In the villages of Lesvos life continues much as it has done over the centuries with the exception of a few modern conveniences, such as electricity that have found there way there. Most villages have kept their traditional style and life centres on the main square, and the local coffee shops, "the kafenia". Here you will often find the local men having a coffee and a game of cards or backgammon, while the women will gather in groups and sit in the streets catching up on the days events.
Most village squares have a giant plane tree to provide shade and are used by local farmers to display and sell their produce. The fact that in many villages houses are still constructed in the same way they have for centuries means that many traditional crafts have been kept alive in the villages, with many carpenters, metal workers and stonemasons who will produce anything you require from window frames and beds to paving stones and garden gates.
The island is famous for its olive oil, ouzo and cheese production and in many villages it is the main sources of income for many people. Although most cheese is produced in modern factories some families still make their own using the methods that have been passed down from mother to daughter and sometimes home made cheese can be purchased at the local village shop. You will often find fresh, locally produced foods on sale and many villages have women's co-operatives that produce and sell many home made delicacies, from traditional greek sweets and preserves to olive oil and herbs and spices. Many villages also have there own bakery producing bread in an old wood burning ovens and some villages such as "Lisvori" are famous for the traditional bread they produce. Skala Kalloni which lies on the Gulf of Kaloni is famous for its sardines which are renowned all over Greece for their flavour. Every year in August the sardine festival is held with live music, dancing late into the night and free ouzo and sardines, although not everybody finds the local delicacy of raw salted sardines, "sardeles pastes" to their taste. If you decide to take a trip around some of these charming villages be sure to give your taste buds a treat and try out some of the local produce.
Many of the younger generation have left to work or study elsewhere so the population of most villages is mainly older, but in the summer and around the main religious festivals many families return to the villages or send the children to stay with their grandparents. Suddenly the villages come to life again and become a hive of activity, the "kafenia" fill up with men and women chatting and catching up on family and village gossip. At the weekends many families from the coastal villages and towns of Lesvos will take a drive into the mountains, where the air is cooler and while they are there they will stop to get something to eat in one of the many family run restaurants that open up for the summer season and serve home made food.
Most villages have more than one church and festivals called "paniyiria" are held on the name day of each church. There will often be whole lambs roasted, wine flowing freely to the rytymn of a live band, and dancing until the sun rises the next morning. Depending on the saint these festivities can draw large crowds and the "paniyiri" of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on the 15th August at Agiasos is one of the largest, drawing people from all over Greece as well as Lesvos. If you happen to pass through a village during a paniyiri, dont be shy just stop and join the festivities, everyone is welcome and invitations are not required. Many of the churches on the island are centuries old and worth a visit in their own right with valuable icons and wall paintings from the time of byzantium and before.
Nestled in a remote valley surrounded by woodland Agiasos is considered the most beautiful hill town of Lesbos. Narrow cobbled streets twist and turn taking you slowly up hill till you reach the centre of the town of which the church of the Assumption is the main focus. Don't be put off by the tacky tourist shops selling all sorts of souveniers as you make your way into town, its a great place to explore and the old market place with its coffee shops, yoghurt shops and traditional ambience is well worth a visit. During the afternoons at the weekend you will often find "sandouri" with clarinet, violin and lap-drum playing accompanied by spontaneous dance performances on the cobbled streets by a passing local. Located just below the crest of Mount Olympus Agiasos is also a great place to go walking, and at the right time of year there is excellent birdwatching and orchids as well as wild flowers can be found in abundance on the slopes.
The fishing village Skala Sykamia is one of the most pituresque on the island and has a charming harbour lined with excellent fish restaurants. A little chapel known locally as Panayia Gorgona the "Mermaid Madonna" is perched on some rocks at the edge of the harbour protecting it and its fishermen. The chapel got its name from a mural by an unknown artist which mixes tradition and religion by depicting the Madonna with a mermaids tale. If your touring the area this is a perfect place to stop for a snack and watch one of the best sunsets in the Aegean. The nearby village of Sykamia is also worth a visit, built on pine and platan slopes with stone built houses and scenic alleys it remains one of the most traditional villages of Lesvos.
The small town of Molivos is also well worth a visit. Located on the slope of a small mountain that sinks into the sea it is an impressive sight with an imposing castle at the top that looks down over the town and the harbour below. The town has been located here since ancient times and is rich in history and tradition. The castle is built on the same site as the one conquered by Achilles on his way to the Trojan wars and as you wander around the streets you will come across the many ancient ruins and sites.The harbour the most beautiful on the island and is lined with restaurants where you can sit for hours eating meze, sipping the local ouzo and watching the fishereman at work fixing their nets and unloading the day's catch. Full of charming little streets with some interesting shops, Molyvos has retained its traditional style and architecture and many events and exhibitions are held throughout the summer.
Although the whole island is famous around the world for its production of ouzo, the town of Plomari is home to what many believe to be the best ouzo produced in Greece. So important is ouzo to the town that there is a Ouzo Museum dedicated to its history run by the Barbayanni company which attracts many 1000's of visitors every year. An ouzo festival is held annually at the end of July and lasts for 3 to 5 days. It is one of the most important festivals on the island and is famous all over Greece. Visitors can try the different varieties of ouzo and the famous 'mezedes' as well as enjoy live music and dance from some of Greece's best known acts. The festival atmosphere begins on 20th July when the town celebrates the first of several feasts days in honour of local saints. Many events are organised during this period including horse racing, live music, dancing and of course plenty of food and drink. Surrounded by picturesque beaches and packed with interesting architecture the town of Plomari is a must on any explorer's list of places to visit.
If you do decide to explore the island and maybe spend a night or two elsewhere do note that many villages do not have hotels but most do have some sort of guesthouse so be sure to ask around, the locals are always happy to help and give advice on the best places to visit and where to stay. Many of the older inhabitants speak at least some english having lived and worked in America or Australia and returned to retire in their homeland so don't be put off because you don't know the language.