Lipsi or Leipsi: a group of 30 tiny islands and islets, somewhere in the south-eastern Aegean Sea, north of Leros and east of Patmos. Many compare it to Maldives, others consider it the diamond of Dodecanese, whereas Lipsos, the main island of the cluster, with 750-800 inhabitants, competes together with a few other candidates for the location of ancient Ogygia, mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. And while there, I wanted to believe that somewhere near me lied the mythical cave and the ruins of Calypso’s palace, just because I liked the idea. And because Madeline Miller’s “the Song of Achilles” that I was reading at the time had already reminded me the plot of the other epic poem of Homer.
And yes! It is here, right next to me, where Odysseus shipwrecked during his journey home after the fall of Troy and where a sea nymph detained him for 7 years, before his release after the intervention of Athena, Zeus and Hermes and his return to Ithaca and Penelope ☺. And like Calypso seduced Odysseus with her songs and her beauty, Lipsi enchant every visitor with all of the following:
1. With their peace and serenity
I visited Lipsos in late June 2017 and it was my first time there. It was a last minute trip and I had not made any accommodation arrangements but there were many rooms available. In the early morning and after 17:00 I had most of the beaches all to myself and only around noon I had to share the most popular and ‘crowded” ones with a few quiet locals and tourists. There were hardly any cars, as they are absolutely unnecessary here or any other kind of noise. Lipsi is a destination where you can just show up without having bothered beforehand to reserve a room, a car etc…a perfect place to get rid of your stress…escape, relax, forget and reset.
2. With their authenticity
This is an alternative destination, untouched by touristic “development” and tourist traps. Beaches are free of sunbeds and cafes, and the owners of shops, tavernas etc are discreet. There are sufficient facilities for the limited number of visitors, but the island keeps a low profile and welcomes you as a guest and not as a consumer. You get the feeling you are visiting friends or the village where your parents come from and where you have spent all your summers.
3. With their virgin beaches
Lipsos’ beaches are not super impressive, do not spread in front of imposing rocks and do not offer stunning view or resemble “lunar” landscape. They have, however, clean, crystal clear blue, turquoise or green water and trees for natural shade. They are quiet and unspoiled without umbrellas and local businesses, sandy or pebbled, family friendly and even the more remote ones are easily accessible on foot.
4. With their hiking routes
Trails are easy, as the Lipsos is relatively flat and many paths have been recently cleaned. Ideal for naturists and trekkers who are not super fit. Unfortunately I could not hike, as the heat was unbearable and I suffered an eye allergy. Next time!
5. With the hospitality of their residents
Nice, polite, open-hearted, extroverted and helpful…they make you feel at home. Any local I had to deal with or I came across left me with a very good impression.
6.With their picturesque settlement
With the small port, the tavernas, the upper square, the traditional houses and “kafeneia”, the churches, the alleys, the beautiful shops with accessories and handmade jewellery.
7. With the absolutely amazing beaches of the small islands and islets
You can visit them from Lipso, Patmos or Leros, on a boat tour or with a rented boat. Do not miss them, they are of breathtaking, wild beauty.
8. With their delicious food
Either you go for fresh seafood, or a hotpot or “ladera” in one of the small tavernas at the port of Lipso, at Platys Gialos or at Marathi, pies or snacks from the bakery near the port or the one at the upper square, desserts in a cafe at Lipso or Arkioi, you will be more than satisfied with their quality and taste.
9. For the ease of getting around
You can explore Lipsos on foot taking the main street or footpaths, as it has an area of less than 16 square meters and it lacks mountains and high or steep hills. You can take public transportation (a small van) to reach most of the beaches, Panagia tou Charou, the best known church of the island, as well as any other place en route, since the driver is willing to make intermediate stops upon request. There are also a few taxis and motorbikes for rent.
10. Because you can stay in this tiny heaven without spending much
I took the first room I found upon arrival, for 30 euros per night (end of June-beginning of July), which was the actual price of a single room. The owner, nevertheless, gave me at no extra cost a quadruple room, equipped with kitchen, a big bathroom and balcony with view. You can take the local bus for 1 Euro and taxi fares are 4-8 Euros. Food has reasonable prices reflecting its quality and one-day boat trips to the neighboring islets cost 20-25 Euros only. I think I would have stayed for a month there, had I not found company who dragged me to Patmos.
How to get there:
There is a ferry from Piraeus once per week, but it makes more sense to fly to a nearby island and take a high speed catamaran to Lipsos. I reached Lipsos from Pythagoreio, which is only 2km away from the airport of Samos.
What to take back with you:
Red wine, honey and natural sea sponges from an old gentleman at the port. I picked a middle one, he asked me to pay 8 Euros instead of their original price of 12 Euros and when I complained that on other islands I get them cheaper, he explained that all his sponges come from 30 meters depth and can be used for 2 years. “Buy it and you will remember what I said”, he insisted. I have to say I have been using it for almost six months now and it is still fine, in contrast to the ones I used to buy before, which only survive for 1-2 months.