Leros is one of the main islands of the Dodecanese. It has only recently made it into the tourist radar, although it has everything you would expect from a Greek island; amazing beaches and landscapes, fishing villages, scenic tavernas, ancient ruins and an extraordinary modern history.
Leros is an unusual island. Lakki, its second harbour, was built by Mussolini after the Italians grabbed the Dodecanese in 1912. This town of large boulevards and grand villas is one of the finest examples outside Italy of rationalist architecture; it is remarkably well preserved nearly 100 years later.
World War II also left its mark on the island. Military buildings, tunnels and wrecks of numerous ships and war planes lie on the seabed off its coast. Later in the 1970s, Mussolini’s barracks were used by the Greek military junta to hold political prisoners.
There are several settlements around the island including lovely seaside villages, such as Alinda, Xirokambos and Partheni in the north. The island has a long 71 km coastline with hidden bays excellent for swimming or staying overnight. None of the bays contains memorable beaches, but the water is clear, and they all have that tranquil charm sought after by many sailors and nature lovers.
Krifos, an isolated small cove at the north east is our favourite swimming spot on the island; you will also find a cave there with sweet water streaming from underneath it. Xirokampos, Agia Marina and Partheni beach with their beautiful waters and surroundings are also excellent options. The sea around Leros is rich in reefs, small islets and old shipwrecks, and scuba diving is gradually becoming a popular activity on the island.
Picturesque Agia Marina
The coastal town of Agia Marina on the east side is the main settlement and harbour of Leros. Its collection of whitewashed houses, neoclassical buildings and narrow streets, climbs up all the way to the other side of the hills, uniting it with the nearby villages of Platanos and Panteli. There are plenty of cafes alongside the quay, which offers rewarding views of the town and leads to a seemingly floating picturesque windmill at the northern end of the bay.
Atop Agia Marina sits the imposing medieval castle of the Knights of Saint John, visible from around the island. It is easily accessible by taxi; however, hiking there is the best way to enjoy the charming surroundings and the stunning views along the way. If you happen to be there the August 15, do not miss the celebrations at the church of the Holy Mother inside the castle.