West from Chora
From the western end of the harbour of Lipsi, the road skirts the sandy and pleasant Liendou Bay to the north, and the area known as ‘Kambos’. This valley (apart from the hotel and other buildings on its south side) gives some feel of how Lipsi appeared half a century ago: its stone-walled fields, scattered trees, partial cultivation and un-rendered stone houses have altered little since then. At the crest of the hill, the north coast of the island comes into view; almost exactly where the main island road joins from the right, a stony path leads in diametrically the opposite direction up the hill to the left, marked with infrequent red spots. Twenty five minutes of walking brings you to the hermitage church of Stavros, dwarfed by its apron of stone on the hillside above which collects water into its cistern. On the summit of the hill above is the new sanctuary of the Five Martyrs, completed in 2000 at the instigation of the island’s energetic priest, commemorating five ‘neo-martyrs’ who died for their Orthodox faith under the Turkish occupation in the 16th and 17th centuries. The large walled enclosure contains several monuments, two chapels, two sets of lodgings and an aviary with doves and peacocks, laid randomly out over a large barren area, punctuated with concrete flowerbeds. This grandiose monument which fits oddly with the surrounding landscape, has necessitated the construction of a new road which penetrates some way beyond the sanctuary, down to the once isolated hermitage of Kato Koimisis on the western shore below. The hermitage, which sits in lush vegetation fed by a slow spring below and looks out over a tiny bay, is a place of rare beauty, but its atmosphere has been eroded by the recent terracing-works and the new road. From the shore, a stone path leads up the western slope of the bay to Ano Koimisis (15 mins) where another hermitage, occupied until very recently, sits on a peaceful and panoramic ledge on the hillside above the sea. It consists of a succession of small stone-built spaces—a kitchen, a living room, a narthex or antechapel, and a tiny tri-conch chapel with a cupola. Outside, against the south wall, is a carved and coffered marble fragment from a particular type of Hellenistic grave monument: here the cross-motif in its design has prompted its use in a Christian context. The last hermit to live in these two hermit ages, Brother Philippos, left Koimisis in 2000 and died in Lipsi two years later.
A rough track leaves from Ano Koimisis and skirts the contours of the mountain back to the saddle at the Five Martyrs’ Monastery (20 mins). From here the new road leads down to the shore and the main island road (20 mins). Turning west, along the road which skirts the shore, the attractive sandy beach of Platys Gialos is reached in a leisurely half hour. There are refreshments and a taverna. The final stretch of the road to Moskhato can be completed in another 25 minutes. The church to the right of the road, hidden from view of the open sea, is Aghios Ioannis Theologos, built over a 17th century predecessor whose foundations can be traced underneath at the east end. The shortest route from Lipsi to Patmos is in fact from this haven at the western end of the island: this may explain the dedication of the church to St John the Theologian. The bay of Moskhato is rocky and narrow; from it, the sun sets over Patmos.
Lipsi Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.