Sandy beaches, epic windsurfing & kitesurfing, a Venetian castle, coastal settlements, great food & wine, bird watching and weird volcanic phenomena await on the island of Hephaestus. Sound tempting? Well here are our 10 unforgettable things to do on your holidays in Lemnos, a hidden gem in the North Aegean that’s perfect for families, couples and adventure-seekers.
Take a walk around the castle-town of Myrina
First impressions don’t come any more welcoming than Myrina, which is one of the most beautifully preserved main towns on all Greek islands. You’ll be tempted to start your holidays in Lemnos by heading straight to the castle at the highest point of town, but first take some time to explore. Myrina is split into two, either side of the castle … the Tourkikos (Turkish) Gialos (also known as Limani or Port) and the Romeikos (Greek) Gialos, named after where the respective populations lived during Ottoman times. Look for the mansion houses built by the Lemniots of Egypt, as well as the Archaeological Museum and Episcopal Church (the Metropolis of Lemnos). For art lovers, the hand-painted ceramics on sale in the alleyways are beautiful and keep an eye out for the galleries and creative spaces, as well tavernas and bars with a castle view. As for the Castle of Myrina, it was built by the Byzantine Emperor Komnenos in the 12th century AD and upgraded by the Venetians. The view from the top is one of the best in Lemnos. Look out for the deer living within the castle walls.
Find your surf paradise at Keros Beach
Lemnos is known for its beautiful sandy beaches, but if there’s one beach that stands out, it’s Keros. It lies at the heart of a Natura 2000-protected ecosystem, within a tranquil 3km wide bay blessed with shallow water and constant meltemi winds that make ideal windsurfing & kitesurfing conditions. Surf Club Keros is on hand with all the equipment and know-how to enjoy one of the best water sports experiences of your life, whatever your level. Freeriding, freestyling, wave-riding, blasting out on a slalom board … or simply learning your very first steps at windsurfing, kitesurfing and even surfing are all there. It’s even become the first certified wing foil centre in Greece. The waist-deep water, sandy bottom and cross-shore winds couldn’t be more inviting. Definitely one of the top things to do on your holidays in Lemnos.
Go sandboarding on the dunes of Ammothines
What if you were told that Lemnos contains Europe’s only desert? Well, that’s what locals call Ammothines, with rolling sand dunes sculpted by the wind and unique vegetation creating one of the most stunning places for landscape photography in Greece. You reach it via a dirt track from the village of Katalakkos in the north.
But how about taking things to the next level and sandboarding down the dunes? Yes, you heard right. The perfect ending comes at Gomati beach (the closest beach to Ammothines), with its beautiful sand, shallow water, beach bar and taverna. Just remember that you’re visiting a desert, so bring a hat and water.
Choose a different beach every day
Time for a closer look at all those beaches. Where to start? Zematas is one of Lemnos’ most organised beaches, located 40km northeast of Myrina. It’s laid back, with fine yellow sand and water sports. Meanwhile, Mikro Fanaraki (close to Moudros, the second largest village) has thick sand and is surrounded by green hills and Kokkinovrahos (Red Rock beach, 3km from Kaminia village) is named after the big rock that stands tall on the shore. Thanos beach (4km south of Myrina) has thick sand and azure water (contrasting with the wild and barren backdrop) and Evgati is lively and fun, especially for families. Plati (just 2km from Myrina) is a 700m stretch of fine yellow sand, with water sports and beach bars and Riha Nera (also close to Myrina) translates as ‘shallow water’. Finally, Agios Ioannis (close to Kaspakas village) is a mix of sand and pebbles.
Go flamingo watching in Lake Aliki
There was a time when Lake Aliki was the main source of salt on Lemnos, gathered by locals when the water dried out during the summer. Now the 1,600-acre salt marsh is better known as a wetlands reserve that is a resting site for migratory birds in spring and autumn.
The highlight? That’s easy … the largest seasonal gathering of flamingos in Greece. You’ll find Lake Aliki in northern Lemnos, very close to Kontopouli village, connected to the sea via a narrow channel. You can walk along a narrow passage into the salt flats, amongst the low vegetation and tamarisk trees.
Sample all the local products
Lemnos was one of Greece’s most fertile islands in antiquity and it continues to provide generously with ingredients for dishes that are as rich and varied as the landscape. Cereals (barley and wheat) find their way into flomaria (handmade pasta), samsades (a crispy, honey and syrup-filled pastry with plenty of sesame seeds) and katimeria (fluffy, syrupy sweets originating from Asia Minor and traditionally made for the feast day of St Dimitrios). Seafood (fish, mussels, clams, lobsters…) is caught locally and served in a wide number of ways and the milk from goats and sheep is used in cheeses like PDO-protected kalathaki Limnou (a soft, brined cheese named after the basket in which it matures), feta, melichloro and kaskavali. Olive oil, honey and all the Mediterranean products you know and love … you’ll find them all in Lemnos. Book yourself a cookery lesson with Mama Marika and learn from the best or just tuck in and let the local products tell their story. And in June, the Lemnos Philema food festival introduces visitors to all of Lemnos’ local products from the producers themselves.
Tap into the wine culture of Lemnos
They’ve been making wine on Lemnos since the days of Aristotle and Homer (it even got a mention in the Iliad) and wineries continue to thrive here today. The most abundant grape, Muscat of Alexandria, was introduced from Egypt at the start of the 20th century, reaching Protected Designation of Origin status (PDO Lemnos for dry wines and PDO Muscat of Lemnos for sweet wines).
But Limnio was the original variety (said to be Aristotle’s favourite), producing white wines that were exported into the Roman Empire and throughout Byzantium. There has been a revival of the Limnio grape over the last 20 years (PDO Lemnos). You’ll find wineries that offer wine tasting and vineyard tours, where you’ll learn about Lemnos’ rich wine history and cultivation techniques in the volcanic soil, including pruning the vines low to the ground to protect them from wind and water loss.
Explore the legacy of the fire-god Hephaestus
It is said that Zeus, after an especially bad argument with Hera, tossed their son, Hephaestus, off Mt Olympus. The god of fire and ancient blacksmiths eventually landed with a broken leg on Mosychlos (Lemnos’ volcano) where he was nursed to recovery by the locals. To show his gratitude, he taught the locals his skills in metalwork, and living on the island had a daughter with the nymph Cabeiro (or Kaveiro). Myth merges with reality today in the form of Lemnos’ two most famous archaeological sites.
The ruins of Hephaestia are what remains of the ancient city that thrived in the 5th and 4th century BC, while the nearby Sanctuary of the Cabeirians was where the Cabeirian Mysteries (relating to rebirth and nature and also dedicated to Hephaestus) were held. Visiting both are musts during your holidays in Lemnos. And while you’re at the Sanctuary of the Cabeirians, look for narrow opening leading into the Sea Cave of Filoktiti, which also has a fascinating ancient backstory you’ll love learning about.
Visit the Bronze Age Poliochni settlement
Over on the east coast of Lemnos, on a hill overlooking Cape Vroskopou, there is an even more ancient settlement. Poliochni dates to the early Bronze Age (late 4th-early 3rd millennium BC), making it one of the oldest in Europe – some say the oldest – with any form of social and urban organisation. Archaeologists have identified four generations of settlement here, distinguished by colour (blue, green, red and yellow) according to the colour of the houses. You’ll note how the configuration of streets, houses and water pipes and how a central communal area indicates a form of early parliament. Your bonus here is a swim at Kokkinovrahos beach.
See the other-worldly Farakla lava formations
The last of your things to do in Lemnos is found at the north of the island, after the village of Propouli, at Cape Falakro (or Falakra, as it’s known by the locals). The Farakla are intriguing volcanic formations, spherical and smooth and in all possible shades of yellow and red. The result is an other-worldly lunar landscape, created by the meeting of lava with waves breaking onto the rocks. Art would struggle to create such a scene.
10 unforgettable things to do in Lemnos
Pretty special, right? What grabbed your attention amongst our things to do in Lemnos, one of Greece’s hidden gem islands and a rising star of the North Aegean?