The island of Leros is located in the north of the Dodecanese Islands region, between Patmos and Kalymnos with a population of 8,500 inhabitants. It is also sometimes called the island of Artemis because of the dedicated temple to the ancient Greek goddess of hunting...
Characteristic of the geography of the island are its many hills and intricate coastline of large bays and many coves, some with sandy beaches or pebbles, the largest bay being that of Lakki which is also the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean.
The rich vegetation of the island with its verdant colours combines with the traditional hues of ochre and blue of the houses to offer pleasant scenery which visitors will remember for a long time. The close proximity of Lakki, Platanos, Agia Marina and Alinda, the main towns of the island, make it easy for the traveller to get their bearings while leaving discovery of the smaller villages dotted around the coast for those wanting to get to know Leros in depth.
Despite the relatively small size of the island it has had an almost disproportionate role in the history of the region first recognised in the writings of the classical historian Thucydides. Significant cultural and economic development took place during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods as control of the trade routes across the region became important during these times.
This is most emphatically evidenced by the construction of Pandeli castle, the outer fortifications of it are believed to have been begun by the Knights of St John in the early 14th century. It still dominates Leros and the surrounding waters of the Aegean Sea.
The Ottomans recognised this strategic importance and after two failed sieges eventually captured the island and castle. A treaty made in December 1522 between the Knights of St John and the Ottoman Empire allowed the Dodecanese Islands to be self administered and locally appointed governors for each island.
The Greek Revolution of 1821 saw the annexing of Leros by the Greek state together with the nearby islands of Patmos Lipsi and Fournoi. This proved to be short-lived and in February 1830 control of these islands was returned to Turkey by the Treaty of London.
The more recent history of Leros has seen important events affecting the island. Once again the governance of Leros changed hands in 1912 this time from Turkey to the recently unified Italian state. The Second World War saw the island become a major naval and air base for Mussolini’s Fascist regime. 31 years of Italian domination was characterised by an extensive policy of “Italianisation” in the region with the abolition of teaching the Greek language in schools replaced by compulsory teaching of Italian. “New model urban planning” dictated from Rome saw development of infrastructure in a modernist style remnants of which are still in use and can be seen at the island’s hospital, the naval base at Lakki and many of the streets and houses in the town itself and other buildings scattered aqueducts and fortifications around Leros.
On 7th March 1948, after 600 years of conquest and possession Leros and the Dodecanese Islands again joined with Greece
What to do
If you are a fan of history, here you can combine the absolute relaxation of the holidays with a visit to some important historical monuments including the Tunnel of Merikia, which is a special war museum with exhibits of the Second World War. Similarly is the war museum "Deposito di Guerra" consisting of a private collection of Mr. Yiannis Paraponiaris with objects and a variety of artefacts from the conflict.
Other places of interest include the Ecclesiastical Museum in the Medieval Castle of Panteli and the Folklore Museum Manolis Isihos at the Beleni Tower in Alinda deserve a visit from the traveler.
For the more active and for those who enjoy contact with nature, the island, in recent years, has become a great destination for outdoor activities. Some of them are walking and cycling tours either in the narrow, traditional streets of Platanos or among the mountains of Mount Apitiki and “Fytorio” area. Finally, the sea bed in the waters around the area is rich in historical shipwrecks offering a diversity of diving possibilities which would be the envy of other perhaps better known destinations for diving tourism.
Along the coastline of the island you can find coves with beaches that satisfy every taste. Some have small pebbles, others with fine sand, some are organized or you can find beaches away from everything and everyone. Beaches can be found at:
- ALINDA, a long beach with sand and fine pebbles. It features umbrellas, sun loungers, water sports facilities and natural shade of tamarisk trees. There are mini markets, refreshments and restaurants nearby.
- AGIA KIOURA, with sand and pebbles, without infrastructure, but especially popular for its turquoise waters. Access is from a dirt road that starts from the nearby church in Partheni.
- GOURNA, organized beach with dark sand, trees, shallow waters and reefs. Close to it, there are tavernas, refreshments, and mini markets
- VROMOLITHOS, sunbeds on the idyllic coast of the village with sand and pebbles and facing the bay is the island of Agia Kyriaki. A beach bar and restaurants are within walking distance.
- HIDDEN, this isolated cove is under rocks with bushes of capers. It also has a cave from whose bottom is sparkling fresh water. You will arrive there with quite a difficult hike from Dio Laskaria area, on the coast road leading out of Alinda, or much more easily by boat.
- BLEFOUTIS, a long beach with fine pebbles and abundant natural shade of tamarisk trees. In the background there are taverns.
- PANTELI, in the picturesque village with umbrellas and sun loungers on the sandy beach. There are tavernas, ouzo and refreshments nearby.
- XEROCAMPOSat the south end of the island with sand and tavernas
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And there are others for you to find and enjoy….