It is safe to travel to Lesbos island now. I was just there as a traveler and I loved every minute of my stay. Here are the answers to those questions you may have about Lesbos, the refugees and the state of tourism at this time.
Lesbos Island Travel Today
Lesbos’ (or Lesvos’) place in the world, just 10 kilometers (six miles) from the shores of Turkey, places it in a hot spot and in the spotlight of a humanitarian crisis. A heartbreaking turn of world events involving war and deep political divisions has sadly brought desperate refugees to Greece’s shores including families with the hope to move on to a better life in other E.U. countries. At one point, more than 5,000 refugees were reaching the shores of Lesbos each day.
Today, those numbers have tapered greatly after a deal was reached between the E.U. and Turkey weeks ago. So, that leads to the question of whether or not it is safe to travel to Lesbos.
It is Safe to Travel to Lesbos
At one point, I wanted to put on my volunteer cap and head to Lesbos myself. I have friends and acquaintances who have taken the time to do so. Others, like myself, have simply donated what money and resources they could.
However, my first visit to Lesbos turned out to be for work — to write and blog about travel. I wasn’t sure what I’d find. How would I feel being there? Would I see boats coming on shore?
From the first day I set foot on the island I realized with all certainty that it is safe to travel to Lesbos island.
What do I mean by safe in Lesbos?
Time helps situations. Time was needed to organize ways to put such a huge humanitarian crisis under some sort of control.
Since I am a fan of lists, here are my thoughts:
- I found the island was very organized. There weren’t any refugees in the streets or in tents on public spaces, as was reportedly the case a year ago.
- Many NGOs and volunteer organizations remain a dedicated part of the entire effort to keep the situation in check.
- I saw the refugee camp which was under security. There were trailers housing the refugees. There were services available for them.
- The shores of Mytilene Town, the port town of Molyvos and the vast coastline that fringes the island appeared clean and picture perfect. The island’s pretty beaches simply sparkled in the sun.
- I met and spoke with tourists including many birdwatchers from Europe. They weren’t dissuaded by the refugee crisis. They were enjoying their time, happy to support the island.
- Tourism services were in check. Transportation was working. There were even bilingual buses with the Arabic language.
- Restaurants offered amazing food. Museums were open. Parks were open. Kids were playing the street. People were getting ready for Greek Easter. Life went on.
Greeks Continue to Awe Me
Writing about travel is my job and the refugee situation in no way affected how I discovered Lesbos. In fact, what I learned about Lesbos surpassed my expectations.
I have been to more than 25 Greek islands over the years. Now I can say that Lesbos is one of the top Greek islands I’d recommend anyone to visit. In the coming weeks you can expect in-depth travel blog posts from me about its villages, fantastic nature experiences, ties to ancient Greece, storied castles, excellent gastronomy and rich culture.
What also touched me during my stay was my experience meeting the locals of Lesbos.
The refugees have their story. Of course, the locals of Lesbos have theirs. Like other Greek tourist destinations, tourism dollars mean so much. Today, tourism is down in Lesbos by 80 percent. This means lost wages and jobs in a country that is already facing a sore economic crisis. Yet, I didn’t meet one local who expressed a second of regret for helping during the refugee crisis.
The locals I met were proud to give to those in need or give what they could. The stories I heard touched me very much. It is no wonder the people of Lesbos are potential Noble Peace Prize nominees.
Future Lesbos Tourism Hopes
Lesbos is an amazing Greek island to discover.
- It is the number one birdwatching site in Europe.
- It is home to one of the few petrified forests in the entire world.
- It has an amazingly diverse landscape, including a stretch of 11 million olive trees.
- It has beautiful beach resorts that are stretches of fine sand, including Eressos.
- It is the hometown of the famously tasty Greek spirit called ouzo. Opa!
- It is the island of ancient Greek poet Sappho, the famous lesbian.
- There are dozens of beautiful island villages to “get lost” in.
- I sampled one of the tastiest Greek cheeses in Lesbos. That fact really deserves its own post 😉
- The Roman mosaics of the Archaeological Museum of Mytilene were incredibly fascinating.
All those points above are just a few reasons that travelers have always wanted to holiday in Lesbos. Charter flights had filled that demand. What shocked me was that even as the refugee situation has changed, charter flight companies still won’t fly to Lesbos. In fact, most flights are still canceled. I understand the convenience of such flights, but if you want to get to Lesbos via commercial flights you can. Visit this link on The Other Aegean website to learn how.
Is it safe to travel to Lesbos? Yes.
Should you go? Of course, you will love it.
Will the refugee situation affect you? If you don’t want it to, it won’t.
There would be no reason for you to visit the camp unless you have arranged to do so in advance to volunteer.
For more about where to stay, what to do and where to eat on Lesbos, visit my mini-guide about Lesbos on this blog.
Have you ever heard of Lesbos before the refugee crisis? If you have been, do you think it is safe to travel to Lesbos island? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below.