Petra & Anaxos
Approaching from the airport and the south of the island, your first glimpse of the northern coastline of Lesvos
will come as the road crosses the ridge at the western end of Lepetymnos
and begins to descend through the hairpin bends towards the coastal plain.
In the centre of the view is Petra,
dominated by the 100ft rock after which it is named,
with the church of Panagia Glykofilousa (Our Lady of the Sweet Kiss) on its summit.
Situated at the end of a long sandy beach, on a wide plain
and with no known archaeological relics to disrupt development,
Petra has taken over from Molivos as the beach resort of the area.
The original village is clustered around the foot of the rock, but unlike in Molivos
it has been possible to build new hotels and apartments nearby
so that both the beach and the centre are usually within easy level walking distance.
There are only three 'must-sees':-
Climb up the rock for a 360° view of the village and its surroundings
(the guide books will tell you that there are 114 steps, though on a hot afternoon it will feel like more).
The original church was built in 1609 and has the inevitable legend
attached involving seamen and miraculous signs.
The existing one is a 1747 building, renovated in 1840.
More interesting is the 17th century basilica of Agios Nikolaos
(possibly the surviving part of an older church) ,
near the foot of the rock on the way back to the sea.
The subject of ongoing conservation work, it sits low and unassuming in a shady courtyard
under an enormous old plane tree, but inside the walls are covered with frescoes,
and there is also a notable carved screen and bishop's throne.
Finally (and to my secular taste most interesting of all)
the Vareltzidiana Mansion is an 18th century merchant's house
which has been restored and furnished in its original style.
It is open to the public, with guides to explain the layout and the way of life of the original occupants.
Then you can sit in one of the tavernas in the sea front square and watch
the line fishermen on the jetty opposite, who may be catching your dinner.
(Petra's fishing harbour is at a modern wharf at the foot of the hill towards Molivos,
where small coastal cargo ships also unload animal feed and building materials, and take on salt from Kalloni)
In the next bay to the west of Petra, Anaxos has grown up purely as a beach resort.
The mile-long sandy beach is lined with bars and tavernas:
behind them the hotels and apartments lead up to the road from Petra,
which itself continues uphill to the hill village of Skoutaros, and on to the west of the island.
Anaxos was once, in effect, the 'skala' of Skoutaros
(it is still called 'Anaxos Skoutarou' on some maps);
now there is no harbour, and the mini-markets, gift shops, and car and bike hire agencies,
largely owned and run by Skoutaros residents, are solely devoted to tourism.