The Deep South
The southern part of the island, between the Gulfs of Gera and Kalloni,
is dominated by the 968m white peak of Mt Olympos and largely covered
in the pine forests that stretch north across the main Mitilene-Kalloni road.
the main town of the area, lies sandwiched between the hills and the sea
at almost the southernmost point of the island.
It has some pleasant harbour side tavernas
(spoiled somewhat by the main road from Mitilene running alongside),
but its main claim to fame is as the ouzo-producing capital of Lesvos.
(The 'resort' of Plomari is in fact two miles to the east at Agios Isodoros)
But turn right through the town and the narrow road climbs steeply into the hills behind,
winding above small villages half hidden in deep forested valleys,
and along mountain escarpments with views far across the island.
Most of the road is (or was, the road improvers are moving fast) unsurfaced, but in good condition and easily driveable,
and leads eventually to Agiasos, in the shadow of Olympos,
the highest peak in the south of the island, and contender, at 968m,
for the title of highest on Lesvos.
Or continue along the coast to the tiny beach resort of Melinta,
and from there return along the tarmac road which winds north around the end of the Olympos range through
the villages of Paleochori and Ambeliko before reaching the main road from Mitilene to Polichnitos.
Further west from Melinta, along a forest road through the hills,
is the beach resort of Vatera.
It boasts the longest (6km), sandiest, and facing due south,
sunniest beach on Lesvos,
but because of its remoteness - the tarmac road to the rest of the island
follows an indirect route via Polichnitos -
it remains under-developed compared with Skala Kallonis and the northern resorts.
Built 500 metres above sea level on the
eastern slopes of Mount Olympos,
Agiasos sits in a natural amphitheatre.
Tradition says that the first settler here was
Agathon from Ephesus, who arrived in 802AD
bearing an icon of the Virgin Mary
painted by St Luke, and other holy relics,
and built a hermitage nearby.
In the 12th century this was replaced
by a monastery housing the relics,
and this became a place of pilgrimage,
attracting the faithful from as far away as
the Greek communities of Asia Minor.
The town grew up around the monastery
largely to serve the pilgrims, hence the
local craft traditions of pottery and wood-carving which survive to this day.
(It is said that the first kiln was constructed
in the hermitage of Agathon, who himself had
a working knowledge of the ceramic arts before he came to Agiasos, and that the area's first ceramic wares were produced there in the 8th-9th centuries.)
With the decline of agriculture and pilgrimage during the second half of the 20th century
the town's population declined from its peak of over 7,000 to around 2,500 today,
and although the festival of the Virgin on 15 August is still an important event in the local calendar,
the town is now dependent more on day visits by overseas holiday-makers.
Today the town has protected status, and is a beautiful and fascinating place for a visit,
especially the walled monastic church of the Virgin (Παναγία),
with its surrounding complex of monastic cells and small Byzantine and Folk museums.
If you want to reach one of the highest points on the island,
it is possible to drive to the top of Mt Olympos.
(Vigla in the Lepetimnos range in the north is the other)
A partly unsurfaced, but reasonable condition road zigzags its way up
the mountainside mainly for the benefit of the engineers
maintaining the TV transmitter on the summit,
and there is a viewing platform giving stunning panoramic views.
There are walks to and from Agiasos and Mt Olympos, a spectacular cliff walk from Melinta,
and a walk including part of Vatera beach
in 'On Foot - Circular Walks on Lesvos'.