Visit The Island

On the easternmost side of Greece you’ll come across Kastellorizo, one of the smallest yet prettiest islands of the Dodecanese complex. Also known as Megisti during antiquity, the island has a long history starting in the early Neolithic era. Its ancient name lasted until the Middle Ages, when the knights of St John built Castello Rosso on the reddish rock above the port. The name of the island was given because of the castle with the high double walls and battlements.

Privileges granted by the Sublime Porte to Kastellorizo, particularly during the second half of the 19th century, contributed to its economic and social prosperity. The beautiful stately houses along the Kordoni coast are reminiscent of those prosperous days. . In 1915, France occupied the island but on the 1st of March 1921 it ceded it to Italy for a hefty fee. At the outbreak of World War II Kastellorizo had a significantly reduced population. On 13 September 1943, Allied forces liberated Kastellorizo due to its strategic position. During this period the British used it as a base for the liberation of the islands of the eastern Aegean. In October 1943, the Germans bombed the island heavily. The islanders were uprooted once again from their homeland, leaving their property behind, and were transferred to the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza, Palestine. In 1945, at the end of World War II, the people of Kastellorizo returned to their homeland in three groups, after suffering multiple hardships. On 10 February 1947, Italy ceded the Dodecanese and its adjacent islets to Greece. A year later, in 1948, Kastellorizo was officially incorporated into Greece.

Since then, the community and its residents have tried to rebuild their lives, with most emigrating overseas, mainly to Australia. From the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, cultural and political actions are being taken so that the place returns to a period of flourishing and new prosperity. The most important of these are the filming, entirely on the island, of the Oscar-winning film Mediterraneo by Gabriele Salvatores in 1990-91, while in 2003 the meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers took place under the Greek presidency.

With a picturesque port, a mesmerizing settlement and a fascinating history, tinny Kastellorizo (island’s extent is just 9 km2), yet unspoiled from mass tourism, is the «stronghold» of Beyond Borders since 2016. This insular cradle between East and West continues to inspire and remind us that through culture, art and, ultimately, through life itself, it is cross-border blends and ideas that point the way to progress.

Touring the island

The first glimpse of the colorful stately houses built on the hillside by the sea is what you’ll see upon your arrival at the harbor. The 1755 mosque with its minaret and red dome houses the Historical Collection of Kastellorizo showcasing documents, heirlooms and pictures from the island’s history (19th c. up to mid 20th c.)

Your scenic walk around Kastellorizo will include strolling around cobblestone alleys, staircases and houses built in the Dodecanetian architectural style. Go see the arches in the Municipal and Nea Agora buildings that follow the architectural style from the Italian Rule. The 1903 Santrapeia School’s building was designed following the neoclassical architectural style of the University of Athens. Head to the Patron Saint Church of Agion Konstantinou and Helenis (1835) and see its gothic architectural style. Its roof stands on twelve granite columns borrowed from the temple of Apollo in Patara Lycia.

Climb up 315 steps from the port to the fort-monastery of Agios Georgios tou Vounou, in the Palaiokastro area, from where a stunning view awaits you. In the monastery there is a catacomb as well as the church of Agios Charalambos.

Don’t Miss:

  1. The 14th-c. castle of the Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St John. It is on Castello Rosso, a hill of red rock, which gave the island its current name.
  2. The 4th-century BC temple-like Lycian tomb below the castle.
  3. The Archaeological – Diachroniko Museum of Megistis, housed in the historic building “Konaki”. The gallery dedicated to ancient Megisti is particularly interesting. Items referring to the period from the early Christian years until the post-byzantine times are on display in other galleries.
  4. Palaiokastro is the most significant monument on the island. Panagia tou Kastrou and Agios Stefanos churches are within the castle grounds. Right below is Acheres where ten cisterns were built during the Turkish Occupation.
  5. The Cyclopean Walls can be seen in the areas of Kampos, Palaiokastro and on Mounta Hill.
  6. Blue Cave or Fokiali – due to the seals that live inside – it is the largest underwater cave in Greece, one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean and world-renowned for its rich stalactite decoration.

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