Megisti (Kastellorizo), Nisos Megisti, Greece

The original name of the island, Megisti, means “largest” in Greek, which is odd since it is the smallest of the Dodecanese Islands.  It is large, however, when compared with the scattering of islets that dot this stretch of the Aegean just off Turkey’s shore. Sailing into its pretty harbor, you will see the 14th Century Crusader castle atop a red rock hill gave the town its modern name of Kastellorizo.  The red-hued minaret and dome of the 18th Century Ottoman Mosque hints at the long history of conquest and reconquest that has haunted the island. After a peak of success in shipping and fishing in the 19th Century, the mansions along its coasts are an ironic reminder to the island’s current population of fewer than 500 souls. Many people emigrated from the island to Perth and Sydney in Australia, where they are affectionately known as “Kazzies.”  Visitors are discovering it, however, thanks to the Oscar-winning 1991 film Mediterraneo which was filmed here. The roof of the town cathedral, dedicated to Saints Constantine and Helena, is supported by ten monolithic columns of granite appropriated from the Lycian temple of Apollo at Patara on the Turkish mainland. Atop the highest peak at Vigia, the ruins of the island’s ancient Acropolis includes a tower and cisterns used well into the modern era on this island with no source of fresh water. The island also boasts a huge Blue Grotto sea cave, much larger than the famous one at Capri.