Leros, a Greek Island
Facts, travel tips and tourist information
Population: ca. 8,500
Size: ca. 53 km2
Country code: 00 30 (if you call Greece).
Language: Greek, but many speak good English.
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Leros is a small island to the north of Kalymnos and Kos. Only a few tourists visit the island, and here you can stay in a Greek community without the usual blessings of tourism like souvenir shops and entertainment.
The locals are very kind and hospitable, and you soon learn to say "kali mera" or "kali spera" depending on the hour of the day.
The island offers many nice beaches where you can swim. There are some sand beaches, but most are with rocks or pebbles.
Leros is one of the Dodecanese islands.
Leros has a small airport on the northern tip of the island. There are flights to Athens, Rhodes and Kos.
Leros is a small island and it is very cheap to go by taxi. You pay by the meter, but you may also have to pay for the taxi to come to you, if you call for it.
Officially there is a bus on Leros, but don't count on it. When we visited the island in September, nobody had seen the bus for more than a week. The chauffeur probably felt like taking some days off. The school was still closed for holidays, so the bus wasn't obliged to act as school bus.
You can rent a car or scooter/motorcycle. The narrow streets in some of the towns aren't designed for cars, so you see many locals getting around on scooters.
You can also rent a bike. Compared to many Greek islands Leros is fairly flat, but compared to Denmark it is very hilly, and it can be a hot exercise pedalling uphill.
There are ferries to and from neighbouring islands like Patmos, Kalymnos, Lipsi, Samos, Kos, Rhodes, Symi and Nisyros. There is also a ferry to Pireaus (Athens).
Larger ferries go to Lakki. From Agia Marina you can go to Kalymnos and Kos by hydrofoil, and a small ferry connects Xerokampos on the southern tip with Myrties on Kalymnos.
Only a few charter tourists come to Leros, and they will typically fly to Kos and proceed by boat.
Where to Stay?
There are a few hotels and quite a few "studios" on the island. Where you stay is not that important, because the island is so small.
Of course you should find a place near a beach if you want to spend your time swimming and sunbathing. If you would rather dive into Greek daily life I'd choose Platanos, Panteli, Agia Marina or Lakki. If you stay here and fancy a dip in the sea, it isn't far anyway.
In 2008 we stayed at Nikis in Panteli. It is a family run apartment hotel (with a pool) some 150 metres from Panteli Bay and about 10 minutes walk from Platanos. Nice spacy rooms with balcony and a small kitchen. Not luxurious in any way, but at least the room had an air cooler and a bathroom. Very kind people who speak excellent English.
It will typically cost from 30 to 50 euro per day to stay at a "studios" (two persons).
Here's a bit about some of the towns in Leros:
Platanos is the main town. It has grown and now seems one with Agia Marina and the fishing village Panteli (Pandeli). The old castle stands high above the town. In the old days people lived closer to the castle and refuge, but with time the town climbed downhill and became the Platanos of today.
Further downhill, down by the water, Agia Marina grew up on one side and Panteli on the other. Platanos has old houses and winding narrow streets. There are many steep streets and stairs, up and down you go.
The town square is the centre where people meet and chat or play backgammon outside the cafés.
Agia Marina is a bit livelier. Hydrofoils leave from Agia Marina and there are also fishing boats in the harbour. There are shops, cafés and some restaurants. To the north of Agia Marina lies Alinda with an excellent beach.
The fishing village Panteli with the bay lies on Platanos' other side. It is very idyllic.
There are a few taverns in the bay, right by the beach. You can eat by tables on the beach, and it is very romantic.
The water is crystal clear and you can go for a swim. You can also go for a walk in the small marina/harbour and watch the small fishing boats that are painted with bright colours (mostly white and blue).
To the south of Panteli you find Vromolithos Bay with an excellent beach.
The town Lakki lies on the other side of the island, and in this case "on the other side of the island" means 2 - 3 km from Platanos og Panteli.
Lakki has a big and well-protected natural harbour used by the bigger ferries and ships. It was the harbour that made the Italians build Lakki, when they occupied Leros (1912-43). That is why the architecture isn't Greek and the streets are straight and fairly broad.
Xerokampos is a small and sleepy town on the southern tip of Leros. You can camp here, and there is also a big natural harbour with fishing boats and yachts. A small ferry sails to Myrties on Kalymnos. The tiny crab church isn't far from Xerokampos.
Restaurants and Taverns
There are several good Greek taverns. Except for one not so memorable lunch in Alinda we only visited taverns in Panteli Bay. See Restaurants and Taverns in Panteli for our impressions.
Service is usually included at restaurants, but it is normal to pay a round figure. 10 to 15 % will not offend anybody.
When we visited Leros in September the tap water had a strong salty taste, so buy bottled water for drinking. The salt also makes your hair a bit stiff and unruly - it will not have its natural soft curls. So if this offends your vanity you will have to rinse with bottled water or use some kind of softener. This stuff is not my area of expertise, so I don't give advice - I just pass on an observation!
Obviously there's a limit to the number of sight you can squeeze into a small island like Leros, but there are a few.
The old and well-preserved castle, which stands high above Platanos, Agia Marina and Panteli is obvious. Originally it was Byzantine, but it was modified by the knights of St. John, when they ruled the island (1309 - 1522).
There are a few museums (see www.lerosisland.com/museums.html). We visited the archaeological museum in Platanos. It is quite interesting, but there isn't much to see because there has never been systematic excavations on the island. Free admittance.
We also visited the war museum near Lakki. It is set up in some of the tunnels made by Italian military. Most of the stuff is from The Battle of Leros in 1943, but there are also many old and interesting photographs. I think the ticket was 3 euro.
Related to The Battle of Leros is the Leros War Cemetery (British Cemetary) in Alinda north of Agia Marina. The British soldiers who died in the battle rest here.
There are remains of an antique shrine near the airport on the island's northern part, but don't expect more than some boulders and bits of walls. If you didn't know better it could be a ruined shed for goats.
There are many churches in Leros, and some are tiny. One of the tiny churches, Agios Isodoros, lies on the west coast. It is a picturesque scenery with the tiny church on a small rock island connected to Leros by a narrow concrete pathway.
For us however the island's top attractions are the beautiful views and daily life in the towns.
Banks and Money
Back home we had got a fair amount of euro in small bills, but somehow we forgot to bring most of it. So we had to find an ATM on friendly terms with VISA.
We found one by the square in Platanos, and fortunately there was a bank next to it, so I could get smaller change instead of the fifties. We experienced no problems with change in Leros.
You can pay with credit card some places, but in general it is easier to get by with cash.
I don't know how many banks there are in Leros, but I am sure you can find one in Lakki too.
Links and Resources
lerosisland.com. Tourist portal
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Updated 18th April 2009