Kastellorizo – Megisti
Kastellorizo is the easternmost island of Greece, 72 nautical miles from Rhodes and just two miles from the Turkish coast. Its natural harbour at Megisti is said to be the best in the Mediterranean.
Kastellorizo is an island with a rich nautical tradition that explains the noble air about the island that reflects its part glory and prosperity.
Must-sees are Saint George of the Mountain near Paleokastro – 401 steps leading up to the monastery bounded by great natural rock slabs, the Castello Rosso (whence Kastellorizo) on the rock above the main town, and the castle museum with old photographs, frescoes and examples of local dress. The Blue Cave at Aheres is crammed with stalactites and stalagmites.
There are no buses or taxis on Kastellorizo. All travel is on foot or by four-footed beast, as there are no paved roads, just footpaths. Small boats are the only transport if you want to do some bathing at Galazio Spilaio (Blue Cave) and the adjacent islets of Ro and Strongyli.
The small but historic little island of Kastellorizo was called Megisti in ancient times after its first settler Megisteas. The island was inhabited since the Neolithic and meso-minoic times. Then the Dorians settled there, as they did on all the Dodecanese islands.
Τhe island had its own civilization, judging from the ancient findings, the inscriptions, tombs, walls and the remains of the temple of Apollo Megisteas whose worship was wide spread on the island as well as on the nearby coasts of Asia Minor. For example in Patara, a temple of supreme beauty with a statue of the god was built to honor him.
Megisti took part in the Trojan War along with the other Dodecanese islands and being an ally of the Athenians helped them in their battles against the Persians.
The island was conquered by the Romans, the Byzantines and then in 1306 by the Knights of St. John of Rhodes who built the castle with its tall twin walls and loopholes, making it one of the strongest fortresses of the Aegean Sea.
Since then, Megisti changes its name into the foreign word of Kastellorizo which derives from the words Castello-Rosso because of the red-colored rocks on which the castle was built.
The conquering of the island continued from 1440 to 1522 consequently by the Egyptians, the Franks and the Turks.
Megisti was subjected to the resistance of the Turkish dominion without resistance and in return only paid an annual tax (maktou) and maintained the freedom of religion, language and national traditions. At that time, its merchant fleet had a prominent place among the merchant shipping of the Dodecanese.
Unfortunately a new raid stopped the progress. In 1659 the Venetians seize the island but the Turks take it back – the heroic Lambros Katsonis will free the island in July 1788.
During that period of time the island’s merchant fleet was very strong and the little island enjoyed its greatest prosperity.
Apart from its glorious past, Kastellorizo has also many sights worth visiting.
The castle of the order of St. John
It was built in the 14th century on the edge of a small slope right above the port, on a reddish rock (Castello Rosso) from which the island got its name.
Today, only parts of its exterior walls and of some of its towers are still intact
Stone-hewed Lycean tomb
It is a perfectly preserved tomb of the 4th century B.C. hewed in the stone at the foot of the Castle. It is worth mentioning that Lyceans was the name given to the inhabitants of Asia Minor because they worshipped “Apollo Lycios” where “lycos” stands for the Greek word “wolf”.
On the western side of Kastellorizo is the most ancient and important sight of the island – Palaiokastro. It is an ancient settlement with a lot of remains of buildings and water cisterns.
On its Doric Acropolis of the 3rd century B.C. there is an inscription that mentions the name of Megisti. In the area, in the location of Limenari, there are remains of the Cyclopian Walls.
It is located close to the remains of the castle and it has exhibits of great value from different periods of time as well as objects of folk art.
Do not miss to visit it.
Monastery of Saint George “tou Vounou” (of the mountain)
Having walked along the cobbled lanes of the port, it is worth walking up the 401 steps that lead to the monastery of St. George Tou Vounou.
It is situated in the area of Palaiokastro and huge natural stones surround it. Inside the monastery there is a catacomb and Saint Charalambos.
Cathedral of St. Constantine and St. Helen (1835)
In the most prominent location of the island right above Mandraki the metropolitan temple of the patron saints of the island Constantine and Helen dominates.
It is a brilliant religious and architectural jewel, closely related with the social and cultural life of Kastellorizo, from its foundation until nowadays. It is a church of unique art, with a three-nave basilica, 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) in 1835, when the historic cathedral was built. According to tradition, these pillars are from the ancient Temple of Pythius Apollo.
The famous aqua colored cave of Kastellorizo is one of the rarest geological phenomena and one of the most amazing formations on earth; Kastellorizo is worth visiting just for this cave.
Also known under the name of “Parastas Cave” or “Fokiali” – due to the seals (fokia in Greek) that live inside it – it is the largest and most beautiful caves of Greece while it is also considered to be the most phantasmagoric cave of the Mediterranean Sea.
It is situated at south of the island, it is 75m long (inside), 40m wide and 35m 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. 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.
Located on the SW side of the island is the islet of Ro that you can only visit by boat. Well known for its ‘Lady of Ro” who was its only inhabitant, and who for decades rose the Greek flag every morning.
Still, you may visit the islet of Stroggili on which is the nautical lighthouse – the island’s only inhabitants are its lighthouse keepers.
Both islets (Ro and Stroggili) offer crystal clear waters and are ideal for a swim.
At last, the visitor should know that Kastellorizo has many important feasts and celebrations.
The most important one is on July 20, for the celebration of Prophet Elija.On this day the locals dive into the waters in honor of the saint.
Also, on the 13th of September there are celebrations for the Day of Independence of the island.
TOWN HALL Tel. 0030 22460 49269-49232
POLICE Tel. 0030 22460 49333
POST OFFICE Tel. 0030 22460 49298
PORT POLICE Tel. 0030 22460 49270
CUSTOMS OFFICE Tel. 0030 22460 49009
TELEPHONE COMPANY Tel. 0030 22460 49289
LOCAL HEALTH OFFICE Tel. 0030 22460 49267
CITIZEN INFORMATION CENTER Tel. 0030 22460 70670
NATIONAL BANK OF GREECE Tel. 0030 22460 49054
AIRPORT Tel. 0030 22460 49250
TAXI Tel. 0030 6938739178
Official website: www.megisti.gr