Kalloni – Skala Kalloni, Kerami, Parakila, Agra- Apothika, Arisvi, Dafia, Filia, Anemotia, Skalochori
The Municipal Unit of Kalloni
In the central part of Lesvos Island, lies Kalloni, the capital of the Muncipality of West Lesvos, a point of attraction for many visitors every year, as it is strategically located so as to easily explore all corners of the island. The name of Kalloni comes from the Greek word “kallos” which means “beauty». In ancient years Kalloni was one of the richest villages on the island, because of its position, valley and the bay of Kalloni which is a large fishing centre still today. The enormous valley of the region is crossed by six rivers favours the cultivation of vines and orchards.
The wetland of Kalloni, which includes the whole coastal area of the Gulf, is thus considered as one of the most important wetlands of Europe with approximately 1500 species of plants including orchids and 311 species of birds having been recorded in the region. In spring and autumn, many migratory birds nest here, including quite rare species, attracting many bird watchers to this region. It is said that the birth of Biology took place here durng the 4th century B.C when Aristotel, the greek philosopher, travelled to Lesvos. He spent his time studying animals and plants in and around the Gulf of Kalloni. As a result the gulf became known as “Aristotel’s Lagoon».
An impressive site are the man-made salt pans of Kalloni which produce tons of salt annually and in Spring, prior to reaching the salt lakes, you can find fields exploding in colourful red poppies, as if right out of a painting!
The seaside “suburb” of Kalloni is the picturesque fisherman;s village of Skala Kallonis, which is also one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island, with a beautiful, wide sandy beach lined with tavernas, café-bars and shops that can offer you fun and relaxation! In Skala Kalloni you will find a variety of hotels and apartments to stay at and due to its flat land, it is ideal for bicycle lovers, for taking easy strolls along the beach and for people who may have mobile disabilities. Most importantly, Skala Kalloni is renowned for producing sardines or “Papalina”, as they are called locally, which are fished directly from the Gulf of Kalloni. Their taste is superior due to the ideal temperature and wide variety of feed in the Gulf of Kalloni. Every year a special festival – “The Sardine Festival of Skala Kalloni”- is held here on the first or second weekend of August, in honor of the sardine, which is highlighted in various dishes, either grilled, fried, made “plaki” with tomatoes, onions, peppers and fresh parsley in the oven or eaten after having been preserved several hours simply in salt- our own local sushi! And of course they are accompanied by a cold glass (or two) of ouzo! During the festival visitors enjoy live cooking events, traditional music and of course lots of fun and dance. Skala Kalloni is also a popular birdwatching destination because of its marsh lands, and is home to the Kalloni Environmental Center, with an impressive exhibition presenting the geology, flora and fauna of the island as well as a hub that organizes various birdwatching activities for everyone!
On the outskirts of Skala Kalloni is the village of Kerami, located in the middle of the green valley of the River Evergetoulas. Its name comes from the existence of ceramic workshops that existed there in the Middle Ages. The church of St John “Agios Ioannis” is located in this small village and was built in 1733. The interior of the sanctuary is decorated with wall paintings. At the upper zone we find scenes from the life of Christ, in the middle zone of the walls you can see saints while the lower zone is taken up by a decorative motive.
Driving past Skala Kalloni in the direction of Mesotopos, you will come across the village of Parakila. Numerous sites of archeological interests can be visited here, such as ruins of an ancient settlement and an old Turkish minaret. Also, worth seeing is a beautiful stone made bridge from the Ottoman period, as well as ruins of the “Paliokastro”- the old Kalloni castle, which is located on the hill where ancient Arisvi was situated, around 1,5km north east of Kalloni. Surrounding the village are orange orchards and hiking paths that lead to beautiful waterfalls such as the Vronti waterfall, as well as interesting rock formations that some say even resemble a human face if you look at it closely at on Mt. Issa. It should be noted that Parakila was also once a renowned village for its weaving tradition, which unfortunately today has come to a halt, leaving remnants of factories that once were booming with life.
Tip: If you are lucky, you will find a small kafeneion on the road near the bridge which in itself is a work of art, as its owner has decorated every single corner of it with shells he found from the Kalloni Bay area, of all sizes, shapes and colours!
Continuing on past Parakila, you will reach Agra, a traditional mountain village in the southwest of Lesvos surrounded by a beautiful forest of tall pine trees. In the village there is a lovely square with trees for shade and relaxation. One of the trees growing in the square is claimed to be over 700 years old. In the huge trunk of this tree there is an opening where a small door has been placed by the locals with a sign saying “Welcome”. It is said that this tree was used as a storage-room to preserve a variety of goods, mostly meat. “St. Dimitrios” is the central church of Agra, built in 1807. If you turn towards the sea in the direction of the sea port of Apothika, you may discover a monumental wall of great archaeological significance – the “Kalochtistos”-meaning the “well-built” wall, or otherwise known as “Rodotichos”- or “Pomegranate wall”. The wall dates back to the Archaic period and is an excellent example of masonry on Lesvos as the enormous dark red stones fit together in such a way as to look like the seeds of a pomegranate. Nearby, you will also discover the beautiful, more secluded beaches of Makara and Vathrakias.
Prior to entering the village of Kalloni whilst coming from Mytilene, you will pass through the village of Arisvi, with traditional “Kafeneions”-where visitors and locals can enjoy handmade “mezes” or coffee. Arisvi takes its name from the daughter of the mythological King Macara and is home to a large number of descendants of the Greek immigrants who fled Asia Minor during the Catastrophe of Smyrni, during the exchange of the population and who found refuge here.
Located on the hill lying directly above Kalloni is the village of Dafia. Here you will find its beautiful church called “The “Kimisi of Theotokou” built in 1792 –with a “templo” (the area that divides the main church from the part of the church where only the priest and men may enter) made of gold!
As you continue on in the direction of Eressos, at a distance of 4km from Kalloni, you will find a religious monument of great significance for the island’s history –The “Moni Limonos” or otherwise known as the Monastery of St. Ignatios. In the vicinity of the Monastery, there are approximately 40 churches. When first built, the Monastery was a “Secret School”. The main church was built in 1523 by the Archbishop of Mythimna, Ignatio Agaliano, from whom the Monastery today has received its name. Here only men may enter the main church of Moni Limonos. It is said that once a woman entered the Main church and suddenly, all the clay pots cracked and fell apart simultaneously! Women are allowed to enter all the other smaller churches that are located in the surrounding area. The monastery today hosts an important library with 5,000 books from the 15th century. Moreover, rare manuscripts written during the 9th to the 19th century and written by Archbishops and Sultans are saved at the Museum of the Monastery. The oldest document is a gospel of the 9th century written in golden ink! Ecclesiastical items, sultanate firmans, holy icons, jewelry, ancient coins and many other exhibits are housed here. At Moni Limonos you can also visit the small room that St. Ignatios lived in, as well as where he used to sleep. Furthermore, you may find a variety of animals that reside at the zoological garden of the Monastery, such as chickens, rabbits, deer, goats, lamas, ducks, peacocks etc.
Continuing on, you will approach the beautiful village of Anemotia, situated on Mt. Kouratsonas, in the caldera of one of the oldest and major volcanoes of the island, which created the unique Petrified Forest of Sigri, millions of years ago. Here you can pay a visit to the local cooperative which produces local wine and tsipouro and in summer hosts special viticulture festivals offering educational and musical events, as well as treating both locals and visitors popular local dishes and drinks, highlighting the local products produced here. Anemotia is also well-known for the Church of St. George, one of the most important post-Byzantine monuments of Lesvos dating back to 1700.
Past the Monastery of St. Ignatios you will come upon the village of Filia with stone buildings, several of which date back to the end of the 19th century, as well as cobbled streets and “kafeneions” with a strong traditional architecture. Filia is known for its amazing taverns as well as for the local products such as handmade sweets, jams, soft drinks, pasta, feta and ladotyri cheese, yoghurts, and desserts made of rice, milk and cinnamon called “rizogalo” made from fresh local milk.
Skalohori is an impressive traditional village you will come across a little ways past Anemotia. Its first name was Tsoukalohori, which comes from the word “Tsoukalia” –or otherwise- plates made of clay that were made there. At the entrance of Skalohori you can see the imposing school of the village built in 1929, which is of great interest due to the fact that it was built from local rocks. A ruined mosque and a minaret from an Ottoman monument still exist at Skalohori. Walking around you will discover an abundance of hiking paths leading to small waterfalls and beautiful landscapes, even a turtle pond that are worth exploring with a local guide. Nearby you will find the picturesque and especially popular beaches in summer time of Kalo Limani and Tsamour Limani, with their serene waters decorated with fishing boats. As you continue on in the direction of St. Barbara you will discover the amazing Archaeological site of Ancient Antissa which is currently undergoing excavations that are uncovering significant findings for the history of the island!
Kalloni – Skala Kalloni – Kerami- Papiana
|1. The Salt Pans of Kalloni in the Gulf of Kalloni – Birdwatching hub and ideal for walking and biking.|
|2. The Limonos Monastery (St. Ignatios) built in 1526 on the ruins of a Byzantine monastery, with its some 40 churches, Men’s Monastery and Museum of great religious, cultural, spiritual and educational significance.|
|3. The Women’s Monastery Myrsiniotissa.|
|4. The Metochi Study Center, part of the Limonos Monastery a study centre for the Norwegian University of Agder.|
|5. Impressive neoclassical buildings in Kalloni, such as the Primary School of Kalloni with ionic columns.|
|6. Skala Kalloni with touristic resorts, hotels, cafes, nightlife, restaurants and sandy beach. Famous for the local sardine or “papalina”.|
|7. The Kalloni Environmental Center.|
|8. The Church of Metamorphosis Sotira in Papiana.|
|9. The church of St John.|
|10. Nine Kamares wetland, ideal for birdwatching.|
|The traditional kafeneions.|
|1. The church of “Kimisi of Theotokou” built in 1792 –with its golden “templo”|
|1. The ruins of “Paliokastro” on the hill where ancient Arisvi was once situated about 1,5km northeast of Kalloni.|
|2. The medieval double-arch bridge located outside Parakila on your way to Agra.|
|3. The preserved minaret of mosque in a field near the double-arch bridge.|
|4. The Kafeneion with the shell art.|
|5. Hiking paths amidst the orange groves and beautiful nature and rock formations of the region.|
|6. The waterfall of Vronti, south-west of Parakila.|
|7. The Women’s Cooperative of Parakila.|
|8. The old weaving factory and olive press mill.|
|1. The monumental Rodotichos (Pomegranate Wall) dating back to the Archaic period near Apothika.|
|2. The Archaeological site of Makara.|
|3. The fishing village of Apothika.|
|4. The beaches of Makara and Vathrakias.|
|5. The central square of Agra with its cafes and beautiful tree said to be over 700 years old.|
|6. The Women’s Cooperative of Agra.|
|The preserved mosque at the edge of Filia.|
|2. The Kalfagianneio Seconday School.|
|3. The church of Taxiarchis dating back to 1836 and its folklore collection.|
|4. The local tavernas and cafes.|
|1. The local coopertive of Anemotia “Hefasteio” producing local wine and tsipouro.|
|2. The Church of St. George, one of the most important post-Byzantine monuments of Lesvos dating back to 1700.|
|3. The old primary school with its beautiful stone architecture at the entrance of the village.|
|4. The local square with the “kafeneions”.|
|5. The remarkable stone fountain of Kalokostas.|
|6. The Ottoman bath near the abandoned Mpekir-Agas Mansion.|
|7. The church of Transfiguration built from red stone.|
|8. Hiking and Biking paths in the caldera of the dormant volcano of Mt. Kouratsonas.|
|1. The Archaeological site of Ancient Antissa.|
|2. St. Barbara Church near Ancient Antissa.|
|3. Traditional Architecture – The Primary School of Skalochori completely built of local stone.|
|4. The ruins of a mosque in Skalochori.|
|5. The Church of St. George, built in 1851.|
|6. The main square and local kafenions.|
|7. The Cultural Center of Skalochori.|
|8. Hiking paths and local waterfalls during the rainy season.|
|9. Kalo Limani Beach – Tsamour Limani- The water cave Peristera and seaside taverns.|
|10. The Women’s Cooperative of Skalochori.|