Paleokipos - Village of Gardens, Pirates & Saint Ermolaos Church
- Paleokipos village of Lesvos Paleokipos village of Lesvos
- Temple of Agios Ermolaos in Paleokipos of Lesvos Temple of Agios Ermolaos in Paleokipos of Lesvos
A village named after the many flower gardens growing within its confines, Paleokipos (‘Old Garden’) remains one of the most traditional locations in eastern Lesvos. Just under 23 kilometers from Mytilene, Paleokipos is highly worth coming to visit. A wander amidst the beautiful, well-maintained houses of Paleokipos will acquaint you with the traditional architecture of Lesvos and you will be amazed at the effect a well-tended garden may have on an already picturesque setting of stone-built residences and cobbled streets.
Paleokipos was established several years following the Ottoman occupation of Lesvos. Historical references to the village commence in 1653 (pointing to the fact that Paleokipos was likely established in the few years preceding that date) and become regular from 1700 onward, pointing to a comparatively recent settlement that, as it has been revealed, was uninhabited by Ottomans.
Scour the entirety of Orthodox Greek churches and you will find only a single Agios Ermolaos. The imposing basilica has graced the village of Paleokipos since 1795 and is the only church of Agios Ermolaos in the whole of Greece. Set apart by its outstanding carved-wood iconostasis and elaborate bell-tower of stone, Agios Ermolaos celebrates on July 26th, when a ‘panigiris’ (religious festival) is organized in the village.
To further appreciate the charms of this picturesque Lesvian village, follow the road from the church towards the main market area of Paleokipos. You will encounter numerous traditionally-styled shops, and the cafes of Paleokipos serve their own variety of mezedes (grilled meats, local sausages and freshly-cut salad) to accompany your well-deserved glass of cool ouzo.
Paleokipos springs to life in the carnival season in the early months of spring. While not quite as renowned for its celebrations of this joyous event as Agiasos and Agia Paraskevi, Paleokipos has retained the satirical tradition of carnival with great aplomb. Should your visit coincide with the carnival season, do come to Paleokipos on the last Sunday of carnival and take part in festivities. It’s a good opportunity to witness the more political aspect of this old Dionysian festival and hear the locals satirize contemporary affairs in the local dialect.
According to local legend, the great pirate Khayredin Barbarosa (1478-1546) originated from the Rougos family of Paleokipos. A diplomat who could speak every language in the Mediterranean, he is described as a hugely imposing man whose seafaring abilities could only be matched by Nelson and Drake. Whether you are fond of stories of piracy or care to discover the birthplace of the legendary persona of Barbarosa, do come to Paleokipos. You will learn more about this huge historical figure, besides which, the village is certain to charm you with its beauty, imposing Agios Ermolaos church and hearty mezedes.
Continue on along the main market road and you will find yourself moving towards the countryside outside the village. Follow the footpath and, two kilometers on, keep an eye out for the River Psas on your left hand side and a small bridge leading to the chapel of Panagia Spiliotisa (the Virgin Mary of the Cave). The chapel is surrounded by beautiful countryside: the presence of water accounts for the greenness of the cool, shady environment, the paved churchyard a fantastic spot from which to savor views to Paleokipos and its verdant surroundings. The chapel is lodged inside a cave and highly worth visiting if only to admire the primitive interior and enjoy the panorama to the village amidst the seemingly endless olive trees.
If you come here during the months of summer, Paleokipos may appear surprisingly quiet: the majority of village residents maintain holiday properties (the so-called ‘katounes’) in the seaside area of Evriaki, with its popular organized beach and large variety of accommodation and dining options for both locals and tourists. If you are fond of fishing or have a penchant for watersports, Evriaki is a firm favorite with fishermen and windsurfers alike.