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Astypalaia, Greece

Astypalaia is in the Dodecanese Island chain but could have easily been one of the Cyclades, since it is located about the same distance from the closest island in each group. Being neither here nor there had made it difficult to get to by ferry which of course put it on the must-do list of every traveler who wanted to visit an island that nobody else goes to. But in the last few years it has gotten easier to reach and has become a favorite spot for sail-boaters and yachters. There are several ferries a week stopping here, at least during the tourist season. So many people rave about how unspoiled it is that you are forced to wonder how it can still be unspoiled. But compared to the popular islands in the Cyclades and the Dodecanese it is. With a shape resembling the TIE Fighters of the Evil Empire's Imperial Fleet in Star Wars, Astypalaia is like two islands connected by a narrow isthmus.

Astypalia, map
Map of Astypalaia (Stampalia), 1597 by the Venetian Giacomo Franco (1550-1620)

The island has a rich history and was originally known as Ichthyoessa which means there were probably a lot of fish here in ancient times. In Greek mythology Astypalaia was the sister of Europa who was seduced by Poseidon and had two sons by him: Ancaeus, King of Samos, and Eurypylos, King of Kos. The ancient town was on the site of the castle and many ancient stones are visible in the construction of the houses and churches. In Kalindra,on the west side of the castle is the largest child and infant cemetery in the world with more than 2700 newborns and small children buried in pots, dating from the Late Archaic to the Early Classical periods. These remains are now at University College in London where they are being studied. Other archaeological points of interest are the mosaic floor of an early Christian basilica under the Church of Agia Barbara and the remains of the Roman Baths, both located in Analipsi in the north. The Romans used the island as a base against pirates. After the Romans came the Byzantines, followed by the Venetians. The Querini family built the castle and ruled the island until it fell to the Turks in 1522 though it was occupied by Venice two more times. The first was during the Cretan War from 1648 to 1668 and the second was during the Greek War of Independence from 1821 to 1828. After the Turks reclaimed the island it was the first of the Dodecanese Islands to be taken back during the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-1912 and remained under Italian occupation until the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, (which superseded the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres), when Turkey formally recognized the Italian annexation of the Dodecanese. In 1947 following the Second World War, Astylaia and the rest of the Dodecanese Islands became a part of Greece.

Astipalia, Chora

The main town, or Chora (which means town in case you have always wondered why so many Greek islands have a village named Chora) is in the southern part of Astylalaia, where most of the island's inhabitants live. Its whitewashed houses begin in the port and climb the small mountain above it, crowned by a Venetian Fortress built by the Querini family in the 14th century on the ruins of the ancient acropolis. The castle itself is in ruins with mostly only the outer walls and the walls of some interior buildings standing, but there are two historic churches within it, Agios Georgios built in 1790, which like many Byzantine churches was built on the site of an ancient temple, and Panagia tou Kastro which was built in 1853. A third church, the Panagia Portaitissa, overlooks the sea from the south side of the castle and was built in 1780 by Saint Anthimos from Kefalonia. It is the most important church on the island and where they hold the panigiri (festival to the Virgin Mary) on August 15th and is also one of the most beautiful churches in the Dodecanese.

Pera Gialos, Astypalaia

The port of Astypalaia is called Pera Yialo and sits below Chora and the castle. As ports go it is a clean one and swim-able though most people prefer the beaches outside of town if they have transportation or take the local bus. There is a small beach in Pera Yialos with several restaurants on the sea and within walking distance of several hotels and apartments. It is very convenient for those staying in town and especially for those with small children.

The Archaeological Museum of Astypalaia is located in Pera Yialos and includes findings from prehistoric times to medieval times including clay pots, jewelery, bronze and stone tools from Mycenaean chamber tombs, silver coins from the classical period as well as tombstones and votive reliefs, male and female statues, and important inscriptions which tell us much about Apollo, Artemis of Lechia and Elyithias, Asclepius and Aphrodite who were all worshipped here in antiquity. It is a small museum, with a lot of history in it and well worth a visit.

Astypalia windmills

The row of windmills that are sort of emblematic of the island sit above the port at the entrance of the upper village. Though they are no longer grinding flower they have been pressed into service as exhibition spaces, a travel agency, a tourist information center and a book-lending library. They are located on the road to Livadi and the area around them is where much of the island's nightlife is centered with a dozen cafes and restaurants, many with spectacular views. Also taking advantage of the views in this area are a number of hotels, villas and guest houses.

Livadi, Astypalia

Livadi is a beach town in a bay south of the Castle, a mix of pebbles and sand, facing southeast and within walking distance of Chora. There are a number of hotels and apartments and several restaurants and cafes. Livadi is an agricultural valley which is watered by a large reservoir. See Hotels in Livadi

Agios Konstandinos Beach, Astypalia
Agios Konstantinos Beach and Church

From Livadi the road continues to a number of small churches and several beaches. The closest is Agios Konstantinos, a clean, usually uncrowded pebble and sand beach with a view of the Chora and the castle. There are sun-beds and umbrellas for hire, a beach bar, a nice fish taverna and there are tamarisk trees that offer shade. The beach faces north so if there is a strong north wind and you don't like waves you might want to go elsewhere.

Further west is Paralia Vatses, another beautiful beach around a half hour from Chora, much of it on a dirt road. There are beach-beds, umbrellas available and some large tamarisk trees as well as a beach bar/cafe. The beach faces southeast so wind and waves should not be a problem unless the weather is extraordinary.

Asttypalia, Kaminakia Beach
Paralia Kaminakia by Dave Burnham

Paralia Kaminakia is tougher to get to, the dirt road leading there not in as good shape as the road to Vatses, though if your car has decent clearance and you take it slow you will probably make it. If you are renting a car on the island ask first before going. It would be a rough trip on a scooter, even worse on the back of one. No problem for a jeep and worth the drive with a taverna, sunbeds, umbrellas, shade trees and beautiful clean seas.

There is no road to Paralia Agios Ioannis but there is a path from the church of the same name. Bring water, shade and food in case you can't make it back. Hiking boots may be useful as well.

Astypalaia Camping

If you travel north from Chora/Pera Yialos you will pass Astypalaia Camping, the only campgrounds on the island, located a few steps from the sea, with its own beach and just a couple of kilometers from Chora so you can hit the bars and walk home if you have to. The area where the tents are has lots of kalamia (reeds), tamarisk trees and wooden structures covered with kalamia that offer plenty of shade. There is also water for showers and places to charge your phone. The owners and staff work very hard to keep it clean and there is a cafe/bar for drinks and food. Older campers who like to turn in early may want to stay on the outskirts, upwind from the music which often goes on until 1 or 2 am at their weekly party, playing rock, reggae, and techno with occasional live music. If you are older and spent time in the late sixties on Paradise Beach in Mykonos this will remind you of those days.

Thenext nice beach you come to is Marmari , a few hundred meters down the road where there is a popular cafe, Ta Mamounia, and some rooms to rent if you get tired of roughing it but want to stay rural.

Astypalaia Steno
Paralia Steno

Paralia Steno is a beach located in the narrowest part of the island (steno means narrow). It is a pebble and sand beach, shallow and usually calm so a good place for families with children and the sea is very clean, like almost every beach on the island. There are shade trees, beach beds and umbrellas and a couple restaurants. Kantina Steno, is a family run traditional restaurant with home-style cooking, and one of the best and friendliest on the island, worth the trip for the food alone not to mention the fact that it is on a beautiful beach. A few steps away is Paralia Mikro Steno, a smaller beach which is actually at the narrowest point in the island.

Analipsi-Maltezana, Astypalaia

Continue on the main road and you will come to the airport. Yes! There is an airport. And just beyond it, conveniently located for those flying in, is the seaside villages of Analipsi, and Maltezana, a long beautiful beach, with tamarisk trees, umbrellas, sunbeds, restaurants, cafes, a small fishing fleet and lots of places to stay. It is also a popular stopping point for sailboats and yachts. Around the headland is Schoinontas Beach and Astakoukos Restaurant, one of the best seafood tavernas on the island and famous for its kakavia, a multi-fish soup, that you need to order the night before and they will make it just for you. This is one of those restaurants that people go to once and end up eating there every day and when they go home at the end of their holiday they count the days until they can come back and eat there again, calling or e-mailing every few weeks to make sure they are going to be open. See Maltezana/Analipsi Hotels

Koutsomiti, Astypalia

From Analipsi you have a view of the uninhabited islands of Chondro, Ligno, Agia Kyriaki, Koutsomiti, Kounoupa and Chondronissi. Kounoupa has a beautiful beach on a narrow isthmus, actually two beaches just a few feet from each other, and a small cafe. You can get here by excursion boat for about 15 euros for the day, or half day, and they even provide you with an umbrella. This is one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece with white sand and sea the color of New Mexico turquoise or the islands of the Caribbean. The excursion boat also stops in Koutsomiti, another fantastic beach.

If you continue on the road from Analipsi you will pass a small stone beach, called Agrelidi on a dirt road off the main road. There is a deserted factory and a small Agios Nicholaos church and further on a longer beach and the small church of Agios Ioannis.

Continuing on the main road you eventually get to Vathi, a long narrow bay that ends in a sort of beach, though more of a lagoon. Not many tourists visit here because for one the road is not great, nor is the swimming, though it is a very good anchorage for sailboats in bad weather. But further down the road in Exo Vathi, there is a very nice old style taverna called Gallini, very unique in that it is self-service: you do some of the work and you are rewarded by Kyria Maria who makes home cooked meals on the spot, mostly fresh fish and all local ingredients. This is one of the most genuine experiences you will have on this island, or any island for that matter. It is right on the sea with a great view of the bay and there are a couple small beaches close by, a few feet away actually, where you can swim. It is not the best beach on the island but the taverna makes it worthwhile and afterwards you will know what it is like to have a Greek aunt that you had never met until now.

Salis Kafeneion
Salis Kafeneion

Restaurants in Astypalaia

If you are like me you will start your evening somewhere on the sea, with ouzo and mezedes. And if you are like me you will hope that it is so good that you will continue eating and not have to go to another restaurant for larger plates. Ouzeri Anastasia in Pera Yialos fits that description. Kostas and Anastasia will make you feel welcome and if you don't have a knowledge of mezedes and what goes with what they will assist you. Whether you want ouzo, raki, tsipuro or even retsina and if you are a carnivore, pescavore (is this a word?) or vegetarian you will find something you like here. In the day you have the beach and at night you have a view of the Chora and the castle lit up like the Acropolis. Try the spetsofai, a spicy sausage dish usually found in Pelion. The same with Bekri Meze. Both are winter dishes but go great with ouzo or tsipuro anytime. Grilled octopus, marinated octopus, fried or marinated gavros (fresh anchovy) and of course the usual fried kalamari and other popular fish plates make this a safe bet if you are staying in the Pera Yialos/Chora area. If you want bigger dishes Akrogiali is right next door, a family run fish taverna with the same view, same beach. If good home cooked food is more important than the view then the Australia Restaurant is probably what you are looking for with food cooked by Kyria Maria and served by her grandson Poulakis in a friendly atmosphere. With large portions and inexpensive, they serve a variety of fish, meat and vegetable dishes from local ingredients, in many cases things they have grown. Authentic in atmosphere, decor and cuisine, they do have the typical dishes tourists would order like mousaka, pastitsio and dolmades but they also have paidakia (grilled lamb chops) and kakavia (fish soup) and Astako Makaronada (lobster pasta) and grilled fresh fish. The menu is written on a chalk board and changes daily. If Imam is on the menu order it. Salis Kafeneion is another ouzeri/mezedopouleion though more of a tsikoudiadiko since the dishes are Cretan influenced. It is very authentic and if I was living in Astypalaia this is where I would be spending a lot of my time.

Paidaikia (lamb chops) from Antikastro Traditional Restaurant

On the far side of the bay the Antikastro Traditional Restaurant has a terrific view of the castle and the harbor, excellent food at reasonable prices, grilled 100% local meats (order paidaikia or katsiki lemonato), grilled vegetables, a young friendly staff and a loyal following of Greeks and foreigners.

From famous chef Peter Manaki: "Antikastro is a traditional taverna in Pera Gialos recommended by locals and it did not disappoint: house made "pougi" filled with local cheese, mint and fried and drizzled in honey. A plate of warm vlita, goat kokkinisto with amazing hand cut fries and the best Paidakia Kotopoulo aka chicken chops that were grilled to perfection!"

Astypalaia Goat
Local goat with baby potatoes, lemon sauce and herbs at Ducato di Astypalaia

But don't limit yourself to the port. O Kouklas is an ouzeri/mezedopouleion also with great food located a few steps from the windmills in Chora. Next door Ducato di Astypalaia is a modern take on the food of the island, and Greek food in general. More upscale than the other restaurants mentioned it is still traditional while being creative, like when a restaurant is chef-owned, or has a chef that went to culinary school or studied under a famous Greek bistro chef. If you like this style and go to these kinds of restaurants when you find them you will find it reasonable in price with generous portions. If you are a mousaka and Greek salad type you may find it expensive. One of the best restaurants on the island. The chef's name is Nassos. Yes they do have astakomakaronada. I think it was #1 on Tripadvisor if that makes a difference.

Speaking of astako Astakoukos in Analipsi is right on the sea and is a typical Greek seafood taverna with a modern touch. Traditional dishes have been taken a step further by a creative chef with generous portions at a fair price. It is good for lunch or dinner and the beach is very nice as well. They have astakomakaronada too, though it takes about 45 minutes to prepare. Take a swim in the meantime so you are not full of salad, mezedes and bread by the time it comes.

One of the best restaurants and a favorite of world famous Greek chef Peter Minaki is the Cantina Steno on Steno beach. A cantina is what it probably is in your language, a truck or trailer or some kind of moveable structure that you can put anywhere and sell drinks and snacks out of. But in this case it has a kitchen and out of this kitchen comes some amazing food. Order the katsiki lemonato (goat in lemon sauce-above photo) with fried potatoes. Or order anything with fried potatoes and you will probably be very happy.

From Betsey Kippon of Matt Barrett's Greece Travel Guides Group on Facebook: "We liked Linda’s on Kaminakia beach. Walk in, take a table and what Linda offers. We had the “various fish from their nets,” a plate of the homemade cheese and bread, and wine. All good and nothing leftover. Fun drive—on a rugged, dirt road through an evocatively Neolithic landscape—a beautiful beach and good lunch. Alymyra on the dock in Maltezana was also very good. Imaginative and fresh. Glad we went. Had the fresh fish/chlori cheese carpaccio, tuna ravioli, and swordfish giovetsi. A stroll on the dock watching folks tend nets completed the afternoon. Also memorable were two dinners at Maistrali Taverna (particularly the lamb chops) in Pera Gialos and the lunchtime salads at Astakoukos and Astifagia in Maltezana. Also the kafeneion O Moungos. We stepped past the cat and ventured inside for the full atmosphere and a drink. Also I recommend Avra Cruises for lunch. We went on a whim, after seeing the boat docked in Pera Gialos. It is family owned and operated and tthey are super hospitable. It is a full day excursion to 2 islands; the change to swim into a sea cave/pick your way over rocks/and back into the water to view an underwater/sunlit arch; while moored in a rocky gorge, served a multi-course lunch, complete with wine and raki, followed by music and, of course, singing. Our Greek sailing companions lingered on board long after we landed back in town. They may still be there."

Hotels in Astypalaia

Astpalaia Palace Hotel

The new Astypalaia Hotel Palace (above photo) offers luxury rooms with panoramic views over the sea and the picturesque Chora, the windmills and castle. It features a swimming pool with breathtaking views. The luxury rooms and suites, each one with its own character, come with free private laptops. In-room amenities include an LCD TV and CD player and free Wi-FI, a kitchenette with fridge plush sofas, arm chairs and paintings. Some units feature their own hot tub, while others have a private pool.

Oneiro Luxury Suites, Asttypalaia

Oneiro Luxury Suites enjoy panoramic views over the sea, the port and Astylapaia’s castle and main town. Only 1,150 feet from Livadi Beach, they feature a furnished communal terrace with unobstructed views. Studios are minimal and fresh, with whitewashed walls and splashes of color. They are all air conditioned and have a TV, fridge, kettle and 2-ring cooker. A hairdryer is included in the bathroom. Free WiFi is available throughout the property.

Anattoli Studios, Astypalaia

Located in Hora, a short distance from the castle, Anatoli Luxury Studios offers self-catering accommodations with furnished balcony overlooking the Aegean Sea and the Venetian castle. The beach of Pera Yialos is 0.6 mi away. A kitchenette with cooking facilities, coffee machine and fridge is included in all accommodations types at the Anatoli. Each has a seating area and TV.

Chrysalis Boutique Hotel, Astypalaia

Located at the edge of town right on the sea Chrysalis Boutique - Adults Only has allergy-free rooms, a garden, free WiFi and a bar. All rooms have a closet,  private bathroom equipped with a shower and a hairdryer,  flat-screen TV and air conditioning. Maybe the best view of any hotel in town and the owners are known for their hospitality and attention to detail. Pera Gialos beach is a 2 minute walk and the hotel provides various activities like cooking classes, yoga, massages, fitness classes and more.

Aphroditi Studios, Astypalia

Aphrodite Studios is conveniently located within 500 feet of Pera Yialos Beach and less than a 10-minute walk from the central square of Astypalaia’s main town. Its studios come with free Wi-Fi and views over the Venetian Castle and the Aegean Sea. The air-conditioned studios at Aphrodite are traditionally furnished and have a private balcony. They come with a kitchenette with coffee maker and mini fridge, and a flat-screen TV.

Paradissos Hotel, Astypalia

Just 100 feet from Pera Gialos Beach in Chora, the family-run Paradissos Hotel features a snack bar with a terrace overlooking the Aegean Sea. It offers air-conditioned accommodations with a balcony enjoying views of the sea or the mountain. Featuring tile floors and floor-to-ceiling windows, the rooms of Paradissos are simply decorated with wood furnishings. Each bright and airy unit comes with a TV, a fridge and a telephone. The private bathroom is stocked with a hairdryer.

Hotel Castillio, Astypalia

Hotel Castillio is a traditional hotel situated at the seafront settlement of Maltezana (Analipsi), 1,000 feet from the beach. It offers sea-view rooms with free Wi-Fi and free parking. The sunlit and spacious studios have balconies with wonderful view of the sea and the islets. They are all furnished with a private bathroom with shower and a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge.

Maltazana Beach Hotel

Settled among its well-maintained gardens, the Maltezana Beach Hotel is set just steps from the beach. The pool, restaurant, café-bar and spa with hot tub ensure a relaxing and pleasant stay. Maltezana Beach offers tasteful rooms with private balconies offering sea, pool or garden views. Disabled-friendly rooms are also available. In-room facilities include air conditioning, satellite TV and safe. Guests enjoy free public WiFi internet access. The use of umbrellas and deck chairs at the beach is also free of charge.

Kalderimi raditional Houses, Astypalia

Just 1,000 feet from the sandy Livadi Beach in Astypalaia, Kalderimi Traditional Houses features traditional accommodations with a furnished balcony or patio overlooking the Aegean Sea. The complex offers free Wi-Fi and on-site parking. All air-conditioned units are built with stone and wood, and have a well-equipped kitchenette with fridge and dining area. Bathrooms are stocked with bathrobes, slippers and organic toiletries. Some rooms offer sun loungers with view of the castle, and a fireplace.

Gerani Studios, Livadi

Also in Livadi, Gerani Studios offers accommodations with kitchenette. It includes a restaurant with an open-air terrace and provides free Wi-Fi access. The air-conditioned Gerani studios come with traditional wooden furnishings and enjoy mountain and garden views. Each unit is equipped with electric kettle, mini fridge and cooking rings. Other facilities include a hairdryer and a TV. Rooms feature Coco-mat mattresses.

You can find hotels, apartments, holiday homes, rooms and villas by using Matt's Astypalaia Hotel Search and Matt's Hotels of Greece Astypalia Page

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