The Greek Island of Meis / Kastellorizo – Things To Do

Arriving by ferry to the Dodecanese Greek island of Kastellorizo – or Meis, as it’s known in Turkey – just fills you with that complete happy satisfaction that not all in the world is racing along and over-developed. For the traveller craving tranquility, idylls are still very much in existence and Kastellorizo ticks all those perfect-dreamy-Greek-island boxes. It’s a blissful escape. But what to do in your little idyll once you’ve taken oodles of photos from your ferry and disembarked? We’ve come up with a few tips for things to do in Meis / Kastellorizo. But first, a little intro…

Meis Island - Kastellorizo

Meis / Kastellorizo is ridiculously picturesque

Intro To Kastellorizo, Megisti, Meis

What’s in a name? Greek islands always have alternative names, don’t they? Kastellorizo is perhaps the most common name – the name given to the island when it was administered by Italy – and means Red Castle. Megisti, the island’s Greek name, means ‘biggest.’ The island is titchy – the smallest of the Dodecanese – but it’s the largest of the archipelago in the area. All relative, you see. We love that name! And Meis – well that’s the Turkish name for the island and the one we’re perhaps more familiar with, these days.

Dolphin Sculpture In Meis Kastellorizo

One of the first things you see as you disembark is the dolphin sculpture

  ‘You will either love Kastellorizo and stay a week, or crave escape after a day.’ (1)

‘It takes a certain amount of decisiveness and a sense of adventure to come to tiny, rocky Kastellorizo, a mere speck on the map 118km east of Rhodes.’ (2)

Regular Visitors

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you’ll know that, in the past, we were regular visitors to Meis; every twelve weeks or so, in fact, and we can definitely stay for a day without craving escape. Does this mean we have ‘decisiveness and a sense of adventure’? Hmm, well we may have a bit of that in us I guess, but when this sentence was written I think the author was perhaps thinking about those wanting to visit Kastellorizo from its nearest Greek neighbour, the island of Rhodes, 70 nautical miles away.

Turkish Mainland From Kastellorizo

Kaş and other areas of the Turkish mainland are easily visible from Kastellorizo

But Meis also has a very healthy supply of foreign visitors from Turkey. The pretty town of Kaş is just 2.5 km across the water and is the departure point for foreigners – us included – hopping over to Meis to take a day trip. Recently, there are also more Turkish visitors to the island since the relaxing of their visa requirements and the Kaş-Meis ferries make daily trips through summer and a few times a week in winter. You can book the trip in Kaş, or, if you prefer to arrange things in advance, you can also book the Kaş-Kastellorizo day trip online through TripAdvisor’s Viator company.

So, if you find yourself on the beautiful Greek island of Kastellorizo but you feel you are craving escape, here are our recommendations for survival and enjoyment. We love the place!

Things To Do In Kastellorizo

Meis is not action-packed but there’s lots to occupy your time

Things To Do In Meis/Kastellorizo

If you’re a hopeless thrill seeker or an Adrenalin junkie, well, you’re gonna struggle here, people. But, if you’re ready to chill and enjoy the solitude of this easternmost Greek island, let’s get rolling…

1. Get Some Height For Views Of Meis & Beyond

Views of Meis From Above

It’s an easy clamber to get to these higher roads

Take yourself off up the winding roads, get your camera out and take countless photos of the fantastic Kastellorizo scenery. There’s a ridiculously big army barracks up the road going towards the west of the island – put your camera away here! There are signs warning you that entry and photos are forbidden and we never much fancy putting them to the test by continuing in snap happy ways.

In the photo above, you can see a steep, walled path going up the cliff side (bottom right). Those Kastellorizo cliff steps lead to a monastery – and amazing views over to Kaş and elsewhere along the Lycian Turkish coast. It’s also possible to hike along further tracks around the island – sturdy shoes and water essential.

Meis Above The Roof Tops

Clambering around the harbour is good fun and has fantastic views

Even if you don’t want to venture too far, a little bit of height is still completely rewarding as you see the island from so many angles.

2. Explore The Side Streets Of Kastellorizo Town

Streets Of Kastellorizo

A mixture of old and new around Kastellorizo town

In the past, Kastellorizo had a significantly larger population – and at least twice the amount of villas than it has today. Slowly, slowly, ex-islanders and younger generations are returning to the island (mainly from Australia) to renovate dilapidated buildings or to build new summer homes from scratch. In the summer months, don’t be surprised to hear lots of Australian accents which suddenly flip into Greek conversation.

Whitewashed Homes On Meis Island

No need to worry about getting lost around here

A Photographer’s Dream

If you love to take photos, the Meis side streets are going to keep you entertained for a good couple of hours. The streets are traffic-free, narrow, stepped and cobbled. Villas are of the Anatolian Greek style with cute balconies and shuttered windows. It’s a mix of whitewashed and pastel shades and, as most life is centred around the harbour, you usually have all of this to yourself!

3. Eat, Drink, & Chill Around The Harbour

Around The Harbour of Meis

We’ve visited Kastellorizo at all times of year and there’s always been somewhere open

Kastellorizo is one of those picturesque islands where most of the activity is set around the harbour. If you’re anything like us, you won’t find any problem whatsoever is whiling away a few hours sat here in the company of international day trippers, summer dwellers and hardcore, full time islanders.

Mythos Greek Beer

Our tipple of choice – Mythos

Greek Tipples

We live in Turkey, so, as well as soaking up a bit of Greek island scenery and atmosphere when we hop over to Meis, we also relish the opportunity to partake in a few Greek tipples. Mythos Hellenic lager is the main beer of choice on the island – we love us a Mythos or two. Amstel is also a feature of the Greek beer menus but Mythos pips it, for us.

Greek Frappe On Kastellorizo

Follow the Greeks and enjoy a frappe, Greek-style

But it’s not all about beer. As you sit along the harbour of Meis, you will notice lots of locals enjoying glasses of strong, iced coffee. This is often served black. Why not join the frappe party to see what the attraction is? I find the black one a bit too strong so I opt for a milky version packed with ice cubes. So refreshing when the weather’s hot.

Athena Taverna In Meis

Most Kastellorizo restaurants specialise in seafood

Okay, we need to come clean, here. This is a ‘things to do in Meis / Kastellorizo’ post, and so, for that reason, we’ll tell you that most of the Kastellorizo restaurants around the harbour specialise in simple, fresh seafood served with an array of Greek mezedes. Well, it’s a Mediterranean Greek island with lots of pretty, colourful fishing boats in the harbour. Fishing and tourism are the main trades…so what else would you expect?

Greek Fishing Boat In Kastellorizo

The fishing boats are part of the charm of Meis island

A Pork Fix

So, yes, by all means, enjoy the seafoods of the harbourside tavernas. They’re usually cooked on the open barbecue and look delicious.

But we visit Meis from our home in Turkey. Fethiye has an amazing fish market and local seafood restaurants that we frequent quite a lot. And, you see, the Kastellorizo restaurants also do fantastic barbecued pork! So, as well as fish, if you’re an out and out meat eater, you’re gonna love sitting along the harbour.

Barbecued Pork Chop

Barry’s pork of choice – a huge pork chop

The pork chops in Meis are huge and juicy and tender. And, as we make the journey from Fethiye to Kaş for our sail over to Meis, Barry debates aloud: pork souvlaki or pork chop. Chop wins, more often than not. No debate in my head about our upcoming lunch…

Barbecued Greek Sausages

Not health food but Greek sausages are sooo tasty

Eating in Meis is all about the enjoyment of the ingredients or the multitude of mezedes (the same style of eating as Turkish meze) and indulgence in your food of choice. Most of the Kastellorizo restaurants serve these fabulous Greek pork sausages grilled on the open barbecue. If you’re a sausage aficionado, don’t miss these!

Caretta Caretta In Meis Harbour

If you’re lucky, you might get a visit from a turtle as you eat

Caretta Caretta & Cats

As you might expect from a Greek island, as you eat, drink and chat the hours away in any of the Kastellorizo restaurants along the harbour, you’re going to be the best friend of numerous cats. And, if you’re lucky, as we were on our most recent trip to Meis, you might get a visit from a caretta caretta. There were two of these beautiful turtles swimming around.

4. Take In Some History Of Meis Island

Museums In Meis

The museums and archaeological sites are at the entrance to Meis harbour

All Greek islands have their own individual history, traditions and dialects and Kastellorizo is no different. As you enter the harbour of Meis by boat, you’ll see a mosque and the castle of the Knights of St. John. The mosque is home to a small culture museum displaying life and culture on Meis. A short video is shown at noon highlighting Meis in its heyday and explaining how it came to be the island that it is today…it’s a moving tale.

For ancient history, head to the archaeological museum, just above the mosque. From here, you can clamber around the castle of the Knights of St. John for amazing views around Kastellorizo harbour and back over to Kaş. Greece’s one and only Lycian rock tomb can be visited from here, too.

5. Take A Swim

Mandraki Neighbourhood, Meis

The waters around Meis are crystal clear as you can see at Mandraki

The sea around Meis is so inviting – turquoise and clear. There’s a couple of places around the harbour with steps leading into the water, probably placed there for guests of some of the Kastellorizo hotels. By the way, apparently it is illegal to swim the whole way across from one side of the harbour to the other?

A wander over the hill to Meis’s other main neighbourhood, Mandraki, also gives you a few swimming opportunities – as well as another little area to explore, of course. If you are swimming, beware the sea urchins. The sea bed is rocky, the sea is clear…and you can see them lurking, waiting for unsuspecting feet to land on them.

Did you know… After spending a night on Kastellorizo, Pink Floyd vocalist and guitarist, David Gilmour, was inspired to write the instrumental track, Castellorizon. The track appears on his third solo album, ‘On An Island.’

6. Take A Boat Trip To The Blue Cave / Blue Grotto

Even if you are just on a Kaş to Meis day trip, there’s a handful of boat owners around the harbour that offer this boat trip to the famous Meis island blue cave. You can swim in the brilliant blue waters once inside the cave. There are also boat trips available that visit the neighbouring, uninhabited island of Ro.

7. Head Up To The Horafia District

When you get off the ferry in Kastellorizo, you’ll see some wide, whitewashed steps. Head off up there and you will come to ‘suburban Kastellorizo.’ A small village square, Panagia Square, has the character-filled taverna, Mediterraneo. We always come up here for a drink, sharing our space with the odd local chap enjoying a beer. No pretence here. If you want traditional Greek taverna, this is your place.

Agios Georgos Tou Horafiou Kastellorizo

It would be so lovely to see this church in full working order

Kastellorizo Churches

Just next to Mediterraneo is the derelict but beautiful church, Agios Georgos tou Horafiou. We’d love to see this church completed and in working order but can only assume the full time Kastellorizo population (around 300) isn’t big enough to merit that work.

Just opposite is another picturesque church. This is the cathedral of Saints Constantine and Elena, the patron saints of the island. It’s possible to visit the church and services are held here too. So, if you’re in Meis whilst a service is taking place, you’ll get to feel a bit more of life on the island.

Church Of St Constantine And Elena Meis Kastellorizo

You can’t miss this distinctive bell tower

The church has a distinctive bell tower and there’s another link to Lycia on the opposite coastline here because the columns in the church were apparently taken from the ancient site of Patara.

8. Stay Overnight In Kastellorizo Hotels

Phew, that’s quite a bit to be getting on with for a day trip, isn’t it? So, how about staying overnight, or longer, in one of the Meis hotels? There are a few little pensions, rooms and a handful of small hotels on Meis. Book A Night Or Two In Meyisti and you can enjoy the same tavernas as the sun goes down and watch the twinkling lights of Kaş, opposite the harbour.

9. Concede Defeat In Meis And Move On

Greek Island Ferry

Some of the ferries that enter the harbour dwarf Kastellorizo

If you are here from Turkey on a day trip, your boat will soon be taking you back to Kaş. If you are a party animal, an Adrenalin junkie or just in desperate need of a tad more land mass, well, you can take Kastellorizo’s only taxi to the airport and take a domestic flight to the island’s nearest Greek neighbour, Rhodes. Or, you can wait for the ferry to Rhodes and other Greek islands to come and pick you up. Your other alternative is to make the most of Kastellorizo’s proximity to Kaş and go off to explore Turkey.(3)

(1) Rough Guide to the Greek Islands p.310 (2002)
(2) Lonely Planet – Greece p.493 (2004)
(3) If you needed a visa to enter Greece, please check with the travel agent along the harbour whether it is possible for you to enter Turkey / leave Greece from the island. Also, make sure you have met Turkey’s visa requirements for whichever country’s passport you carry

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Comments

  1. Gorgeous pics and yes, my dream is to visit Kastellorizo one day soon!

  2. Thanks Peter. Have you got any definite dates for going to Kastellorizo?

  3. I think I would settle for the harbor cafe and the side streets. The glamour granny can’t climb such steep mountains in her heels!!

  4. Kasetllorizo is one of the Greek islands I want to go to. You have some beautiful photos of there. Thanks for sharing.

  5. If you’re wearing your heels, Inka then I reckon the harbour cafes are definitely the place for you! 🙂

    Steve, it is beautiful – reached easily from Turkey but a bit of a trek from Rhodes. Thanks for the compliment.

  6. Ahh I want to go!! Looks amazing!

  7. It is Kelly. We want to go to more Greek islands now – just need some pennies to get there! 🙂

  8. A lovely piece on a place I knew nothing about.

  9. Gorgeous photos! I’m putting this place on my list!

  10. I loved Greece. Though didn’t get to this Island. It was one of the best holidays I had with my family and in-laws. Even now we look at the photos and can’t help laughing and smiling. Your photos brought back memories and an old ache… So beautiful!

  11. Thanks Robin. Not many people have heard of it. Not surprising really is it?

    Christy, thanks. Hope you get to visit soon – and you can even call on us! 🙂

    Kerry-ann, we almost feel a bit guilty now! 🙂 Yeah, really beautiful.

  12. I would love to go to Greece, secretly hoping if the Euro keeps dropping it will be more affordable.

  13. That’s the problem Ayngelina. ‘Budget accommodation’ doesn’t really match our budgets either so we haven’t explored as much as we would like as it’s an expensive trip. We’ve got a tent that we’re thinking of taking with us!

  14. You tempt us with such fantastic photos of the lesser known islands and places that you take us to. Wonderful.

  15. Aww, thanks Jim. Love taking photos. One day, we’ll visit more islands…one day.

  16. I love Kastellorizo! I went there in 1995 but I’m guessing it hasn’t changed much since then. My grandfather was from this island and he migrated from there to Perth, Australia, in the 1920s, as did many others. I would love to go back. The food there was the best Greek food I’ve ever had in my life 🙂 Your photos bring back so many memories.

  17. Andrea, thanks for your comment. Lovely to hear from someone whose grandfather was from there. It’s a gorgeous place and no, it’s not changed much since 1995. The good thing is, people are starting to build again (in the same style) so the harbour is starting to look more like it did in the old photos.

  18. We went to Kastellorizo last summer as part of our honeymoon. It was amazing — I hope we’ll have a chance to go back this summer as well.

    It’s unfortunate, though, that Turks can’t visit without an EU visa. It keeps Kastellorizo quiet, which was great for us as visitors, but of course, it’s not good for them and the island’s long-term sustainability. So hopefully posts like this will help encourage others to visit. The island really is dreamy. 🙂

    If you don’t mind a link, here’s a post about our trip: http://turkishlydelightful.blogspot.com/2012/09/kas-trip-across-to-kastellorizo-greece.html

  19. @ Melinda: The island has lots of returning Greek Australians throughout the summer and day-trippers from Kaş go over on a daily basis (just a few times a week in winter). The situation isn’t ideal but then it’s not on a lot of the more remote Greek islands. There’s a lot more rebuilding going on in Kastellorizo which is good to see – even if they’re only going to be summer homes for the returnees.

    The mayors of the Greek islands close to the southern Turkish border have been working with Turkish mayors of these coastal areas and now some of the visa restrictions have been lifted for Turkish visitors so some passport holders can go over without a visa. Again, not all, but at least it’s a start. 🙂

  20. Anonymous says:

    I have just come across this website. lovely photos of my grandfather’s birthplace, Kastellorizo or Kasi as my family affectionately call it. My grandfather left Kasi when he was 14 years old never to return. He settled in Sydney and had a family. we are scattered throughout Australia now – I am in Canberra. Lots of family have visited Kasi, but I am yet to. This will happen in the next probably 3 years. Can’t wait!!

    • Thanks for your comment. We often get visits to this post by people from Australia who have grandparents from Kastellorizo and it’s always lovely when that happens. Really hope you get to visit the island soon. We haven’t been for a couple of years and would love to do an overnighter there…maybe this year. 🙂

  21. Nur Setyowati says:

    Hi….I am nur from Indonesia, can I ask something?
    Do I need visa if I just want to stay a day in Greece from Turkey? I will visit Turkey in April and I really want to go to Greece.

    • Hi Nur

      We’re not sure, sorry. You would have to check with the embassy for requirements for entering Meis / Greece with the passport you hold from your country. If you can get to Meis, though, it is very pretty. 🙂

  22. Chris & Anne says:

    Hi, we went there last year on a day trip and loved it. The food in the hotel was great and we are going back this year. A fantastic island not to be missed.

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