there in exile. The monastery in its sole settlement contains volumes from as far back as the 15th century in relatively good condition. Would-be bathers will find numerous lovely beaches on the island, such as Aghios Antonios, Lemonies, Frangou, Tripiti, Avlakia, and others, most of which are reached by cacique. Aghios Efstratios will appeal to visitors who appreciate the simple, healthy life away from crowds and close to nature. It is linked by boat with Limnos, Aghios Konstantinos, Kymi and Kavala.
This small, rocky island lies 44 n.mi. northwest of Chios. Its single settlement, also called Psara, has a Cycladic look. Visitors wishing to stay here will find comfort in addition to peace and quiet in the traditional buildings which the GNTO has renovated and converted into guest houses. Psara is linked by ship with Piraeus(3 times per week) and with Chios
This group of nine tiny islands lies 9 n. mi. east of Chios. Only one, Inoussa, is inhabited so that its beaches are deserted and the landscape completely unspoilt. One can reach Inousses by boat from Chios and, in summer, from Piraeus as well.
This cluster of small islands lies between Ikaria and Samos, a short cacique ride from Aghios Kirikos. It has one village and many deserted beaches and coves.

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Visit also the Regions and Locations of Greece:

Attica (Athens and Rest of Attica) - Saronic Gulf - North Eastern Aegean Islands
Central Greece and Thessaly - Crete - Cyclades - Dodecanese - Epirus - Evia and the Sporades
Ionian Islands - Macedonia - Peloponnese - Thrace

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