Passing through Villages



Agia Marina is one of the island’s two ports. It is a small coastal village that grew over time and has been united with Platanos, the island’s oldest inhabited area and capital. This now unified town is the island’s administrative and commercial centre. From a distance it looks like a small town that has spread out over the slopes of two mountains, with houses stretching from the coast to the foothills of Kastro. Yet, the closer we get the more the city unravels its beauties to us. The introduction to Agia Marina begins at the port, with the Fortress of Bouzi or Bourtzi at its entrance and the lighthouse at its edge, the side pier and its pretty careenage and the finely preserved historical windmill.

Many traditional one and two-storey homes are preserved in the capital. Among them are many mansions that are densely built, creating pretty, narrow alleyways that invite you to wander through. Step back in time and enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere of the old city, Avlaki, with its springs of fresh, clean water flowing from the sources at Paliaskloupis, or the old windmill. Town Hall is housed in two neo-classical buildings that dominate the town. The fine, old church of Christ and the Cross, which was once the island’s Metropolis Cathedral, can be seen in the same area. It stands at the edge of this quarter and of the stone pathway that leads to the peak of Kastro Hill.

Surrounding Agia Paraskevi and beneath the Kastro the old town was developed. During the Ottoman period it included the Turkish quarter with Konaki and the baths. Platanos, Agia Marina and Lakki have the island’s largest markets. Combined, they represent a delightful and hospitable, small town with great shopping opportunities and a great variety of modern shops with an amazing view from the famous Kastro. Built on the peak of Pitiki Hill, it stands tall above Agia Marina, embracing the surrounding area with a panoramic view of the endless blue of the Aegean Sea. 

Panagia of Kastro

In north-eastern part of Leros, at the top of the Pitiki Hill and 200 metres above sea level, stands the island’s castle (Panteli Castle, or Kastro). The church of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) was built on the western side of the fortress and represents a religious and cultural symbol for the people of Leros. According to legend an icon of the Panagia appeared on the island emerging from the sea and was miraculously placed it in the gunpowder storage area, between two lit candles. Despite the Turkish ruler’s efforts to have it removed, the icon remained in the gun powder storage area.

A church was built in her honour on this very site and quickly became the main pilgrimage of worship for the island and its seamen.

The church was re-built on its current site at a later date, in 1669. The original small church has been renovated by the Metropolitan Bishop of Karpathos, Neophytos Gairmanis.

The single-roomed basilica underwent a number of interventions and additions in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The small icon of the Panagia Vrefokratousa, the Virgin Mary with Child, is a precious religious artefact for the people of Leros. It is kept inside a wooden frame with a gold and silver casing that was created around 1732. The church has some very beautiful icons, many of which are now show-cased in the Ecclesiastical Treasury of Byzantine Art, which was recently built next to the church and operates as a museum. 

Those who love romantic walks, should visit the neighbourhoods of Platanos to Agia Paraskevi and from there follow the 500 step footpath. At the end of this walk, they will come to Kastro in front of them. The view from there will take you back in time. A comfortable motorway will take you to the same location if rather than walking up to the castle you wish to drive there.

On the west side of the Byzantine castle stands the church of the Panagia, with its golden icon case and remarkable icons. The next stop is the Ecclesiastical Museum, housed in a new building right next to the church. Here, you can admire rare, hand-scribed manuscripts, holy books, precious icons, clerical vestments and other ecclesiastical artefacts. Finally, visit the large, underground cellars and wells beneath the castle.

Four kilometres, southwest of Platanos is Lakki, the main port of Leros. It is one of the largest safe, natural, and enclosed harbours in the Mediterranean. It has modern port facilities and two units for servicing leisure craft. It looks like a huge lake, with an open space of 400 meters on the sea side. This natural characteristic is the reason it was named Porto Lago (port - lake) by the Italians and was chosen as a naval facility.

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.

According to the specialists, the designers followed a mixture of classic, neo-futuristic and rationalistic architecture, which reflected the colonial philosophy of a “dominant nation” during the inter-war period in Italy. The town was probably designed by the architect Rodolfo Petracco, and both he and another architect, Armando Bernabiti, appear to have designed the most important buildings. Lakki is one of the three unique residential estates built according to the International Style. The others are Saubadia in Italy and Weissenhof near Stuttgart.

In the centre of the town is the market with the characteristic Clock Tower and circular wall surrounded by columns. The public buildings which stand out even today are the Customs’ Building which today is home to the Police Station., the Hospital, the Elementary School (1934-36), the building of the Naval Administration (1929), the building which housed the 10th Infantry Regiment and was called the “Caserna di Regina” or the Royal Barracks, the Hotel Roma in the market that was later re-named Hotel Leros, as well as the Catholic church of St Nicolas, which today operates as an Orthodox church. The Lerians have preserved these historical buildings as best they can, and continue to attract all the island’s visitors. But, signs of erosion on some of these buildings are evident. 

At Lakki, just as in Partheni, the Greek military dictatorship from 1967 to 1974 created prison camps for political refugees and prisoners in an abandoned section of the Italian barracks, which had been converted into and served as the Royal Technical Schools until 1960 as well as the Leros’s State Rehabilitative Institution or the Psychiatric Hospital. 

Also, the church of Agios Thelogos at Lakki holds significant, historical interest as being one of the finest churches in the Dodecanese with wonderful collection 11th century icons. Other churches are those of Agios Spyridon, Agios Georgios and Agios Zacharias just to mention but a few of Leros’s one hundred churches are all fine examples of church architecture. The Monument honouring the War Dead or the Monument to the Unknown Soldier from the Destroyer Vasilissa Olga located near the port is of interest, as is the “Tunnel” War Museum at Merikia recently restored and exhibits all kinds of objects from the War on Leros. 

Lakki today has a fairly modern market, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. The visitor can swim in the calm sea and relax at any one of the region’s peaceful and charming beaches. In the southern part of the island, 7 km from Agia Marina, you will come across a coastal village, in front of which lies the Bay of Xerokambos with the small islets known as the Glaronisia secure its entrance. Across from this bay at a distance of one nautical mile, the island of Kalymnos appears.

The houses of Xerokambos are scattered throughout a small valley where olive trees, cypress and almond trees as well as many, many flowers can be seen. In the background, the landscape rises and at the top of the hill, at an altitude of 70 meters, sits Palaiokastro, or the castle of Lepidon, which is older than the castle of Panteli.

It is built within the ruins of the ancient acropolis, which dates back to 2,500 BC and flourished during the 4th century BC. Today, the old ruins of its walls and the remains of a large, early Christian basilica can be seen. Also, among the ruins is the small, picturesque church of the Virgin Mary.

Near the settlement of Xerokambos is the charming, little church of the Panagia Kavouradena, considered to be among the most beautiful churches on the island. It is built into the rocks along the coast at the exact location where according to legend a fisherman looking for crabs, found the icon of the Virgin Mary wedged in the crack of some rocks.

At Xerokambos, you can find tourist accommodations and restaurants, as well as nightclubs. You can enjoy a swim in the crystal clear waters at the beach of Xerokambos.

Free dives, both with and without oxygen, are offered as a suggestion to the bolder, risk-takers amongst you. A diver-training school operates in the area.

At the east of the island, below Platanos, lies Panteli. This small picturesque fishing village, with its genuine Aegean island characteristics has practically been unified with Platanos. Its traditional old homes, with the fishing boats scattered throughout the coastal waters and the endless colour of the sea as a background is a typical scene taken from the routine daily life in this little village. Panteli today has grown into a relaxed cosmopolitan centre with yachts mooring at the jetty right next to the fishing boats surrounded by its restaurants, cafés and bars.

It can be characterized as a window with a rare, distant view of the island’s beauty. Fine sand beaches between the rocks, clean beaches for swimming and fishing, footpaths for quiet walks in combination with remains from the Second World War, on the rise at Vigla, all come together to paint a unique landscape. This landscape is Vourlidia. 

Next to Panteli, is the open Bay of Vromolithos with a large, sandy beach and pebbly in some other area. Small, hospitable hotels and rental rooms, seafood taverns with delicious appetisers next to the sea, all guarantee a pleasant and relaxed stay. Opposite Vromolithos is the small island of Agia Kyriaki with a small church on its peak. 

Krithoni, between Alinta and Agia Marina, spreads right from the coast all the way up the hill. This area is very lush, green area with beautiful houses, numerous little churches, old traditional-styled Lerian homes, luxury hotels and hospitable rental accommodations, nightclubs, restaurants and even swimming pools.

The Patriarchio (Patriarchate) is an old neo-classical mansion with the small church of Agios Sophronios built in its yard. The Patriarch of Alexandria Sophronios stayed here on occasion.

Alinta is located in the centre of the Bay of Agia Marina and is the island’s most developed tourist spot, with substantial, modern visitor accommodations. The landscape is full of pines and olive trees, with a large sandy beach and crystal-clear sea.

The Beleni Tower, a fine manor-styled house, has been restored with special care, and today hosts the Folkloric and Historical Museum and a library, the Press Museum, as well as an art gallery. Cultural events are held in the tower’s courtyard.

Historically, the Municipal Hostel is very important as it served as the island’s first hotel. In the courtyard of the early Christian church of the Panagia Galatiani, rare mosaics were unearthed. There are many churches in the vicinity, the largest being the Basilica of the Agioi Saranta. Near Alinta is Kryfos, a small idyllic, sandy beach that is hidden among the rocks can be accessed only by sea. A natural spring with ice-cold water flows from below the depth of the sea. Above Kryfos is Klidi, the highest elevation on Leros. The blue water of the Bay of Alinta is ideal for all kinds of water sports. 

Partheni lies at the northern edge of Leros, with a bay by the same name, and the small islet of Archangelos at its entrance. The small fishing village unfolds like an artist’s fresco, between the fertile valley and the sea. There is an airport at Partheni. It is a historical place, known since antiquity. It is said that this is where the sanctuary of Parthenos Iokalis (i.e. Artemis) stood and from where the modern name of Partheni has been derived. The archaeological site at Partheni contains the ruins of a pre-historic settlement dating back to 3800 BC. Recently, the ruins of a Hellenistic temple have also been discovered. 

The Temple of Artemis

Visitors with an interest in the history of Greece must visit the archaeological site of Partheni located next to the airport. During excavations in 1980, a unit of churches built on top of the Roman temples was discovered. The precise location of the ancient temple of Parthenos Iokalis has yet to be identified. The popular historian Iakovos Rizos Ragavis wrote in 1855, “There is a large deserted church which has many plaques and stands on the foundations of an ancient temple, undoubtedly that of Artemis …”Although early Christians used to build their churches over the ancient Greek temples and re-cycled the materials found at the site, it has not been possible to locate in the vicinity of the early Christian church the precise positions and the remains of the ancient buried temple. 

The church of Agios Georgios dated to the 10th century AD, is located in the in the greater vicinity also used ancient recycled materials likely excavated from the ruins of the Temple of Artemis.

During the 1967-1974 military dictatorship, there was a prison camp in the region that was housed in the warehouses of the Old Italian barracks, which still survives today. The first political prisoners were brought here in July, 1967 and by 1971 almost 4000 people had been “accommodated” here, farmers, labourers, employees and intellectuals... The church of Agia Kioura or Matronas of the 18th century is located on the coast to the north. It is worth visiting it because of its beautiful icons created by political prisoners during the dictatorship which today are protected with significant historical interest.

In the western part of Leros, more open bays can be seen such as Gourna with its black-green sand and shallow water. Restaurants, beautiful homes orchards and citrus tree plantations constitute the landscape.  

Another wonderful bay in the north of Leros, near Partheni, is Blefoutis. It is a small, naturally green village with a beautiful beach and many small taverns and is an ideal place for relaxing and peaceful holidays. In the area of Kokkali is the picturesque small church of Agios Isidoros 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. Further south, following the coastal road near the site of Drymonas, is the small 14th-century church of Panagia Gourlomata with valuable icons, built with re-cycled material from a ruined ancient building. Small boats set off from Partheni harbour for the islands of Lipsi just a short hop away. 

“In addition to swimming, the beaches of Leros are ideal for a number of water sports like water skiing, windsurfing, diving and even jet skiing.”