My favorite destination on Lesvos, located on the beautiful Gulf of Géra, is a little gem of a town called “Kountouroudia.” Now let me say right up front that this spot will not appeal to all travelers, but this village and the surrounding areas were just what I had on my agenda.
If you are like me and want to be far away from the hubbub of the cities on your vacation, get the best deal for your money while immersing yourself in the culture of a locale, and meet friendly, colorful people, then you might just find Kountouroudia as enticing as I did. Because Lesvos is so large and the bus service from the port rather infrequent, it is best to rent a car in Mytilini and see things on your own schedule. I made this my base of operations, so to speak, and visited the other sites I wanted to see around this large island by renting a car for two days. If you really want to become Greek, you can even rent a motorcycle or scooter (if you dare). The bus from Mytilini, however, runs to Kountouroudia several times a day, so you can get back and forth for 1.10 Euros if you want to travel that way. I did it on the days when I didn’t have the car, and it was kind of fun.
The Hotel and Restaurant Kountouroudia, overlooking the bay, has been owned and operated by George and Vasso Gonidellis, for the past 24 years. The hotel has about 15 rooms, so if you plan on going to Lesvos during the peak season, call ahead for reservations. The phone number is 22510-91213. You can also fax your reservation request to 22510-91565. The mailing address is Hotel Kountouroudia, Loutra, Mytilini, 81100. Once you arrive on the island, George said to give him a ring, and he will send someone to collect you at the port. In October, a double room with inside bath can be had for about 40 Euros per night. In the peak season, of course, the price is a bit higher.
George also is the establishment’s primary chef, and on Saturday night, the place is packed to eat his lamb dinner. The couple brings in extra cooking and serving help on Saturday and Sunday nights to help feed the crowd. After I’d been there a week, around lunch and dinnertime, George would open the big refrigerator in the kitchen, and say, “What you want?” I’d point to whatever I was hungry for, and he would cook it up. Other items found on the menu are calamari, beeftaki, souvlaki, barboni (a white fish), several types of Greek salads, and seasonal vegetables, just to name a few. You can have a filling and tasty meal for between 7-12 Euros.
George is also famous for adopting a wild fox and her babies, and has been featured in Greek nature publications shown feeding them. If you go outside just after sundown, he may even let you help! During my stay, these wonderful people made me feel like part of their big, sweet Greek family, and I was very sad when I had to leave. Vasso’s outrageous laugh still rings in my ears, and the words, “I love you, George!” can still bring a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.
Also located in this little fishing haven is the Apotabepna Café, a nice place right on the bay to grab a drink and dinner for about 7 – 10 euros per person. The café is full of Greek flavor and charm, and worth a visit for either lunch or dinner. My favorite item on the menu is Barbara’s homemade chocolate cake!
You can make reservations or call ahead to find out what the special of the day is at 22510-91276.
Just below the hotel, on the water, is a tavern designed and constructed by my friend, Nikolaos Bouletos. The interior theme is based on the Greek poem, “The Southern Cross,” about a sailor in his craft on the sea. The tables are in the shapes of seagulls, clams, and squids; the benches are covered in authentic Greek tapestries. The wooden bar is in the shape of the ship’s hull; original oil paintings and other artwork decorating the space throughout create a seafaring ambience. While you are there having a beer or glass of ouzo, you can almost feel the waves undulating beneath you. On Friday nights, during the summer and into September, you can enjoy live bizuki or reggae music in this cozy taverna. To contact the artist, Nikolaos Bouletos, personally to discuss purchasing some of his fabulous artwork, or perhaps to have him design some space for you, he may be reached via regular mail at Horion Loutra Mytiline, Lesvos, Greece 81100 and by e-mail at [email protected]
There is a large boat dock in Kountouroudia, and fishing boats came and went daily. Also, if you bring your rod and reel, you can fish right off the pier with the natives. Every half hour, local ferries, owned and operated by Olympia and Michael Karandonis, the two pilots, sail back and forth to the other side of the bay to Perama. The trip is 1 euro when the trip coincides with the arrival of the bus from Mytilini, and 3 euros otherwise. If you wish to inquire about the schedules or prices of these ferries, you may contact the owners directly by phone at 22510-91450. Perama is another typical Greek village featuring shops, taverns, a pharmacy, some decent and inexpensive restaurants, a mini-market, and a large Greek Orthodox Church. There is also a small marina, so if have your own boat, there is a place to dock it while you take in the sights for an hour or two. Most likely, anything you can’t find right in Kountouroudia can be found across the bay in Perama.
On a small island in the center of the bay between the two villages is a lovely little church where couples can get married if they so desire. For a few euros, you can get the ferry boat pilots to give you a lift. There is a patch of beach within walking distance of the hotel, but it is now primarily used by the locals as a boat launch for motorized craft. The best place for swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling is on the public beach at Charamida about 10 minutes away by car. This strip of pebble beach, approximately 5 miles long, located just off the main road from the village of Loutra (3 km from Kountouroudia), lies across the street from an ancient olive grove.
The sea is usually calm, and the water warm enough to play in from June through September. There are changing facilities, and a tavern resembling a large tiki hut that was built by Niko Bouletos, is open daily during the peak season. Not far from there and a bit further south is Agios Ermogenis, a beautiful beach with olive trees surrounding the shore and a tiny welcoming Greek church overlooking the water.
If you are planning a trip to Greece, I hope you will take the time to visit Lesvos, and this pearl of a place on it that I hope to call home someday. When you get to Kountouroudia, tell everyone Lauren said hello. I’ll be returning as soon as I can.