It’s a tiny place, but if you’re looking for that special something, you’ll uncover more than you ever thought possible. What is it that lends Kastelorizo its unique character? It could be the great distance cutting it off from the rest of Greece and the hair’s breadth of 800 metres (from cape to cape) separating it from Turkey. It could be the 200 permanent residents who feel abandoned by the rest of Greece, who feel they have nothing left to lose in this far-flung corner of Greece. But still, they know how to smile, enjoy themselves, have a fight and make up the following day, and they remain patriots to the very core, honoring their country with every heart in the village. Perhaps that special something for me was the dazzling sun, shining down on the island 320 days a year. Perhaps it was the blue grottoes, a color like none other I’d seen before.
From my very first morning on Kastelorizo, the surprises came thick and fast, one after the other. The sun had begun rising and the daily concert of cicadas had commenced. Feeling totally at peace, I made my way down the stepped lane to find myself at the harbour and saw before me the calm, crystal water of the sea. I followed the silent game of the sun as it melted away the shade.
The entire picturesque harbor lay undisturbed and silent, with people here and there sipping coffee at the café tables by the sea – an unforgettable image. There was the castle, lying in ruins, bathed by the sun and built on red rocks. The name Kastelorizo derives from this breath-taking castle, "Castello Rosso" in Italian. The island’s official name, however, is Megiste, named after the ancient settler Megisteas and Zeus (as Zeus Megisteas, god of guest friendship and hospitality), who was worshipped here in antiquity and continues to be "worshipped" since the inhabitants are warm, friendly and hospitable people.
Kastelorizo lies 72 nautical miles from Rhodes and there are 2 ferry crossings per week taking 6 hours to cover the distance from Rhodes (add another 14-18 hours for the ferry trip from the port of Pireaus to Rhodes). Fortunately, tiny Kastelorizo boasts a tiny airport. Five times a week in the summer, Olympic Airways 20-seaters touch down from Rhodes. It’s approximately a 30-minute flight from Rhodes. There’s no need for any means of transport whatsoever on Kastelorizo – everything you need is accessible by foot. Only one settlement exists on the island and there’s good swimming at the harbor, or in the shallow waters of adjacent Mandraki beach. Wonderful beaches for swimming can also be found on the islet of Rho, especially lovely are the grottoes. Snorkelling is good on the islet of Strongyli, a destination where you can even sample cockles. By caique it’s also possible to cross to Turkey, specifically to Antiphylo, known as Kas by the Turks.
There’s only one hotel on Kastelorizo: the "Megiste" (02460-49219), and a well-run complex of traditional houses on the beach ("Kastelorizo" 02460-49044). There are, however, far more rooms for rent, and information is available at the Town Hall (02460-49269). In summer, it’s advisable to book ahead before setting out for the island.
Should you awaken one morning to find the island virtually deserted, don’t panic. The locals have crossed to Kas (Turkish coast) for their weekly buy-up of fruit and vegetables at the market and other shopping in general. Fresh produce ferried over from Rhodes is prohibitively expensive. Generally speaking, you can enjoy good, fresh fish on Kastelorizo. The fish taverna frequented by the rich and famous arriving on their yachts is owned by Lazarakis. Another good fish taverna is the "Sydney", obviously established by islanders returning from Australia. An especially good taverna with ready cooked dishes is "Akrothalassi" on the beach, and "Platania" up by the church of St George is another good choice.
- Area code 02460
- Town Hall 49269
- Police 49333
- Health Centre 49267
- Port Authority 49270
- Airport 49238