Lesbos through Sofia's eyes

As I grew up in Australia, my birth country, my parents often referred to ‘home’ − the far-away island of Lesbos. Because the way we lived reflected the traditions and aspects of their homeland culture, I too felt as though I was a part of this distant place they missed so much.

Lesbos (Greek pronunciation: 'Lesvos') is where my parents and also my husband lived before migrating to Australia. My parents travelled across the vast ocean heading for a new life in Australia, the 'land of golden opportunity'. This was a place where the streets were paved with gold and money grew on trees...or so they thought!

Lesbos is the third largest of all the Greek islands and is located in the north-eastern Aegean. Separated from Turkey by the narrow Mytilini Strait, so close is Lesbos to Turkey that if you stand on the east coast you can actually see Turkey with the naked eye.

Because Lesbos is rich in culture and history, it has long been an appealing destination for tourists from all over the world. With its abundant flora and fauna, and mild Mediterranean climate, it's not hard to see why so many nationalities choose to holiday on Lesbos. 


One third of the island's inhabitants live in Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos. Steeped in history and bursting with things to do, Mytilene is not a town but a small city. There are many great restaurants, loads of nightlife, more shops than even I can handle, and friendly, friendly people.

Mytilene is famous for its enormous castle that is surrounded by a dense and beautiful pine forest. In the summer, the castle is used for various performances including music and art festivals − it could well be the best place to attend a concert in the whole of Greece. Make sure you have time to visit the castle when you're in Mytilene − it's a must see!


Situated on the island's south coast is Plomari, the second largest town on the island of Lesbos. Plomari is where my mother lived before coming to Australia, and is well known as the ouzo capital of Greece. Plomari is where the famous Barbayiannis Ouzo hails from, as well as several other smaller labels such as Ouzo Giannatsi − both are distilled using the traditional method.

The Plomari women have the reputation of being a touch stubborn, or to put it euphemistically − strong-willed. My husband would nod sagely and possibly even roll his eyes at this statement!

A fascinating and slightly scary story passed down to me by my grandmother took place during World War Two, when my mother was in her teens and Lesbos was under German occupation. The German soldiers, being red blooded young men, were always on the lookout for lovely young Greek women. And so, to protect her family, my grandmother fled to the mountains with all four of her daughters. They had to forage for food to survive, even on occasion resorting to eating grass!


The town of Kalloni sits in an enormous valley that borders the bay of Kalloni. The valley is home to many different species of birds and wildflowers, and in springtime the area attracts bird watchers from all over the world. As well as being known as the nature capital of Lesbos, Kalloni is famous for its sardines. It has been said that Kalloni sardines are the best in the world. Try them and see what you think.

Agiassos and Akrasi

Close to the middle of Lesbos island is Agiassos, a green and pretty small town located on the slopes of Mount Olympos. The town, famous world-wide for its pottery and wood carving, has maintained its traditional flavour with narrow cobbled streets and well preserved though very old buildings. In the town centre is the renowned 'Church of Panagia ti Vrefokratousa', which is famous for its beautiful interior and its old icons. The church is known as the religious centre of Lesbos.

About 10 kilometres away from Agiassos is the small village, Akrasi, where my father was born and raised. It's an uphill journey to the main square, often described as one of the most beautiful in Lesbos. The square is dominated by a huge maple tree fondly named ‘Platanos’, a lovely church, and a number of old cafés. Another anecdote that may amuse is that my son, in his early thirties, visited his grandfather’s village and was recognised immediately by the locals as being a descendant of the original Caldis family. And this, before he'd uttered a word!

Eressos and Sigri

Eressos is a lovely town with arguably the best beach in Greece, and so a great place for a seaside holiday. On the outskirts of Eressos, the town of Sigri attacts countless tourists interested in seeing the famous petrified forest of Lesbos. For anyone not familiar with the term 'petrified forest', in simple terms it's a bunch of trees that are now rocks! It certainly is fascinating!

Sofia's footnote

I could go on forever about this lovely island. Its beauty and history are no less than amazing. And, there's so much more than I've covered here! Having read this page, you can perhaps understand that, despite being born and bred in Australia, and loving the life I have here, a small part of me will always belong to this small Greek island. When next you're in or near that part of the world drop in and experience the wonders of Lesbos.  ~~ Sofia M ~~

Source material and acknowledgements

You'll see from the list below that, as well as my own recollections, I've drawn much of the detail and all of the images contained in this piece from a number of fabulous websites. And, Susan Graham, this website's project manager and editor helped no end in 'knocking into shape' my initial offering. My sincere thanks to Susan and to those who've contributed to the websites below − I highly commend each one of them.

Susan Graham − co-writer, researcher, editor