The island’s roads are going through a major transformation due to European Union funding and all the main routes between major towns are now metalled. The most recent upgrades include the north/south Kalloni to Mandamados route through the well-known birding area of the Napi valley and an improved road in and out of Mytilini to the west of the town.
A metalled road lulls the visiting driver into a false sense of security. Just because you’re driving on smooth tarmac doesn’t mean you should forget you are still driving on a small, rural island and all the hazards that come with it. Be prepared for potholes, fallen or falling rocks (especially after heavy rain), flash floods after heavy rain, slow moving local traffic (particularly the farmers), vehicles parked in unexpected and at time dangerous places (farmers again), and even the occasional bit of wildlife – tortoises are a favourite car-stopper!
Also, moderate your speed. There is no need to tear around the island as if you are back home. Apart from being a danger to yourself and others on unfamiliar roads, you stand more chance of seeing things of interest along the roadside or flying overhead if you are driving slowly and carefully.
In towns and villages, many roads are one lane only, so be prepared to give way and don’t speed. Pay attention to road signs as one-way systems are common (inc. in Kalloni and Mytilini). Also, in built up areas it is an offence to turn across the lane of incoming traffic in to car parks. You can only turn across the land of incoming traffic at road junctions. Police will fine tourists for such misdemeanours.
On most roads you’ll be able to stop and park safely if you do see something of interest. Park carefully away from bends and road junctions. You don’t always have to get your vehicle off the road if others can pass safely. Do not block track entrances unless you are staying with the vehicle and can move it instantly if needed. Locals should not be inconvenienced by your desire to see something.
If pulling off a metalled road, then take care with the verge-side drop from the tarmac, and only pull off if you can see that it is safe to do so. Beware hidden holes and rocks within roadside vegetation.
Away from the main routes, the roads vary from narrow metalled roads and dirt tracks of various widths and state of repair. When driving on any non-metalled surface you should take appropriate care for both your own and the other road users’ safety. Stones and small rocks can be kicked up even at slow speeds which can cause damage to your own vehicle, and even more damage to passing vehicles and pedestrians.
If you are visiting in any of the wetter months (including April) or during periods of unexpected, heavy showers, be extremely careful on these routes, particularly the lesser-used tracks in the remoter areas, and beware puddles – they might be a lot deeper than you think and could cause damage to the car.
Potholes do of course mean puddles, and in drier months, birds will use any puddles they can find for drinking and bathing. The upgrading of many of the larger tracks to metalled roads has seen many traditional puddles lost.
Note that your hire car insurance will not cover any damage to the underside of your vehicle. Take care!
Petrol is readily available across the island (see link to map below) during normal shop hours. Some stations in larger towns will be open through the day and evening, but in remoter areas most close early afternoon and open again late afternoon/early evening. Many stations (especially rural ones) close on public holidays and on Sundays. Also be aware that petrol stations frequently run out of unleaded petrol, so do not run your tank dangerously low.
If you’re returning your car to the airport on departure, there is only one petrol station on the airport side of Mytilini (right on the edge of town on the one-way costal strip – see map below. Best to fill up at one of the many stations on your way into Mytilini including at Keramia (8 km out of Mytilini) when returning from the Kalloni area – see map below.
Getting to and from the airport through Mytilini
If you are collecting and returning your car from the airport, then you will have to drive through Mytilini – easier said than done!