The mythical island of Lemnos
Lemnos is the 8th largest island in Greece, located in the northern part of the Aegean Sea. According to mythology, it is the home of Amazons and Hephaestus, God of fire.
Since there is no massive tourism, you will enjoy sandy beaches, interesting sites and churches, a desert area in the middle of the island, and delicious Greek cuisine, as well.
How to get to Lemnos Island?
Lemnos can be reached by plane and by sea.
The international airport “Hephaestus” is located about 22 km from Myrina, the capital of the island. So you can come to Lemnos from Athens, Thessaloniki, Chios, Lesvos, Rhodos, Samos, and some European airports during the summer months.
Lemnos is connected by ferries with Athens from Lavrion port, located in the southern part of Attica. The trip lasts about 9 hours. Also, there are ferries for Piraeus, Thessaloniki and Kavala. You can check the ferry schedule here.
The main bus station is in Myrina square. But buses don’t operate often and usually there is no return on the same day. So the best way to see and explore the island is to rent a car or motorbike. And book a car in time because of a limited number of cars and taxis, especially during the summer. Also, keep in mind that the access to many beaches is by dirt road.
A few words about Lemnos
Lemnos is nestled in the North-Eastern Aegean, between Samothraki, Thasos and Lesvos islands, and Asia Minor on the east. It covers an area about of 480 km and the island population counts about 18.000 inhabitants. Lemnos has a Mediterranean climate, with strong winds in August and during the winter.
Myrina city is the capital located on the western coast. Moudros is located on the eastern shore of the island. Once it was the capital and today is a small village and port with fish restaurants.
Lemnos has a very rich history dating from the Epipaleolithic Period. It was ruled by the Thracian tribes, Athens, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, Venetian Republic, Genoese, Ottoman Empire. In 1912, during the First Balkan War, Lemnos became part of Greece.
Also, at the end of the First World War in 1918, the treaty that confirmed the truce between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies was signed in Moudros. Near Moudros there is a large cemetery where soldiers killed in Turkey in 1915, from Great Britain, Australia, France, Russia and New Zealand were buried. Lemnos was also used for the Greek navy during the Balkan wars. Also, in 1915 Winston Churchill set up his headquarters in Portianou village during the battle at Gallipoli (Gallipoli campaign). Close to the cemetery of Portianou, there is the mansion where he stayed.
What to do and see on Lemnos
Like many other Greek islands, Lemnos has beautiful nature and many fascinating historical remains.
So let’s go into the world of some amazing myths and stories about Lemnos.
God of Hephaestus
According to Greek mythology, Lemnos was the home of Hephaestus, the son of the goddess Hera and the God Zeus. They threw him from Mount Olympus, the home of the Gods because he was imperfect and an ugly baby. While landing on the island, he broke his leg and Sintians, a Thracian tribe took care of him. They were the first inhabitants on the island.
Because of their help, in return, Hephaestus, the God of fire and volcano, taught them the art of blacksmiths and metalworking.
There is an interesting Greek myth about Lemnos and women known as Amazons. Well, during the rule of the first king Thoas, the women from Lemnos were all deserted by their husbands because of Thracian women. Led by Hypsipyli, the king’s daughter, the women took revenge and killed all the men on the island.
But soon after their barbarous act, the band of mythical heroes Argonauts with its leader Jason came to the island. They were sailing to find the Golden Fleece, a symbol of authority and kingship. Fortunately, the Lemnos women were kind to them and together they descended into the new race called Minyans.
The cave of Philoctetes
Another Greek myth is referring to an ancient hero Philoctetes, the son of a king in Thessaly.
On the way to Troy, the Greek ships landed in Lemnos, but Philoctetes was bitten by the serpent. Greeks left him in agony and pains because his wood smelled very bad. He lived in the underwater cave, today known as the Cave of Philoctetes.
After ten years, Odysseus and the warriors returned to Lemnos to find him and took the bow and arrow left by Hercules on his deathbed. According to the prophecy, only that could help them win the Trojan War.
By the way, Philoctetes killed Paris, the Trojan prince, the Greeks won the Trojan War, and Philoctetes’ wound healed immediately.
The sanctuary of Kabeiroi
Next to the Cave of Philoctetes, there is the archaeological site of Kabeiroi.
It is the sanctuary dedicated to the Gods Kabeiroi, founded around the 6th or 7th century BC. Also, it is believed that Kabeiroi were the sons of Hephaestus and they were worshipped as gods of the sea, fertility and vine.
Every year, Kabeiroi Mysteries – the religious rituals – were celebrated and lasted nine days. During these days, all fires were quenched on the island. The ship was sent to Delos, the island of light-giving Apollo, to bring new light. The Kabeiroi sanctuary was built in three phases: the Archaic, the Hellenistic and the late Roman. It was excavated in 1937, and today we can see the remains of Doric columns and some walls of a palace and initiation hall.
The ancient city of Hephaistia
Hephaestia or Ifestia is located in the north of the island. It was founded by the Pelasgians and it was named in the honour of god Hephaistos. From the 8th to 6th centuries BC, it was the capital of the island. The main part of today’s ruins is the Greek theatre, dating back from between the late 5th and early 4th centuries BC.
Besides the theatre, the archaeological excavations discovered the sanctuary of the Great Goddess Lemnos, baths, palaces, cemetery, houses. Many clay figurines, gold objects, and weapons from this site are transferred to the Museum of Myrina.
The ancient city of Poliochni
Poliochni is the most important archaeological on the island, located on the east coast of Lemnos.
It is believed that this settlement from the Early Bronze Age is one of the oldest settlements in whole Europe. Once it was a rich commercial centre and today we can see the remains of different settlements built from 4000 BC to 1184 BC. They are marked by a different colour, according to the periods and colours of the houses: black, blue, green and red.
The city had strong walls, public buildings, square, paved roads, wells and drainage system, and small stone houses built next to each other.
Also, you can see the walls remains of the bouleuterion, the public building that served as a meeting place for citizens. In fact, it represents the earliest evidence of democracy and parliament.
City and Castro of Myrina
Myrina is the capital of the island, and also the main port, located on the west coast of Lemnos.
The modern city of Myrina stretches around two bays, Romeikos Gialos and Tourkos Gialos.
Between them is the impressive castle surrounded by rocks.
Myrina is a charming town, with traditional houses and narrow streets where you can find many shops with various products.
Romeikos Gialos is a bay located on the right side of the castle. There you can see mansions and houses in the Neoclassical style built for rich Greeks, from the mid-19th to the early 20th century.
It is a very pleasant walk along the promenade,
Enjoy cocktails in bars or have dinner with an amazing view of Mt. Athos during the magnificent sunset.
The Castle of Myrina dates back to 1186 AD during the rule of the Byzantine emperor Andronicus Komnenos. The Venetians captured the island in the 13th century, and they renovated the castle. During Ottoman rule, the Turks lived inside the castle.
The entrance of the castle is from Romeiko Gyalos waterfront and it takes about 20 minutes to get to the top.
And from the castle, it is an amazing view of Myrina and the coast.
The best time to visit the castle is in the morning or in the afternoon hours.
There are remains of houses, underground rooms, cisterns, fortified walls.
And if you have luck, you may see the deer between the walls. The locals take care of them providing food and water.
Between old mansions on Romeiko shore, there is the Archeological Museum of Myrina.
It has been housed in a beautiful neoclassical building since 1961.
In the museum, you can find many artefacts, sculptures, ceramic, clay figurines, and jewellery from the Early Bronze Age and Hellenistic periods. They were found during excavations in Poliochni, Ifestos, Myrina, the sanctuary of Kabeiroi, etc. For me, one of the most interesting items were the terracotta sirens dating from 7th-6th BC, from the sanctuary of the Great Goddess at Hephaistia.
Hiking to Panagia Kakaviotissa
There are many orthodox churches all around the island. But the most interesting is Panagia Kakaviotissa.
Actually, the path to the church is a real hiking route since it is located in a cave on Kakavos hill. It takes about 20-30 minutes to get to the church and the best time to visit is early in the morning or in the afternoon. Once it was the shelter for monks in the 1400s. The church is unique and different from others because it has no roof! Beautiful wooden icons are hanging on the whitewashed walls in the cave. And around you are impressive rocks and incredible peace. Well, it was a fantastic spiritual experience, as well as a hiking adventure. You can read more about the fascinating Panagia Kakaviotissa here.
Kotsinas village and the Kontias windmills
Kotsinas village is located in the bay of Pournia, close to Moudros. Once it was an important trading port. Now it is known for the church Zoodochou Pigis built in the former medieval fortress. Going down 64 stoned steps inside the church, you can find an underground well – “agiasma”, with blessed water. The first church dates back to 1415, but today’s church is from 1954.
A few steps from the church, there is a bronze statue of the Greek heroine Maroula from 1969.
Actually, during the siege in 1478 lead by Suleiman Pasha, Maroula, when saw her father killed, and took his sword and fought against the Turks together with fighters. According to a legend, locals save Kotsinos from Turks thanks to Maroula’s courage.
While you wander around the island, you can see Kontias, a traditional village built at the end of the 19th century.
It is paved in cobblestone with many renovated stone houses and windmills.
Once windmills were used to grind grain, but today they have been restored and served as apartments.
The five beautiful windmills become one of the trademarks of the island and they look amazing.
The sandy desert area of the Ammothines
Lemnos is also known as the only island in Europe which has a desert area, just like in Sahara. Yes, you’ve read well!
Ammothines is a real desert with golden sand on the north of Lemnos and covers about 70 acres in the Gomati area.
Well, that was a marvellous and unforgettable experience!
We ran around the desert and between dunes, screaming like kids, while the hot sand burned our feet.
Falakro, volcanic rock formations
Another fantastic landmark of Lemnos island is Falakro, volcanic rock formations.
Going by a dirt road after Propouli, just follow the signs and you will get to the Cape of Falakro. I have to say that I have never seen anything like that. Millions of years ago, the volcanic lava frozen to a crystal when it came to contact with the sea waters.
Well, nature has played an unusual game making incredible shapes of rocks.
And the view of the combination of blue sea and rocks in different sizes in all shades of yellow is simply stunning.
One more interesting place on the island is Lake Aliki. It is a salty lagoon located in North-East of Lemnos, close to the village of Kontopouli. It is one of the most important wetland on Lemnos because hundreds of species of birds stop there during the migration to the south. And Flamingos came there in the spring.
The Lemnos coast is about 260 kilometres long, with sandy beaches, crystal water, and many caves. The most popular and organized beaches are located on the western side.
Next to Myrina city are located beaches such as Romeikos Gialos, Mikros Gialos (behind the small fishing port), Plati beach, and Riha Nera, which is one of the most beautiful beaches on Lemnos.
It was our favourite beach, with golden sand and shallow water, perfect for kids and family. Around it, there are cafes, bars and taverns, where you can taste fresh fish and Greek specialities. Usually, in Manos bar, you can enjoy live music as well.
Riha Nera is very crowded during the summer because many hotels and apartments are located next to the beach.
Once there was the port of the prehistoric settlement of Myrina.
Thanos beach is located about 6 km from Myrina. It is also one of the most popular and crowded beaches on the island.
Thanos is a long, sandy and organized beach with sunbeds and umbrellas. On the left side of the bay, there is impressive volcanic rock, and one part of the beach has a place for nudists.
Beaches: Megalo Faranaki and Mikro Fanaraki
Megalo Fanaraki and Mikro Fanaraki are located about one kilometre from Moudros, on the south of the island.
They are two consecutive beaches with clear water and grey sand. Megalo Fanaraki is 200 meters long and organized beach with a beach bar. On the left side of the bay is Mikro Fanaraki, a smaller beach surrounded by small bushes and interesting rocks.
And from there, the sunset is fantastic!
Havouli beach is located also on the south and about three kilometres from Moudros, in a large and calm bay.
It is an organized beach and perfect for relax and swimming.
In this part of the island, there are also Parthenomytos and Skidi beaches.
They are very quiet and not organized, and can be reached only over the dirt road.
The beaches on the eastern side are more secluded and perfect for windsurfing, such as Keros, Gomati and Zematas beaches.
Food and wine
When you in Greece, taste delicious Greek cuisine. Try fresh fish and mussels, the traditional pasta called „flomaria“, thyme honey, cheese Kalathaki Limnoy, and Greek yougurt as well. Then, there are local products such as figs, melons, watermelons, tomatoes, pumpkins, almonds. During the 14th century, Lemnos was Constantinople’s granary, after the Byzantine Empire lost its Anatolian possessions.
And of course, taste local wine from Muskat grapes. During a one-day excursion, we visited winery Limnos organic wines, which produces fantastic wines from organic grapes.
Although Lemnos is not so famous Greek island, the blue sea, the hospitality of locals, charming villages and many mythical sights make Lemnos the perfect place for a calm, but also active vacation.
Because happy wife means happy life 🙂