Day 1: Athens. Arrival to Athens. Rest and relax from the flight. We’ll have our welcome dinner at a traditional taverna in Plaka, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and within strolling distance to the Acropolis.
Day 2: Athens - Lesvos. An 1-2 hour leisurely bike ride in the area around the Acropolis which is predominantly car-free nowadays. Our “warm-up” ride is teeming with ancient ruins everywhere along the route, from the outdoor amphitheatre of Dionysus to Socrates Cave where Xanthippi’s husband was incarcerated. The hilly green area opposite the Acropolis makes a perfect shady retreat on our bikes with sweeping views of the city. Inexplicably, few tourists venture here so you can be assured of some peaceful moments within an urban setting. After lunch we head down to the port, Piraeus, to catch the overnight ferry boat to Lesvos.
Day 3: Skala Sikaminia. Our first day in Lesvos! We do not stop in Mytilini, the port and capital, but instead set off immediately up the eastern coast of the island to the adorable fishing village of Skala Sikaminia. Its Mermaid Church is so-named because the Virgin Mary is depicted as a mermaid. The terrain is green and hilly with a number of well-known monasteries along the way, as well as a hammam (Turkish bath). A shiny blue sea and the Turkish coastline is visible for almost the entire length of the journey. There’ll be certain moments while cycling this road when the only sounds you hear are the jingling, clanking bells of nearby goats. When the herd is a dozen or more, the din is downright startling. Total distance: 58 km (36 miles).
Day 4: Molyvos. Today we leave little Skala Sikaminia, which has no more than 150 or so inhabitants, if that, for Molyvos, one of Lesvos’ most popular destinations. You have the option for a flat 13.5 km (8 mile) hike along the coast that goes past hot springs hidden in the sea (there’s no sign, just look for steam rising in the sea water), or cycling back along a hilly route that begins with a steep, but brief, ascent to the main road (19 km, 12 miles). The latter choice gets you to Molyvos quicker, allowing more time in that not-to-be-missed town of stately stone houses, red tiled roofs and maroon shutters. Our overnight accommodations are in a refurbished olive factory. Total distance: 19 km (12 miles).
Day 5: Skala Eresso. Leaving Molyvos means leaving the coast. Today we cycle into the bowels of Lesvos, traveling from the north of the island to the south. The terrain begins to change from green and shady to yellowish-brown and deserty, as if we were going to a totally different island. En route, a recommended optional detour takes you to the mountain village of Chidera whose 350 residents are largely self-sufficient. By late afternoon we’ll reach the cool, fabulous, cosmopolitan seaside town of Skala Eresso, Sappho’s hometown. Her legacy prompts women everywhere to journey to Eresso to embrace her lingering sensuous spirit. Total distance: 53 km (31 miles).
Day 6: Skala Eresso. This will be a free day for you. Skala Eresso is a marvelous gem with a myriad of engaging activities to occupy your days here. Sunbathing on the four kilometer sandy beach is a popular pastime, as is observing the snapping turtles who inhabit the frog-green river nearby. A more daring agenda is a swim out to the monstrous rock 500 meters away. Skala Eresso has a number of small shops to browse in, nothing chic or fancy, just simple, down-to-earth and laid-back like the town itself. There are many eating options including a variety of vegetarian restaurants, sometimes even vegan fare.
Day 7: Skala Eresso – Petrified Forest. Today we cycle to the remarkable Sigri Petrified Forest. Located in the thick of Lesvos’ now arid landscape, the area was once a green wonderland several millennium ago. You will marvel at the rich colors in the petrified rock, the size of the stone trees, and the fact that many are still standing upright. Total distance: 22 km (13.5 miles).
Day 8: Skala Eresso. Another free day to spend at your whim. There are so many wonderful hikes in this area to choose, from with paths leading to water holes, others ending up at monasteries, or over to Tavari, a quiet, unassuming little seaside hamlet. A more ambitious walker will choose to go to lovely Sigri, the westernmost town on the island with perfect unobstructed crimson sunsets and an old Ottoman era fort. This is the day of departure for those who proffered our 8-day package.
Day 9: Agiassos. Today is the longest cycling day of the trip, and also the most diverse with arid terrain, high hills, quiet coastlines, and pine forests. Our destination is Agiassos, a colorful mountain town that fiercely preserves its artisans, crafts and traditions. We’ll meet with the local women’s cooperative who churn out homemade salted vine leaves, noodles, sweets, and embroideries. Dinner is in a traditional taverna frequented by locals, so you can be guaranteed that the food is original and delicious, and nothing but exquisite wine. Total distance: 87 km (54 miles).
Day 10: Mytilini. Our last group day of cycling takes us to the capital of the island, Mytilini. After crossing Gera Bay by boat, we take the flat coastline route to reach this elegant port city. If you appreciate beautiful architecture, you’ll gush over the city’s 19th century mansions reminiscent of San Francisco's Victorian homes. The city bustles compared to the placid towns and villages we’ve encountered en route, but does so with verve and charm. Stores selling traditional produce, sweets, café, and ouzo abound. A walk around the harbor will assuredly make you feel as high as a honeymooner. Total distance: 40 km (25 miles).
Day 11: Turkey. We leave Greek territory and take the day boat to Ayvalik, Turkey. The best parts of the city are hidden behind the main street. Wander in the background and you’ll encounter charming pastel houses, women who shyly smile back when you initiate the smile, cafes with milky, yogurt-type drinks, and a lively marketplace. On our late afternoon return to Mytilini we have our farewell dinner at a fish taverna in the middle of the harbor. The ouzo will flow tonight as we celebrate a trip that has transformed us all into vibrant cycling goddesses!
Day 12: Departure.
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Europe Greece Turkey Outdoor: Land Rambler Bicycle Touring