Gavdos (Greek Γαύδος) is the most southerly Greek island, located to the south of its much bigger neighbour, Crete, of which it is administratively a part, in the prefecture of Chania. It is also the most southerly point of Europe.
The island is 26 nautical miles south of Hora Sfakion and is 27 sq km in area. There is only a small number of year-round residents and services for tourists are basic. The harbour for irregular ferries is Karave, the island's capital is Kastri.
Gavdos has supported a permanent population since Neolithic times; nowadays, however, the island has very few people. The place has seen many uses in the different times it has inspired interest. In Ancient Greece Gavdos was the site of the mythical Ogygia where Kalypso held Odysseus prisoner. Archaeological evidence showed that the Roman empire was active on the island. During this time the flora of the island was overexploited, this started a process of erosion which continued to this very day.
Later, at the time of the Byzantine Empire, the island had some 8,000 inhabitants (900-1000 AD) and supported 3 bishops and an archbishop. During the Turkish Empire's reign on the island, which lasted from 1665 up until 1895, Gavdos was known as Gondzo. During this period the population decreased considerably to only 500 inhabitants by 1882. Gavdos was also known to Saracens; one of the beaches is named Sarakiniko (of the Saracens), as it is believed that Saracens had a hideout there.
In the 30's the island was used as a place of exile of communists; more than 250 people were exiled including leading figures of the Greek movement, such as Markos Vafiadis. Later on, the general phase of urbanization that started in other parts of Greece in the 60's, took place in the 50's on Gavdos. During that period the islanders exchanged their land on Gavdos with ex-Turkish land on Crete, which had now become exchangeable via the state. Upon settling in Crete they created a community known as Gavdiotika.
Following years of isolation, in 1996 the island came to media prominence. In a NATO exercise Gavdos was the focal point of a contestation between Greece and Turkey. Following that, the prime minister, Mr. Simitis, visited Gavdos and announced a five-year, €1.5 million plan for Gavdos's development.
In 2001, Costis Stephanopoulos, the Greek President of Democracy, inaugurated a telemedicine centre on Gavdos, an island which has never had a doctor. This exercise, however, was marred as the island's infrastructure could not provide the necessary power required by the centre. For the purposes of the inauguration, generators were brought in, which were then removed.