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What if I told you that you can find sand dunes similar to those of the Sahara, stunning beaches, ancient cities and Frankish castles all set in a backdrop of an otherworldly volcanic landscape and all located on a single island in Greece?

Lemnos is the eighth largest island of Greece and is located in the northern Aegean Sea.

The history of the island is lost in time. According to Greek mythology, it all started – as it usually does- with a lovers’ quarrel between Zeus and Hera. When their son Hephaestus tried to intervene, Zeus hurled him headlong out of Olympus and he eventually landed on Lemnos. This is how he gained his notable limp; he stayed there for a long time, teaching the locals the secrets of metallurgy, and fathering the tribe of Kaveiroi.

To honor their forefather they established the Kavirian Mysteries, religious rituals in which only initiates could participate. Many other great figures of Greek mythology are associated with Lemnos, including Dionysus, Jason and the Argonauts and Philoctetes. Near the archaeological site of Kavira you can visit the cave where, according to legend, the Argonauts abandoned a mortally wounded Philoctetes.

The demi-god was eventually healed using therapeutic clay called “terra lemnia”.

© Galiouris

There are so many places to visit and so many things to see on the island of Lemnos!

The capital Myrina is the ideal place to start your Lemnian explorations.

You simply must visit the Frankish castle of Myrina perched high on top of a cliff. At night, it appears to be floating on air. There are some unusual residents here. A few dozen deer have found refuge in the ruins – you might encounter some taking a stroll on the outskirts of Myrina.

On the Roman “Yialos”, the Greek word for beach or plaza, there are several imposing mansions built in the neoclassical style. Take a walk there or through the central alleyways of Myrina where you can buy homemade products and souvenirs to take with you back home.

If you are interested in learning more about the island's history...

Head for Hephaestia, the town which, alongside Myrina, formed a powerful complex of two cities or “Dipolis”. The ruins of Hephaestia will grant you a glimpse of its former glory. The site’s highlight is its Roman Amphitheater. Another site of great historical importance for western civilization is Poliochni, the oldest prehistoric settlement found in Europe.

Lemnos is, indeed, unique in so many ways. If you are from Australia or New Zealand the name of this rather unexplored island of the Aegean might sound familiar.

Due to its strategic location, Lemnos was a key naval base for the Allies and the starting point of their campaign to the Dardanelles, as well as a location of an ANZAC Cemetery at Moudros. Lemnos became a place of rest and recuperation for thousands of ANZAC soldiers who participated in the campaign. The island was a haven away from the cruelty of war.

There is a spot in Lemnos that is unique in the whole of Greece in that it reminds visitors of the Sahara Desert rather than a Greek island.

Near the village of Gomati, there are 17 acres of sand dunes that are molded in ever-changing shapes by the force of the wind. Far away behind these golden hills, the green waters of Gomati beach seem like an elusive mirage. A refreshing splash there or in the equally beautiful beaches of Plati and Moudros will definitely rejuvenate your spirit.

Talking about spirit, if your heart aches for a spiritual respite, then the place to be on the island is the tiny chapel of Saint Mary of Mt Kakavos.

What is striking here, besides the therapeutic sense of isolation and peacefulness, is the fact that the church lacks a roof; the chapel is nestled in a cavity on the rocks forming a kind of rocky balcony. Pilgrims from around the world come to pray in isolation staying in the nearby caves. The breathtaking views of the island below make for a renewed clarity of mind and spirit.

This is Lemnos, an island with diverse coastline, golden beaches, spectacular volcanic landscape, with rare archaeological sites, castles and traditional villages made of volcanic stone.

Similar destinations we recommend: Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Karpathos, Rhodes

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