Astypalea is one of the islands that I visit almost every summer in recent years and every time I find it as enchanting and beautiful as the first time.
Astypalea while being part of the Dodecanese appears more like belonging to the Cyclades. All buildings are traditionally painted white with colorful wooden frames. Overseeing the Chora is the characteristic landmark of the Venetian castle.
If you like quiet islands with authentic beauty then Astypalea is your destination. Here you will find beautiful beaches, good food, and friendly locals. Over the last years and since Astypalea was chosen to be the first “green and smart” island by a large german automobile maker, the island offers several charging stations for electric vehicles while major road projects and infrastructure investments are ongoing.
How to reach Astypalea
Astypalea is one of the remote islands in Greece relative to the capital, Athens. The good news is that Astypalea has a modern airport so in just under 40 minutes you can reach the island by plane. The airline that flies to Astypalea is SkyExpress with itineraries almost every day during the summer months.
Over the last years connectivity by boat has tremendously improved and there are many itineraries (except Tuesdays and Thursdays) from Piraeus that connect the island with well-known Cycladic islands such as Paros, Naxos, Donoussa and Amorgos. The duration of the trip is about 9 hours but you can combine it with one of the above islands and split the distance. Visit the official Bluestar Ferries site for the itineraries.
Also note that every Tuesday and Thursday, Astypalea is part of the route to some of the Dodecanese islands such as Rhodes, Halki, Tilos, Nisyros, Kos through “Dodekanisos Seaways”.
9 Fantastic things to do in Astypalea
1. Take an afternoon walk at the Chora
The town of Astypalea is in my opinion the most picturesque Chora in the whole Aegean. Start your walk from the island square and the traditional windmills. If I counted them well, they are eight and in the summer months, some of them host painting exhibitions. In the square, you will find cafes and restaurants but we will cover the food part later.
From the square follow the cobbled path that will lead you to the narrow streets below the castle. As you ascend you will find yourself at a crossroad. Follow the right alley (you will descend returning from the left path). As you ascend you will see all the historic houses of the Chora in which the inhabitants of Astypalea used to live. Over the years most of the permanent residents moved to bigger and more practical houses outside the Chora and the old houses were bought mainly by foreigners who renovated them respecting their original architecture and style.
Wandering the streets you will find some of the few tourist shops Astypalea has. And that’s the nice thing about this island. It preserves its authenticity without completely surrendering to the altar of tourist madness. The tranquility that prevails in combination with the discreet lighting will allow you to enjoy a quiet walk and admire the special architecture of the houses. The only sound you will hear is the Aegean breeze.
In the Chora, we will find great places for a coffe or a dinner. For a cup of coffee chose “Apanemia“. If you want to have a drink overlooking the castle there is also a bar called “Castro bar“. For seafood delicacies choose “Karai“.
2. Visit the castle of “Astropalia” in the afternoon
As you ascend the streets of the Chora you will find the stairs that will lead you to the entrance of the Castle. The best time to visit it is about an hour before sunset (golden hour). Admission to the castle of Astypalia is free.
The castle was built by the Querini family with a strong fortified character to protect it from pirates. Inside the castle there are two churches with stone bell towers, Panagia tou Kastrou and Agios Georgios.
Many of the houses have been restored and are open to the public. Do not forget to climb on to the roofs of the houses to admire the endless blue and Astypalea from above.
3. Swim in one of the beautiful beaches of the island
Astypalea has many beaches that cater to all tastes. The most beautiful beaches of the island are accessible by dirt road or boat. The ones definitely worth visiting are Batses , Kaminakia and Agios Konstantinos .
Agios Konstantinos is located close to the Chora with a small piece of dirt road and a very nice view. The beach has pebbles and a nice beach bar.
Vatses and Kaminakia are two of my favorite beaches, also with pebbles, with a small beach bar and crystal clear waters. Of the two beaches, Vatses is definitely the most easily accessible, while Kaminakia needs special attention on the last part of the road. Maybe, it is better to visit Kaminakia by boat.
Both beaches are organized offering sunbeds. At the back of the beach of Vatses a nice discreet beach bar offers refreshments, while in Kaminakia there is a tavern. Like most beaches in the Dodecanese, pebbles lead to clear blue waters.
If you prefer sandy beaches then I suggest Livadi and Steno. Both are organized with easy access from an asphalt road. Livadi is a tourist village very close to Chora with cafes, beach bars, mini markets and rentals. Steno is located on the east side of the island and is, as its name suggests, the narrowest part of the island that gives the island the shape of a butterfly.
If you prefer privacy, natural beauty and an interesting seabed, then you should definitely go to Plakes and the “Blue Harbor” located in the eastern part of the island. Both are beautiful beaches, but keep in mind that you will need to walk a bit from where you leave your car. Do not forget to bring an umbrella and a mask!
4. A day trip to the nearby islands
I have been going to Astypalea for so many years and there are still places I discover for the first time. In the summer of 2020, we visited the islands opposite Astypalea: Agia Kyriaki, Koutsomyti and Kounoupa. To reach the islands you have the following options:
- Take the excursion boat that starts from Maltezana (Analipsi)
- Rent a private boat from Livadi
We chose the second option for privacy and some extra comfort (due to the coronavirus pandemic) and we rented a boat from the company www.astypalearentaboat.gr in Livadi. The islands that are definitely worth seeing are Koutsomytis and Kounoupa with its eco-friendly canteen. Kounoupa are actually two islands that are connected by a narrow strip of land.
5. Swim at the “Red Cliff”
Another magical spot in Astypalea I discovered this year is the “Red Cliff”. A cave in the eastern part of the island that is accessible either by land (hiking route) or by sea. You can combine it with an excursion to the islands. It is called the “Red Cliff” because of the color of the rock as seen from the inside of the cave has a slight red hue.
The entry point of the cave by boat :
To enter the cave you have to go through a narrow passage (left).
Inside the cave there is an opening and a small place to swim. To exit the cave you can either swim underwater through a narrow passage (recommended only for experienced swimmers) or via the way you entered.
6. Try sweet and savory “Pungia” at Meltemi
“Pungia” is a traditional delicacy of Astypalea meaning pouches. They are very similar to the Cretan “Kaltsounia” but are made with their traditional local cheese the “chlori”. At Meltemi cafe you can enjoy both their savory and sweet version with honey and cinnamon.
7. Enjoy a dessert at the Archipelago cafe
If you visit Astypalea you need to visit the Archipelago cafe for desert at least once. Every day they prepare handmade and fresh sweets to satisfy all tastes. For chocolate lovers I recommend the hazelnut paste, for the sweet tooth the ekmek kadaifi and for the alternatives the lemon pie. If you belong to the undecided then good luck because with over ten choices of sweets you will need it…
Finally, apart from a fantastic dessert, you will also find one of the best courtyards to enjoy the castle and the sea.
8. Cocktails with a view
If you want to spend a relaxing evening with nice music, fantastic views and perfect cocktails then you will go to the “Paliomilo” . Enjoy the view from above to the most beautiful aegean Chora to end your day. Do not forget to take something warn with you, however, because it usually is pretty windy up there.
9. Eat lobster spaghetti in Australia
Don’t be fooled by the name, since you won’t be needing a passport, to enjoy the best lobster-spaghetti on the island at “Australia“. Australia is a family restaurant in Pera Gialos known for the delicious food of Mrs. Maria and the best lobster spaghetti on the island. Please make sure to order at least one day in advance for fresh lobster.
Where to stay
Naturally, the best place to stay is in the Chora in order to enjoy the castle from your balcony and avoid unnecessary movement. I definitely recommend Lefkanthemo Studios.
Situated 2 minutes walking distance from the central square with the windmills, it offers a fantastic view of the Chora and the old port, beautiful aesthetics with traditional influences and the most hospitable owners on the island.
For more staying options you can visit booking.com.
What to take with you when you leave
Astypalea offers a wide variety of local products: pure thyme honey, “chlori” (the local goat cheese), “pougia”, “lambropita” and their cookies with saffron.
Of course Astypalea has so much more to offer. Take the boat from Piraeus or the plane from Athens and get ready to discover!
Have a nice trip!