The north of Leros is dotted with small fishing communities, beehives and rugged terrain. Just west of the airport, the Temple of Artemis (dedicated to the island’s ancient patroness) dates from the 4th century BC, but has yet to be excavated.
East of here, Blefoutis Beach is a narrow stretch of sand and pebble on a pretty enclosed bay.
Between 1912 and 1948, when the west-coast port of Lakki was a significant Italian naval base, the town was transformed beyond recognition by the construction of grandiose administrative and military buildings and homes for officers. The result is extraordinary. The prevalent architectural style, now classified as streamline moderne, started out resembling art deco and ended up distinctly more fascist. It's worth wandering the streets to view houses (those you might consider contemporary are actually from that period). Otherwise, it's a marina. It's best as a visit, not as a base.
The village of Pandeli, arrayed around a crescent bay 800m south of Platanos, is pretty, if crowded in summer. Overlooked by a clutch of hilltop windmills, its white houses tumble down the valley towards the sand-and-shingle beach and bobbing fishing boats in the harbour. There are some great tavernas by the water, too.
Accessible only by walking or driving over the headland immediately south of Pandeli – there’s no coastal footpath – Vromolithos consists of a long, narrow beach caressed by waters of a perfect shade of Aegean blue, scattered with turquoise. Forget the ugly village, this is all about the water.
At the southern end of Leros, Xirokambos Bay holds a pebble-and-sand beach with some good spots for snorkelling. As well as a few village houses, it’s home to a good beach taverna and is served by small excursion boats from Kalymnos. Up the hill, 1km inland towards Lakki, a signposted path climbs to the ruined Paleokastro fortress, which offers tremendous views.
Worth a Trip: Dodecanese Islets
Three tiny islands – Agathonisi, Arki and Marathi – are not exactly on the radar of many travellers. Yet arriving to these places is pure magic; they are quiet enough to hear a distant Cyclops break wind. With small permanent populations, there’s little to do but read, swim and explore the caves where islanders once hid from pirates… and then do it again! As for other visitors? Expect an eclectic mix of yachties, artists and the occasional backpacker.
On Agathonisi, the port village of Agios Georgios, the island’s primary settlement, holds a few tavernas and simple sugar-cube pensions. There are some lovely little beaches, including Spilia Beach, 900m southwest beyond the headland and Gaïdouravlakos, where water from one of the island’s few springs meets the sea. There’s also Tsangari Beach, Tholos Beach, Poros Beach – the only sandy option – and Tholos (Agios Nikolaos) Beach. You can trek 1.5km uphill to Megalo Horio, site of several summer festivals, close to the eponymous church.
Elsewhere, Arki (with around 50 inhabitants) and Marathi, just north of Patmos and Lipsi and the largest of Arki’s satellite islets, are the most peaceful islets in the Dodecanese chain.
On Arki, you can poke around the Church of Metamorfosis that stands on a hill behind the settlement, or laze on several sandy coves that can be reached along a path skirting the north side of the bay.
Marathi has a superb sandy beach. The old settlement, with an immaculate little church, stands on a hill above the harbour. While only several people remain on Marathi year-round, local families return each summer to reopen its seasonal tavernas. If you decide to stay, take your luck at the few informal domatia (rooms) attached to the taverns.
Ferries stop once a week at Arki, but not Marathi, as they sail up and down the island chain, calling at Patmos, Leros, Lipsi and Agathonisi, Samos (and back). Dodekanisos Seaways catamarans do the circuit between Arki and Patmos (€14, 20 minutes), Leros (€17, 1¼ hours), Lipsi (€13.50, 50 minutes) and Agathonisi (€14, 30 minutes). Nisos Kalymnos (www.anekalymnou.gr) starts from Kalymnos, three to four times weekly. Leros Express heads to Arki twice a week (via Patmos or Lipsi).
In summer, Lipsi-based excursion boats and Patmos-based caïques offer frequent day trips (around €25) to Arki and Marathi.
For Marathi, a local caïque runs from Arki several times a week.