Vasilika is a small hillside village located at a distance of 38 kilometers from Mytilene.
There are two theories concerning the origin of the village name. ‘Vasilika’ (meaning ‘royal’) originally termed a cluster of villages owned by the Byzantine monarch and reaching from the region of Vatera to the ancient city of Pyrra. Or, according to a different theory, Vasilika was an affluent town enclosed within the walls of a Byzantine fortress.
Until the 15th century AD, the fortress of Vasilika was one of the mightiest on the entire island of Lesvos. The place name ‘Kastri’ (or ‘Kastrel’) marks the area where the fortress once stood and suggests something of Vasilika’s former glory as a village of monarchs. It is believed that Irene the Athenian, the Empress of Byzantium and Constantine the 8th were exiled in the area within the fortress’s walls. The fortress was eventually abandoned and left to decay.
The fortress of Vasilika was located above ancient Pyrra (the site of today’s Achladery), the city devastated by an earthquake in the year 231 BC. The seaside location is a green haven with views of the Kalloni Gulf and significant archaeological interest. Visible from the shore, the ruins of the temple of Pyrra remain scattered on the sea bed of the Kalloni Gulf.
The Vasilika of today is a small village with traditional architecture, welcoming locals and wonderful views to the Gulf of Kalloni. A few shops and cafes are dispersed in the picturesque streets of the village. If you drive by Vasilika in the early evening, you might chance upon the sight of a number of the local women sat on the wall by the main road and leisurely admiring the view - a hardly surprising phenomenon as this view of the village is extremely idyllic.
Vasilika was once renowned for its magnesite quarry and successful pine resin industry. Pine sap harvesting was a staple for the economy of Vasilika from the 1930’s until the 80’s. Today, reminders of these industrious decades are scattered across the Vasilika woodland, with numerous sap collection basins remaining attached to the pine trees in the forested region around the village. Those interested in the former pine resin industry of Lesvos are encouraged to visit the Pine Resin Museum (est. 1996) in nearby Ambeliko. The ‘Monopatia Ritinis’ (Pine Resin Paths) is a tour of the main sap harvesting areas. Those taking the walk will be able to proceed from Ambeliko Museum to the ‘Parko Ritinis’ (Pine Resin Park) and see the hut where the ‘retsinades’ (pine sap collectors) once dwelled.
Vasilika’s woodland extends from the east side of the village towards Ambeliko, the area of Achladeri and the Agiassos ‘Megali Limni’ (Lake Major). Its 22,000 hectares of coniferous trees are a habitat for a number of plant, bird and animal species. If you are in the area, it is worth making the trip to the waterfalls of Pessa. The waterfalls are located between the village of Vasilika and Achladeri and a visit here is highly recommended: you will be amazed at the overgrown area and enjoy a spot of bird watching.
Skala Vasilikon (often marked as ‘Agios Pavlos’ in roadmaps) is located a few kilometers away from the village. It is popular with visitors wishing to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of the small fishing port, visit the chapel of Agios Pavlos (Saint Paul) and have a meal in one of the seaside tavernas. On your way to Skala, have a stopover at Makri waterfalls and relish the area’s abundant natural beauty.