Why I’m Going to Lesvos Greece

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Why I’m Going to Lesvos Greece

Over the past couple years, the Greek Island of Lesvos has been a central story of the Syrian refugee crisis. Located close to Turkey, the island has been used as the main stepping stone into the EU. One of the many stories to emerge has been the hospitality and compassion shown by the residents: old women washing clothes or feeding hungry people washed ashore on small boats. Their efforts were recognized with a Nobel Prize nomination in 2016.

While the crisis has provided short-term stimulation for parts of the island (with more than a half million refugees), other towns on the south and west have been unaffected. Overall, tourism has been down on the island and has left most towns and residents struggling. Who wants to take a holiday to an island seemingly overrun with refugees? Or at least that is the image portrayed on the media.

going to lesvos greece

Lesvos: Back open to Tourism

Now the tourism situation is the worst it’s been in 50 years. Local residents rely on the summer tourist season (which is short to begin with) to get them through the rest of the year. And with tourism numbers down, locals feel abandoned. Especially after supporting the refugees during the crisis. All the attention was on those fleeing the war. Now Lesvos wants you to know things are back to normal on the island and they are ready (actually, have been the whole time) to welcome tourists.

going to lesvos greece

Where my role comes in

Good friends of mine witnessed the height of the crisis first hand in supportive roles for aid agencies. They told me stories of their few months on Lesvos–some about the trials of refugees but mostly about delicious Greek food and the friendly locals and how much they recommended Lesvos to me as a travel destination knowing how much I like authentic places. Then randomly a few months ago I got an email invitation to come to Lesvos to help with this tourism campaign. Would I travel to Lesvos and spread the word that the island is open for tourism? Sure I would.

going to lesvos greece

A further note about refugees and Lesvos

This is not the first time Lesvos has dealt with refugees. “In the 1920s, 1.2 million Greek Orthodox Christians were expelled from Turkey, with 400,000 Muslims moving the other way. Around 60% of the 90,000 residents of Lesbos are descended from those refugees and many cite it as the cause of their compassion for today’s refugees.” from this article in the Guardian.

going to lesvos greece

What I’m hoping to see on Lesvos

One of Lesvos’s drawing cards is that it offers tourists a piece of the real Greece–not some crafted-for-tourism showpiece like many of the other islands have become. I’ve got five days planned for Lesvos: monasteries, beaches, hot springs, museums, walks, picturesque villages, markets, a petrified forest, and lots of delicious local food. I’m hoping to show you the diversity of things to do on the island and also just to say Lesvos is ready to welcome travelers again.

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine GoMadNomad.com. He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Dave Stokes says:

    You’ll need more than 5 days mate! I’ve been going for 10 years and haven’t scratched the surface!!!

  2. Mel says:

    The villages in the south of the island come alive in summer, especially in the evening. Ask in Plomari about “volta”.
    It’s very quiet in May. But enjoy!

  3. Natasa says:

    I was there last year for the second time.It was as peaceful as ever.You could not see any traces of the whole effort these people made to support the refugees.All the island made sure one could enjoy oneself with peace and tranquillity! I will have to agree with Mr Stokes…5 days are not enough…but it sure will be a great time!

  4. Rose Walley says:

    its 18 years for us and the island never ceases to amaze us!

  5. Sue Carroll says:

    I have been going to Lesvos since 1989. Lovely island, my husband Glenn was killed in road accident here in UK, I took his ashes to Pétra on Lesvos, 1994 his wishes. Lovely island, lovely people. BBC did an awful report about refugees & did the island untold damage. I stayed in the height of so called problems, saw nothing, apart from boat people arriving & quickly taken by authorities to a coach to Mytilene. No problems for holidaymakers, no refugees on beaches, in shops or tavernas. Last year booked a holiday to Lesvos, flight from Birmingham, it was cancelled due to media. Have booked again this year from Gatwick. Will not be put off, don’t believe all you see on television or read in papers, it’s crap!!!!!.

  6. Rozaan de Wet says:

    In only six days I’ve grown to love this island and wil be back.

  7. Richard Sturdy says:

    Lesvos is the best of all the Greek Islands for a holiday. We have been going there for 25 years and we love the place, the people and the tranquillity. The migrant crisis has damaged the local economy seriously, but there is no sign of it and the welcome is as warm as ever.

  8. Leo Holmstrøm says:

    Lesbos will always be our place, Anaxos is our “headquarter”, fantastic people, we have been there every year the last 23 years and will visit the Island 2 times this year,

  9. Shanti says:

    Once you step onto beautiful Lesbos
    You feel the magic.
    You experience the sweetness and ancient beauty.
    You keep returning for more of what fills your head and heart
    It balances the other worlds from where we came.
    It’s my 43rd year of ‘returning’
    I was all of 20 when I was fortunate to first arrive.

  10. Kleomenis says:

    Dear Stephen, thank you very much for your article. I live in Lesvos, Mytilene and, believe me, I haven’t discover all the hidden treasures of this island. There are more, and more.. and more!

  11. Malcolm says:

    Our friend Karolina moved over to Eressos about 15 years ago and my partner and I have enjoyed many holidays since, probably about 12 times. It really is our second home really.
    We have seen refugees last time we were there but we also saw the compassion showed by the locals, truly heartwarming.

    Visit, you will not regret it I am sure.

  12. Yvonne van der Worp says:

    I am a Greece lover from the moment I set foot on a Greeck island (1992) and I visited many Greeck islands, but I have to say that my favourite is Lesvos and than the area (around) Molivos. The island is 3rd biggest in Greece and very diverse. Molivos is an open air museum with a good and romantic atmosphere that immediatly takes you out of your mind and into your heart, the place and the people. In my opinion every traveler, but at least every Greece lover, has to visit Molivos at least once!!!!

  13. Stefanie says:

    Woow, this looks really amazing,
    This is really on my have to do list before i get into my 40’s

    Keep posting,
    Kind regards

  14. lukas kae says:

    nice post and amazing place. thanks for sharing with us

  15. Jade D'sa says:

    I must say this is one of the lesser known Greek islands when it comes to tourism. Great info… thanks for sharing!

  16. julie says:

    There are plenty of reasons why you might choose to visit Greece, the region has a long history, a number of popular events are held there each year, and there are plenty of attractions to keep visitors of all ages entertained for the duration of their stay.

  17. Nicole says:

    I worked on the island for 4 months 7 years ago (just before this) and it was so lovely and beautiful. I spent a couple of weeks during that jusg travelling to different parts of the island and every day of heading to new parts. It’s certainly a hidden gem.

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