Lipsi (Leipsi, Lipso) refers to both a cluster of 24 islets in the Dodecanese island group between Patmos and Leros in the southeastern Aegean Sea, and the largest island in this cluster. This island has a history that starts with the mythological goddess-nymph Calypso in the Mycenaean and Classical epochs and continues through the Byzantine years and beyond. The Lipsi islands have been well developed over the last 30 years, as evidenced by their population’s growth to 800 residents and their excellent infrastructure, schools, local government, and waste and energy management. At the same time, significant touristic development has included the creation of many good accommodation and dining establishments. A very good 20 kilometer road network will take you to all the main points on the island. From the port, tourist boats take visitors on short trips to nearby islets (Makronisi, Aspronisi, Marathi, Tiganakia, and Arki).
We offer the following suggestions for getting better acquainted with the island and its beauties:
1. The “blue pool” of Platis Gialos
The island's best known and most popular beach (and the only one in the northwestern part) is now accessible via a comfortable road. It is about three kilometers from the center of the settlement. The beach and seabed are sandy, with very shallow light blue water (like a pool, and ideal for young children). There are shade trees, and there is a taverna on the north end of the beach.
2. The beaches of Monodendri
The beaches of Monodendri are in the northeastern part of the island. The main beach was named after the only tree (mono dentri, in Greek) that rises grandly above a little peninsula. Heading east of the settlement on the island’s main road, we can reach the beach by following the signs for Monodendri. The road continues for another 1,500 meters beyond the little church of Saint John the Baptist (Agios Ioannis o Prodromos). From the point where we leave our vehicle, we continue for 300 meters on a passable footpath to reach the beaches. Where the path ends, we can see the main beach in the background to our left. Walking toward it, we will also pass a smaller beach with pebbles and clear blue water. To our right, however, there is a very picturesque pebbly beach (reminiscent of Pori Beach in Koufonisia) well hidden beneath a cliff. It is accessible via a short path which doesn't appear immediately; go back to the right a little and then turn left to descend the small cliff. Be careful, because it is rather dangerous.
3. The upper and lower churches of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (Kimisis tis Theotokou)
The picturesque little lower blue and white church of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (1770 AD), called Kato Kimisis in Greek, is located in the southwestern part of the island, above the beach named after it. In holes in the surrounding rocks, there are bones of monks who lived and were martyred there during the Turkish occupation. The beach is very beautiful and not too crowded, with sand, small pebbles, and light blue water.
At the beach of Kato Kimisis, we can find an 800 meter uphill flagstone path to the little upper church of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Pano Kimisis (1500 AD). From the yard of the church, which is reminiscent of a ship's bow at sea, we can enjoy the panoramic view of the Aegean Sea.
4. The church of the Virgin Mary of Charos
The famous church of Lipsi, in the southeastern part of the island, with the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) holding Christ in her arms, not as an infant, but crucified on the Cross of the Martyr (hence the Virgin Mary of Charos, or Death).
Most of the year, the icon is kept at the Cathedral of Saint John the Theologian in Chora. The church of the Virgin Mary was founded by monks of the Monastery of Saint John of Patmos around 1600 AD. It is a three-section Byzantine church with a low dome. It celebrates with a festival every August 23, when many pilgrims come to touch the icon of the Virgin, where lilies placed in 1943 are said to miraculously bloom again each year.
5. White pebbly Hohlakoura and its hidden beaches
One of the most beautiful beaches on the island, located at its southeast edge. White pebbles, blue water, beautiful landscape. The road above the beach leads to the beaches of Xirokampos and Tourkomnima. At the western end of Hohlakoura Beach, we find the beginning of a passable coastal path that heads south, passing a very picturesque small beach with pebbles and a small cave beneath the rock. The path ends about 800 meters from the beginning of the trail, at a small space with flat rocks where a number of swimmers tend to gather, as the water there is really tempting for a swim!
6. Katsadia and Papandria: the most beautiful pair of beaches on the island
In an idyllic setting, Katsadia is one of the most beautiful sandy beaches on the island. There is a restaurant / bar / café on the beach, and dozens of boats fill its sheltered bay. Southwest of Katsadia, a short dirt road and a short path lead us to the beautiful, more secluded Papandria Beach. (In fact, these are two independent beaches, one after the other.) Atop the hill of Kastro, which rises above the beach of Katsadia, are the ruins of the ancient acropolis of Lipsi.
7. The ancient acropolis of Lipsi
At the top of the Kastro hill (107 meters altitude) in the southeastern part of the island, above Katsadia Beach, the ancient acropolis of Lipsi once stood. Today there are some remains of ancient buildings, fortifications, and ancient walls and towers, as well as some tiles. In the northwestern part of the old castle (kastro) there are traces of a building that probably dates back to Greco-Roman times. From this point one can see the whole island.
8. Beaches at Tourkomnima
About 150 meters before we reach Hohlakoura Beach, we will see a dirt road on our left. If we follow it for 1,000 to 1,200 meters, we end up in the Tourkomnima area. The first beach we see here is the fairly large Xirokampos Beach, with sand and pebbles. We can continue straight ahead to a small peninsula where the little church of Saint Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos) stands out above us. Left of the peninsula, we will find the Tourkomnima Beach, a beautiful sandy beach with a little harbor across from it for small boats. To the right, beneath the church, there is a smaller but very picturesque sandy beach (perhaps the best of the three, and for this reason it attracts more people).
9. Cathedral of Saint John the Theologian and Nikiforeio Museum
With its two magnificent bell towers, the Cathedral of Saint John the Theologian dominates the center of Chora in Lipsi. It was built using chiseled stone in 1931, with funding from the island’s expatriates (whose contribution appears in various projects that have been carried out here). Notice its carved wood iconostasis, the altar made out of metal and decorated with depictions of Christ's life in the Russian style, and the icon of the Virgin Mary of Black (Panagia tis Mavris). It is worth visiting the archaeological collection of Lipsi in the ground floor hall. The miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) of Charos is kept in this cathedral most of the year.
Founded in 1976, the Nikiforeio Ecclesiastical Museum in Lipsi is located in the settlement’s central square (Emmanouil Xanthou Square). Its exhibits include 16th and 17th-century icons, 17th-century gold-embroidered vestments and crosses, local costumes, household items, coins from various eras, and a small archaeological collection.
10. Manolis Tastes (Ee Yefseis tu Manoli)
In the center of Chora in Lipsi, we will find the traditional restaurant Manolis Tastes, with flavors from the old days. Chef Manolis (who recently joined the prestigious Chefs’ Club of Greece) specializes in traditional Greek cuisine, complemented by many of his own creations, such as apricot chicken, roast beef with vegetable sauce, and lobster spaghetti. Add to this the daily fresh fish special, as well as great dishes featuring all kinds of seafood, and this may explain why this restaurant has been recommended by Lonely Planet as the best place to eat in Lipsi for 4 consecutive years. Also worth noting is the recently refurbished neoclassical building (one of the few on the island) that houses the restaurant.