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…
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.
‘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)
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.
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 Meis/Kastellorizo
If you’re a hopeless thrill seeker or an Adrenaline 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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…
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 & 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
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
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.
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.
(Update December 2020: The great news is that Agios Georgos tou Horafiou is now undergoing restoration.)
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.
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
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 Adrenaline 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