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Leros is surprisingly one of the islands I didn't have trouble convincing my friends to go to, even though we were just 25 years old when we visited it. I mean, yeah, islands like Crete, Rhodes, Santorini, Ios, Mykonos. They're magnets. Their names were enough to attract my friends, I didn't need to say anything. But when it came to islands they wouldn't even think of if I asked them "tell me all the Greek islands you know", there needed to be convincing.

Of course, my friends' standards were. not very normal. I mean, the one thing that always caused Leros to have such a bad reputation is what tricked them into going! See, Leros' recent history includes being the home of Greece's prison camps and later mental hospitals. Now, you could just stop reading and stick to that and when people ask you, you could just say: "Oh, I'd never go there, it's full of killers and crazy people". Or you could just keep on reading and give me the chance to change your mind. Who knows, right? You might be missing out on something really great.

So, as I was saying, my friends were all hyper and excited when I told them this little fact about Leros. They started planning horror nights and spooky-tales narrating nights in the hotel room and near the prisons or hospitals respectively. Of course, not even half of what they'd planned actually happened, but it was quite a fun time.

leros greece - leros island map

Efeso turquia

leros windmills leros windmills

So, what does Leros look like?

Surprisingly, Leros (or the capital of it) is only a ghost town during the day. In the evening, the sea-front cafs come to life and are full of people. See, Leros is a much misunderstood island on every aspect.

Leros looks like a jigsaw puzzle gone astray, really. It has half a dozen indented bays, it has landscaped squares, institutional buildings, wide boulevards, craggy hills, fertile valleys, tree-fringed beaches, unspoiled villages. Am I becoming boring? Well, that's pretty much what Leros is. Lakki Town is a bit bizarre, like an Art Deco experiment. But, yeah, generally, Leros is a beautiful, semi-relaxing, semi-exciting kind of place.

leros agios isidoros leros village

Are there any places I should not miss in Leros?

leros greece - benelis castle

Honestly? The only place that comes to mind at the moment is the Historical and Folk Museum. Housed in the twin-towered Belenis Castle that was built by Parissis Belenis, an expatriate benefactor, the museum exhibits embroideries, traditional costumes and musical instruments, portraits, photographs and domestic utensils.

leros island - panagia castrou church

You could also visit the church of Panagia tou Kastrou (Our Lady of the Castle), which is standing in the castle of Platanos. The church houses an ecclesiastical collection which consists of icons, frescoes, silver chalices, oil lamps and sacerdotal vestments. It also houses a small archaeological collection which includes amphorae, utensils and inscriptions that were found in Leros. Finally, a library with a rare collection is also housed in the church, which includes books from the private library of the Metropolitan Bishop of Leros and rare manuscripts.

Are there any historical or archaeological sites in Leros?

I'm guessing you haven't actually read what I've written about every single island, so chances are you haven't read the articles where I mention I've got a thing for castles. I love castles (or Kastra, as we call them). So, it's only fair that I should start with Leros' castles.

Leros has two castles, actually. One of them is Paliokastro (=Old Castle), built near an older fortification dating back to the 3rd century BC. But the other one is the real charm: the Byzantine Kastro. Perched above Platanos, it takes over the island's acropolis. It's been renovated by the Venetians and the knights of Saint John and, if I'm not mistaken, the Greek military as well. But I could be wrong. Anyway, the important thing is it offers magnificent views. From the top, the "four seas" of Leros are spread at your feet.

Then there's the temple of Artemis, or more like the knee-high remains of it. You can find them next to the airport runway. It's a few carved blocks of stone and fragments of pillars, but they're still quite impressive. The goddess still has influence in Leros, surprisingly, since property passes down the female family line.

leros castle leros castle

What about Leros' beaches?

Luckily, Leros has a 60 kilometers coastline to offer you, full of bays, coves, organized and secluded beaches. One great beach is Xirokambos, lying in the bay of the same name. It's a quite popular place for day-trippers who come from neighboring Kalymnos. Its sand is golden, its waters are crystal-clear and it has trees surrounding it, creating a magnificent scenery.

Then there's Alinda beach, near the resort of Alinda, the longest seaside resort of Leros. This place is a facilities paradise, with water sports, leisure activities, accommodations and taverns. Its sand is soft and the waters are, again, crystal-clear. There are some sandy coves scarrered around it if you want to avoid the crowds, such as Krifo (=hidden).

The beach of Blefoutis is coil up in the bay of the same name. It's calm and sandy, boarded by beautiful tamarisk trees, with crystalline, azure waters.

The beach of Koulouki was a "paradise", according to my friend Georgia. She would actually go to Leros again just for this beach. It's near the main harbor, 500 meters from the coast. Its sand is soft and the waters are super-clean. Yeah, it's kind of noisy due to the ferries coming and going, but then there's also the smaller beach of Merikia lying further west, which is quieter.

Finally, definitely pay a visit to the beach of Pandeli, just 2 kilometers south of the capital of Leros. This place is slowly becoming the island's big hit, with soft sand and smooth pebbles, tamarisk trees shadowing them and crystalline waters. It's a must.

leros Panteli beach leros Panteli beach

OK, so where do I eat?

leros fish food

Thankfully, there are a couple of places where you can have a decent meal, be it fish or local dishes. One good example is Merikia, just out of town. It's located near a beach and it's just the place if you want to eat fish.

Then there's Petrinos, which specializes in meat dishes that are influenced by the owner's trips to Belgium, so you can bet your life this is the place if you want to taste something different. It's also a quite popular place with locals.

Ouzeri-Taverna Neromylos is perhaps the best taverna on the island. It's atmospheric, it's near a watermill (which is illuminated at night) and its food is simply delicious.

Finally, there's Taverna Maria, in Pandeli. Popular with the fishermen, this place is the best when it comes to seafood dishes like marides or kalamaria, all of them as fresh as tomorrow.

How do I get to Leros?

By air, there's one daily flight from Athens. By sea, Leros is connected six times per week with Piraeus, Patmos, Kalymnos, Kos and Rhodes and once or twice per week with Nissyros, Tilos, Symi, Lipsi, Arki, Kastellorizo, Naxos, Samos, Syros and Paros.

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