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The “Butterfly of the Aegean”

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Discover Astypalea

Situated between Kos and Amorgos, Astypalea is among the most attractive of the Dodecanese. Its position on the western edge of the group means that culturally it has much in common with the Cyclades, characteristic influences of which can be seen in its architecture and elsewhere. It is known as the “butterfly of the Aegean” because of its unusual shape.

Untouched by mass tourism, this elegant island has one of the most dazzling capitals in the Aegean, pristine exotic beaches, and natural landscapes of wild beauty that promise unforgettable moments for lovers of alternative holidays and extreme sports. On the other hand, its distinctive cuisine, the artistic spirit of its inhabitants, and its authentic customs offer a rare cultural experience.

5 memorable experiences on Astypalea
  1. A day trip to the uninhabited islets of Koutsomitis, Tigani and Kounoupa to swim at their exotic beaches.
  2. A visit to Mouggos, a traditional cafe that is an iconic shrine to the island’s folk culture. The old terrazzo floor, the posters on the walls, and the photographs of prominent politicians evoke a long-gone era.
  3. The inimitable atmosphere of Astypalea Festival, featuring artists from the alternative arts scene in Greece.
  4. Watching the sun rise from the benches next to the eight windmills on the hill above Skala.
  5. If you choose one of the itineraries to Astypalea, don’t forget to wander the cobbled streets with the flower-filled courtyards that lead from the town to the old port of Pera Yialos.
Beaches of Astypalea

Astypalea has wonderful beaches with crystal-clear waters. Some can only be reached by sea or by hiking along a trail, but your efforts will be rewarded with the most refreshing swim imaginable. It is worth discovering: 

  • Kaminakia, a beautiful tourist beach with plenty of sand and tamarisk trees, and deep turquoise waters that are protected from the wind. It is accessible by boat from Pera Yialos but also by road via a relatively difficult dirt road.
  • Vatses, a large pebble beach where the sea is cool and deep. It has some facilities, such as umbrellas and sunbeds, while natural shade is provided by tamarisk trees. It also has an excellent view of the castle and the town. A path leads from here to Negrou Cave.
  • The cosmopolitan Livadi, which draws large numbers of visitors, since it has every amenity, including water sport facilities, and several traditional tavernas and cafes for food and entertainment. When the sun sets, bathing the surrounding islands in its glow, it is perhaps the loveliest place on Astypalea. Then when night falls, the lights of the town and the castle opposite are an incomparable sight.
  • Tzanaki, with its magnificent view of the castle and the town. The rugged beauty of the beach, with its rocky scenery, pebbles, and relatively deep blue-green sea, attracts both nature lovers and nudists. There are no amenities, so make sure you have everything you need before you go.
  • Steno, one of the most spectacular beaches in the Aegean, thanks to its location on the narrow strip of land linking the two halves of Astypalea. It is also highly popular, as it has very good amenities and is easy to get to by public transport.
Postcards from Astypalea: 8 things not to miss

Astypalea Town
Built around a rocky hill in the shadow of the imposing Venetian castle, the island’s capital is notable for the Cycladic style of its architecture.  It is easy to forget that you are in the Dodecanese as you wander maze-like cobbled streets between whitewashed houses with wooden balconies and Venetian lintels. The stone windmills at the entrance to the town and the picturesque churches create a uniquely lovely setting.

The Castle
The splendid fortress of the Venetian official Giovanni Querini, which dates from 1413, remains a breathtaking sight to this day. Inside are the brilliant white churches of Saint George (1790) and Our Lady of the Castle (1853), constructed out of materials reclaimed from Querini family buildings.

The Church of our Lady Portaitissa (Keeper of the Gate)
This church, which is among the prettiest in the Aegean, was built in 1762 at the foot of the castle and combines elements of local ecclesiastical architecture with neoclassical influences. Stop to admire the three-storey bell tower with its Ionian columns, blue dome, and decorative roof tiles.  The baroque gilded icon screen and the frescoes of the Russian school are particularly outstanding features of its interior.

The Baths of Talara
These impressive late-Roman baths in the village of Maltezana are an important cultural monument. Their main attraction is the ornate mosaics (in blue and terracotta) depicting the signs of the zodiac and the four seasons. 

Negrou Cave
This natural wonder has fantastic geological formations including stalagmites and stalactites. According to legend, it was once the hideout of an African pirate. Located near Vatses Beach, it is accessible by excursion boat from the town or Maltezana.

The Archaeological Museum
This museum in Pera Yialos offers a fascinating journey into Astypalea’s past, from the Neolithic era to the Middle Ages. The collection includes finds such as pots from Mycenaean tombs, parts of early Christian churches, votive inscriptions from sanctuaries, and Venetian reliefs.

The island’s trails
Astypalea’s terrain is well suited to trekking, which makes it particularly popular with hikers. The top of Mount Kastelano with the imposing Church of the Virgin Mary, the chapel of the Prophet Elijah with its marvellous view of Astypalea Town, and the Castle of Saint John are just three places of interest worth marking on your map. 

Astypalea is a magnet for rock climbers. At Ftera, the stunning limestone terrain boasts two separate crags and 20 routes with varying degrees of difficulty. Only 20 minutes from the town, it is an extraordinary setting for adventure lovers.

Tastes of Astypalea

Astypalea offers lovers of fish and seafood unique opportunities for eating out.

You can sample traditional octopus balls, delicious lobster linguine, lemon fish soup, and sea urchin salad, as well as fresh fish baked with saffron or baked parrotfish with spring onions.

Other favourite local dishes include vine-leaf dolmades, stuffed courgette flowers, lambriano (goat stuffed with rice and baked in the oven), and arantista (lentils cooked with dried fermented wheat).

The island’s most characteristic treats are the yellow saffron-flavoured cookies that you will have the opportunity to sample if you choose one of the ferry tickets to Astypalea.

If you are a fan of desserts, you are sure to enjoy poungia (pastry “purses” filled with mizithra cheese) and triantafylla (strips of sweet dough rolled into “roses” and fried), as well as fine local thyme honey.

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