leros

Leros Greece a hidden gem in the Aegean

A mountainous, green island with high cliffs and many small bays and villages, Leros is a popular holiday island which still has kept most of its genuine atmosphere. The secrete that makes Leros unique, is that for many years the island kept out of the main package holiday tourism of the Dodecanese.

First the Skandinavians tourists discover Leros back in the 80’s and since then followed by the Italians and the French and lately by the Greeks. Many foreigners fall in love with the island and bought houses, making Leros their home.

Many of the buildings on the island are built in Italian style, but you’ll also find those typically Greek little white houses with blue doors and windows.

The people on the island live off agriculture, some of them work in the island’s hospitals, and during the summer, tourism is another source of income.

Leros has a very large natural port, therefore many sailing boats and luxury yachts arrive here in the summer, giving the island an international and cosmopolitan flare.

Leros has Marinas in Lakki and Partheni , both with capacities for hundreds of yachts. In Panteli and Vromolithos many yachts mooring for the night or for a couple of days.

The island takes part in the Aegean regatta every summer. In Lakki there is a sailing school while in Xerokampos there is a diving school.

The special aura of the rationalist architecture of the Interwar period, the old mansions testifies the glorious past of the inhabitants.

Leros with a seabed rich in shipwrecks, colorful bougainvilleas in every corner, the smell of tropical fruit gavafa and the eucalyptus trees that are found in most of its streets, makes Leros a hidden paradise in the Aegean.

Leros
Leros the small church of Agios Isidoros

lerosThe island of Leros looks barren as you approach it by boat from Piraeus or by catamaran from Kos, but as you approach, beautiful pine-covered bays and beaches with tamarisk and pine trees suddenly appear alongside traditional houses and villas, vineyards and olive trees.

The population lives on agriculture and tourism while in the past there has been a strong emigration to Australia and America mainly after the second world war. Leros is a quiet island, not invaded by tourism like other islands of the Dodecanese like Kos or Rhodes.

That is a curse and a blessing as well. The local tourist industry suffers because the tourist season actually lasts almost 45 days from the middle of July to the end of August. On the other hand, the fact that the island remains untouched by the effects of mass tourism is a blessing !!

The fact that Leros is home to the most unique natural port of the Mediterranean (the Gulf of Laki), resulted in the creation of the main naval base of the Italians in the Mediterranean, after the occupation and liberation of the Dodecanese islands from the Turks at the beginning of the century.

The Italians upgraded the island’s roads with eucalyptus covered roads that connected the naval base of Laki with all the island’s settlements in the north and south.

Lakki became a beautiful city with characteristic Art Deco architecture. In 1932, the island had approximately 30,000 inhabitants, the majority of whom were the personnel of the Italian army of occupation.

Magnificent villas were built there to house the Italian officers and their families. The wonderful Hotel Leros and Cinema, administrative centres along with commercial shops and Catholic churches (Agios Nikolaos) made Lakki or Porto Lago as the Italians called it, a world heritage of the Art Deco architecture.

The capital of Leros is Agia Marina with the administrative centre in Platanos where is also located the city hall, while the main port is at Lakki .

The asphalted roads of the island are in good condition and connect all the main places but also the dirt roads are always passable. You can travel around by bus, taxi, your own or rented car or better still a scooter.

About Leros

An excellent holiday destination, which is gaining more and more visitors and beautifully combines natural beauty, gastronomy and rich history, is Leros, the island of the goddess Artemis. It is a destination of striking contrasts, which responds to every taste and way of vacation.

Access to Leros is very easy, whether you go by plane or by boat. The natural ports and coves of the island, are protected from the wind, host picturesque settlements, but also incomparable pebbles and sandy beaches. Of particular architectural interest is Lakki or Porto Lago, as it was named by its Italian creators: In the settlement, you will be impressed by both the buildings and the largest natural harbor of great depth in the Mediterranean.

In most settlements, such as Agia Marina, the capital of Leros, Lepida and Lakki, you will find beautiful neoclassical houses that were used from time to time as houses of prosperous Leria or as public buildings. The Towers in Gourna, Lakki and Vagia, are amazing attractions of the island, reflecting the ancient times, when the danger of pirate raids was a given. Apart from the beautiful tower houses, the mills of Leros are also interesting, which are located near Agia Marina and Panteli.

Leros is a suitable island if you are looking for something more than white houses with blue domes and white sand beaches. It is a connoisseur’s island, where you can find different cultures that meet, giving life to an absolutely unique portion of the Dodecanese.In Leros island you will be enveloped by the true flavor of Greece, immersed in beaches and villages rich in tranquility and kissed by Sun.

Quaint fishing villages and a coastline of winding beaches, with pine, eucalyptus and tamarisk trees, are a key feature of the island. Leros is also a good place if you love good food and there are no expensive or refined and classy restaurants.

On the contrary, the art of cooking is the homemade one, of local women who serve culinary wonders in the small taverns of the island. The general atmosphere of the island will generate a sense of familiarity in you, making you feel not just any visitor but as a regular customer of Leros.

Leros offers many beaches to its visitors, with a varied and wide offer: pebble beaches, sandy beaches, some remote and lonely, others well organized and equipped. Many of these are ideal for divingand for snorkeling.

History

According to mythology, Leros was first populated by the goddess Artemis. She had sent the Calydonian Boar to Aetolia, where the king’s son Meleagros managed to kill it. Having angered the goddess, he was killed, and his sisters were struck with grief. Artemis then turned them into hens and put them on Leros which was so fertile they would always have food.
According to another myth. The first king of Leros was Thessalos, son of Heracles.

Archaeologists believe that the first inhabitants of the island were people from Asia Minor and Phoenicia. It took part in the Trojan War, and also fought the Persians by the Athenian side in the 5th century BC. It was then ruled by Macedonians and Romans.

As in the case of most Greek islands, Leros was tormented by constant pirate attacks during the Middle Ages, and for 300 years it belonged to the monastery of Patmos. The Knights of St. John from Rhodes took the island in 1319, and Leros was then invaded by the Turks in 1522. In the 16th century it belonged to the Venetians for a short time.

The men of Leros fought hard during the war of Independence that broke out in 1821. For a few years it was free, but the Protocol of London then turned it back to the Turks in 1830. The Italians ruled the island from 1912 and Leros was not given back to Greece until 1948. It was during this Italian occupation when many of today’s buildings were constructed on the island, giving it the Italian style many are surprised to find here.

leros-battleLeros was the battle field of a huge offensive in 1943 when the German forces tried to recapture the island from the Italian, British and Greek forces. The island was heavily bombarded for more than one and a half month from the 26 of September until the 16 of November when finaly was occupied by the German forces . The film ‘the Guns of Navarone‘ was probably inspired by the battle of Leros, this is why the fiction island was called Keros. The island was unified with Greece in 1948 like the rest of the Dodeca

Leros towns and villages

The most important city is Agia Marina, the capital, practically joined to two other villages, Platanos and Pandeli. White houses, neoclassical buildings, narrow alleys and on the hill the remains of a Byzantine castle make this town a little gem not to be missed. Lakki, 3 kilometers south of Agia Marina, is the port of the island while Krithoni and Alinta, also close to the island’s capital, are the most famous tourist resorts with splendid hotels and excellent facilities.

What to do

what to doClimb the castle for magnificent views of Leros and the Aegean Sea, and choose your own path to a tranquil bay of golden sands and crystal-clear waters. Leros could be considered the ultimate diving destination, especially for those who enjoy the awe-inspiring sight of a sunken ship. The waters of Leros are littered with wrecks of WWII ships and planes, the most notable being the Vassilissa Olga, a Greek destroyer now lying at the bottom of the port. Of course, the clear seabed also offers an abundance of marine life, both plant and animal, as well as impressive underwater geological formations.

Even if you are not a fisherman you will definitely wish to try your luck fishing at one of the plentiful fishing spots of Leros, which are near the numerous little islands around Leros. This you can do either by hiring a boat or with the help of one of the fishermen in Leros.
Modern travellers of the sea will find safe shelter at Agia Marina, Lakki and at the countless sheltered bays of the island.

leros-divingLeros could be considered the ultimate diving destination, especially for those who enjoy the awe-inspiring sight of a sunken ship. The waters of Leros are littered with wrecks of WWII ships and planes, the most notable being the Queen Olga, a Greek destroyer now lying at the bottom of the port. Of course, the clear seabed also offers an abundance of marine life, both plant and animal, as well as impressive underwater geological formations.

A few days are enough to fully visit Leros, and browse through all that there is not to be missed. Obviously, history is reflected in today, and the eyes and head will be confronted with vestiges of yesterday and the day before yesterday.

Peculiar is the War Museum, actually a military tunnel that is located in Merikia and is a unique place for all of Greece. It is one of the old galleries – among others located on the island – carefully restored and you can see respect for a difficult time. To frame it all, it is necessary to remember that Leros, thanks to its position and the natural bay of Lakki, has been the Italian naval base of the eastern Mediterranean since 1930.

Leros-War-MuseumThe tunnel houses a considerable number of artefacts that have been found throughout the island or recovered from nearby seas, with some pieces donated by the Greek army and individuals, photographs, maps, models and all kinds of material. Immediately outside the tunnel there is a military museum park, which includes military vehicles, trucks, planes and other various items of armament

An unmissable excursion is then the castle above Platanos, visible from almost every part of the island and, which in my opinion will have to be visited twice, once during the day to enjoy the most spectacular view there is in the Dodecanese, and once in the evening, because the thousand lights that are reflected on the sea.

An amazing experience that is sure to fascinate you and will remain indelible in your holiday album, is the tour of Leros by boat.

The shape of the island with its infinite bays, coves and coves, as well as the many small islands and islets, are suitable for exploration, diving or carefree dives.

Here are the underwater attractions of the island, such as underwater caves and shipwrecks. Leros is crowned by dozens of beautiful islands, such as Levitha, Kinaros, Glaros, Archangelos, Mikro and Megalo Livadi, Farmakonisi, Tripiti and Stroggili. In the last two islands, there is also the sinking of a German ship of World War II.

Also, for the needs of the boats, there are two marinas in Lakki and arachovolia in Alinda, Partheni, Panteli and Gourna. In the south, between Leros and Kalymnos, you can explore the rocky islets of Velona, ​​Mikro and Megalo Glaronisi.

It is important that the islands of Archangelos, Faradonisia, Leriko, Mikro and Megalo Glaronisi are protected areas of special natural beauty and belong to the Natura 2000 Network.

Leros has the privilege to be very near from a small archipelago from small islands and islets like Lipsi ,Patmos ,Marathi ,Arkious ,Aspronisia and many others that you can visit on Daily Excursions using the hydrofoils the Catamaran or local boats that organizing Daily trips to those islands.

Local boats organize those daily trips  daily from Agia Marina at 11 am and returns at 19 pm.During the excursion the passengers will stop for swimming and they will be offered free Ouzo and Greek Mezes , on the islands you can have launch on the local taverns.

Beaches

Leros beachesOne of the biggest advantages of the island, is its beaches: Leros offers generously beautiful sandy beaches with delicious fish taverns and restaurants that satisfy your every desire. In the amphitheatrically built Agia Marina, the shallow waters are ideal for families with small children. A little further down, in the bay of Vromolithos, the beach opens its view idyllic, to the islet of Agia Kyriaki with its picturesque church on the hillside.

Another beautiful beach is located in Alinda, just after Agia Marina. The tamarisks and pines create ideal shade on the beach on hot summer days, while here you can enjoy water sports, refreshing drinks and summer flavors in the picturesque shops.

Your choices on beaches are really endless: Agia Kioura, Panagies, Gourna, Dyo Liskaria, Koulouki, Krithoni, Blefoutis, Merikia, Drymonas, Vourlidia and Xirokampos, are just some of the beaches to which it is worth spending a day swimming. nature-loving experiences and relaxation. In fact, in Xirokampos there are free dives and for those of you who want to try this wonderful sport, there is a diving training school. Nearby is the cove of Panagia Kavouradena with the tiny, unique chapel, which is built on the rock. Its peculiarity is the image of a crab, with the Virgin Mary painted in its center.

What to see

After the sea pleasures, as the sun sets and Leros unfolds its long history, you can start a unique tour of its monuments, museums and castles.

The Archaeological Museum of the island, the Belleni Tower in Alinda, which houses the Folklore and History Museum, but also the impressive War Museum, are the first sights that should be noted on your tour map.

It is worth noting that the War Museum in the Tunnel of Merikia, is unique in its kind, as it is housed in a restored former military tunnel, where the surrounding area exhibits military cars, planes, weapons and other objects of the time.

Then, the tour leads you over Xirokampos, at the top of the hill, dominates Paleokastro, the oldest castle of Leros. Inside, is the early Christian church of Panagia, while the walls on the northeast side of the hill are Cyclops, as their square stones weigh about half a ton each.

Where to stay

Leros has many accommodation options, from fairly large Hotels to quaint apartments, studios and the traditional rooms to let. Agia Marina has not so many accommodation facilities, which instead are present in Platanos which offers some hotels. Pandeli, to the south, has 2 hotels and many studios and apartments, while Krithoni and Alinda, to the north, offer the most hotels and apartments.

There are also some isolated rental houses. Apartments and studios for rent or even an entire villa, which, however, are difficult to reach by bus. If you choose this solution, you should know that you will need to rent a car or a scooter.

Leros is a quiet island, tourist facilities are made up of small hotels and apartments or studios. Large hotel resirorts do not exist, international tourism is still not as much as in other touristy islands of the Dodecanese and is a fairly recent. You will mainly find mostly Greeks who love to stay on this wonderful island.

Leros has maintained its genuine traditional character, it is in the position to offer the highest quality of tourist services to every visitor. Modern hotel complexes, apartments for rent and guest houses, which come up to the highest expectations, have all been created with respect to the environment and the history and tradition of Leros. Here, away from the noisy towns and the stressful pace of life and even further away from crowed large tourist areas, the visitor finds the peace and recreation he is looking for.

Getting there

Leros has an Airport at Partheni which connects daily the island with Athens Greece the Capital city of Greece. Leros island has also daily connections by ferry boats and hydrofoils to Piraeus and most of the Greek islands of Dodecanese. There are weekly connection as well with some of the islands of the Cyclades

Ferries aproaching Leros in one of the two ports of the island: Agia Marina on the north east coast and Lakki on the west south coast. The port may also vary according to weather conditions and it is always advisable to check the port of reference at the time of booking and departure.

Fast catamarans call on the island on the route between Kos, Kalymnos, Patmos, Samos and Rhodes. So you could arrive on the island with a direct flight to Kos or Rhodes, and from one of the two islands take the catamaran to Leros.

Or you can leave from the port of Piraeus. Then after landing, reach the port of Piraeus from the Athens airport and from there embark for Leros for a rather long journey, about 9 hours.

One of the two best ways to get to Leros is to buy a flight to Kos. From Kos to Leros there are ferries both from Kos Town and from the port of Mastichari, which is closer to the airport, but only in summer.
The second best way to reach Leros is to choose one of the many flights to Athens from our Italian cities
From Athens to Leros you can opt for the internal flight or for the longer transfer by ship, direct from Piraeus. Leros can also be reached by hydrofoil from a good selection of nearby islands, including Rhodes and Samos