The southern coast of Lesvos, where the land lovingly commingles with the sea, is where you’ll find picturesque Plomari, the capital of the Municipality of the same name that includes seven villages, known as the Plomaritohoria: Akrasi, Ampeliko, Megalohori, Neohori, Palaiohori, Plagia, and Trygonas.
The region of Plomari is one of the most important in Lesvos. In the mid 19th century, Plomari emerged as the island’s second largest industrial and commercial center after its capital Mytilene. Due to its coastal position, it further developed as an important junction for marine transport and trade.
Here, you’ll find yourself in a continuous olive grove that extends into the abrupt slopes, gullies, mountains, little gorges, and inaccessible semi-mountainous regions that touch the sea on the south. The mountainous terrain on the north and east has helped isolate the region. Its picturesque little villages have golden beaches, lofty cliffs, fantastic mountain landscapes, lush vegetation, distinctive architecture, and age-old traditions that have remained unchanged through time.
Plomari is the main town with a large commercial center, tourism and Agios Isidoros, an enchanting sandy beach with turquoise water.
Lively Plomari is the perfect combination of tradition and evolution. The derelict olive oil presses, the soap factories, the mansions with their unusual architecture, the narrow alleyways, the impressive churches, and the Folklore Museum with its extensive collection are testimony to the town’s great acme of the last century.
The market square near the sea and the main square on the waterfront are the town’s economic, social and symbolic hubs. The large Plomari coffeehouses are located here. At one time there was a stage for musicians, a popular attraction for the townsfolk. There are coffeehouses throughout the entire town, mostly along the two central thoroughfares in the market.
History in Brief
(19th – 20th centuries)
Operating at this time were
12 soap factories,
10 olive oil presses,
1 hydraulic flour mill,
2 seed-oil factories and
2 steam-powered talc factories that processed the mineral talc mined in the area.
Industrial Plomari of 1912 also had 2 tanneries and two large shipyards.
Soap production was particularly lucrative especially after talc became a standard additive to the formula.
In addition, raki, or ouzo, production expanded significantly in Plomari. Originally, the spirits were produced in small local stills called rakaria. But by the end of the 19th century these had evolved into distilleries, and ouzo production emerged as an important industry in significant quantities for export.
The various ouzos of Plomari, distinguished for their smoothness and strong aniseed aroma, are famous for their unrivaled taste. A visit to the distilleries of Plomari-Arvanitis, Yiannatsis, Pisiladis, and the Barbayiannis Museum, representing the oldest label, is a most interesting experience.
Plomari has approximately 3,500 inhabitants. From its former industrial acme, only the ouzo distilleries remain in operation and the olive oil presses run by the Collective. Olive oil cultivation continues to be a primary profitable concern for the region, but in recent years tourism has been rapidly gaining force.
Plomari combines holiday tranquility with a lively summer lifestyle. Its fine hotels of every category, travel bureaus, shops, bars, cafés, restaurants, and traditional tavernas operate year round.
Although the core of the village were primarily the proud Megalohorites, its limited Ottoman presence and financial prospects drew many outside islanders, mostly seamen, from the Cyclades, Kythera and Psara, who settled here at that time. These various influences created a unique environment with different customs and traditions, and a peculiar vernacular architecture not found anywhere else in Lesvos.
The houses in the village are built in a dense urban plan. The architectural particularity is due also to the influence of the colonists, and consists of two- and three-story stone houses with terracotta roof tiles and balconies with carved stone cantilevers.
Their unadorned romantic classicism, often with pediments on their facades, and varicolored painted wooden window frames and doors are an expression of the good taste of the Plomarians. This aesthetic is readily apparent to the visitor, since the building boom of recent years has not significantly adulterated the character of the town’s old quarters, which preserve virtually untouched the architectural structures and forms of the past.
Crossing the “Plomaria”
To the west is picturesque Ammoudeli and a little farther down the coastal road is the pebble beach of Melinta and after that is Drota with its impressive waters. If you follow the Sedountas River, you’ll discover a very shady area, encircled by ivy, plane trees and little wooden bridges that lead to an old water-driven olive press and concealed thickets dense with olive trees.
Ascending by foot along the riverbed, you’ll find the old olive-oil press built in the center of the gulley with a beautiful view of the olive grove.
If you continue, you’ll come to the abandoned houses of Mesouna. Take the left fork at the crossroads and you’ll arrive at the beautiful Karionas plateau with its tall pines, stone hill with a medieval castel, view of the Bay of Yera and a little café for refreshments. A downhill road from the chapel of Agia Paraskevi takes you to Skopelos, the main town of Yera.
The Cultural Center, housed in a renovated soap factory, has a reception/conference hall and permanent and temporary exhibits. It is named after the educator, Benjamin Lesvios.
The marina for tourist craft provides all the necessarily services.
The other Plomari villages
This lovely village essentially comprised Plomari until the 18th century. It consists of 18 smaller villages – the Plomaria – and was the largest farming and industrial center in the region. The great fires of 1841-1843 destroyed Megalohori, and even to this day you’ll frequently hear it referred to as Kameno Horio (Burnt Village). Nestled among the trees, it is situated at an altitude of 600 meters and justifiably is called the Switzerland of Lesvos. The great frost of 1850 destroyed the olive trees, forcing the inhabitants of Megalohori to move down to the sea. Hence the founding of modern Plomari, which until the early 20th century was called Potamos after the small Sedountas River that runs through it. The route through the olive and pine trees, the beauty of the village and the hospitality of its inhabitants make for an unforgettable experience. Keep an eye out for the local honey – it’s among the best in Greece!
Nearby you’ll find the olive oil press run by the Protoulis family, which produces the prize-winning Aegean Gold olive oil.
The village of Kournela climbs up the mountainside three kilometers outside Megalohori. This abandoned village awaits reconstruction by some local entrepreneur who will turn it into a tourist destination.
Across the mountain is Palaiohori, the largest and most active village in the Plomari district.
Ambeliko is a village buried in the gully that descends from Mt Olympos and joins the Vourkos River below. Pine trees and running water, deserted chapels, quaint coffeehouses, a lovely church, a medieval castle and traces of Roman ruins compose its picture.
There is a small coffeehouse whose proprietors are happy to treat you to whatever they’ve got cooking in the pot or fry up some eggs from their free-range hens with potatoes and local feta. Not to be missed!
Boros: A Village Apart
Boros is located 16 kilometers outside Plomari. Also known as Neohori, Boros is an old village of unique beauty built on the steep slope of a concave cliff over the Prionas Ravine.
The name Boros or Bouros probably comes from the abundant waters that bubble up in the gardens and basements of the houses (bora = shower). In 1957 it was renamed Neohori. Few people live there today, but they have the unique privilege of enjoying along with their sublime solitude the unique nature and scenic location of their village. The Neohori Society is very active in publicizing the uniqueness of the village.
The Oil Press Museum
The Boros “Mechanism” is an important and unique monument of traditional industrial architecture and definitely worth a visit.
This village west of Plomari has an exceptionally beautiful square with a large plane tree and quaint coffeehouses. It has extraordinarily beautiful natural surroundings with rugged mountains and lush vegetation. Its fresh air, tranquility, and conversations with the locals will relax you for sure. See if you can sample some of the sausages made by the local butchers. And the local olive oil, which is great by itself for dunking bread, is considered among the best in Lesvos. The road that continues downward takes you to the mystical gully of Kryfti Panagia (Hidden Virgin) and Drota beach.
This quiet little village in the region of Agia Varvara (St. Barbara) right outside Plomari has a lake. It’s worth stopping for meze in the taverna under the plane trees.
This village of small farmhouses will enchant you, and the entire scene will take you back to a bygone era.
The pebble beaches and turquoise waters of Drota at Akrasi and Melinta at Palaiohori present unique landscapes that are at once exciting and restful. Although they are relatively hard to reach, they are well worth the trip. The tavernas on both beaches are truly authentic. If you have a boat, you simply must go to Kryfti Panagia, located on the rocks. Take a dip in the deep turquoise sea and feel the Aegean coursing through your veins!