Astypalaia travel Guide
Holidays in Astypalaia combine tranquility, rest, swimming and diving in crystal clear waters, good food and fun in the shops of the town. In the summer, the Cultural Festival of Astypalea is also organized, and many festivals with live music and feasting.
Astypalaia is one of those secret islands that receives few foreign visitors, but is very popular with Greeks. On this splendid island of the Dodecanese, where local traditions are still alive, your holidays will be dedicated to good fish and swimming in almost deserted bays, which still seem to exist, even if increasingly rare. Not to be missed here is a visit to Astypalaia’s capital, Chora, with its fine white houses and a crowning Venetian castle, and a visit to the windmills, as well as the small port of Maltezana. Particularly between seven and nine in the evening when the fishermen return to sell their fish and prawns directly from their boats for a taste of local life and its traditions.
The postcard-perfect Chora of Astypalaia with its beautiful Venetian castle defines the travel image of the island, which in the summer is a favorite destination for travelers with a sophisticated but also young profile – as it has camping sites and timeless nightspots.
Spread on a tongue of land between the bays of Pera Gialos (the old port) and Livadia, the capital gathers all eyes on it day and night, from the neck with the windmills and the haunts of the square to the Venetian castle of the Querini and the alleys that lead to the churches of Panagia Portaitissa and Megali Panagia.
The island is not particularly large and has a bus service as well as tourist boats, which serve your main routes to the resort of Maltezana and the beach fish taverns of Schinontas (both on the eastern side, after the natural strait that separates Astypalaia from Mesa and Exo Nisi, but also to the Livadi tourist settlement and the best beaches on the west side, at Vatses and Kaminakia you can reach them by tourist boats but also by car through a dirt road.
Information about the island of Astypalaia
Astypalaia island is located west of Nisyros and east of Anaphi. Its area is 97 square km and it has a coastline of about 110 km with many natural harbours, bays and islets. The island is made up of two rock masses, joined by an isthmus (land strip) of 110 meters. The main settlement of the island is Chora which is located on the west coast and is built on the same area as the ancient city. Above the city dominates the fortress, with its two white churches that Giovanni Quirini restored in the fourth century and which is highly emblazoned in the popular musical tradition, such as the “Forte di Astropalia”.
The city extends down the coast until it joins the port which is known as “Pera Yialos”. A short distance from Chora is Livadi, a very rich coastal valley. Indeed it produces exceptional quality citrus and vegetables and ends up on an idyllic beach. In the northern part of the island there is a large well organized port with a small settlement called Maltezana or Analipsi. Vathi, located along a picturesque bay, is another settlement which reached its peak in the past thanks to the large quantities of lime which was sufficient to cover local needs and also to export.
The ancient writers speak with wonder of the beautiful climate of the island and the multitudes of game that breed especially among pheasants and rabbits. Of the abundant quantities of fish and sponges in the surrounding seas. It is worth noting that snakes find no adaptability here and therefore are not found there.
What to see
Many medieval ruins can be found scattered all over the island. Also worth seeing on the island are the windmills, the one of a kind quaint little houses built inside the fort (Land Lines), perfect beaches and its natural harbours. Inside the fortress there are two old churches, namely St. George and the Virgin of the Fort (the Annunciation). However the main cult site is “Our Lady of the Gate” (Portaitissa), which is celebrated with a feast on the 15th of August.
In the Castle with the 2 churches you can also visit: Panagia of Castro and Aghios Georgios – An Archaeological Museum – Pera Gialos – Aghios Ioannis Castle – SW coast of the island – Monastery of Panaghia Portaitissa-Livadi – Megali Panaghia church-Pera Gialos – Ecclesiastic museum
Where to swim
With the castle in the background, families prefer the deep bay of Livadi (with beach cafes and tavernas) and spread out their mats under the tamarisk trees in sandy Agios Konstantinos, while groups prefer the pebbly and nudist beaches of Tzanaki and Magazaki, note that you must go down a trail for 5-10 minutes and keep in mind that the sun sets early. Towards the area of Maltezana, the Plakes, the tiny Blue Limanaki and the sandy beach at Steno stand out. Easily accessible, with tamarind trees and fish taverns, the sandy beach in Schinontas, popular with families.
Alternatively, for more private dives, you can continue walking to the pebbly coves in neighboring Kareklia. During the summer season, boats leave from Pera Gialos for the best sandy beaches of the island, Vatses, Kaminakia (where there are also taverns) and Ai-Yiannis, but also for diving in turquoise waters on the uninhabited islets of Kounoupa and Koutsomytis.
How to get to Astypalea
Astypalea has a small airport so you can fly from Athens to Astypalea in 40 – 45 minutes. Furthermore, you can also arrive by ferry from Piraeus, or from the other islands of the Dodecanese. Finally, there are ferry connections from the Cyclades as well.