The little port village of Sykaminia is one of the most popular destinations on the Greek island of Lesbos, and for good reason. It is crowded with colorful fishing boats and a small boardwalk lined with waterfront restaurants and tavernas.
The first thing you will notice in Skala Sykaminia are the large number of community cats.
From the moment you get out of the car or boat, you will see them patiently waiting for the fishermen to share their catch, or trying out their luck at the restaurants, attempting to snatch some fish from unsuspecting tourists.
In addition to the cats, Skala Sykaminia’s highlight is the characteristic Church Panagia Gorgona (also called the Mermaid Madonna Church), situated on a large rock over the sea, looking out over the port, its fishing boats, and beyond to the coast of Turkey.
Sykaminia is also known to be the birthplace of the famous Greek writer Stratis Myrivilis, a three-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Elsewhere in the book, Myrivilis describes how villagers began to worship a mural that a sea captain painted inside the church, depicting the Virgin Mary with a mermaid’s tale. The painting disappeared from the church decades ago, if it even existed in the first place.
The village can be “easily” reached by car (preferably a Jeep) by directly following a bumpy dirt road along the coastline, which goes from Efalou’s hot springs to Skala Sykaminia. The road is only a few kilometers long, but the trip will take about half an hour because of the many pits and bumps along the way.
If this sounds like too much of an adventure, boat excursions from Molyvos or Petra to Skala Sykaminia are also an option.
To this day, Skala Sykaminia is still the village of the mermaid, who works her charms to seduce tourists into visiting the port.
The mermaid has certainly worked her magic on us.
Or is it the cats of Sykaminia that are gently trying to lure us back?
Text and photos by Vanessa Morgan
Photos 5, 16 and 17 by Stephan Jankovic