In our following ultimate Kastellorizo Island Travel guide, you will get to know all the information you need to know about as well as things to do and the best places to visit in Kastelorizo island.
Kastellorizo Island is one of the smallest islands of the Dodecanese region and floats on the easternmost edge of Greece. Dodecanese region is an island complex comprising twenty three inhabited islands and lots of islets. The major inhabited islands by population order are: Rhodes island, Kos, Kalimnos, Leros, Karpathos, Patmos, Symi, Astipalea, Kasos, Nisiros, Lipsi, Tilos, Kastelorizo island and Halki and Agathonisi.
It gets its name by the greekization of the phrase Castello Rosso, which means red rock. Castello Rosso also called the castle is built on the reddish rock above the port. Although, its official name is Megisti which in greek means the great one. Possibly, it is named like this because it is the biggest of all the archipelago islands. However, you can consider it as a funny name as it covers only an area of just 12 sq. km!
Due to its strategic geographical location, it has a long and turbulent history, starting in the Neolithic era. The island was first colonized by Dorian Greeks. The second version of the name Megisti belongs to the first colonist named Megisteas. During the Hellenistic era on the island, it flourished the Mycenaean and Minoan civilization. Then, in the Byzantine period, it became a part of the province of the islands, whose capital was Rhodes Island.
By the Knights Hospitaller period, the island was taken as part of the expedition to conquer Rhodes Island. Subsequently, the knights used it as a place of banishment for disliked persons. Since the early 14th and the next upcoming centuries, the island was constantly changing the conquerors including Egyptians, Catalonians, Spanish, and finally the Ottomans. Kastelorizo island remained under the Ottoman occupation for about 400 years until when in 1913 the inhabitants revolted and made it independent for 2 years!
In 1915 it returned under the Turkish occupation and at the end of WW1, it was assigned to Italy. Finally, since the end of WW2 and specifically on 7 March 1948, the island formally joined the Greek State.
Although the population of Katellorizo reached the number of 12.000 inhabitants in the past, sadly today the number has been decreased to just 496 (according to the 2011 cencus).
Despite its small size and the long distance from the mainland, the island has great tourist facilities with remarkable hotels and restaurants. The majority of them are above average and offered in very good prices.
You will also find a post office, bank, medical center, bakery, small shops for various shopping as well as a pharmacy which is going to reopen in 2021, after 15 years!
At the port, there is a ship refueling station, and if you need fuel for any reason you can visit the gas station just outside the settlement. Last but not least, you will not need to worry about water shortage because since 2018 there are two new desalination plants for the daily water needs of the island.
Nowadays, access is easier as compared to a few decades ago for those who doesn’t own a boat or helicopter! There are numerous options by air or by sea to reach Kastelorizo island.
The trip lasts approximately 5 hours and the boat departs from Acandia harbor in Rhodes Island. Service companies listed below.
Blue Star Ferries is one of the biggest greek shipping companies and connects the island twice a week and from.*
Saos Ferries connects the island with the ferry boat Stavros three times per week.*
Dodecanisos seaways connects the island with a catamaran high-speed boat (app. 2, 5 hours trip) during the summer season and depart from Colona harbor in Rhodes Island.*
*Shipping companies may change their boat route frequencies at any time. Please kindly check their websites for updated information.
Flights from Athens or Rhodes Island served exclusively by Olympic Air which operates under Aegean Airlines. The flight lasts approximately 45 minutes from Rhodes. Flights from Athens have an intermediate stop at Rhodes airport.
If you wish to combine a trip by air and sea transport you need to arrange a transfer from Rhodes airport to Acandia harbor.
At Kastelorizo island, there is a taxi and a small bus that operates in the summer season and serves the route from the airport.
According to the average annual metrics, Kastelorizo has a pleasant climate all year round and the best time to visit are the months of June, July, August, and September especially, when there is a low chance of rainy days and hot temperatures.
Annual Average Temperatures
Average sunny days per month
Average rainy days per month
On arriving by boat, you’ll be left speechless by the unique atmosphere of the beautiful harbor which rewards you for the long trip. The neoclassical colorful mansions and their wooden and iron balconies are reflected on the sea to create a scenic view. And then, you finally realize there is no better place to visit if you desire to stay away from noisy crowds and experience Greece without the disadvantage of mass tourism
Wherever your accommodation is located, you can leave your luggage and go straight for a walk at the harbor. Admire the three-storied mansions with their Anatolian type balconies and windows along it. Walk the cobblestone alleys through the districts of Pera Maria and Kavos.
You can visit the Saint George of the Well church which is a late 19th-century church at the midpoint of the eastern side. In front of the church, there is the Australia Square. The main square is dedicated to the country of Australia where many locals emigrated after World War II.
After a short coffee stop, you can continue walking on the east side of the harbor where you should not miss the chance to visit the remnants of Palazzina Della Delegazzione, the remnants of the former Italian governorate. And also, the Ottoman mosque which was built during the late 18th century.
During a morning walk, a visit to the local museums is a must. The archaeological museum located in the Kavos district of the town is a historic building called Konaki. It was part of the Medieval Castle of Agios Nicholas in Kastellorizo’s fortified precinct, just below the little tower which is the only remaining part of the Knights’ Castle. There you can have the chance to admire a collection of objects old pictures, archaeological findings of valuable price, and costumes which dates back to the Paleochristian and the Byzantine period.
Down by the harbor house, in an ex-mosque building, is the Popular Art Museum. It is an ideal place if you want to learn about Kastellorizo’s past.
Locals are always pleased to share their interesting stories with visitors. Only the fact is, they live so far from the mainland which makes you wonder how their daily life is managed here.
Mandraki is the second tranquil harbor of the island. If your accommodation is not near it, then you should visit it on foot. You will adore its serenity and the picturesqueness of the area.
You are going to find here the freshest seafood you have ever tasted. And, if you do not believe me, you will find yourself that fishermen every morning, are delivering fish to the restaurants that are still alive. Shrimps especially are in great abundance and tasty!
Of course, home-style food is not missing the local cuisine. You can taste vrithopites (chickpea fritters) and stuffed onions. A good place to enjoy your meal is the traditional Platania Taverna at the Horafia square. Do not forget to taste katoumari and strava, the traditional sweets offered in tavernas as desserts.
If you are not lucky enough to have a boat, you can charter one at the harbor. We recommend Mr. Antonis, as he is very knowledgeable and has excellent recommendations. Usually, the boat trip starts from Blue Cave. You need to be there as early as possible in the morning (app. 9 a.m.). Swimming or snorkeling in the cave will offer you a life-long experience, you must do it! Water is not as cold as you think…
After having this amazing experience, while returning, Mr. Antonis is going to take you to the Navlakha bay. The scenery there changes from light blue to turquoise waters. You will also find the remains of the French road, a road created by the French to carry their heavy armament to the top.
The next attraction is the ‘’Cliff of Kir Nikitas’’, another place of natural beauty where the legend says that a beautiful young lady fell from there as she did not like the man her father ordered her to marry. The last stop is the islet of St George where you can swim in its clear blue waters or have lunch at the restaurant. The trip will give you an unforgettable experience!
If you are visiting Kastelorizo island, in the search of sandy beaches, then you should not do it because you will find none here. Clear waters and the underwater beauty though is another thing and a very attractive motivation. You should rent a boat taxi and go for diving or snorkeling in Plakes, Faros and Kavos. You will get some unforgettable moments as the waters are full of fish and a variety of submarine creatures!
Below is the list of the best places to visit in Kastelorizo island.
The islet Ro is located towards southwest of Kastellorizo and you need to charter a boat to reach there. But nowadays, it is used as a border outpost, with the primary duty of continuing the Lady of Ro’s tradition of raising the Greek flag. The real name of Lady of Ro was Despoina Achladioti. Her mother and her husband were the only inhabitants in the modern history of the islet. Lady of Ro, made the islet famous, as she used to raise a Greek flag over the island, every day in a symbolic action until she died in 1982. You will meet the Lady of Ro statue at the main square of Horafia.
Palaiokastro, which means old castle, is built over the ruins of a Doric citadel and is the oldest monument on the island. It’s located about 1 km from the town and you can reach it in either two ways, the easy way or the hard one! The easy way needs only driving or riding a 2 km distance. On the other hand, the hard way consists of 1km hiking on a steep uphill, so don’t forget to wear your comfortable shoes and a bottle of cool water. The view certainly will compensate for all your efforts! In the area of the fortress, there are several chapels and churches, including the Panagia tou Kastrou and Saint Stefanos church, located within the castle grounds. Moreover, there are several well-preserved cisterns built during the Turkish era.
Tip: Visit it during the sunset, thank me later…
The Lycians were the inhabitants of a large Turkish area, opposite to the island, called Lycia. They are called Lycians as their god Apollo was worshiped in the form of a wolf or as wolf killer. The Lycian tombs are being told that were built into the side of mountains so that ancient angels could reach the dead’s easier. They were fully decorated with paintings, reliefs, or inscriptions but, sadly very few of them have survived centuries of plunder, weathering, vandalism, or neglects. Lots of similar tombs can be seen to Rhodes Island, Fethiye, Dalyan, or Antalya.
The Lycian tomb of Kastelorizo island dates back to the 4th century BC and is located beneath Castello Roso at the entrance of the port. It is well preserved from outside and the inside structure is in very good condition as well. Typical features of such tombs are a facade and are described as Doric because it looks similar to the columns and roof of Greek Doric temples.
Horafia which means ‘’fields’’ in Greek, was the area of the cultivated fields, has grown in the 19th century with the population and economic fortunes. This small district is Kastellorizo’s religious and cultural center, as it has four churches and two schools.
You’ll find the island’s Saint Constantine and Saint Elena cathedral here and also the island’s patron saints, built-in 1835 with its stylish bell tower. You will also find the neoclassical Santrapé Town School, built-in 1903 and the Parthenagogeio, exclusively for girls. They were built around Avlogyros Square which consists of a mosaic floor called choklakia in topic dialect. Nearby, on Panagia Square, there are Panagia and Saint Spyridon churches, built in the early 19th century and a monument for the heroine of Ro island Despina Achladiotou (“The Lady of Ro”). The unfinished church is the one of Saint George’s of the Fields and the monument belongs to the Island’s benefactors Loukas and Anastasia Santrapé.
Above the residential area, you will find the fort-like monastery of Saint George of the Mountain, surrounded by a square courtyard and includes a little church, some cells, and auxiliary rooms. To get there, you need to climb 400 whitewashed stairs and then to go hiking about 10-15 minutes. But the breathtaking view on the way will compensate for all your efforts. The little church was built in 1759 on the site of an early Christian basilica. Inside the monastery, going down ten steps there is an interesting underground crypt dedicated to Saint Charalambos. In the crypt, there is an imposing spot of water that comes out from a spring.
Important tip: Before visiting the place request the keys from the priest. The place is locked.
Castello Rosso or the Castle of the Knights of Saint John, the Island took its name from this castle. The fortress of the Crusaders Knights of St. John dates back to the 14th century. It was built at the top of the red rock (Castello Rosso) overlooking the port. This name is derived from the Venetian Castel Rosso, meaning Red Castle. “Red” because the rock takes a red tone under certain light conditions. When you are at the top you can have a spectacular panoramic view of Mandraki harbor on the one side and the main harbor on the other.
Just off Mandraki harbor, there is the little islet of St George with the little chapel of St. George and the great bay with turquoise waters. It is an ideal place for swimming and snorkeling. There is also a snack bar, in case you’re hungry. To reach it, you need to hire a daily water taxi service from the harbor.
I kept the best part for the end! This is the number one attraction of Kastellorizo and the place that you must certainly visit. It is included in one of the most beautiful geological phenomena in the world. The Cave has many different names like Fotsaliki, Fokiali (because it is allegedly inhabited by monachus seals), Spilia tou Parasta (from the name of the founder), or Tripa. The dimensions of the cave are almost 50 meters long, 30 meters wide and 25 meters high. The place is worldwide known for its magnificent light blue color of the water and rich collection of stalactites. This light blue colour produced by the sunlight which reflected in the interior of the cave and creates this stunning phenomena.
Check before the next day s weather because if it’s very windy the boats probably cannot enter as the entrance is barely 1 meter high.
Prefer morning times to visit as the phenomena is more intense due to the sun’s position.
Below are some of the useful telephone numbers that can help you to guide.
0030 22460 49250
0030 22460 48901
0030 22460 49267
0030 22460 49283
0030 69387 39178
0030 22460 49356
0030 69777 76927
Accommodation Mandraki Paradise
|0030 69762 99959|
Through this travel guide, we believe that you now have got a sufficient idea about Kastellorizo island. As well as things to do or places to visit during your stay there. Don’t lose time then and plan your next trip!
Read also our interesting article on this topic 10+1 Things You May Didn’t Know About Kastellorizo!
Kastellorizo Official website https://www.kastellorizo.online/en/
Greece Is https://www.greece-is.com/kastelorizo/
Pappas, Nicholas (1994). Castellorizo: An Illustrated History of the Island and its Conquerors. Sydney: Halstead Press