It’s hard to imagine what a place like Leros would look like with the blight of tourism removed. But Enzo hopes to see it again, reclaiming the town as the centre of a rationalist renaissance.
Until then, stroll its gentle streets and explore its fascinating history. Here are some of the top spots you shouldn’t miss: 1. The Castle of Platanos.
1. Bellenis Tower
Located in the heart of Platanos, Leros’ most important landmark is the Bellenis Tower, which houses the Folklore Museum. This is an important stop on a visit to the island as it offers a glimpse into the island’s rich history, including costumes and religious artifacts that tell the story of this fascinating island. The museum also displays memorabilia from the Second World War, traditional instruments, and old maps and manuscripts.
Visitors to Leros can explore the island’s ancient castle, which is accessible by a rough road or a steep 400-step path from the village of Pandeli. The castle is home to a spectacular church and boasts breathtaking panoramic views of the island.
This unspoiled island is a secluded gem that has remained true to its culture and is an excellent option for travelers who want to experience a more authentic Greek vacation. The island is a place where time seems to stand still, inhabitants strictly obey siesta, and locals are keen to engage with visitors in lively discussions about sport, politics and global affairs.
Unlike the glitzy package resorts and loud nightlife found on neighbouring islands, Leros retains a simple Greek charm where waterfront tavernas on pebbly Panteli Beach are abuzz with local families, fishermen untangle their nets on the dock, and stout ladies in frilly hats gossip knee-deep in the sea.
2. Agios Isidoros Church
Leros has a lot to offer to history buffs. It has been conquered by several civilizations and empires including the Byzantine Empire, Ottoman Empire, and even the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini in 1912. The island is replete with traces of this rich historical heritage and offers visitors the opportunity to explore a fascinating past.
Agios Isidoros Church is a must-see attraction that highlights this unique historical legacy of the island. Dedicated to Agios Isidoros Pantoukios, the chapel is located on an islet named after the same name and ranks among Greece’s most picturesque churches. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply looking for a place to soak up the sun, this church will definitely enchant you.
The church is also home to a unique folklore museum that houses costumes and religious artifacts that highlight the island’s evolution. While you’re there, don’t forget to try some of the local delicacies, including koukouvades (red mullets with rosemary and raisins), smoked octopus, and fava pies.
The island of Leros is dotted with beautiful buildings that are remnants of its rich and varied history. The most striking examples are found in the capital of Lakki, which is characterized by wide boulevards and buildings that exude a sense of grandeur. The city is surrounded by lush greenery and eucalyptus trees, with a long promenade that’s wide enough to host military parades. The city is also home to the War Museum, which is housed in a tunnel that was used by the Italians during World War II.
3. The Port of Lakki
Leros is that Greek island secret everyone is looking for. This Dodecanese beauty combines nature, history and tranquility in a mosaic of experiences.
A picturesque fishing village and a coastline dotted with tamarisk, eucalyptus and pine trees are key features of the island. Picturesque beaches are ideal for swimming and sunbathing, and their waters are crystal clear.
The island’s main port, Lakki, was built during the 1930s by Italian architects as a model of rationalist architecture with wide streets and public spaces. Known as Portolago at the time, its church, theatre, school, hospital and circular market hall represent an architectural whole that would impress a museum curator.
Today, the town stands a little derelict but still evokes a sense of wonder. Its stark, austere church is more Bauhaus than Mamma Mia, while the pulsating art deco cinema seems to power towards the sea. And its clock tower is like a toadstool, with a bizarre disc-shaped appendage sprouting from it.
The town’s imposing castle, sat formidably on Apitiki hill overlooking the sea, adds an extra dimension to the atmosphere. And the pretty streets of Agia Marina, paved with small boutiques and impressive hillside villas, are also worth wandering. The island’s small tavernas are renowned for their traditional food, and the local women who prepare the dishes will make you feel like a regular guest.
4. The Beaches
With a small population and a traditional local island life, Leros offers an authentic experience that evokes a sweet nostalgia from the past. The quaint villages have the charm that has disappeared from many Greek island resorts. Cappuccino may have replaced Greek coffee in cafes but craft shops still reign supreme over trinket stalls and fast food takeaways in narrow cobblestone streets.
The enchanting coastal landscape paints a picture of tranquil beauty and hidden corners that are perfect for exploring. Idyllic beaches are a haven for sun seekers and scuba divers who can explore historic shipwrecks and a rich marine life. During the day, locals savor fresh seafood and traditional dishes in tavernas that are spread out among whitewashed houses.
Located in southern Leros, Xirokambos is a charming village with the church of Panaghia Kavouradaina that has an icon of the Virgin Mary framed by the claws of a crab. The beach is shallow and sheltered by tamarisk trees, providing shade for sun lovers.
Another beautiful beach is Gourna, a shallow, sheltered beach with a few tamarisk trees for shade. This is a popular spot for families, especially during the peak season. Just remember that a military camp occupies the northern part of the island, and it’s best to arrive early at this pristine beach before it gets crowded.