The road north out of Eressos takes you past the island's much-advertised Petrified Forest which was formed when the Mount. Ordymnos erupted and drowned the trees in ash, an estimated 20million years or so ago. Earth tremors helped submerge the forest further, eventually turning the trees to stone.
At three kilometres across, the area is bigger than the better-known petrified forest in Arizona. But generations of souvenir hunters have walked off from the Lesvos Petrified Forest with the best examples, and what few tree stumps remain can sadly disappoint those making the two-kilometre walk from Sigri to see them.
Locals seem amazed that anyone would want to trek through the barren countryside to look at such a meagre collection of dried up tree stumps and they may have a point.
Set high on a former volcano is the handsome Ipsilou monastery founded in the 9th century and rebuilt in the 12th. It is well worth a visit just to enjoy the splendid courtyard, the small museum of ecclesiastical oddments and the inevitable bits of petrified wood. It once had some beautiful frescoes, but these were touched-up in the early 1990s and no longer worth seeing. Visitors must also ignore the cluster military buildings that share the same site if they want to enjoy the heady views.
Once believed to be the spring of the goddess Artemis, Thermi has a modern double-domed bath house built in front of the ancient ones which are now closed to the public. The springs are recommended for treatment of the usual problems of rheumatism, arthritis and sciatica but also claim to help with hypertension, gallbladder, liver and lymphatic problems. Inhaling the steam is also said to help with bronchial catarrh. The temperature is around 40°C.
The splendidly domed and recently restored thermal baths boast the hottest waters in Europe with temperatures from 70°C to more than 90°C. The springs have been used since ancient times. These are two mineral springs open to the public near the banks of the Almyropotamus River about 60 metres above the seashore in a landscape that resembles another planet. There are five springs of which only three in use. The central bathhouse has separate pools for males and females, and there are showers and changing rooms. The waters are said to aid sufferers of chronic rheumatism and arthritis as well as gynaecological problems. Gently steaming pools can be found over the whole area.
The waters here are iron stained and contain chlorine and sodium. They are hot – around 70°C and are said to help cure rheumatism, arthritis, gynaecological and dermatological infections. They are known locally as Agios Ioannis, with springs on both banks of the river and in exceptionally beautiful countryside about three kilometres from the village of Lisvouri. The springs are in two separate buildings, only one of which is open and there are nine rooms as well as a public domed semi-circular bathing pool.
Hot springs reach around 45°C and the waters are reputed to be high in sodium chloride (salt) and suitable for the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica, neuralgia and gynaecological infections. The renovated main building houses modern baths next to the old domed bathhouse. The original building has great charm with an entrance through some gardens to an outer chamber, where you leave your clothes before stepping down into the bath itself. The new annexe has six private rooms and a public pool. The baths are located at the northwestern tip of Lesvos about four kilometres from Mytilini.
Geras or Yeras springs are found on the Gulf of Yeras and are sometimes call Therma Springs. These are the largest baths on Lesvos with separate pools for males and females. Recommended for rheumatism, arthritis and bronchitis the temperature is around 40°C. Alongside the main baths is a cafe overlooking the bay and there is excellent swimming to be had in the shallow waters off the small beach.
In the remote hill village of Chydira, east of Antissa is a remarkable museum dedicated to local artist Georgios Iakovides.
The museum is remarkable in that there are no actual paintings on show, but digital displays of his lifetime's work. The gallery uses technology to display a detailed picture of the life and work of this acclaimed Greek painter.
The artist was born in 1853 in Chydira and studied painting in Athens and Munich, spending much of his early life in Germany. In 1900 he was appointed the first director of the newly established Athens National Gallery and was Honorary Director of the Athens School of Fine Arts, dying in 1932.
The museum is set out on two floors like an ordinary gallery, but digital technology is used to show the painter's work through flat TFT panels, cinema projections and holo screens.
The works cover all the artist's output, including mythological subjects, scenes of childhood and family life, landscapes, portraits and still lives. There are also educational and interactive activities at the museum that will appeal to both children and grown-ups.
The hill village of Chydira is found in the mountainous northwest of the island and has about 450 inhabitants, traditionally occupied in cattle-breeding and farming. Tourist resorts of Antissa, Eressos and Sigri, are nearby. The museum opens Tuesday to Sunday, 9 am – 5 pm.
For more details and a look at the work of Georgios Iakovides visit the museum website.