Hiding in the Aegean, just off the coast of Turkey is the island of Leros. An island that is circulated by millions of tourists on Greek Island package deals but remains elusive from tour ships and mass tourism.
Leros is located about 180 nautical miles from Athens in the Dodecanese, nearest to the islands of Patmos, Lipsi, and the north of Kalymnos. Leros is roughly 74 square kilometres and can be explored on foot, by car, or by the preferred local method – by Vespa.
Celebrated as an idyllic island escape for those looking to experience authentic Greek island living, Leros features picturesque fishing villages, conveniently arranged beaches, fishing boats, and enough bars, cafes and restaurants to keep travellers stimulated. It’s a Greek island destination where visitors can still experience authentic island life, without all of the tourist traps.
Leros was neglected by tourists for decades. Over the last 20 years, it has experienced a resurgence and become a cult hero for well-informed Greek and international travellers, thanks to its unique culture, architecture, charismatic locals, and unspoiled towns. The island is characterised by its narrow cobblestone streets, traditional bakeries, waterfront cafes, and an ample selection of bars and restaurants. During the warmer months, the scarcely populated island receives an influx of holidaymakers soaking up the sun at the ample waterfront amenities.
Leros was used as an Italian naval base for more than 30 years. It was then home to a mental asylum and finally a penal colony before it became the island we know it as today. With a small population of around 8,000 permanent residents, Leros manages to evade the complications of modern life and retain a simplistic and uncomplicated charm that is hard to find on the larger Greek islands. Here, time stands still, where inhabitants religiously obey siesta and visitors are enthusiastically welcomed by locals who are keen to engage you in a lively conversation about sport, politics and global affairs.
The capital of Leros is the city of Platanos which is connected with Agia Marina in the north and Panteli in the south. The Castle of Leros, located on the northern side of the island, is an idyllic storybook scene. the medieval castle sits precariously atop the hill overlooking the neighbouring windmills that line the ridge and brightly coloured cobblestone towns that expand as far as the eye can see. Irrespective of your views on medieval architecture, a visit to the Castle of Leros at the peak of the Apitiki Hill is essential for every visitor. History aside, the castle boasts an unmissable 360-degree view of the island and highlights the dramatic contrast between the rugged coastline and quaint villages that make Leros so special.