Reasons to Visit Leros Island Greece

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The Aegean hides a little secret just off the Turkish coast, one the millions of tourists who circuit the Greek Islands on package tours and cruise ships don't know about - Yet!Amongst a group of islands known as The Dodecanese, nestled between Kos and Samos in the azure waters of the Aegean you will find the island of Leros.One of the Greek islands where you can still experience authentic Greek island living without the tourist trappings. Leros is one of the last unspoilt Greek Islands.Leros was an Italian naval base for 30 years. It was then home to a controversial mental asylum and later a penal colony. It is no wonder Leros has not been at the forefront of the holiday scene, but all that has changed.While Leros may have been a secret haven for discerning holidaymakers in the know, tourist numbers are on the rise as word gets out about Greece's secret paradise.Leros is both uncomplicated and intimate. With a small population of around 8,000 permanent residents, everyone knows everyone. Visitors are quickly identified and welcomed enthusiastically with lively and affable conversation. Time here is not rushed, siesta is observed daily and the attitude friendly and relaxed.And while Leros does not have stretches of white sandy beaches, it offers deep, crystal clear bays and coves, lined with pebble beaches and traditional tavernas. Perfect for a day of swimming and sustenance; indulging in fresh, local fare so good the stunning view only surpasses it.This is the picturesque charm lost on so many other Mediterranean destinations. The northern side of Leros Island sets a perfect storybook scene. The medieval castle of Leros sits perched atop the hill with neighbouring windmills lining the ridge, like soldiers in a row, overlooking brightly coloured clusters of picturesque cobblestoned towns.A visit to the 11th-century Castle Of Leros at the peak of Apitiki Hill is a must. A legacy of the Knights of St John in the 11th century, you will encounter a dramatic 360º view of the island, a contrast of quaint villages and rugged coastline set to the backdrop of a medieval castle.On the 14th of August, the day before ‘Feast Day of the Virgin Mary,’ thousands of pilgrims arrive in Leros to climb the 400 steps from Agia Marina to the castle to attend the church of Panagia of Kastro in the grounds of the castle to pay homage to the Virgin. Of course, this is followed by a celebration with food and dancing in local restaurants and homes.The towns on this side of the island, such as the capital Platanos, the small fishing village of Panteli and the more touristy areas of Agia Marina and Alinda are charming representations of what one expects of the Greek islands.Narrow cobblestone streets, waterfront cafes, traditional bakeries, restaurants and bars. During the peak summer months, the bays will be dotted with yachts on anchor and holidaymakers fill the waterfront tavernas and cafes.Over the other side of the island, the western facing town of Lakki sits in stark contrast. Situated on the largest deep-water harbour in the Mediterranean, Lakki is the legacy of 30 years of Italian occupation. Lakki is a testament to the fascist regime of Mussolini and his vision of creating a second Roman Empire.Commissioned by Mussolini in the 1930’s, Lakki boasts streets wide enough for an army to parade through, and some of the finest remaining examples of Italian rationalist art deco architecture, including a summer mansion for Mussolini himself. The main seafront road is lined with great monuments of early 20th-century modernism or ‘Mussolini Modernism’ as it was known. And while Lakki’s art deco architecture and organised town layout are not what people expect of a Greek island, it certainly does not lack any charm.