Kastellorizo is a very attractive destination because of its originality, easy pace of living and the stark natural beauty.
A Kastellorizo, whose official name is Megisti, is a Greek island on the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and popular tourist destination. The smallest of the Dodecanese Islands, it is 2 miles off the Turkish coast and borders Athens and Rhodes.
The island has become more popular in recent years among tourists looking for an isolated place in the Dodecanese, thanks to the 1991 Oscar-winning movie Mediterraneo, by Gabriele Salvatores, which is set on the island during the Second World War.
Despite this, Kastellorizo is famed for its warm temperatures, sumptuous seafood, crystal clear waters, hospitable people and breathtaking sceneries. You can get here by air, through Olympic Air, or using a boat or ferry. There are nearly no streets in the town and harbour, which makes it ideal for family holidays.
The picturesque Megisti (or Chora) is the only settlement, located at the northeast end of the island. It is a tranquil village, built on a slope above and around the natural harbor, full of brightly coloured Greek island houses, two storey neoclassical mansions, churches, and quiet alleys. In the harbour there are also attractive churches and also there are still the remains of the 14th century Castle of the Knights of Agios Ioannis on a hill with red rocks.
The houses of the town are slender and characterised by wooden balconies and windows of the Anatolian type. At the entrance to the harbour, on the east side, stand the single story remnants of the former Italian government house, erected in 1926 by the Italian architect Florestano Di Fausto, who also designed some of the most important buildings of the Italian period in Rhodes. Nearby is the island’s former Ottoman mosque which dates from the second half of the 18th century and which has been restored and re-opened as a museum since 2007. From here starts the town’s quay, which runs along all three sides of the harbour. The central square — Plateia Ethelondon Kastellórizou (“Kastellorizo Volunteers’ Square”)— 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 Ilías 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 St. George (1906), with a high dome of Byzantine type, and the Cathedral of Saints Constantine and Helena (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 Palaiokastro (old castle), the island’s ancient acropolis. This fortified elevation has classical origins (see below, history section): its plan is rectangular and measures 60 by 80 metres (200 ft × 260 ft). 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.
Similarly, at Mandraki is the Monastery of Agios Giorgis Vounou, an old and abandoned monastery which offers a majestic view of Mandraki. In Castello Rosso is a 14th Century church called the Castle of the Knights of Saint John. This castle is believed to have been built in the 14th Century using stone remnants of previous buildings.
Other attractions include the Lycian tomb, the only Lycian tomb in the whole of Greece, and which dates back to the 4th Century. Also just opposite Kastellorizo is a small rock island, the Isle of Ro, named after its only inhabitant, the famous Lady Ro who died in 1982. If you would like to know more about Katellorizo’s rich history, then the Archeological Museum of Katellorizo is the place for you. Situated at the harbour of Mandraki, the museum exhibits artifacts such as religious icons and traditional costumes from the island.
As the island was the main port in the 19th century, the coasts of Kastellorizo and neighboring islets include many interesting wrecks and exploration treasures. Although there is no real diving center on the island, you can still take advantage of clean water and enjoy diving near the coast.
Kastellorizo is also famous for its natural attractions such as Azure Grotto, or the Blue Cave. This is one of Greece’s largest underwater caves estimated to stretch up to 96 miles. The cave derives its name from the deep blue hues it emanates. Although Kastellorizo does not have any beaches, there are a number of swimming, snorkelling and diving sites with good sceneries and clear water. You can decide to swim near the harbor, but if you want hidden corners, take a taxi boat or simply explore the shore and find your jumping or swim place. Divers should take advantage of cliffs and platforms such as at Nifti, Mandraki, Kavos and Plakes.
July, August and September see Katellorizo celebrate three of its most important festivals; a celebration in honor of Prophet Elias in July, a celebration in honor of Virgin Mary in August and commemoration of the day of independence in September. Tourists should anticipate traditional music and lots of food and dance.