Located 76 kilometers away from Mytilene, Antissa is a large, beautiful village of immense historical interest. While some of the main attractions to the area are the Monastery of Ypsilos (Moni Ypsilou, 11th century AD), the dreamy beach of Gavathas and Antissa’s amazing views to Asia Minor and the coast of Troy, the historical significance of the village is highly worth discovering. The contemporary village grew out of the ancient city of Antissa, one of the earliest Aeolian settlements on the island. Αccording to local opinion, the ruins of the ancient city may still be observed on the sea bed of modern Antissa.
Antissa has been mythically linked to Orpheus, whose lyre and disembodied head were said to have washed ashore on the ancient city coast, and to the Antissa city of India, whose establishment, historians have proposed, might be a result of Hellenistic colonialism. Whether either of these suggestions is based on reality or has come forth as a product of the imagination, Antissa strongly deserves visiting. The ruins of ancient Antissa can be seen on the coast east of Gavatha, the Antissa ‘kambos’ (plain) and on the seabed just off Skopos. You will not have the chance to observe the lyre, nor the grave, of Orpheus; it is highly possible, however, that you will be enchanted by the nature of Antissa and the village’s long list of attractions.
The birthplace of the Lyrical poet Terpandros - who is alleged to have discovered the lyre and head of Orpheus and set up a center for Orphic worship in the ancient city - Antissa was first established in the early years of the Greek Dark Ages and destroyed by the Romans in 167 BC. The Castle of the Theodore Saints (‘Kastro ton Agion Theodoron’) was built on the ruins of ancient Antissa in the Byzantine era. Ovriokastro Castle (whose ruins may still be seen in the area) was constructed by the Gateluzzi. The ancient city would have covered the entire area of the Castle on the northern part of the peninsula. The ruins of Ovriokastro (otherwise called ‘Paliokastro’, ‘Castle of the Genoese’ or ‘Enetian Castle’) can be seen in the coastal area of Vigla.
The contemporary village has a lovely square with three immense plane trees that make it a wonderfully cool place to spend a hot summer evening. There are numerous cafes and tavernas where you can have a taste of locally-produced vegetables, fish and fresh meat.
Gavathas, the main beach of Antissa, is where the lyre of Orpheus would have washed up. A quiet, beautiful beach, it includes a few interesting chapels - Saint Panteleimon, Saint Basil and Saint George.Gavathas is a small fishing harbor with a long sandy beach. A few trees provide the area with shade. The only tourist facilities available are a beachside taverna and a canteen while the chapel of Saint Panteleimon is perched on the rocks above Gavathas. Gavathas has attracted a number of repeat foreign visitors, several of whom have purchased holiday homes in the area. If you are fond of sandy beaches, you will definitely love the long shore of Gavatha.
Kambos Antissas is only a short distance away - the beach can be accessed both by swimming the distance from Gavatha or by road, by following the signs through the valley. A green area of olive groves, farm holdings and orchards, Kambos has a wonderfully quiet beach but is prone to strong northern winds. The water, however, is beautifully calm whenever the wind blows from the south. Showers, a couple of changing cabins and a picnic table are available on the Kambos shore. The area is extremely close to Turkey, which may be seen in the distance on most days.
The Monastery of Perivoli (17th century AD) is located in proximity to Gavathas. Set right by the river Voulgaris, in a landscape of plane trees and oaks, it is worthy of a visit (which is best followed up with a long leisurely walk in the cool, shady woodland). Also nearby, the Monasteri of Ypsilos contains a splendid collection of ecclesiastical items and affords visitors with amazing views across the plain to the Athos peninsula and all the way to the seemingly endless sea.