What To Know Before You Go: Lesbos

  1. Loads of interesting communities with distinctive vibes abound, but keep in mind the roads are narrow and very curvy, so it takes a while to get around (and is potentially motion sickness inducing). Stay at least a week to give yourself ample time to see as many of the villages and beaches as possible to find the one that fits.
  2. The island’s size compares to the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
  3. Don’t eat at at random beach restaurants or you will be left feeling cheated. You deserve to eat the authentic Greek food of your dreams, which does in fact exist, though many places are using horrific tasting processed frozen food. Why suffer the disappointment of being in Greece and eating yogurt that tastes synthetic. Don’t despair, a guy named Matt Barrett knows where to find primo eats on the island, so check out his guide to the best restaurants in each enclave.
  4. The island is for fairly fit people. You can’t go anywhere without climbing stairs or stone slabs unless you remain at the beach for the duration of your stay.
  5. It’s common to see vehicles parked at the foot of mountain villages. Because of this you might think there is an event or wedding going on, but it’s actually due to the narrow, steep streets with turns so sharp, it’s next to impossible to get your car through, unless one is familiar with the layout. I saw some farmers speeding through in their tiny “crucks” aka cars with truck-like beds. There really is such limited parking anyway, it’s better to just park outside, and walk in. In some towns, the cobblestone streets are so steep and polished from centuries of wear, car tires have a hard time gripping, and start spinning, making a simple turnaround a lot harder than it should be.
  6. Behold the miniature churches called Kandylakia, dotting roadsides everywhere. They look like dollhouses, but contain Orthodox Christian icons for lighting candles in remembrance of those who died in accidents.
  7. In contrast, Skala Eresou, allegedly the birthplace of the ancient poet Sappho, is a liberal spot where you can find vegan food, hang out on the beach practically naked, and no one will care.
  8. One is not allowed to throw toilet paper into the toilets of about 90% of the places on the island of Lesbos (not sure about the city of Mytiline). Everywhere you go, instructions are posted on the wall prompting you to place your used TP in the trash bins next to the toilet, as their septic systems cannot handle it. Although it’s a solution that works for the island, the practice seems extremely unhygienic, as many of the bins are not lined with a bag, and are overflowing or not taken out often enough. I wanted to vomit every time I lifted the lid on a trash can to throw paper away.
  9. Outside the famous tourist heavy areas, no one speaks English…not even common phrases…nothing.
  10. When not at the beachfront, the restaurants don’t serve breakfast, only coffee in the morning. You have to find a bakery, and grab a thick, custard filled, flat pastry, or a feta cheese filled one.
  11. The local grocery stores have amazing yogurt, milk and cheese. Make sure to steer clear from the Greek brands you know that sell internationally, the lesser known ones are sublime.
  12. There are natural hot springs located on the island in Polichnitos.
  13. The petrified forest near Eressos (on UNESCO’s tentative inclusion list) is one of the largest in the world.
  14. You don’t see a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables for sale in the mini markets because pickup trucks loaded with produce drive around, announcing their presence via loudspeaker. If you hear this, and you don’t understand, just walk in the direction of the sound, and you will see a truck bearing melons, fresh fruits, and/or vegetables. They cut chunks of the merchandise off for you to taste. The quality is top notch.
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Coffee. Beer. Climbing Tall Things.

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