Like a little butterfly Astypalea is spreading its wings in the Aegean Sea. It is one of the most stunning Greek islands of the Dodecanese archipelago. It is yet to be discovered by travellers and therefore still a haven of tranquillity.
- Where is Astypalea island?
- Astypalea on a Map
- The Villages of Astypalea
- Astypalea – Where to stay?
- Nearby Syrna Island
- Geography of Astypalea
- Astypalea – How to get there?
- Things to see in Astypalea
- Astypalea – What to do?
- Astypalea Beach Guide
- Weather and Climate in Astypalea
- History of Astypalea
Astypalea will steel your heart with its traditional windmills and whitewashed houses, just like in the Cyclades island! Astypalea belongs to the Dodecanese archipelago but has a Cycladic architecture and a beautiful Venetian castle in Chora, just like most Greek islands.
Where is Astypalea island?
Astypalea belongs to the Dodecanese in the south-eastern Aegean Sea. The island is 18 km long, 13 km wide at the most. Along with numerous smaller uninhabited offshore islets (the largest of which are Sýrna and Ofidoussa), it forms the Municipality of Astypalea. Astypalea is part of the Kalymnos region. Thanks to its remote location it has still to be discovered by mass tourism and is emerging as an alternative travel destination.
Astypalea on a map
The villages of Astypalea
With whitewashed, cubic houses, blue-domed churches, and narrow alleys the Astypalea villages have an atmosphere just like the Cycladic neighbours. In Chora Astypalea you will find most hotels, restaurants, shops, and other tourist facilities.
Astypalea – Where to stay?
Chora is the capital of Astypalea, built on hill slopes with a breath-taking view to the Aegean Sea and the nearby islets. On top of the hill sits a remain of the Venetian era, the castle of Querini. Today it is a main attraction of the island. The beaches near Chora are partly organized with sunbeds and umbrellas and spending the day at the beach you can lunch in one of the many taverns and stay in one of the many Astypalea hotels or rooms. If you prefer to spend the day in privacy you can rent a car or scooter and drive to one of the secluded beaches around the island, far from the crowd.
Nearby Syrna island
Syrna is a small island about 4 km2 in area to the south-east of Astypalea in the Dodecanese group of Greek islands near the south-west coast of Turkey. It is mostly covered with juniper and garrigue scrub. The few inhabitants raise stock, catch fish and practice arable agriculture. The island is important for migrant and breeding seabirds and raptors, including Cory’s Shearwater, Yelkouan Shearwater and Eleonora’s Falcon. Coordinates for Syrna island: 36°20′33″N 26°40′38″E
Geography of Astypalea
The coast of Astypalea is rocky with many small, pebbled beaches. A small stripe of land of around 10 km, almost separates the island in two parts. This shape of the island has a strong resemblance to a butterfly if seen from above. The capital and previous main harbour of the island is Astypalea or Chora, as it is called by the locals. A new harbour has been built in Agios Andreas on the mid island from where the connections now are west and east with Piraeus and the other islands of the Dodecanese.
Astypalea – How to get there?
The airport in Astypalea is named Astypalaia Island National Airport “Panaghia”. It is operating only during the summer months receiving domestic flights from Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”. The flight duration is approx. 50 minutes. You will find the airport located in the region of Maltezana.
You can also choose to embark the ferry from Piraeus port, there is a regular ferry route being carried out about 3 times a week. The trip duration is almost 9 hours. Astypalea is on the ferry routes from Naxos, Paros, Amorgos, Rhodes, Donoussa, and Tilos, as well.
Things to see in Astypalea
- Traditional windmills – 8 old windmills are lining the path to the Venetian castle in Chora. They are well preserved and very picturesque with their red roofs.
- Venetian Castle of Astypalea – located on a hilltop above Chora Astypalea. The walls are still standing today but the constructions inside are ruined.
- Drakos Cave – it is a great natural sight decorated with impressive stalctites and stalagmites of various colours. The word Drakos means dragon, and it was thought that pirates were hiding their treasures here.
- Archaeological Museum – located in Chora, is exhibiting findings from the prehistoric and medieval periods. Ancient jewellery, funeral offerings, ceramics, and stone tools are on display. Here you will also find photographs of the two caves in Astypalea, Drakos and Negros.
- Monastery of Saint John – is located 12 km west of Chora, nestled in between two slopes, giving you a great opportunity for a panoramic photo of the islets Pontikoussa, Ofidousa and Ktenia.
- Church of Panagia Portaitissa – built in the 18th century, is standing beneath the castle in Chora. Dressed all in white it is considered one of the most beautiful churches in the Dodecanese islands.
Astypalea – What to do?
Astypalea being a small island, things to do are limited. It is perfect though for relaxing on the beautiful beaches and swimming / snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters. Hiking is yet another great activity in Astypalea. Many old footpaths crossing the island are leading to secluded beaches, small chapels, villages, and hilltops with stunning views to the sea. Spend your afternoons enjoying lunch in the shade in one of the seaside taverns and the evenings having a drink under the stars.
Day tours & cruising from Astypalea
Take a break from the local beaches on a day trip by private boat from Astypalea. Tours on board a yacht and of 7 hours duration are being organized from the Marina of Pera Gialos. You will visit Vatses, Kaminakia and Richtis beaches or take a trip around the coastline of Astypalea. You can also choose a daytrip the nearby islands of Kounoupes, Koutsomitis, and Agia Kyriaki islands as well as Reck Rocks and Agios Fokas island.
Sailing and Yachting
Skala or Perigialos is a safe harbor but subject to violent gusts in a strong meltemi. A new breakwater extension provides secure berthing for around 6-8 yachts med moored to the quay.
Agios Andreas is a new artificial harbor on the inner NW side of the island. According to the local fishermen, it provides all weather shelter.
Livadia Bay is a large sandy bay just 1.5 nM around the castle south of Skala. It is much less susceptible to the gusts and amazingly comfortable. Good holding. It is an attractive sandy beach, low key, with just a couple of restaurants and a few bathers. No provisions. Chora is about a 30-minute pleasant walk (2.5 km).
Coordinates: 36°32.46′N, 26°20.7′E
The Bay of Maltezana provides good shelter for N to SW winds but it is somewhat exposed to the SE. Anchor offshore at 4 m, the bottom is sand, and light weed, good holding. Also, during the off season there are several moorings that one can use. Ashore there is a particularly good taverna, Obelix, and a good mini market. Coordinates: 36°34.5′N, 26°23.2′E
Fuel is available in Skala from a gas station, but it does not deliver, and it is a good uphill walk. Electricity and water not available.
Astypalea Beach Guide
Astypalea is blessed with beautiful, quiet beaches and crystal-clear waters. Access to some of the Astypalea beaches is rather easy, you need to take the bus to some secluded ones. The most popular beaches in the island are Agios Konstantinos, Pera Gialos, and Livadia.
Partly organized beaches
- Livadi beach – Sandy, family friendly, located 2 km southwest of Chora
- Agios Konstantinos – Sandy, family friendly, located 7 km south of Chora
- Pera Gialos beach – Sandy, family friendly, located 1 km south of Chora
- Kaminakia beach – Sandy, located 8 km southwest of Chora
- Marmari beach – Sandy, mixture of small coves and long beach stretches, located 3 km north of Chora
- Maltezana beach – Sandy, family friendly, located 9 km northeast of Chora
- Vatses beach – Pebbled, secludes, nudism friendly, located 8 km southwest of Chora
- Agios Andreas beach – Sandy, harbour, located 5 km north of Chora
- Plakes beach – Pebbled and rocky, secluded, located 8 km northeast of Chora
- Psili Ammos beach – Sandy, secluded, located 10 km northeast of Chora
- Tzanaki beach – Pebbled, secluded, nudism friendly, located 3 km northeast of Chora
- Vathi beach – Sandy, secluded, located 21 km northeast of Chora
- Pachia Ammos beach – Pebbled, secluded, located 15 km from Chora
Weather and climate in Astypalea
Just like the other Dodecanese islands Astypalea has a pleasant temperate climate with warm and sunny summers and mild, dry winters. During the months from July to October the weather can get hot, but thankfully the Meltemi wind tend to moderate the climate a bit. Spring and early summer is the best season to visit Astypalea.
History of Astypalea
Astypalea, according to Greek mythology, was a woman abducted by Poseidon in the form of a winged fish-tailed leopard. The island was colonized by Megara, and its constitution and buildings are known from numerous inscriptions. The Roman emperors recognized it as a free state.
Middle AgesRead more
During the Middle Ages it was part of the Byzantine Empire until 1207, when – in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade – it became a fee of the Querini, a noble Venetian family, until 1522. The Querini built a castle that is still in place and added the name of the island to their family name, that became Querini Stampalia. Astypalea became Turkish in 1522, and the Ottomans kept it until 1912, with only two interruptions: from 1648 until 1668, during the War of Crete, it was occupied by Venice, and from 1821 to 1828 it joined the insurgents during the Greek War of Independence.
Occupied again by the Ottomans in 1828, on April 12, 1912, (during the War of Libya) a detachment of the Regia Marina landed on Astypalea, which thus became the first island of the Dodecanese to be occupied by Italy. From there the Italians, on the night between the 3rd and 4 May, landed on Rhodes. The island remained under Italian governance until World War II. In 1947, together with the rest of the Dodecanese islands, it joined Greece.
Treaty with Rome
The text of Astypalea’s treaty with Rome, made in 105 B.C., has survived through a monument found by archaeologists. This treaty has shed some light onto the Roman policies towards the Greeks at the time.
The main feature of this treaty is the formal assumption of complete equality between Rome and Astypalea: The Astypalaians would not aid the enemies of the Romans or allow such enemies passage through their territory or territory under their control, and likewise the Romans would not aid the enemies of the Astypalaians or allow such enemies passage through their territory or territory under their control; in case of an attack on Astypalaia the Romans would come to its aid, in case of an attack on Rome the Astypalaians would come to its aid; etc.
Had no other historical evidence survived, finding this text might have led to the conclusion that Rome and Astypalaia were powers of roughly equal size and power. In fact, of course, there is plenty of solid evidence to show that at the time of this treaty Rome was already an imperial city completely dominating the Mediterranean, while Astypalea was a very minor political and military power at this and any other period in its history.
Historians assume that the treaty granted by the Romans to Astypalea was not unique, but a standard form – though the assumed similar treaties signed with other Greek cities have not survived.