Introduction - About Kassos Island
Satellite image of Kassos
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Kassos is located in the southernmost region of the Eastern Aegean and lies between Crete and Karpathos. It has an area of 64 square kms and a population of 1088 people.
The land is mountainous and rocky with few areas suitable for agriculture. The visitor to the mountains of the island will find rare wildflowers and birds species. Kasos has a mild, healthy climate.
Clusters of barren islets and rocky peaks are found all around the island. Kasos has an ancient history. It has been a part of the historical fortunes of its neighbors, Crete and Karpathos, and has often been subject to pirate invasions.
During the years of the Greek revolution the inhabitants of Kasos numbered 12.000. It is an island boasting a fine nautical tradition. The sea, the boats and seaman are all part of the life and especially the history of this place. Kasos began its life in this way as long ago as Minoan Period and continued in this way through the Archaic Period, which Homer describes, and through the period of revolution in 1821 up until the years of boat making and later the professional sailors.
However you approach Kasos, be it by airplane or by ship, the island gives the impression of being wild and inhospitable. It is a steep, rocky, grey island, which emerges from the sea. However, this first impression of the mountains of Kasos as wild, subsides when the first houses come into sight. Then Kasos slowly becomes a friendly, warm, hospitable place.
In this friendly place the five villages of the island can be found. These being: Fri, the harbour; Agia Marina, the biggest village spread out at the top of the hill with a great view of the sunset; Arvanitohori, at the base of the mountains; Poli, the oldest village built around the hill with the castle ruins and Panagia, above the hold harbour of Emborio. Together they comprise the municipality of Kasos which is under the administrative jurisdiction of the province of Karpathos.
The capital Fri has the only harbour of the island. Beside the port for ships is the small harbour of Boukas, a rare example of an old pirate refuge, where the fishing boats moor and the fisherman drink their coffee at the traditional coffeehouse and sell their fish. Boukas is part of the soul of every person from Kasos, as it closely connected with the sailors’ return to Kasos. Near Fri is Emborios, the name of the old port, which has beautiful old stone houses and the church dedicated to the Birth of Our Lady. Also impressive are the churches of St. Spyridon and St. Marina.
The old aristocratic captain’s houses are quite impressive, while in the villages the houses are whitewashed with narrow flagstone paved lanes. Of exceptional interest are the shepherds’ huts “mitata”, which attest to a long tradition of animal herding. The fine quality dairy products of Kasos are produced within these huts. However impressive the exterior of many of Kasos’ houses may be, it never lives up the riches that are kept hidden inside. Furniture, utensils, mirrors and lamps, which have been brought back from the four corners of the earth, decorate the “soufa” and the many shelves these houses have. The hard work of the sailors was equaled by the hard work of the talented Kasos women, who would knit and embroider by hand with loving care.
Within all the settlements as well as in exotic locations there are churches and chapels with pebbled flooring and beautiful wood carved iconostasis. Examples are the monastery of St. Mamma the lookouts post over the Egyptian Sea and St. George at Hadies which has a large hostel and is the favourite saint of the people of Kasos. These two monasteries soften the wild scenery. At both monasteries the most traditional festivals take place.
There are a hundred churches, both small and large (eith tall bell towers), scattered amongst the houses on the whole island, proof of the faith of these people who lived on the sea, always in the company of danger.
To the south is the bay named Helatros, whose sea is ideal for all those who wish to swim in sparkling clean waters. The beaches of Fri, St. Konstantinos, Armathia and Helatro are offered to all lovers of the sea.
Its history had no important events and is like the history of the other nearby islands. In its recent history, in 18th Century AD, Kassos was an important port and fought for independence from the Turks, who punished the island by setting it on fire. From this moment, many inhabitants took the way of emigration.
Kassos covers an area of 66 km2 and has a coastline of 50 km. The capital is the town of Kassos (or Phry), which also is the port of the island, where the fishing boats of the inhabitants are anchored. Other settlements of Kassos are Emporeios with a good tourist trade in summer, Agia Marina with the beautiful caves of Selai and Ellinokamara and Arvanitohori with rich greenery. Tourist accommodations are concentrated in the capital and in the village of Emporeios.
Kassos island is 255 n.m. from Piraeus. Ferryboats connect the island with Piraeus (15 hrs).
These connections also link Kassos to several other islands, of which Karpathos, Crete and Rhodes are the closest. From the Airport of Kassos there are flights to and from Athens (2 hrs). Also are local flights to and from the islands of Rhodes (1hr 15 min) and Karpathos (15 min).