Lipsi (Lipsoi) Island Info
In the northern Dodecanese, between the islands Leros and Patmos, a cluster of 24 islets adorns the southeastern Aegean Sea and awaits you for a dream vacation. The largest of these islands - Leipso or Leipsoi (Lipsi) - the main island from which the name of this cluster arrives, invites you to discover it.
Its surface has a total area of 16 sq.km and a very irregular coastline, 35 km long. Its coasts are almost pristine, but the north ones often have strong winds. As the island is small, it is easy to get around on foot. The terrain of the island of Lipsi consists of low hills with panoramic views, small valleys, beaches, and rocky capes. The group is completed by the islets of Arefousa, Manoli Islands, Megalo Aspronisi, Makry Aspronisi, Mikro Aspronisi, Paploma, Kouloura A, Kouloura D, South Aspronisi A, South Aspronisi D, Megalo Kalapodi, Mikro Kalapodi, Lyra, Stavri, Pilavi, Psomou, Kaparonisi, Piato, Makronisi, Fraggos, Saraki.
The oldest written reference to the name of the island is «Leipsia» and is found on an inscription on a marble slab of the 3rd or 2nd c. BC, built into the church of Panagia in Kouselio area on the island. As Lepsia is also mentioned by Pliny the Elder. It is also found in later inscriptions in the form of «Leipsos», «Lipsos» and «Leipso».
Lipsi: Small Island with a Long History
According to oral tradition, Lipsi is identified with the mythical Ogygia, the island of the Nymph Calypso where Odysseus’ boat sank on his return to Ithaca and remained captive for 7 years. This belief apparently derived from the phonetic similarity between «Calypso» and «Leipso».
Lipsi were inhabited from prehistoric times until today. Inscriptions and fragments of pottery from the Bronze Age were found in various parts of the island. In 1370 BC the Carians – an ancient people of Caria in southwest Asia Minor – pass from the island and after 170 years come the Dorians who conquer the island around 1200 BC. In the Museum of Lipsi there are pieces of pottery dating back to the Mycenaean Era (1600-1100 BC), while an inscription of the 4th c. BC. attest to the existence of a settlement on the island by the Ionians of Miletus. During the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) ships of both rival factions resorted to the natural coves of the island. Archaeological finds on the hill «Kastro» (remains of ancient fortifications, buildings, roof-tiles, and shells from pottery vessels), attest that there was a citadel, while at the site of the present town there was the city.
Christianity flourished rapidly on the island. Ruins of two basilicas, Panagia in Kouselio and Agios Spyridon/Agios Panteleimon in Katsadia, and a building with mosaic floors in Paleomantra, belong to the early Christian times, 5th-6th c. A.D. In 730 AD Lipso became part of the Byzantine state, while at the same time the wider area was tormented by piracy. In 1088, Abbot Christodoulos Latrinos, presented himself at the court of the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos in Constantinople, proposing a plan to repopulate the deserted island of Patmos by creating a monastic community. Alexios granted sovereignty over this deserted island but also over Lipsi and the surrounding islands. The «Golden Bull» (Chrysovoulo) of Alexios is exhibited in the Museum of the Monastery of Patmos. Since then, Lipsi belongs to the Patriarchal Exarchate of Patmos. Apart from Patmos and Lipsi, the islands of Agathonisi, Levitha and Arki belong to the Exarchate along with the surrounding islets. The Exarchate is under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
In 1309 AD, the Dodecanese were occupied by the Knights of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem until 1522, when they were subjugated to the Ottoman Empire. From the few sources that exist regarding this period, no Ottomans settled on the island. But there was taxation and raids with animal snatching and looting. The occupation of Crete by the Ottomans in 1669 brought significant changes to the island of Lipsi, when many Cretans took refuge in Lipsi. One of them, the old man Ilias, arrives on the island a few decades later and becomes the first resident and founder of the village in its current location.
During the Revolution of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, the people of Lipsi were actively involved, and in 1824 they extend hospitality to the exiled Patriarch of Alexandria Theophilos, and to Admirals of Hydra, Spetses and Psara, among them Sachtouris and Miaoulis.
The island came under Italian rule when they occupied the Dodecanese in 1912 until 1943, and then passed into German hands. In 1945 the Dodecanese were temporarily under British administration until March 7, 1948, when they were integrated with the Greece state.
The settlement of Lipsi, a traditional Aegean village, retains white and blue as its main colours. It spreads amphitheatrically at the entrance of the island, with the majestic church of Saint John the Theologian dominating the view with the two bell towers and the beautiful blue dome. The cobbled streets invite you to follow them and enjoy the breathtaking view of the island from the hills.
The religious sentiment of the residents is deep, evidenced by the large number of churches and chapels on the island. It is said that one church corresponds to each family, who also take care of their maintenance.
Of all the churches, the jewel of the island is the sacred pilgrimage site of Panagia tou Charou. The church of this three-nave domed basilica in Byzantine style, was built in the 16th century by monks who came from the Monastery of Patmos. The image of the Virgin Mary, to which the church is dedicated, is unique: She holds in Her arms Jesus Christ crucified, and not as a Divine Infant or Child as we usually see. As the dead have been associated with Charos (the ferryman of Hades) since ancient times, the icon is called «Panagia tou Charou».
But this it is not the only thing that makes this icon unique: the miracle with the wild lilies that is repeated every year on Her feast on August 23 and is a pole of attraction for thousands of faithful pilgrims, began in April 1943 when a girl offered the Virgin Mary some white lilies, which, of course, dried up. In July, however, the dried lilies began to sprout, and by the time of Her feast, the Nine Days since Her Assumption, they had blossomed. This unique miracle is being performed every year since then to this day, and the wild lilies are given as a blessing of Panagia tou Charou to the pilgrims.
The people on the island are engaged in fishing, agriculture (viticulture, winemaking, olive and olive-oil production, thyme honey, and cereals), livestock farming (production of local cheeses), trade and tourism. A distinctive local product is the sweet red wine of the Fokiano variety.
Lipsi: Role model island in infrastructure
The Road Network of the island is 20 km long, consists of three main asphalt roads and connects the town with many areas of the island. For hiking lovers, there are also marked trails that lead to numerous coves with beautiful pebble beaches.
The Port of Lipsi, a safe natural harbour designed to manage heavy traffic, is divided into three areas: the Tourist area - for the docking of liner ships and vessels, the Recreational Boats and Yachts area - for the mooring of private pleasure craft (motor and sailing boats), and the Commercial area - for the docking of any kind of cargo vessel, for supplies of water, fuel and other goods.
In Lipsi, the Recycling Program is implemented with the «Collection at Source (CaS) system and door-to-door collection». Waste bins are not used here. The system relies on the distribution of colour-coded garbage sacks for the temporary storage of waste at their place: the residents separate the different types of waste – glass, paper/cardboard, plastic/nylon, metal/aluminum, ready for collection. Recently, the Municipality of Lipsi set up attractive recycling points on three of the beaches in order to encourage the system of separate collection. Organic waste can also be collected from these points.
A Desalination Unit operates on the island, providing water autonomy to the island. The capacity of the unit reaches up to 600 cubic meters of drinking water per day, a quantity that is sufficient to meet the needs of the island for the summer months.
Southwest of the town, there is a Biological Wastewater Treatment Plant. The central sewage from the village flows through the sewer system and is processed at the plant. The process results in about 95% pure water being discharged into the sea.
In Lipsi, there is a Sanitary Landfill Site in the place «Kydonies», for the disposal of organic waste. It covers a total area of 39 acres with a landfill capacity of 13,346 m3. There are plans for a small composting plant to be set up at the site, which will process the green waste of the island as well as the biowaste. The capacity of the unit is estimated at 60tn.
There is a Reservoir with a capacity of 36,000 cubic meters in the area of Panagia tou Charou, which was built to cover the irrigation needs of the island. The reservoir is supplied with water from abstractions in the streams of Milio and Lia and in 2018 the construction of the project «Increase of rainwater runoff towards the lake reservoir» was carried out.
The island has a Heliport for transporting medical emergencies to nearby islands with hospital. The heliport is also used for visiting civilian and military officials.
In Lipsi there is a Multipurpose Regional Clinic which is staffed by a Rural Doctor. It is a major infrastructure project and efforts are made to make it as efficient as possible with specialized medical staff. The clinic has a general medical examination room, a gynecological, pediatric, radiological, and microbiological laboratory, a mini-surgery room and a short-term treatment room.
Nikiforio Museum: In the center of the town there is the Ecclesiastical, historical and folklore Museum, the so-called «Nikiforio». It is located next to the parish church of St. John the Theologian. It was created by the most reverent Nikiforos Koumoundouros. With care, objects of great archaeological value were gathered from the countryside and chapels, such as: marble capitals (kionokrana) (4th century BC), burial artifacts such as lamps, tear-collecting cups (dakryhooi) and other pottery, marble slabs with ancient Greek writing, clay pitchers, wooden and silver crosses (17th century), tabernacles, sacred altar clothes, candleholders (Russian made of 1800), icons of the 16th century, Holy Gospels, old books, folk costumes, old household utensils and ancient amphorae collected by fishermen of the island.
Regarding Education, Lipsi has:
All-day Kindergarten. It has a functional and aesthetically upgraded space with the possibility of an all-day school. It is one of the first all-day kindergartens operating in Greece
All-day Primary school (6 year-classes). It is housed in a building that has been designated as a historic monument since 2001.
High school with Senior High School classes. It has contemporary facilities (library, theater room, computer room, basketball, volleyball, and football field).
The Municipal Library of Lipsi «Odysseas Elytis» was founded in 1996. It is run by two volunteer librarians since 2010 and is supported by the municipality and local community. The collection exceeds 8,000 titles as well as periodicals, audiovisual material, children’s, and foreign language sections, and 2 computers for the public.
The Educational and Cultural Association of Lipsi «Nostos» was founded in 1982. The association aims to strengthen the bonds of its members based on their common social and cultural aspirations, to preserve the identity of the people of Lipsi, and to connect everyone from Lipsi based on their common origin, the values, and experiences of the past and the desire for evolution and prosperity. The club's activities include events, speeches, exhibitions and, in general, various cultural events throughout the year.
Regarding Sports, the island has:
Α 5x5 soccer field: sponsored by Omada Aigaiou
Αn 11x11 football field: constructed by the Municipality of Lipsi for use by the Lipsi Athletic Club. In 2018 the latest generation of synthetic turf was installed.
A Municipal gym: sponsored by Omada Aigaiou, fully equipped with fitness exercise equipment. It is open to local residents and visitors to the island.
The island also has a Police Station, Port Authority, Bank, Pharmacy, Post Office, DEI (Public Power Corporation) and KEP (Citizen Service Center) to serve those who visit or live on the island.
«Archipelagos»: In Lipsi is the main base of the Institute of Marine Conservation «Archipelagos», where the Marine Research Base and the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary are located. It is committed to researching and defending the particular biodiversity in the wider region of the Greek seas and islands and the NE Mediterranean, through a combination of applied scientific research, education, conservation actions and community engagement. Among other things, they use their scientific knowledge to stop destructive human behavior, such as illegal fishing practices, explosions at sea, waste dumping, maritime pollution, erosive overgrazing, and other threats to biodiversity.
The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary in Lipsi, when completed and operating, will function with three parallel aims: as an innovative rehabilitation center for marine mammals and turtles, as a site for the long-term care of dolphins that are rescued from captivity, but also as a coastal ecology research center where numerous important experiments and research activities take place. The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary building is being developed to be a model self-sufficient building. It is powered by solar panels and will soon also have a solar-powered desalination system to cover the water-supply needs of the building.
The Archipelago has research bases and stations on seven Aegean islands. The research bases are open all year round, while the stations are open seasonally. Scientists, experts, recent graduates and students join forces in Archipelagos’ research bases on the Northeastern Aegean islands throughout the year. Teams are comprised of people from all over the world, with a wide background of specialties and skills, who actively work on various projects. Archipelago works closely with leading universities and research institutes from Europe, America, and Asia. https://archipelago.gr/en/
Festivals & Feasts
The biggest festival of the island is that of Panagia tou Charou on the 22nd of August, on the eve of the Her feast. People come from all the surrounding islands to venerate the miraculous holy icon.
The festival of Ai-Giannis of Klidonas. «Klidonas» is a popular custom since ancient times and a celebration of Lipsi on June 24, in honor of St. John the Baptist, during which the residents light fires, the girls bring the so-called ‘water of silence’ to the village square and there is a feast with songs and dancing. The 'water of silence' is related to the mutism of the father of St. John, that occurred until the child was born, writing his name on a tablet, since he could not express it orally.
The Wine Festival takes place several times a year, the main one being in August, where you have the opportunity to try all the varieties of Lipsi wine.
Other festivals you will enjoy on the island are the Transfiguration of the Saviour on August 6, which is celebrated in the bay of Christos and people go from both land and sea, and the Domitian of the Virgin Mary on August 15.