For many years my husband Jim and I have enjoyed walking the hills of the UK and higher mountains of Europe. It felt like the best thing in the world to conquer a majestic Lakeland peak, enjoy a beer at the end of the day or arrive at a high alpine hut to be refreshed by an “apfelschorle”. We were quite wrong!
A few years ago we were fortunate enough to be asked to devise a programme of walks around Molyvos on the Greek island of Lesvos. Our initial reaction was not good. “What is there here for us?” we thought. We are now quite ashamed of that initial thought. We have discovered an area that gives us delightful walks, new sights, smells, sounds, tastes and experiences each time we visit. A place where the air itself seems to contain a secret nectar and from where we return physically and mentally refreshed. The local people are genuinely welcoming and, having visited Molyvos a few times, we are greeted like old friends. But don’t worry if you have never visited before, even first-time visitors are welcomed and made to feel like they’ve just come home.
Lesvos is wonderfully free of the trappings of mass tourism and Molyvos is an ideal base for walking journeys around the island. It’s crowned by a hill-top castle and its cobbled streets are shaded by a profusion of wisteria. Molyvos boasts its own easily visited archaeological sites, a beautiful harbor and a fine choice restaurants, many with stunning views and all serving excellent food combining the very best of Greek and Turkish cuisine. I have walked in groups and with my husband but I also feel perfectly safe walking by myself on the paths around Molyvos. On one occasion I even had a friendly dog accompany me until he was satisfied I knew where I was going!
We love the variety of paths. One day we might decide to visit the ancient monasteries, walking along cobbled paths laid by monks we stop at Moni Limonos for lunch. After greeting Rula and catching up on news she serves Jim home-made spinach pies and freshly squeezed orange juice and prepares for me a Greek salad dressed with the olive oil she has pressed herself. After lunch the path winds downhill and Jim and I each try to be the first to catch sight of terrapins, dragon flies and frogs. The stunning view over the Bay of Kalloni is one of our favourites and we often muse about Aristotle sitting there on the seashore with his pupils. Another favourite walk is the Valley of the Mills. Looking at the old water mills we can just imagine the farmers trudging up the paths with sacks of corn on their backs. The trees and thick vegetation are a delightful contrast to the cobbled monastery paths. Lunch, however, is just as good. Nicolas, at Achilles Well, always greets me with a great big bear hug and Jim with much hand shaking – before bringing out plates of freshly cooked local delicacies! After lunch we stroll along the sandy path with views of the sea, the Church on the Rock at Petra and the fertile fields in the valley. Sometimes, when we’re really lucky, we’ll catch sight of tadpoles swimming around in puddles!
A really special treat is to jump into the clear blue waters of the Aegean at the end – or sometimes in the middle – of a walk. If you know where to go (and locals will be pleased to tell you, too), you can swim through the hot springs that rise into the sea. Our favourite beach lies to the east of Molyvos just past tiny hamlet of Eftalou. Here you can enjoy the hot springs and also marvel at the stunning patterns in the vertical rocks.
For us, walking around Molyvos offers everything we could wish for. During the day we enjoy beautiful and varied views, a sense of peace, feeling close to nature, and visiting traditional villages for a lunch prepared with the best and freshest local produce. At the end of a walk we can swim and in the evenings there are the bars and restaurants of Molyvos. If you are lucky you may even catch Fortis providing songs and music for dancing at the weekly Greek Night held at the Triena.
We’re told there are now new paths – with brand new signage to guide walkers and cyclists – all around Molyvos. We can’t wait to get back.
Jim and Viv live in the Peak District National Park between Manchester and Sheffield in the U.K. They are volunteer rangers and enjoy walking and travelling. They first visited Lesvos in 2007 and now return as often as possible. They can be reached at email@example.com