General information about Katellorizo (Megisti)
Kastellorizo (otherwise known as Kastelorizo or Megisti) is the farthest island in the southeastern Aegean, in the eastern side of Greece and at the same time it is Europe’s last point of reach. It belongs to Dodecanese, an island complex in the South Aegean Region. It lies only 1.25 miles off the coast of Turkey, 72 miles from Rhodes, 308 miles from Athens, the capital of Greece and 150 miles from Cyprus. Its area covers a little less than 9 square kilometers and the coastline stretches for almost 20 km.
The official name of Kastellorizo is Megisti which in Greek means the biggest. It is said to derive from either being the biggest island in a complex of small ones, the most famous of which is Ro, or from the ancient King Megisteas. The current name Kastellorizo, which means red fortress, comes from the red castle (Castello Rosso) which is built at the entrance of the port.
It is a very small, but beautiful island, which comprises of an amphitheatrical, natural port and approximately 250 habitable houses. Although there are only a few people living permanently on the island, they will all welcome you warmheartedly.
The beautiful two-storey neo-classical houses with the brightly painted doors, the wooden balconies and the tiled roofs along with the imposing domes of the churches, bear witness to the island’s glorious past.
In Kastellorizo you will enjoy the delicious local cuisine, the amazing sea and the warm climate away from the hustle and bustle of the city. During your visit you will be able to enjoy culinary sensations which include not only the remarkably fresh fish cooked in different ways in the seaside restaurants but also a great variety of local traditional sweets such as “katoumaria”, “strava” and halva.
For your daily swim you can enjoy the sea in Agios Yeorgios, Agios Stefanos, Plakes and in Mandraki.
Apart from its glorious past, the island offers a variety of trekking routes during which you will be able to take in the unique scenery. There are also various sights worth visiting which will offer an insight to the colourful past of the island. Here are some of them:
Cathedral of St. Constantine and St Helen (1853)
The great cathedral of St. Constantine and St Helen, the patron saints of Kastellorizo, is built in the most prominent spot on the island, dominating the landscape in Mandraki. It is a brilliant religious and architectural monument, which is interwoven with the social and cultural life of Kastellorizo, starting from its foundation until nowadays. It is a church of exquisite art built as a three-nave basilica, with rich icons, marble icons screens and a tall marble bell tower.
The roof of the Cathedral lies on twelve enormous monolithic granite pillars, brought especially from Patara (Lycea), when the historic cathedral was built. According to tradition, these pillars are from the ancient Temple of Apollo in Minor Asia.
Lyceans, from the Greek word “lykos” meaning wolf, were the inhabitants of the nearby area of Asia Minor. The name comes from their god, the Lycean Apollo, who was worshipped as a wolf. The perfectly preserved lycean tomb is dated back to the 4th century B.C. and it is hewed in the stone at the foot of the castle.
The oldest and most important monument of the island, Palaiokastro, is situated on the west side of Kastellorizo. Palaiokastro is an ancient settlement with a lot of remains of buildings and cisterns. On the Doric Acropolis, which is dated back to the 3rd century B.C., you can still see an inscription with the name Megisti on it. At Limenari, located in the same area, you can also see the Cyclopian Walls.
The Blue Cave of Kastellorizo is also known as the “Cave of Parasta” or “Fokiali”, which comes from the Greek word “ fokia” meaning seal because of the seals that take refuge inside. It is one of the most spectacular and rarest geological phenomena that can be found in the area and it is well worth paying a visit to this small island which is approximately 3 km away from the central port. It is the largest and the most beautiful undersea cave in Greece and it is also considered one of the most exquisite ones in the Mediterranean Sea.
It is rich in stalactites and it is illuminated by the reflection of the rays that create a unique, in beauty and charm, spectacle. It is situated at the south of the island, it is 150m long (inside), 37m wide and 40m high, and the entrance has the height of a small boat that can just pass through the mouth when the sea is calm at dawn and there is no wind.
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, with various colors, wild pigeons.
The cave can only be reached by boat.
The museum is located close to the remains of the castle and contains exhibits of great value from different periods of the antiquity as well as folklore artifacts. Every day at 12:00 (except Monday) you can watch videos showing moments of the island’s history.
You should undoubtedly visit it.
Agios Yeorgios of the mountain (tou vounou)
When you finish strolling along the tiled alleys around the port, it is worth walking up the 401 stairs that lead to the Agios Yeorgios of the mountain (Agios Yeorgios tou vounou or tou vouniou as the locals call it). It is in the area of Palaiokastro and it is surrounded by huge natural slates of stone. Inside the monastery there is a catacomb along with a smaller church of Agios Charalambos. On your way up and down you can take spectacular snapshots of the island and the port.
The islet of Ro, which you can only visit by boat, is located on the south-west side of the island. It is well known for its ‘Lady of Ro” who was its only inhabitant, and who for decades raised the Greek flag every morning.
Festivals – Customs
The visitor should know that Kastellorizo has many important feasts and celebrations. St. Constantine and St Helen are the patron saints of the island and they are celebrated on May 21st. To honour them there is a festive mass followed by a big celebration with a live orchestra.
However, the most important festival is on July 20th, for the celebration of Prophet Elija. On this day the locals throw water from the sea to each other and then they dive into the waters in honor of the saint. At the same time there is a big celebration in the centre of the village accompanied by a live orchestra.
Also, on the 13th of September there are celebrations for the Day of Independence of the island and its integration with motherland Greece.
Our customs and the traditional landscape of the island also attract a lot of people, mainly from abroad, to organize weddings and baptisms.