Kaloni and Skala Kaloni
of Kaloni and in particular the beach town of
Skala Kaloni is the nature capital as well as the
sardine capital of the island. The economy of this area is
based upon agriculture, the nature tourism from
visitors who come to see the many birds who stop
in the marshes on their way to and from northern
Europe, and from the sardines and other fish and
seafood that comes from the rich and beautiful
bay, not to mention the thousands and thousands of olive trees on the hills which surround it. The town of Kaloni sits in a lush and
enormous valley that borders the bay of Kaloni.
This valley is home to many different species
of birds and
springtime the hotels are full of bird watchers
from all over the world. The bay itself is a
marvel to behold. More like an inland sea then a
bay, it is ringed by mountains on two sides and
the fertile valley on another opposite a small
channel that leads to the sea. It is full of
sardines which Lesvos and the town of Kaloni in particular are
famous for. It is said that the sardines from the
bay are the healthiest in the world due to their
high mineral content. The reason as explained to
me is because the rains wash the oil from the
olive groves into the bay. Whether this is true I
leave others to debate but I will testify that
Sardines from Kaloni are delicious, grilled, fried
or eaten as
. Even in the
main market in Athens you can hear the fish
merchants calling out proudly that their sardines
come from Kaloni and in the summer trucks travel
all over the island selling the magical miracle
town of Skala Kaloni is both the port, beach and
tourist center of Kaloni. The water is shallow and
almost never rough and the beaches are very sandy.
There are several restaurants along the shore and
in the town square, along with supermarkets,
hotels, tourist shops etc. The port, which is home
to the island's sardine fishing fleet is colorful
and active but to see them unloading their catch
you have to get there pretty early in the morning.
If you do you can buy a container of sardeles
pastes when they are in season usually in July and August.
because of the surrounding mountains the bay of
Kaloni is a great place for wind-surfing and
Manolis of the Medusa restaurant right
on the beach is an expert, though during the
tourist season he really has to fight for time to
pursue his passion. But if you are a windsurfer or
want to become one than Manolis is certainly
one person to talk to and Skala Kaloni one of the most popular places to do it (along with Sigri).
around the first weekend in August they celebrate
Kaloni Sardine Festival
village square featuring free ouzo and sardines, a
live band and traditional
dancers. In the winter the town is lively with
music and nightlife which many young people come down from the mountain villages where life has slowed to a crawl.
The main town of Kaloni
which you have to go through to get to Skala Kaloni if you are coming from Mytilini or Molyvos/Petra is the crossroads for the western and
northern villages of the island. Kaloni is the regional
capital and has a great deal of commercial and
cultural activity, it's main street feeling more like a city than a Greek island town. There are shops of all sorts,
supermarkets, a computer store, electronics
stores, fruit markets and a street lined with
cafeneons. If you are living in one of the smaller villages you will probably need to come here to get money from an ATM machine. In the market street of Ermou, off the
main street, there is an excellent CD and record
store called Music Box where Maria will let you sample the CD's
before buying. The shop has a large selection of Greek music and even some British and American CD's. There is a computer shop called
Delimitrou where you can buy software and even get
help if you are suffering from laptop problems. The Electronet in Kaloni is the best place to buy any kind of electronic device. Most likely if you are on western Lesvos for an extended period of time there will be something you need that they will tell you that you have to go to Kaloni to get. For example I can't get Lavazza coffee in my village and when we run out we have to go to Kaloni or ask someone who is going for something they need to pick some up for
us. It is also not very photogenic which is why I don't have a picture of it.
The most interesting shop in Kaloni, one worth braving the summer heat to visit is the cava of BP Aggelis in Arisvi. A cava is a shop that sells wine and liquor and there are many on Lesvos. But Vassilis Aggelis has collected an enormous amount of very good wine, not only from Lesvos and Limnos
but from all over Greece and France, Italy and other European wine producing countries. On our visit he had a special on wines from Limnos, three bottles for 10 euros and we bought a bottle of 2008 Limnios Ampelourgos by Petros Xatzigeorgiou along with a rose and a retsina from Limnos. I can say that the Ampelourgos was the best 3.3 euro bottle of wine I have ever bought that did not come in a plastic water bottle. We also bought several Santorini wines for the house and he gave us a gift of a
2003 Chateau Porto Carras and a small bottle of Glenfiddich. As we were paying for our wine he took us next door and showed us his new wine shop where he was planning to hold wine tastings and seminars. He then pulled out a super-premium, limited edition blend entitled AEN METAXA which was produced to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the company. Composed of blends aged between 20 and 80 years which when it was released in 2008 was worth a couple thousand dollars. He also showed us a bottle of Ltd. Edition
Chivas Regal Bottle by Alexander McQueen which cost 500 euros when released in 2008 as well. The shops was full of rare wines and we could have spent hours poking around. He also distributes imported beers like Chimay from Beligium which can be found in only one cafe on the island, Exodus, in the square of Skala Kaloni next to the fountain. To find the BP Aggelis Cava it is on the right hand side on the road to Mytilini. If you are looking for something particular you can phone him at 2253 0 22621
or e-mail him at email@example.com.
a camping and fishing shop called Big Blue in Arisvi on the road to Mytilini
right outside the town where you can buy a mask,
snorkel, flippers and anything you need to enjoythe sea. They also have a large assortment of fishing rods and reels, weights, lures and live bait for the anglers in the area. The shops is owned by Apostolis Bourlis who is an engaging and energetic gentleman and happy to tell you the best fishing spots in this part of Lesvos since he is an avid fisherman himself. For those who are interested in fishing you can catch good sized kefalo in the rivers and tidal pools in Kaloni or fish off the shore in deeper areas
for barbounia (red mullet) or anything big enough to come into the bay to eat sardines. But the best spots are probably by the entrance to the bay or off the piers in Skala Kaloni in the early evening when the smyrna come out to eat what the fishermen have thrown overboard.
And a visit to Skala Kaloni is not
complete unless you have met their one legged pelican who
spends his time wandering among the sun beds on
the beach or relaxing in the shade. Like several
villages in Lesvos, Skala Kaloni has adopted a
pelican or perhaps it is the Pelican who has
adopted Skala Kaloni.
They come from North
Africa and some of them decide that instead of
making the long journey back, to take the easy
life in Lesvos where fish is plentiful and food is
cheap, much like many of the tourists who decide
to make their home on the island
do. You can usually find him by the boatyard of Panagiotis
Psaradellis where he has been spending more of his time since the accident that cost him his leg. Kaloni is in a big valley that is blocked from the north winds by mountains which means it can be one of the hottest places to be on the island in certain periods of the summer. If you don't like hot weather then probably you should not come here in the summer except to visit. But if you love hot weather it does not get much hotter than it does in Kaloni. But the enormous bay also attracts winds from other directions
and it can get quite windy here too which is why they have windsurfing. The temperature can vary in different parts of the bay depending on the wind and sea breezes. Like many places in Greece the best time to be here is in the off-season when the climate is mild. Especially in the spring.
Around the Valley of Kaloni
the valley of Kaloni there are plenty of places to
visit, not least among them the town of
Paraskevis, not only one of the wealthiest villages on the island but
in all of Greece. The town is known for a festival
in late June (usually the last weekend) in which horses are paraded through the
streets past cafes full of people drinking and
eating while bands play live Greek music at nearly
every restaurant. If you join the festivities try
to remain alert. Things can get pretty wild with
horses riding into the cafeneons. Some say the
riders give them ouzo just to liven things up a bit or others say it makes them run faster. The races are held on a straight stretch of dirt road just ourside of town and the riders do some practice runs before they compete two out of time in what seems to be a single elimination tournament. A warning though... the horses can veer out of control and into the crowd if they happen to be standing on the crossroads. The horses impulse is to go home on this road and the riders have to struggle to keep them going towards
line and not into the crowd. This is a dangerous spectator sport so make sure that you watch it from a safe spot. When we were there one of the galloping horses stumbled into the crowd after its rider lost control and I still don't know how it missed me. It was so close I could smell horse sweat. Afterwards we moved to a safer vantage point. By the way there are horse races held in other villages too on different weekends usually commemorating the name day of a saint so ask around or keep your eyes open
for posters advertising them. Lesvos has a very strong culture of horseback riding and people take these competitions very seriously, very similar to people in the southwestern USA. (See also Agia Paraskevis Horse Races)
Near the town of Agia Paraskevis are the ruins of an Achaean and
classical temple to Apollo at Klopedi and the
Kremasti bridge, made entirely of
was one of the most flourishing towns of medieval
Lesvos. Ruins have been found in the area from
ancient, Byzantine and medieval times. The nearby
Sanctuary at Mesa is worth a
visit though in general the archaeological sites on the island can be a little disappointing, usually containing perhaps a column or two and some stones on the ground. However most of them are in beautiful settings and others are in such remote places that just finding them is half the fun, or most of the fun actually. Recently more care has been taken in the upkeep of these ancient sites which means instead of driving down dirt roads and walking paths and climbing stone walls to find a little known ancient temple
just follow signs and find a gate with a sign on it that has visiting hours and sometimes find yourself peering at it through a large modern fence.
Limonos Monastery, consecrated to the Archangel
Michael is open to visitors. It was built in 1523
and during the Turkish occupation, was the
intellectual center of the island. The library
contains approximately 5000 books from 1502 until
the present and manuscripts, patriarchal bulls,
sultanate firmans, official decisions and other
documents dating as far back as the 9th century.
There are countless pieces of jewelry, holy relics
and sacred icons. The festival day for the
monastery is the eighth of October.
When the Limnonas
monastery has its festivals the whole area is full
of people selling religious items and other things
that are not religious in
nature. On the other side of the valley is a working convent that is under the protection of the Limonos Monastery. There is a small cafe restaurant within the grounds of the monastery and inside the monastery walls a small zoo of peacocks, goats, and some other birds and animals.
Around the Bay of Kaloni
the coast are marshes filled with wildlife. The
fish practically leap out of the sea and standing
on the shore looking out at a bay so large that
the entire island of Sifnos could fit in it, gives
one a feeling of awe. Walking along the bay past
the tidal pools full of crabs and fish, is very
enjoyable in the spring and early summer, when a
vast assortment of wild birds can be seen. Bring
binoculars if you have any. The valley gets very
hot in late July and August, when most people
stick to the beach or the hotel pool.
But for those who
venture out this is the time to see the flamingos.
I know it is hard to tell these are flamingos from
this picture but trust me that they
are. There is a bird-viewing station on the road to Mytilini right before the turn-off to Achladeri.
enjoyable car journey is to follow the coast on
either side of Kaloni. On the western shore of the
bay is the village of Parakila and below it in a
field is the ruins of an old mosque. Nearby there
is a lovely old stone road and bridge that crosses
a stream. There
are a few tavernas along the coast and some places
town of Apothikes is no more then a cafeneon and
some houses at the mouth of the bay, but it is a
beautiful place to stop. If you continue on the
coastal road past Agra and Mesotopos you will
eventually find yourself in
. There is a
small road that goes from Agra and will connect
you with Xidera and Pterounda but unless you have
a jeep I don't advise taking this
If you follow the southeast coast of the bay you
will see an interesting variety of landscapes,
from salt plains and marshes to forest and
streams and go by the excellent fish taverna in Achladeri called Ancient Phyra Psarotaverna where you can get clams on the half-shell and excellent sardelles pastes in season and the very interesting agriogarides which are sort of a cross between a lobster tail and a rhinoceros. It is by the sign for Ancient Phyra right before the small military camp. In the small bay are the ruins of ancient Phyra though you will need a mask and snorkel to see them since the city is now under water. But walking
along the beach you will see some ancient stones and evidence of the city. But the main reason to stop here is the restaurant which is one of the best on the island. (If they are still open this season)
If you follow the coast you will see a sign for katarachtes which means waterfall. You can drive up the dirt road a ways and park and walk the rest of the way. Not that I have ever done it but others have and told me about it. You will also pass through pine forests that have rusted cans still attached to the trees from when
they used to collect pine resin from them. There are a couple turn-offs you can follow into the woods where there are some
abandoned industrial buildings. You will eventually wind up in Skala
Polichnitou, another wonderful place to stop for lunch
(sardines of course) with a small harbor full of fishing boats.
Or you can continue on to Nyfida, a small beach town close to the entrance to the bay which has the excellent fish taverna called Grigoris with fresh fish and sardeles pastes in season and is perhaps the best fish restaurant in Lesvos. The sea is very shallow here and you can eat while children swim or play on the beach where there are sunbeds and umbrellas available and a spectacular
view of the bay of Kaloni. (Grigoris may be the
best fish-taverna on Lesvos.)
If you go inland from Skala Polychnitou you can
make a visit to the
springs, the hottest in Europe in the main town of
Polychnitou on the road to Vatera. Or you can visit the nearby and lesser know hot springs of Lisvouri (currently both are closed). If you want to swim in the Aegean just follow the signs that will lead you past the village of Vrissa, recently destroyed in an earthquake, to the seven kilometer beach of Vatera, one of the longest and most beautiful
in Greece. Another option is to turn left on the main road and follow the signes towards Mytilini driving through pine forests
and Alps-like terrain as well as a large dried up lake until you get to
, the spiritual capital of the island and one of
the most beautiful villages in all of
Greece. A few miles further is Karini, an oasis of tall trees and gardens fed by a beautful spring that waters the whole valley in the gulf of Yera, and the source of the water that was brought to Mytilini by the Roman Aquaduct which you can still see remnants of in Moria and off the road from Yera back to Kaloni.
Driving back from Kaloni at night you have to assume that most of the people on the road are drunk. In fact that is not a bad assumption to make whenever you drive in Lesvos. If you assume that everyone on the road is drunk then you will drive more defensively, unless of course you are drunk as well. In the morning this is less likely but on weekends and in the summer from later afternoon on when Athenians come back to their family villages and
spend their afternoons and evenings drinking in the beach psarotavernas with their friends, most likely every car you see will be driven by someone who has at least one karafiki of ouzo in him.
Eating in Kaloni
There are dozens of restaurants, cafes and fastfood joints in Kaloni and Skala Kaloni but the best places to eat are the psarotavernas (seafood restaurants) in the harbor and along the beach.
Our favorite was Medusa restaurant in Skala Kaloni, owned by Manolis and his
wife Dorien from Holland, sadly, because of the economic crisis they have closed, but since they own the building I remain hopeful that they will reopen one day when the situation improves. In the meantime here are several other fish tavernas on the sea just to the west of the town dock where all the fishing boats are tied up and if you are staying here you will most likely sample them all since they are all pretty good and in the best position on the island to serve fresh sardines and whatever
other fish are caught in the bay by the local fishing fleet, arguably the most important in Lesvos. I recommend Dionysious, which is the first one you will come to on the beach next to the port. Excellent sardelles pastes, lakerda, skoumbri kapnisto, grilled sardines, and just about every dish that Lesvos is known for. Enormous salads too.
Also as I mentioned above you can get great seafood in Achladeri (Ancient Phyra), Skala Polychnitou and Nyfida.
Hotels in Skala Kaloni
There are a number of hotels and rooms in Skala
Kaloni including several that are popular with
bird watchers. The Hotel AEGEON, has 47 luxurious rooms, all equipped with individual bathroom, telephone, radio, air-conditioning and refrigerator (after request) and comfortable balconies full of sunlight.
The facilities include a large outdoor swimming pool with children's pool. Spacious sunbathing area with sunbeds and umbrellas. Quench your thirst at the pool-bar. At the hotel restaurant the guest can taste - from midday through the evening - the Greek traditional cuisine (accompanied by fish and ouzo).
Aeolian Gaea Hotel (photo above) perfectly combines luxury with a fusion of traditional and modern art. Overlooking the Kalloni beach, it comprises of a 4-building complex, along with a large outdoor swimming pool. All air-conditioned units open to a private balcony and have a well-equipped
with fridge and cooking. The villa style
Hotel Pasaphae is set in beautiful
landscaped grounds and around the
large hotel swimming pool with sun
terraces and pool bar. All rooms
have private bathroom with either
bath or shower, balcony, &
For more hotels in Skala Kaloni see Booking.com's Skala Kaloni Page
For more on
Kaloni read this excerpt from my book In
Search of Sardeles Pastes