348km (188 nautical miles) NE of Piraeus

Roughly triangular Lesvos -- now called Mitilini in many Greek publications -- is the third-largest island in Greece, with a population of some 120,000. As a large, bustling island, it long failed to bother itself with attracting tourists, but in recent years, it has been developing as a destination. In particular, it has been promoting itself as the birthplace of Sappho, the ancient poet.

The three principal towns -- Mitilini, Molivos, and Eressos -- are near the corners of the triangle. Mitilini and Molivos are about as different as two towns on the same island could possibly be. Mitilini is a working port town, low on sophistication or pretension, with little organized tourism but lots of local character. Molivos is a picture-postcard seaside village, a truly beautiful place; but in the summer, it exists only for tourism. Due to its remote location, Eressos is a good destination for a day trip, but not a recommended base for touring the island.

Not to be missed are the Archaeological and Theophilos museums, in Mitilini; the town of Mandamados and its celebrated icon (the east-coast road, btw. Mandamados and Mitilini, is the most scenic on the island); the 1.5km-long (1-mile) beach of Eressos; and the labyrinthine streets of Molivos's castle-crowned hill.

Getting around on Lesvos is complicated by the presence of two huge tear-shaped bays in the south coast, which split the island at its center. Because bus schedules are not designed for day-trippers, this is one island where you'll want a car to get around.