Bucolic Límnos is a sizeable agricultural and military island that has become positively trendy of late: there are upscale souvenir shops, old village houses restored by mainlanders as seasonal retreats and music bars during summer at nearly every beach. For all that, the island’s remoteness and peculiar ferry schedules protected it until the mid-1990s from most aspects of the holiday trade, and conventional tourism was late in coming because hoteliers lived primarily off the visiting relatives of the numerous soldiers stationed here. Most summer visitors are still Greek, particularly from Thessaloníki, though some Brits and other Europeans now arrive by charter flights.
The island has often been the focus of disputes between the Greek and Turkish governments, with frequent posturing over invaded airspace, although the détente of recent years has seen such incidences cease. As a result, Límnos’s garrison of 25,000 soldiers – at the nadir of Greco-Turkish relations during the 1970s and 1980s – is now down to about 6000, and set to fall further if, as expected, the remaining bases close.
The bays of Bourniá and Moúdhros, the latter one of the largest natural harbours in the Aegean, divide Límnos almost in two. The west of the island is dramatically hilly, with abundant basalt put to good use as street cobbles and house masonry. The east is low-lying and speckled with seasonal salt marshes where it’s not occupied by cattle, combine harvesters and vast corn fields. There are numerous sandy beaches around the coast – mostly gently shelving – and it’s easy to find a stretch to yourself.
Like most volcanic islands, Límnos produces excellent wine – good dry white, rosé and retsina – plus ouzo. The Limnians proudly tout an abundance of natural food products, including thyme honey and sheep’s cheese, and indeed the population is almost self-sufficient in foodstuffs.