Nestled in the south Aegean Sea, Astypalea is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Often referred to as the “Butterfly of the Aegean,” this small yet enchanting Greek island charms visitors with its unique architecture, a blend of Cycladic and Dodecanesian styles.
Its butterfly-like shape further enhances Astypalea’s allure, making it a must-visit destination for travellers seeking a truly authentic Greek experience.
As you set foot on Astypalea, you’ll be captivated by its crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches, and delightful traditional windmills.
The island’s star attraction, however, is the historic Venetian Castle perched atop a hill, providing stunning panoramic views.
Adjacent to the castle, the captivating Panagia Portaitissa church, built in 1762, is one of the most picturesque religious sites in the Aegean.
With its warm and welcoming locals, mouthwatering Greek cuisine, and a tranquil atmosphere, Astypalea promises a memorable escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Getting to Astypalea
Astypalea is a beautiful butterfly-shaped island in the south Aegean Sea, within the Dodecanese island group. Despite its Cycladic architectural style, it remains mostly untouched by mass tourism. In this section, we will explore two ways to travel to Astypalea: flights and ferries.
Astypalea has an airport that offers regular flights from Athens. It’s a convenient way to reach the island quickly and start your holiday right away. The flight lasts approximately an hour and you can book your tickets through a variety of online platforms.
If you prefer a more scenic and relaxing journey, consider taking a ferry to Astypalea. Ferries run from Piraeus, the main port of Athens, roughly three times a week. Additionally, you can catch a ferry from other nearby islands such as Naxos, Amorgos, Paros, Donoussa, Rhodes, and Tilos, which makes Astypalea a perfect stop during a Greek island-hopping adventure. The easiest way to book ferry tickets is via the Direct Ferries website.
Keep in mind that ferry trips can take longer than flights, but they offer an opportunity to admire the beautiful Aegean Sea and enjoy the journey. Be sure to always check the ferry schedules in advance, as they are subject to change.
Astypalea’s accessibility makes it a fantastic destination for a relaxing and unique Greek holiday experience.
When visiting Astypalea, you have a variety of accommodation options to choose from, such as hotels, villas, and guesthouses. In this section, we will explore these options to help you find the perfect place to stay on this beautiful and unique Greek island.
Astypalea offers several hotels that cater to different budgets and preferences. Some of the highly-rated hotels on the island include:
- Ihthioessa Boutique Hotel: Located in Pera Yialos, this elegant, self-catered accommodation boasts a furnished balcony overlooking the Aegean Sea and the scenic Astypalaia Town.
- Astypalea Greece Hotels: Chora, the only village on the island, is a popular location for hotels, giving guests easy access to facilities like shops, taverns, and bars. Browse through the selection of the best hotels from Greeka.
For those seeking more privacy and space, renting a villa could be an excellent choice. Astypalea has a range of luxurious villas with stunning views of the Aegean Sea and easy access to the island’s beautiful beaches. Villas offer a great option for families or groups, providing a comfortable and private home away from home. Some websites, such as Greeka, can help you find the perfect villa for your stay.
Astypalea also has a variety of guesthouses that provide a more intimate and personalised experience. Guesthouses offer a more authentic stay, often featuring traditional architecture and design, combined with modern amenities for a comfortable and memorable visit. Check out booking platforms like Booking.com to browse through Astypalaia guesthouses and find the best match for your preferences and budget.
In summary, whether you prefer a hotel, villa, or guesthouse, Astypalea has a range of accommodation options to suit your needs, ensuring you have a delightful stay on this idyllic Greek island.
Sightseeing and Activities
Astypalea is home to several historical sites, most notably the Astypalea Castle. This castle is perched atop a hill offering impressive views of the surrounding area. A stroll through the houses of Chora is an excellent way to reach the castle and enjoy the stunning views.
Astypalea’s secluded beaches are perfect for a relaxing day under the sun. Some popular options include:
- Kaminakia Beach: A beautiful beach with crystal clear waters, ideal for swimming and snorkelling. The nearby Linda tavern offers a wonderful spot for lunch.
For those who prefer exploring on foot, Astypalea offers excellent hiking opportunities. The island’s butterfly shape and varied terrain make it an interesting destination for walkers and hikers to explore. In addition to hiking, visitors can also indulge in other outdoor activities such as water sports and sailing at various seaside locations.
Cuisine and Dining
Local Dishes to Try
Astypalea is known for its traditional Greek cuisine with some unique local twists. Here are some local dishes you should definitely try:
- Pougia: Similar to cheese pies, these pastries are filled with local cheese, honey, and sesame seeds.
- Katsikaki Lemonato: Goat cooked in a lemon sauce, perfect for a hearty meal.
- Sfougato: A local omelette with zucchini, onions, and cheese.
- Astypalean Salata: A fresh salad with tomatoes, peppers, caper leaves, and locally produced cheese.
- Soumada: A non-alcoholic almond drink, popular among locals and visitors alike.
Restaurants and Taverns
Astypalea has a variety of restaurants and taverns to choose from, offering delicious and authentic Greek food. Some of the top recommendations are:
- Astifagia: Known for its seafood and Greek dishes, Astifagia is a popular choice among visitors. With rave reviews, it’s definitely worth a visit.
- Aiolos Pizza: If you’re in the mood for Italian cuisine, Aiolos Pizza offers great pizza and homemade pasta at reasonable prices.
- Ihthioessa Boutique Hotel: Although not a standalone restaurant, the hotel’s eatery is famous for its fish dishes and convenient location in the main town of Astypalaia.
- Agoni Grammi: A traditional tavern, Agoni Grammi serves fresh fish, handmade pasta, and has a special vegetarian menu.
Remember to try the local dishes and enjoy the beautiful views while dining in Astypalea.
Cultural Events and Festivals
Astypalea offers a variety of cultural events and festivals throughout the year, which showcase the island’s unique traditions and heritage. Visitors to Astypalea can expect to experience local festivities that enable them to delve into authentic Greek culture.
One of the main events on the island is the Astypalea Summer Festival that takes place every June. This vibrant and lively festival offers a mix of music, dance, and theatrical performances, providing an enjoyable atmosphere for both locals and tourists to come together.
Another important religious event on Astypalea is the feast day of Agios Panteleimon, celebrated on July 26th. This event commemorates the life of Saint Panteleimon, an early Christian martyr, and is marked by a traditional procession and festive atmosphere on the island.
On August 6th, Astypalea celebrates the Transfiguration of Christ, also known as Theophany in the Orthodox Christian tradition. This event includes church services and processions around the island, providing insight into the religious customs and beliefs of the local community.
One more notable religious festival held on September 4th is the Litany of Portaitissa and St Anthemos. This event commemorates the devotion to the icon of Portaitissa, a revered religious artefact, and honours the memory of St Anthemos. The celebration involves traditional processions, music, and prayers to pay respects to both the icon and the saint.
Attending these cultural events and festivals on Astypalea allows visitors to immerse themselves in the unique traditions of this charming Greek island. From lively summer festivals to reverent religious events, Astypalea showcases the rich and diverse cultural heritage that represents an integral part of its identity.
The currency used in Astypalea is the Euro (€). It is always a good idea to have some cash on hand, as not all businesses might accept credit cards, especially in smaller villages. There are ATMs available in Chora, the island’s main town, where you can withdraw money when needed. Keep in mind that fees may apply when using a foreign card.
The primary language spoken on Astypalea is Greek. While many locals have a good command of English, particularly in the tourism industry, it is advised to learn a few basic Greek phrases to make your travel experience smoother and show appreciation for the local culture.
Here are some useful phrases:
- Καλημέρα (Kaliméra): Good morning
- Καλησπέρα (Kalispéra): Good evening
- Ευχαριστώ (Efcharistó): Thank you
- Παρακαλώ (Parakaló): Please
- Συγγνώμη (Signómi): Excuse me; sorry
- Γεια χαρά (Ya hará): Hello (informal)
Astypalea is generally a safe destination for travellers, with low crime rates and a welcoming atmosphere. However, as with any destination, it is essential to exercise caution and common sense.
- Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas.
- Keep your personal belongings secure and avoid displaying high-value items, such as expensive cameras or jewellery.
- When swimming in the sea, follow local safety guidelines and pay attention to warning signs on beaches.
- protect yourself from the sun, apply sunscreen regularly, wear a hat and sunglasses, and stay hydrated during hot summer days.
By following these practical tips, you’ll make your visit to Astypalea an enjoyable and safe experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to reach Astypalea?
Astypalea can be reached by ferry from several Greek islands, including Piraeus, Naxos, Amorgos, Paros, Donoussa, Rhodes, and Tilos. Ferry schedules may vary depending on the season, so it’s a good idea to check availability and book tickets in advance. You can use booking platforms like Direct Ferries to secure your tickets.
Ferry options available?
Ferries to Astypalea generally run three times a week from Piraeus and connect to other nearby islands as well. There are different ferry companies that operate on these routes, with varying levels of comfort and amenities onboard. It’s essential to review the ferry options and make a selection based on your preferences and budget.
Top beaches to visit?
Astypalea boasts several beautiful beaches to explore during your visit. Some popular options include Livadi, Vatses, Kaminakia, and Agios Konstantinos. Each beach offers unique landscapes, clear waters, and varying levels of seclusion, making your beach-hopping experience an enjoyable one.
Activities to do?
There are numerous activities to enjoy on the island of Astypalea. Some popular options include visiting the island’s capital, Astypalea Town, exploring the Venetian Castle, and the iconic church of Panagia Portaitissa. Additionally, you can participate in hiking, fishing, or simply relaxing on the island’s many pristine beaches.
Astypalea offers a range of accommodation options to suit various budgets and preferences. From luxury hotels to family-run guesthouses and self-catering apartments, you can find an excellent place to stay during your visit. It’s essential to book your accommodation in advance, particularly during the peak season, to secure your preferred option.
Best time to visit?
The best time to visit Astypalea is between May and early October, when the weather is warm and sunny, allowing for outdoor activities and beach enjoyment. It’s worth noting that the summer months of July and August can be quite busy, so if you prefer less crowded conditions, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of May, June, September, or early October.
Eleni Vasiliadis, a native of the picturesque island of Corfu and co-founder of Greek Island, is a seasoned traveller, accomplished writer, and passionate advocate for Greek culture and cuisine.