KASTELLORIZO island holidays
What a captivating scenery! The picturesqueness and beauty that the visitor faces upon reaching Kastellorizo with its old fortress and mosque protecting the entrance of its small port, are hard to describe.
Standing right acrosss Turkey, Kastellorizo is the easternmost piece of Greek and European land. The island's official name, Megisti means "biggest" or "greatest", but at only 11.987 km2 (5 sq mi) in area, it is the smallest of the Dodecanese and it lies 72 miles east of Rhodes and roughly 1 mile off the south coast of Turkey.
In past times its capital (unique settlement and port of the island), was the most important geophysical gift of Kastellorizo. Due to its position it was a trade crossroad between Europe, the Middle East and Egypt and generated an important amount of economic and nautical trade which explains the noble air about the island that reflects its past glory and prosperity.
The painted in impressive colours two and three storey renovated mansions with their wooden staircases and balconies, make it unrivalled in beauty amongst other islands; no wonder the 1991 Oscar-winning Italian movie “Mediterraneo” was filmed on this particular island...
On Kastelorizo you will enjoy images of bygone times watching the fisherman cleaning their nets and children diving from the port’s pier... Kastellorizo is ideal for couples or families seeking quite holidays – Kastellorizo is the place where you will get to know everyone in 24 hours!
Almost everything on the island revolves around the narrow and very poetic promenade along the quay. Car and motorcycle circulation is prohibited and you will cover all distances on foot. The well-preserved foot paths are ideal for long walks.
KASTELLORIZO | cultural INFORMATION
Neotlithic tools, pre-historic walls, stone hewn tombs, a golden crown of excellent artistry from the Mycenaean period (nowadays exhibited in the Museum of Athens), Doric inscriptions and other findings witness to the fact that the island has been inhabited continuously from very ancient times.
The small but historic island of Kastellorizo was called Megisti in the ancient times, either after its first settler Megisteas or because of its location among many small rock-islands compared to which it is the biggest one.
The island of Rhodes conquered Kastelorizo in the 8th century and the island became an important commercial center with 15,000 inhabitants. Later it passed to the possession of Romans and after that it was captured by the Byzantines, to end up to the Knights of St John of Rhodes in 1306. The pirate raids from the coasts of Africa and Asia Minor wouldn't leave the island in peace. Every so often, in order to save themselves, the people would run to the castle that was built by Sossikleas Nikagoras and reconstructed by Ferdinand d'Erentia (1377-1396). The latter was the eighth Big Magister of the Knights of Rhodes and in the castle he walled his majestic coat of arms which represented seven golden towers. Those towers, together with the greatly high, twin walls and the loopholes, made the castle one of the strongest fortresses of the Aegean Sea . Since then Megisti changes its name with the foreign word Kastellorizo, which derives from the words Castello-Rosso, because of the red-colored high rocks on which the castle is built.
The real splendor of the island however was during the Ottoman rule. In 1522, Sultan Suleiman the Majestic captured our islands with his fleet. Megisti was subjected to the rule of the new master without resistance; it only paid an annual tax ( maktou ) and maintained the privileges of religion and language, as well as its national tradition. At that time, its merchant fleet had a prominent place among the merchant shipping of Dodecanese.
When Greece became independent after the successful uprising of 1821, it was believed that the Dodecanese would also be delivered from the Turks. The London Protocol (1830), however, provided that the Dodecanese should be placed under Turkish rule and, instead of Samos and the Dodecanese, Greece would be given Euboea. Kastellorizo resigned to its fate but did not lose its shipping dynamism. On the contrary, it not only prospered in merchant and shipping business, but made a remarkable progress in literature, as well. It was then that famous Schools were founded, such as the Sandrapeia School – of the benefactor Lucas Sandrapes – where literacy and education were given to many generations. Magnificent churches were built, with rich iconography and sumptuous icon screens, such as the cathedral of St Constantine and St Helena , St George of Lucas, St George Pegadiotis and some smaller ones, as well as plenty of monasteries and country churches.
A Turkish governor (“kaimakamis”) with a small staff was present there during the period of Turkish rule, just for the sake of appearances – because virtually, the power was exercised by the local elders, enlightened people with a profound feeling for Greece, who kept tradition and national consciousness alive. So, there came a time when Kastellorizo was one of the most blissful islands of the Dodecanese, with riches and gentility, due to the large fleet of sailing ships and the most profitable voyages thereof.
From there on the island was at many times bombarded, burned down, looted and entirely destroyed. It remained under the military occupation of the Allies, like the rest of the Dodecanese, until March 7, 1948 when it was officially annexed to mother Greece.
- Kastellorizo Archaeological Museum - Housed in the "Konaki" which is part of the medieval Castle of St. Nicholas. Located in the district of "Kavos" it is a two-storey building with exhibits from antiquity up to the post-Byzantine period (tel. 22460 49283)
- A historical collection with exhibits from the modern history of the island - housed in the Mosque located at the harbor entrance (tel. 22460 25500)
What to see
- The Castle of the Knights of St. John ‘Castello Rosso” - built in the 14th century on the red cliff that you will see upon arriving at the port.
- The perfectly preserved stone-hewed Lycean tomb at the foot of the castle at the port entrance.
- Palaiokastro - the eldest site on Kastellorizo island. There you will see the remains of the ancient Acropolis, water cisterns and neolithic tools.
- The Metropolis of St. Constantine and Helen - the saint patrons of Kastellorizo island.
- The archaeological Museum.
- The famous Blue Cave - one of the rarest geological phenomena and one of the most amazing formations on earth; Kastellorizo is worth visiting just for this cave only.
- Climb the 401 steps that separate the harbor from the church of Agios Georgios tou Vounou (St. George of the mountain). Inside the monastery, you can see the catacomb of St. Haralambos.
- The churches of St. Nicholas, St. Demetrius and the mosque at the entrance of the port.
- Walk in the preserved settlement of Castelorizo with its gorgeous, colorful houses. Right underneath the castle, you can see the symbol of the island, a huge heart that commands: "Faith-Hope-Love".
- The lighthouse on Strogili Island, 5nm south-east of Kastellorizo. The only inhabitants are the lighthouse watchmen. This lighthouse was manufactured in 1917. The altitude of tower is 9 metres and the height of focal plane is 85 metres.
- The Blue Cave or "Cave Parasta" or "Fokiali" (from the seals that live inside) is one of Europes most famous grottoes. The inside is 75m long, 40m wide and 35m high. The stalactites and stalagmites in this beautiful cave are flooded from the blue light that comes in the morning. The morning sun reflects from the bottom giving everything a deep blue colour. The little island boats that take you there give you the chance to swim inside.
- Tribute to the islet of Ro! Despina Achladioti, the famous Lady of Ro, was the only resident of the island for her entire life. Until 1982, when she passed away, she rised full of pride the Greek flag daily refusing to leave Ro even a single day. Here you will find a monument in her honour and the beautiful beaches of St. George and Strogyli.
KASTELLORIZO | Villages
Kastellorizo, the only settlement of the island, is both the harbor and the capital of the island. It consists of the districts Pigadia, Horafia and Mandraki (small picturesque port). On the island there are no buses - just one taxi! Car and motorcycle circulation is prohibited and you will cover all distances on foot. The well-preserved foot paths are ideal for long walks.
At the entrance of the port is the island's former Ottoman mosque which dates from the second half of the 18th century and which has been now restored and re-opened as a museum (2007). From here starts the town's quay, which runs along all three sides of the harbour. The central square —Plateia Ethelondon Kastellórizou—lies at the midpoint of the eastern side, near the vessel dock. On the opposite side of the harbour one has a good view from this vantage of Pera Meria, the western quay, and the monasteries of Profitis Elías and Aghia Triadha, the former now an army base.
Above the quay on the eastern side there is a pathway which leads to the Castle of the Knights (14th century). Of it remain the curtain wall, part of a square tower, the remains of a cylindrical tower at the east corner, and toward the sea another cylindrical tower. A Doric inscription, carved in the rock, attests to the existence of an earlier fortress here during Antiquity. Inside the tower there is a large covered cistern.
Ascending the steps on the eastern side of the town, one reaches the suburb of Horafia, where there is a square surrounded by the Church of Agios Yeorgios (1906), with a high dome of Byzantine type, and the Cathedral of Agios Konstandinos and Eleni (1835). It has three naves divided by monolithic granite columns from the temple of Apollo Lykios in Patara (Anatolia). The columns carry ogival arches. Further east is the small bay known as Mandraki, the secondary harbour of the island.
West of the town, beyond the summit of the island known as Vigla (270 m), stands Paleokastro (old castle), the island's ancient acropolis. This fortified elevation has classical origins (see below, history section): its plan is rectangular and measures 60 x 80 m. In its interior stand an ancient tower, built with square limestone blocks, and large water cisterns. Carved on the base of the castle there is also a Doric inscription, dating back to the 4th or 3rd centuries BC, with references to Megiste (the ancient name of Kastellorizo) and its dependence on Rhodes. On the east side there are remnants of a gateway, or Propylaea.
KASTELLORIZO | Beaches
Due to its rocky coastline, Kastelorizo does not have beaches as such. Mandraki however is a wonderful place to swim, snorkel and relax. A breeding haven for fish. Getting there is just a short walk. Just behind the football field the island has beautiful water and a fantastic view to the Turkish coast. You can also swim in Kavos and Plakes or take a daily excursion boat that visit the Blue Cave, the islet of Ro, Agios Georgios (a small beach with shallow waters)
- Airport (domestic)
- Local bus service, Taxi
- Health Center
Townhall : 22460 49269, 49232
Kastellorizo Airport : 22460 49250
Police : 22460 49333
Health Center : 22460 49267
Kastellorizo harbourmaster : 22460 49270
Rhodes harbourmaster : 22460 77284
Kastellorizo has air and sea connection. Its airport is located 4 kms from the port (there is a taxi and a mini bus that take visitors to the town). It deserves only local flights from/to Rhodes - Kastellorizo.
By air: There are no direct flights from Athens to Kastellorizo – you will reach Kastellorizo via Rhodes.
Olympic Air (duration of trip 55’ from Athens Elefterios Venizelos airport to Rhodes ). Duration of trip from Rhodes to Kastellorizo 25’
Athens: +30 210 966-6666
Rhodes: +30 22410-24571, 24551, 83400 (airport)
Kastellorizo: +30 22460-49250
Athens airport (Eleftherios Venizelos) : 210 3530000
By sea: There is a catamaran (once a week - 2hr 30mins), ferries (2 times a week - 3hrs 45mins) from Rhodes. There is also the large ferry of Blue Star Ferries company (Τ/210-89.19.800, www.bluestarferries.gr) every Monday that leaves from Piraeus port - duration of trip 20 hrs.
You may also fly from Turkey (Antalya Airport or Dalaman Airport via Kas) to Kastelorizo.
The Turkish coastal town of Kas is only a few minutes away by boat and has many connections, which often makes getting to Kastelorizo from Turkey the preferred option. One can fly to Dalaman or Antalya airport and then go to Kas by car (2 hrs drive).
Kas to Kastelorizo : 20 mins by boat (almost every day in summer).
There is one small bus in service on Kastellorizo, The bus is used to collect tourists from the airport. There is also a taxi. The island has only one road that connects the airport to the port.
KASTELLORIZO| SPORTS & ACTIVITIES
Sailing & Yachting
Kastelorizo does not have a marina but it provides a safe shelter and refueling services at its port.
It is worth sailing to the islet of Ro, but also to the islet of Strogyli which is the eastern border of the Greek territory.
Festivals & Events
- St. Paraskevi June 26th
- St. Helen & Constantine (island's saint patrons) May 21st
- Assumption of Virgin Mary August 15th
- Prophet Elijah Juy 20th - the biggest festival celebration on the island. On this day the locals to honor the Prophet dive into the sea with their clothes on!
Excursions & Sports
Boats are on hand to take you to the nearby islets of Ro and Strogili, the Blue Cave and neighboring Kas (Turkey). If you're going to Kas, you must contact one of the travel agencies a day before. Bring your passport.
Kastelorizo is a great place for diving, sailing and fishing.
There are a number of notable sea caves including the so-called Blue Grotto which is much larger than its namesake in Capri. Exploration undertaken in 2006 by members of the SELAS Caving club of Greece has revealed vertical caves in many parts of the island.
This panoramic sea cave is also known with the name “Parastas hole” or “Fokiali” – due to the seals ( fokia ) that live inside – and it is the most phantasmagoric cave of the Mediterranean Sea. It is situated at the SE coastal region of the island, it is 75m long (inside), 40m wide and 35m high, and the entrance is as high as a small boat – which can just pass through the mouth when the sea is calm at dawn. The calm waters of the cave look like an immense blue-green mirror with plenty of iridescence, which seems to illuminate this enormous fairy-like palace, the numerous stalactites and the thousands of wild pigeons, with various colors.
Exploration undertaken in 2006 by members of the SELAS Caving club of
Greece has revealed vertical caves in many parts of the island.
Kastelorizo has been characterized a biological paradise, whose ecological balance remains undisturbed.
The fauna of the island is of great interest with a large variety of amphibians, reptiles, insects, birds, fish, among which the Mediterranean monk seal monachus monachus.
The island has been integrated in the European Ecological Network of Natura 2000.
Kastellorizo can be combined with a visit to the island of Rhodes