Nicknamed the “Butterfly of the Aegean”, thanks to its peculiar shape, Astypalea is famously reminiscent of the Cyclades, although it belongs to the Dodecanese.
Indeed, this enigmatic island is perfectly balanced between these two cultural traditions and, unassumingly elegant and low-key though it is, makes a stunning first impression. Its barren rocky beauty and exotic beaches with blue-green waters promise a paradise for lovers of alternative holidays and adrenaline junkies. The Venetian refinement of Astypalea Town, the artistic atmosphere and the particular culinary tradition of the island offer an authentic experience of culture and history for travellers with a touch of romance in their soul. Choose the ferry to Astypalea and visit it.
10 reasons to visit Astypalea
To discover an authentic Cycladic town with narrow maze-like streets, white houses with blue shutters, stone windmills, and churches with blue domes; a picture-postcard location nestling on the slopes of a rocky hill crowned by a Venetian castle.
To explore the imposing Querini Castle, built from local grey stone in 1413, with its impressive fortified architecture. Stop to look around the beautiful churches of St. George (1790) and Our Lady of the Castle (1853), and to see the coat of arms of the Venetian Querini family.
To visit the whitewashed Church of our Lady Portaitissa (Keeper of the Gate), at the foot of the castle. Built in 1762, it is a rare blend of Aegean church architecture and neoclassical influences, and is one of the most beautiful churches in the Aegean. Admire the ornate three-storey bell tower with its Ionic-style columns, blue dome, akrokerama (decorative roof tiles) and baroque iconostasis (icon screen) with gold decoration.
To see the wonderful late-Roman Baths of Talara (in Maltezana), with blue and terracotta mosaics depicting the signs of the zodiac and the four seasons.
To explore Negrou Cave near Vatses beach, an impressive spectacle of stalagmites and stalactites in beautiful formations. According to legend, it was once the hideout of an African pirate.
To try the famous yellow cookies from the bakery on the square in Astypalea Town. Flavoured with local saffron they are one of the island’s most traditional snacks.
To swim at the exotic beaches of the uninhabited islets of Koutsomitis and Tigani and the small island of Kounoupa.
To learn about the island’s history through the important finds in the Archaeological Museum at Pera Yialos. These include pots from the vaulted Mycenaean tombs in Armenochori.
To experience the unique atmosphere of Astypalea Festival, where important artists from the alternative arts scene in Greece come each summer.
To discover a small paradise for rock climbing at Ftera. With two separate crags and 20 individual routes of varying difficulty, the distinctive terrain of the island is a magnet for adrenaline junkies.
The top 5 beaches
Kaminakia: One of the island’s most beautiful beaches, with plenty of sand and natural shade provided by tamarisk trees. Its crystal-clear blue-green waters are relatively deep and protected from the winds. The beach has umbrellas, sunbeds, and a restaurant serving local cuisine. Access is via a dirt road that requires careful driving at some points. Alternatively, you can get here by boat from Pera Yialos.
Vatses: With a unique view of the Castle and Astypalea Town, this long pebble beach with blue waters that are both deep and cold has tamarisk trees providing natural shade, a few umbrellas, and some sunbeds. For anyone who loves exploring – and a demanding hike – there is a path up to Negrou Cave.
Livadi: The island’s most popular and cosmopolitan beach has every amenity, with umbrellas, sun loungers and water sports equipment. There are many traditional tavernas and cafés nearby for food and entertainment. It is worth staying here until evening to watch the sunset cast magical colours over the surrounding islands and, as night falls, to see the lights of Astypalea Town reflected in the sea.
Tzanakia: Four pebble beaches form one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline on the island. The lack of amenities, the relatively deep blue-green waters and the rocky setting attract both nature lovers and nudists, while the views of the Castle from here are excellent.
Steno: The narrow strip of land linking the two halves of Astypalaia is also the location of one of the most impressive beaches in the Aegean, with shallow turquoise waters ideal for young children. Its reputation is further enhanced by its amenities, which include sunbeds and a canteen, as well as by the natural shade of the tamarisk trees and the easy access provided by public transport. It is well worth visiting if you choose one of Astypalea’s ferry timetable.
Don’t leave Astypalea without…
Breathing in the fragrant scent from the flower-filled courtyards as you descend the cobbled streets between Astypalea Town and the old port of Pera Yialos.
Watching the sunrise from the benches on the main square of Astypalea Town, next to the eight restored windmills on the “neck” of the hill above the port of Skala.
Enjoying the sociable mood and casual atmosphere in the famous bars of Astypalea Town while gazing out over the Aegean.
Following the island’s unique trails to the Church of the Virgin Mary (at the top of Mount Kastelano), the Chapel of the Prophet Elijah (with its excellent views of Astypalea Town), and the Castle of Saint John (via the path that starts at the town square).
Astypalea island is a paradise for fans of seafood. You can sample traditional octopus balls, lobster linguine, chowder, lemon fish soup, sea urchin salad, fresh fish grilled or baked with saffron, and baked parrotfish with spring onions.
Enjoy the dish of lentils and trahanas (fermented wheat) variously called rantista or arantista, which is one of the most characteristic local specialities.
Try vine-leaf dolmades (stuffed with minced meat), stuffed courgette flowers, local rabbit, and lambriano (stuffed goat baked in the oven with rice, herbs and chopped liver).
Sample local cheeses such as chlori (a kind of mizithra), ladotyri (“oil cheese”), creamy anthotyro and spicy kopanisti.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with poungia (sweet pastry “purses” filled with mizithra cheese), loukoumades (doughnuts), xerotigana and diples (fried strips of sweet dough in different shapes), all accompanied by Astypalaia’s aromatic thyme honey.
Try local paximadia (rusks of double-baked bread) made with olive oil and thyme.
In 2005, the iconic French fashion house Hermes chose to shoot its global advertising campaign in Aegina’s Ancient Olive Grove.