This small (9.000m2, population: 250) but heroic island, to the east end of the Aegean, is the outer link of the Dodecanese chain. It is situated at the extreme south-estern corner of Greece, at a distance of 72 miles from Rhodes and 1 mile from the Turkish coast. Notions of calmness and tranquility acquire new meaning on this far-flung island, away from everyone and everything.
Kastellorizo island is the largest island in an archipelago of 24 islets and for this reason since Antiquity it was known as Megisti (= maxima).
Scenic Kastellorizo village is the island’s only populated area. There’s no better place to head to if you want to avoid the crowds and see Greece without the glossy coating of mass tourism.
The palmy days started for Kastellorizo at the end of the 19th century thanks to fishing and shipping. Recalling those days there are the beautiful mansions along the coast. The 9 sq km big island became a tourists’ attraction after the Academy Award winner film “Mediterraneo” was shot there some 30 years ago.
During the Greek revolution (1821) the Kastellorizians not only offered their old ships to be used as fire ships, but also themselves, fighting bravely the enemy at sea, managed to destroy completely two ships of the Ottoman fleet. Because the island is very close to the Asia Minor coast, the inhabitants, fearing the possible consequences of an act of revenge on their families that were staying on the island, transfered them on their sailing boats to Karpathos, Amorgos, Patmos, Symi and Kassos, leaving Kastellorizo deserted.
In the years of the revolution, the Kastellorizians, although engaged with fighting the enemy, never forgot their little island. There is a little couplet that has been preserved over the years from this period which is very characteristic:
‘’I have been in Karpathos, I have also been in Kassos, but I can not forget my beloved Kastellorizo’’
When, after the revolution, the Kastellorizians were offered by Ioannis Kapodistrias, first governor of the newly formed (1830) Greek state, land to stay either in Vouliagmeni or Glyfada, or even in St. Ioannis’ area in Keratsini, not only they refused, but they all started their journey back to their island in order to be, as they said, in their own houses and in the land of their ancestors.
At this point it should be mentioned that, when Kastellorizo was deserted, the only person that remained was a priest named Sofronios. Legends say that he was a saint, and that he once managed to go to the island of Rho by just sitting on his frock. So when the Kastellorizians (the first sailing boats) returned in their homeland, for the fear that there might be Turks hidden in their houses they anchored their ships just outside the port entrance.
Father Sofronios, when he realized what was happening, started running down from the mountains, shouting loudly to the people. The joy and the enthusiasm of the Kastellorizians for their return was so great that they started jumping into the sea and then running about the streets wearing their turbans on their heads, dancing and celebrating all together. Since then this day, 19th of July the eve of St. Ilias, is being remembered with the compulsory swimming of all the people on the island.
After their return to their little island, the Kastellorizians started building schools, churches and working even harder in the trading and shipping businesses. Due to the exceptional priviledges that they were granted by Sultan Mahmut the 2nd (1835) and later by other sultans, Kastellorizo entered one of the most thriving periods of it’s long history, and it’s people enjoyed a real wealth and prosperity.
Kastellorizo is an excellent place for diving, sailing and fishing. Apart from that, you can simply relax and enjoy the peace and quiet!
On the island are several traditional events and fairs.