Touring in the Dodecanese: Leros and surrounding islets

Leros island - Photo by S. LambadaridisLeros island – Photo by Sotiris Lambadaridis
 

10th stop: Leros and surrounding islets

Leros is a Greek island belonging to the Dodecanese island group in the southern Aegean Sea. It lies 317 km (171 nautical miles) from Athens’ port of Piraeus, from which it can be reached by an 11-hour ferry ride (or by a 45-minute flight from Athens). Leros is part of the Kalymnos region.

 Map with some of the Dodecanese islandsCoordinates: 37°9′N 26°51′E

Front, left to right, Arkoi, Leipsoi, Leros. Back, left to right, Agathonisi, Farmakonisi and the turkish coastline.

The island is 74 km²  and has a coastline of 71 km. The municipality includes the populated offshore islands of Pharmakonisi, Levitha, and Kinaros, as well as several uninhabited islets, and has a population of more than 8,000, although this figure swells to over 15,000 during the summer peak. It is known for its imposing medieval castle of the Knights of Saint John possibly built on a Byzantine fortress. Nearby islands are Patmos, Lipsi, Arki (with tiny Marathi), Kalymnos, and the small islets  of Agathonisi, Agia Kyriaki and Farmakos.

The promenade of Lakki, the main port of Leros, Dodecanese, Greece

Four km southwest of Platanos is Lakki, the main port of Leros. It is secure and safe and is the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean. It has modern port facilities and two units for servicing yachts. It looks like a huge lake, with an open space of only 400 meters towards the sea. This natural characteristic was the reason why it was called Porto Lago (port – lake) by the Italians and was chosen as a naval base.

Lakki has a very different colour from the rest of the island yet it is both unusual and extremely impressive. Imposing buildings stranded across the beach, are built in a modern and simple, so-called International architectural style. Monumental buildings, wide streets, rows of tree and parks, all designed and developed by the Italians during the inter-war period of 1934.

History

Antiquity: Thucydides stressed the special importance of the bays and the harbours of Leros during the Peloponnesian War (431 BC – 404 BC), where Leros supported the democratic Athenians. After the end of the war Leros came under the sovereignty of the Spartans. The island had a famous sanctuary of the goddess Artemis.

It then followed the fate of the rest of the Dodecanese Islands during the years of Alexander the Great and his successors, the Roman years and the Byzantine period. After the division of the Roman Empire, it was, like all of Greece, ruled from Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Fortress, Leros island - Photo by S. LambadaridisFortress, Leros island – Photo by Sotiris Lambadaridis

 

During the thirteenth century, the island was occupied by the Genoese and then by the Venetians. In the year 1309, the Knights of St John seized and fortified Leros.

During the Ottoman rule, and along with the other islands, Leros enjoyed a privileged regime, with partial autonomy and self–government. During the Greek Revolution of 1821, the island was liberated and became an important base for the re-supplying of the Greek Navy.

Leros - photo by S. LambadaridisLeros island – Photo by Sotiris Lambadaridis
 
Pandeli, Leros - Photo by S. Lambadaridis
Pandeli, Leros – Photo by Sotiris Lambadaridis
 
 

Things to see

Virgin Mary (Panagia) of Kastro: On the north-east shore of Leros, stands the castle of the island, Kastro Pateli. It rises at the top of Pitiki Hill about 200 metres above sea level. The Church of Panagia (Virgin Mary) was built on the western side of the fortress, comprising a religious and cultural symbol for the residents of Leros.

According to an old legend, an icon of Virgin Mary appeared on the island emerging from the sea. It is told that in some miraculous way it was placed in gunpowder storage area of the castle between two lit candles and there it remained despite all efforts made by the Turkish Aga of that period to have it removed.

So, a church was built in her honour on that very spot, and soon it became a sacred sanctuary of worship for seamen and the residents in general. The original, small church was built at its current location in 1669. The basilica temple has endured a number of interventions and additions during the 18th and 19th centuries. The temple exhibits many valuable Episcopal icons of supreme quality. Many of them, together with other artifacts, are displayed in the Ecclesiastical Vestry of Byzantine Art, which was recently built next to the temple of the church and operates as a museum.

Temple of Artemis: Visitors interested in history must visit the archaeological ruins at Partheni, located next to the airport. During excavations in 1980, a group of churches built on top of Roman structures was discovered. The exact position of the ancient temple of Parthenos Iokalis has yet to be identified. Although early Christians used to build their churches over ancient Greek temples by recycling the original materials, it has not been possible to establish the exact location of the early Christian church within the vicinity of the ancient temple grounds.

Agios Isidoros: In the area of Kokkali, the picturesque, little church of Agios Isidoros can be found. It is built on an islet in the sea and is connected to the old submerged little port by a small passageway built next to it.

Windmills Overlooking Hora, Leros - Photo by S. Lambadaridis

Windmills overlooking Chora in Leros – Photo by Sotiris Lambadaridis

 

The ‘Tunnel’ War Museum: The new ‘Tunnel Museum’ in the area of Merikia is a place of great interest with many significant exhibits from the period of World War II. It was inaugurated in August 2005 and it is recognized as being completely unique in its nature globally and it registers many visitors annually from around the world.

In the late 1930’s, the Italians fortified the naval base of Leros, building the largest underground munitions’ storehouses and creating workshops for the assembly and maintenance of arms. Also, they built underground storehouses for various, other materials.

Archaeological Museum: In the modern Archaeological Museum of Leros, you are invited to enjoy fine exhibits and artefacts dating back to the island’s pre-historic period to medieval times. One can see inscriptions, grave markers, coins, mosaics and vessels which are on display at the museum.

Folkloric Museum: ‘Alinta’, the Historical and Folkloric Museum, is hosted in the Tower of Belleni. Costumes, needlework, musical instruments and hand-crafted, ecclesiastical wood carvings dating back to the historical period from 1880 to 1920 and depicting Leros’ urban nature, are exhibited.

Things to do

diving in GreeceScuba diving: Leros is a volcanic island and as such the visibility of the water is very high. You can see clearly to a depth of 30- 45 meters. In the bays around the island there are many wrecks from WW II. There are also numerous underwater caves. The water temperature in May-June is 20-21°C, July-August 23-24°C, September-October 24-26°C. All dives are accompanied by the C.M.A.S instructor Panos Sideris, who has 20 years’ experience of worldwide diving.
Further info about diving in Leros

Lipsi island

Beach Platis Gialos, Lipsi - Photo by S. Lambadaridis
Beach of Plati Gialos on Lipsi – Photos by Sotiris  Lambadaridis
 

Lipsi is an island south of Samos and to the north of Leros. It is well serviced with ferries passing between Patmos and Leros and on the main route for ferries from Piraeus. Leipsoi or Lipsoys is a small group of islets at the northern part of the Dodecanese near to Patmos island and Leros. Leipsoi is a municipality, part of the Kalymnos region in the south Aegean Sea.

The island of Lipsi contains springs at Fountani, alias Pikri Nero, in the area near Kimissi along with other minor springs also flowing in this region. The Cave of Ontas dominates the settlement. A 960 meter paved path carved into the hill connects the upper quarters of Kimissi with the lower ones.

Leipsoi, viewed from the harbourTourkomnima, Lipsi - Photo by S. LambadaridisLipsi - Photo by S. LambadaridisPhotos above from left to right: View of Lipsi habor, Tourkomnima, and view of Lipsi village. Photos by Sotiris Lambadaridis
 
 

Local products, namely thyme honey (produced the traditional way), wine, cheese, dairy products and grapes. Most of the secluded and protected bays like Moschato Bay in the north on this island have been spoilt by fish farming. The water in these bays is often very cloudy with fish farm wastage. The less protected beaches are not polluted and easily reached by the road network. Roads have recently been reconstructed using European Union funding.

There are several churches and monasteries scattered around the island dedicated to a multitude of saints. One that should not be missed is the church of Aghios Nektarios, built in or about 1980 by father Nikiforos, the parochial priest of Lipsi at the time and a favorite baptistry for the inhabitants of the island.

Arki

Tiganakia, Arkoi - Photo by S. Lambadaridis

Tiganakia, Arki – Photo by Sotiris Lambadaridis
 

Arki is a small Greek island which is part of the Dodecanese archipelago. It is situated in the eastern Aegean Sea, close to the Turkish Aegean Coast. The island belongs to the municipality of Patmos, and has a population of 54 inhabitants at the 2001 census.

Due to the small population there is no real capital, as such, though most inhabitants live close to the main harbour with the rest living scattered around the island on higher ground. The majority of the population find employment either in fishing, goat herding or helping to run one of the island’s four tavernas.

The main town of Arki and its port (small island near Leros)Ancient ruins of an acropolis are situated on the hill overlooking the main harbour. Although little remains of the structure, the stones used to build it make a good viewpoint at which to see the sun set over the Aegean. At one end of the island, towards the island of Lipsi is the best beach on the island, Tiganakia. This beach is small and somewhat rocky but provides crystal clear waters to swim in and the view across the bay to the nearby islets is idyllic. This beach can become swamped in high summer (July and August) as day trippers from nearby Lipsi visit the beach frequently. At the other end of the island is a cave, which contains a number of stalactite and stalagmite formations. The cave is however difficult to find as the land around it is covered by olive trees and bushes.

There is ferry service that runs between Samos, Patmos, and Lipsi, that calls at the island, as well as occasional small ferries to other nearby islets such as Marathi just opposite Arki, which boasts the best beach of all the islets.
Official website of Arki

Agathonisi

Megalo Chorio, main harbor of Agathonisi (small island near Leros)Agathonísi is a small Greek island located at the northernmost point of the Dodecanese in Greece. It is surrounded by many smaller islands and is home to two villages, both inland; Megálo Chorió (“Big Village”), and Mikró Chorió (“Small Village”). The island’s only port is the settlement of Agios Georgios (Saint George), which consists of a few hotels. The island is also locally known as Gaidaro, or by its ancient name Tragea.

Accommodation

Marilen Hotel
Alinda, 85400 Leros, Greece
Tel: (+30) 22470 24100, (+30) 24660 28100
Hotel website  Email: info@marilen.gr
Prices from $39 (2 pers.)

Panteli Beach Studios Apartments
Panteli Beach, 85400 Leros, Greece
Mobile: (+30) 69726 00035
Hotel website
Prices from $63 (2 pers.)

Boutique Hotel La Maison des Couleurs
Platanos, 854 00 Leros, Greece
Tel: (+30) 22470 23341
Hotel website  Email: info@hotel-des-couleurs.com
Prices from 80€ (2-3 pers.)

Hotel Nefeli Kampos
Kampos, 85001 Lipsi, Greece
Tel: (+30) 22470 24611
Hotel website  Email: info@nefelihotels.com
Prices from $79 (2 pers.)

External links

Information about Leros
More information about Leros

The Battle of Leros

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