Leros - Ten things you must see and do! (and help the Greek economy)

Leaving Kos for Leros
We left the Kos marina early Tuesday morning on the sailing boat ‘Forever’, headed for Leros in the Dodocanese group of the Greek Islands. The sky was windless, making it necessary to motor north past the Turkish coast above Bodram on a sea of calm indigo that reflected light like a chasmic dream, enchanting me with every swirl of wake that swept by my vantage point at the rear of the boat.
After a breakfast of fresh Greek bread, cheeses, ham and French strawberry jam, we all spent the next four hours talking, reading, writing and sun dreaming in Mediterranean fantasy conditions as we followed the ocean paths that many of the Greek Gods of mythology, poets, artists and even St John and Paul of the Holy Bible fame had taken.

Leros, for whatever reason, is left off the radar of many Greek Island seekers. Because of an unfavourable weather forecast for the following day we chose the comfort and security of the Leros marina and immediately set out to see what this island of mystique and discovery had in store for us. About all that I had remembered about it from the island guide on the boat that morning was that Alistair MacLean had based his fictional novel ‘The Guns of Navarone’ (written in 1957) on the real life Battle of Leros that had taken place in the harbour of Lakki we were now anchored in, back in 1943. A bloody and almost unknown battle where the Germans hammered the British, Italians and local Lerosians and gained control of this strategic port until their surrender in 1945.
Here are my ‘Ten Must Do and See Things for Leros’

Scooter sightseeing

Stuffed calimari
Lunch at the beach

Kerrie, Judy, Anna (the hairdresser) and Jodie

Paninos cafe

Underground war museum

Mr Nikitas showing Dimitri the Guns of Leros (Navarone) site

Dimitra at Paninos
  1. Hire a scooter from Rena at Leros Rentals and ride the winding hills and magical bays of this peaceful paradise (a peace which is only broken by the sound of scooters winding through the hills and magical bays).
  2. Introduce yourself to Mr Nikitas (the father of Rena) at the leather goods shop next to Leros rentals. He was living on the island when the Battle of Leros took place. See if he is available to take you on a personal tour of ‘The Guns of Navarone’ site and also through the underground bunker war museum.
  3. Go to Paninos cafe in the main street of Lakki. It has views of the harbour, excellent coffee and home made lunches. There you will meet Dimitra, the beautiful owner, for another perspective on what you should see and do while enjoying your stay on Leros. She may even offer to take you to some of the beautiful Byzantine churches that are scattered throughout the island.
  4. Have a barbecued whole calamari, stuffed with fetta, peppers and tomatos for lunch, right on the beach at on of the authentic cuisine restaurants that line the stony beaches of the timeless bays that skirt Leros.
  5. If you have the desire for a new hairstyle to suit the warmth and exotic nature of your island environment, look for Anna Phya at Salon de Coiffure. After a few days of sailing down the winds she will have you looking like the Greek Goddess you truly are in a heartbeat.
  6. Casually enquire at the security gate to the Leros Psychiatric Hospital. There is a good chance that Agiris will answer your call and if you can speak Greek (thanks Dimitri) you could ask him if he will give you the ‘unauthorised’ motor scooter tour of the world war two military and submarine base that also includes the history of the psychiatric hospital on the site from 1957 until its current day operation.
  7. Have an inspirational morning run (or walk) from the Lakki marina to the northern rim of the harbour, soaking up the natural beauty midst the scent of lemon eucalypts. Then stop off for a coffee, tea or freddochino at Paninos on the way back.
  8. Visit the ancient Temple of Artemis (10th century AD) on the archaeological site of Partheni near the airport. The inside of this church was decorated with haunting icons by some of the 4000 political detainees (depicting their own faces) that were held in a prison camp in this region of island during the 1967-74 dictatorship of Greece.
  9. The six windmills (waiting for their sails to be repaired) of Leros, standing guard high on a ridge overlooking three sides of the island are an experience that will sit with you forever. Mr Nikitas has a key to one of them and if you ask him nicely I am almost certain he would love to share their history with you.
10 Introduce yourself to one of the Leros locals as you walk the bays and streets and say ‘kalimera’. They are super friendly, easy going people who will share things about their home that will astonish you.
Fishing boat
The old admin centre of the psychiatric hospital

Inside the admin part of the old hospital

The windmills with castle in the background

View from the castle
The castle
One of the over 100 churches

Icon decorations by political detainees

Life is not an island
Nor is Love meant to live alone
And in a dream a sail can catch the wind
And take you far from home
For the seas are full of reckoning
Hiding the gold of dreams in blue
And the course that mortal mind charters
Everyday out here is made new.
So reach out to the stars of forever
And touch them with an eager heart
And follow the universe that calls you
And our paths will never be far apart.
(c) Rob Swales 2012

Dimitra with Dimitri


  1. A beautiful and fitting final tribute to your European sojourn Rob. I hope your new life back here can continue to fire you with the same passion and inspiration as your time in Europe has. You have truly milked your time there. It will be great to catch up with you both once more.

  2. Wow! That all looks amazing!! Maybe a potential next holiday spot =))

  3. I really thank yoy with all my heart!!!Take care off the Duck!!!I hope i'll see you again!!!

  4. Thanx for the tips :) We are going tol Leros to night! :)

    Beate :)


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