Once my leg had healed in April I set off south again to one of the larger islands in Greece. This was my second trip to Lesbos and it was going to be an intense month for me.
Since the refugee crisis the tourism season has been shorter. Aegean Airlines was one of the few flying to Mytilene, Lebos’s capital, with a 2 hour stop in Athens. I spent the month at Birds Bay near the quaint little town of Petra. The 1-bedroom villa has a full kitchen, a terrace and a balcony and a washing machine. April is pre-season so the first three weeks there I was more or less alone. On the premise there is “Max”, the cute dog to keep you company. Together we teamed up against the cats.
For my stay I booked a one bedroom villa at Birds Bay – the birth place for the Digital Nomads Lesbos initiative. These cottages (I still can’t get used to calling them villas) are great little places. You have a decent size bedroom with a large living room with kitchen and a washing machine. Mornings were spent on the terrace of my place and then I moved to the balcony for the afternoon and evening sun. The place had everything you would need for a self-catering stay.
At the beginning of March the days were still quite chilly (especially after sunset). Solar panels are used for warm water which takes a couple of minutes, but is as hot as you want it to be. If there’s anything you need the staff at Bird’s Bay are available at all times.
One interesting thing happened that caught me off guard. Since I drink a lot of tee I was pleasantly surprised that the water tasted great direct from the tap. Unfortunately about half way through my stay this changed. I assume the desalination or some process kicked in and the water started tasting bad. I don’t think it was unhealthy or anything, but not suited for brewing light teas. That problem was quickly solved with some bottled water, which was what was recommended when I arrived anyway. I was just lucky to have two weeks of great water.
In the center of the resort there is a pool and a café. The pool opened in the last week and it was still a bit too cold for my taste. But I took the plunge anyway and it’s big enough to do some laps. Be careful though: one end is very shallow. The café opened up around the same time, with opening times around 9am to 5pm if I remember correctly. There’s fresh food and drinks served to the table. Prices are reasonable, but the villa’s are designed to be self-catering which I took advantage of. I assume they are open longer during peak season and I imagine a cocktail or two from the deck would be quite enjoyable. (Of course that would have required a certain someone not to be on thrombosis medication and not keen on alcohol.)
You definitely need a car to get to Birds Bay. The team can certainly arrange a pickup for you. But if you’re going to do any exploring of the island. (and grocery shopping at a non-tourist shop) you will need a car. I recommend getting a car at the airport.
The two towns of Petra and Anaxos are both walking distance. A little path covered with piled of deep dried seaweed takes you from the bay to Petra. To get to Anaxos you can either go up the hill to the main street or try to go along the coastline in the other direction which I didn’t try this time.
I had been to Petra once before but hadn’t explored in depth. This time round I visited the back alleys. It was also interesting to watch the transition into the tourist season. It’s a lovely small town and definitely worth a visit. The closest local supermarket is on the east side of town in a triangular one-way road system. It’s called Proton and easily missed. But it’s a good size supermarket and was my main destination.
Anaxos lies on the other side of the cliff where Bird’s Bay is. It’s a tourist town with a long beach. I visited the beach at the beginning and it was completely empty. I assume that changes in peak season. On the main road you will find a convenience store and a car rental. This is probably the closest one to the “resort”.
Kalloni is about a half hour drive south, up and down the very winding mountain road. In the city there’s a large supermarket which was my go-to for weekly shopping. If you can’t find something near to Bird’s Bay, Kalloni is a good bet – it’s a mid-size town on Lesbos I would say.
Nomads who had visited last year had recommended getting a sim card. The connectivity in the previous year was not sufficient. Just before I arrived they had improved their WiFi setup a lot. There is now connectivity in every villa and I even got a connection from Petra – which is a good 2KM away. (This was en exception though. It only happened once. I assume the weather settings were just perfect).
Unfortunately the setup still needs to tuning. As far as I could analyse, they have three seperate internet lines serving Bird’s Bay. The maximum bandwith is 5MB down / 1MB up. This was amazing for the first two weeks – being alone – and I had almost no problems at all. But as soon as some tourists started to arrive bandwidth dropped and Skype calls regularly failed. I can only guess what happens when 5 nomads try to work at the same time. So my recommendation is also get a sim card. I survived without, but the last week I was almost tempted.
Athens airport is undergoing construction and there was not a single telecom shop inside the security area. There are Vodafone and other shops in Mytilene and also in Kalloni. Both are at least a half hour drive, so I would recommend getting one driving from the airport.
Getting work done
When booking I would recommend asking for a place with a terrace and a sun roof or something that gives you shade. I think almost all the Villas have them. This will be your working desk. The website does mention the Birds Café as a co-working space. But to be honest it’s primary use is a Café and it’s not designed as an office space. It was closed for most of my stay anyway, but when it opened I gave it a try but did prefer my private terrace. The view from the Café is amazing though, so if with some headphones, a cushion or two and an extension cord, definitely give it a try. You might enjoy it more. (Also it’s probably a communal space for the nomads in Bird’s Bay to meet.)
Just behind Birds Bay there are some hiking paths, but even closer there are some old ruins which I liked.
About 15 minutes from Bird’s Bay is the beautiful little town of Molivos. There’s a castle you can visit, but just take a stroll to the little harbor and enjoy a great little tourist town.
Turn right juts before entering Molivos and you get to Eftalou. The famous tourist attraction are the hot baths. But go past them you and you are greeted by prestine long beaches. In April they were completely empty and it’s unbelievable how fast you can recharge there listening to the waves.
I had explored the capital a bit the last time I was there and it hasn’t changed much. Apart from the coastal road there’s windy roads up to the mountain that give you a great view.
My favorite spot this time around was the town of Sigri in the west. It’s an hour or two drive but worth it. You will find one of the petrified forest sites there that Lesbos is famous one. I had been to the large site already so I took a hike there around the coast. You can visit secluded beaches all day long.
In April the island is still largely hibernating. Towards May it awakens, but it’s a perfect spot if you’re looking some peace and quiet. Connect with nature again, you may not talk to anyone for days. You will come back refreshed and with new insights. At least it was this way for me. I had a large project to work on so it fit perfectly and I was able to recharge my batteries quickly. But don’t come to Bird’s Bay anticipating a bustling nomad hotspot. It’s exactly that which makes it special. Go there for some YOU-time, if you need to get work done or take your team for a retreat. I plan to give May a try next year and see the contrast to April, but one of the biggest things I have learnt this year is not to plan too far ahead. Things change.
(As always no guarantees for correctness.)
- 1-bedroom villa for a month, off-season: ~700 EUR (check for special offers though and through the DNL website you can find some cheaper places too).
Car for a month from Hertz: ~400 EUR
Supermarket in Kalloni for weekly shopping: ~50-100 EUR per week (no alcohol, almost no meat, lot’s of fruit)
- I didn’t get around to trying Bird’s Café food, but a couple of items I did try:
- Fresh mixed juice: ~5 EUR
- Green tea: 2.50 EUR
All pictures are available here.