If you’re dreaming of a relaxing vacation on an unspoilt island with gorgeous architecture, mouthwatering food, and pristine beaches, reading this travel guide on what to do in Astypalaia is all you need to stop dreaming and start planning.
Situated between the Cyclades and the Dodecanese Islands, Astypalaia administratively belongs to the latter. Yet, culturally, it boasts a unique blend of characteristics from both. In terms of architecture, the island resembles the Cyclades more, but local tastes, traditions, and dialects are purely Dodecanesian.
The island’s nickname is Butterfly of the Aegean Sea, and a simple look at the map of Astypalaia is enough to understand why. So, get ready for a remarkable flight on this beautiful butterfly’s wings as we unfold all the fantastic things to see in Astypalaia (also spelled Astypalea), or Astropalia as locals affectionally call it.
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How Many Days & What To Do in Astypalaia Greece
When it comes to deciding how long to stay in Astypalaia, anything from three days to two weeks will do. It all comes down to your travel style and how badly you need a break. If you’re wondering why visit Astypalaia in the first place, you should know that this well-kept secret of a Greek Island is the perfect destination for the most unforgettable, relaxed and hassle-free summer holidays.
10 Fantastic Things To Do in Astypalaia Greece
1. Be Enchanted By The Prettiest Castle in The Aegean Sea
Probably no other Greek Island boasts such a well-preserved, impressive, and breathtakingly beautiful castle. Built in dark stone over the dazzlingly white Old Town (Chora) of Astypalaia, the Venetian Castle is a sight for sore eyes as it shimmers under the bright sun but also in the evening when lit in golden brown hues, it dominates Chora’s skyline.
Constructed by the noble Querini family after the siege of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1204, the Venetian Castle served as a refuge in the event of pirate invasions. Home to two lovely churches, Panagia tou Kastrou (Lady of The Castle) and Agios Georgios, Astypalaia Castle offers unique panoramic views that you won’t easily forget, especially at sunset.
2. Explore The Old Town
As mentioned earlier, Astypalaia reminds more of a Cyclades than a Dodecanese island in terms of architecture. This is more striking in Chora, the island’s Old Town, with its whitewashed buildings, alleys, and steps.
Wandering around Chora and getting friendly with the countless cute cats lazing around under the Greek summer sun is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Astypalaia.
Apart from being the ultimate meeting point on the island, the Windmills are also the most iconic landmarks in Astypalaia, second only to the gorgeous castle. They are all restored and house various services. For instance, one of them is the island’s Information Centre, while another houses the island’s Library. Another point of interest in Chora is the Ancient Infant Cemetery. Sadly, although a site of rare historical significance, the cemetery is quite neglected.
Last but not least, Chora is dotted with many picturesque churches. The island’s most siginificant place of worship is the Church of Panagia Portaitissa.
However, our favourite churches in Chora comprise the complex of the nine churches in the Karai neighbourhood. If you’re wondering what to do in Astypalaia, visiting these churches is a must.
3. Drive To Kaminakia, The Best Beach in Astypalaia
There’s no shortage of remote beaches in Astypalaia. Some of them are Agios Konstantinos Beach, Vatses, and Plakes. However, the unquestionably best among them is Kaminakia Beach, a pristine piece of heaven in the southern part of the island with Caribbean-like turquoise waters and white pebbles.
What we’d like to point out here, though, is that the drive to Kaminakia Beach deserves a place on our list of the best activities in Astypalaia in its own right. A dirt road leads to the beach that’s generally easy with only a couple of tricky parts. Yet, the views and the feeling you get while driving are absolutely rewarding. Suffice it to say that you may feel you’re driving on Mars at times.
4. Taste The Local Food
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that an island as authentic as Astypalaia could only mean one thing: unique culinary experiences. The local cuisine is simple yet delicious. All dishes are made with fresh seasonal products, according to century-old recipes that have survived to this day by word of mouth.
The first thing you should try in Astypalaia is pouggia. These are pie-like deep-fried little wonders which can either be sweet or savoury.
Moreover, Astypalaia’s cheese pies and the handmade ravioli-like pasta filled with local cheese (chlori) and saffron are not to be missed. Last but not least, Astypalaia Island is renowned for its stuffed vine leaves (dolmadakia) and the exquisite seafood.
5. Enjoy Steno Beach
One of the easiest Astypalaia beaches to get to is also one of the best. Steno Beach is situated at the island’s narrowest part, the butterfly’s body that is. Steno is the Greek word for narrow, so it makes sense. Apart from its gorgeous crystal clear waters, Steno Beach has become quite popular for yet another reason. That’s no other than the beach canteen, which serves some of the best food in Astypalaia.
6. Spend a Relaxing Day on Livadi Beach
Livadi is Astypalaia’s most popular seaside resort. There are many restaurants, cafés, bars, and hotels in the area, making Livadi one of the best places in Astypalaia for a relaxing vacation, especially for families. Although Livadi Beach is equipped with all facilities, it is still laid-back and authentic, like the rest of the island.
7. Visit The Dam of Astypalaia
The dam of Astypalaia is a site of unique natural beauty and one of the best places to visit in Astypalaia. All you can hear there is the birds singing and the bees buzzing. If you have time, it’s worth walking the path that runs along the artificial lake formed by the dam.
8. Chill At Pera Gialos Bay
Pera Gialos used to be Astypalaia’s main port. Now that the port has been transferred to another location (Agios Andreas), Pera Gialos is a quaint seaside town with jaw-dropping views of the Castle and Chora and a fantastic beach with tranquil waters.
If you ask us, Pera Gialos is also the ultimate place to have dinner. Just choose a table at a seaside restaurant, dip your toes in the cool sand and take in the beauty of the magically lit Castle and Chora.
9. Discover Maltezana And Its Surroundings
Maltezana or Analipsi is the second largest town in Astypalaia, after Chora. There are a few serene beaches within easy walking distance from one another, such as Mple Limanaki, Maltezana and Sxinontas, and some easy-going cafés and restaurants there. If you feel like exploring a bit, you can walk to the Monument to the French Admiral Bignon and learn all about it while taking in the magnificent views of Chora in the distance.
From Maltezana you can continue to Vathy to check out the remotest village on the island. Although the route is quite lovely, keep in mind that you must drive on a dirt road for the most part and that there’s not much to do once there. If you’re short on time, we’d suggest you skipped Vathy altogether.
10. Join a Day Cruise To Koutsomitis And Kounoupes Islets
Enjoying a boat trip from Pera Gialos to the most secluded beaches and islets is high on our list of what to do in Astypalaia. Koutsomitis and Kounoupes Islets will make you feel you’ve been teleported to someplace exotic without ever leaving the warm embrace of the Mediterranean Sea.
How To Get To Astypalaia
There are ferries that connect Piraeus Port in Athens to the new port of Astypalaia. The Piraeus Astypalaia journey time is about nine hours. There are also ferries to Astypalaia from many other islands in the Dodecanese and the Cyclades, such as our beloved Amorgos.
In the summer, there are daily flights to Astypalaia Island National Airport from Athens. There are also flights that connect Astypalaia airport to other nearby islands. For more information on avalaible Athens Astypalaia flights, click here.
How To Get Around Astypalaia
There’s public transport in Astypalaia (bus) and, also, taxis. All useful information, such as bus schedules and taxi-drivers’ phone numbers, is displayed on a board near the Windmills in Chora. However, your best shot at seeing the island at your own pace is renting a car or scooter. If you want to reach Kaminakia Beach or Vathy, avoid the scooter and rent a car.
Where To Stay in Astypalaia
As mentioned above, Livadi is a very popular place to stay in Astypalaia, due to its proximity to the beach and Chora alike. That said, nothing beats staying in Chora. Although the Old Town has its fair share of uphill streets, which can be wearisome under the scorching sun, you shouldn’t let that discourage you from staying in Chora.
Throughout the years, we’ve stayed at many hotels in Astypalaia, as we have been visiting the island for over a decade now. We’ve stayed in budget Astypalaia rooms and luxury hotels, both in Livadi and Chora. Yet, when it comes to Astypalaia accommodation, we have a personal favourite that we can’t recommend enough.
Esperia Luxury Suites are four suites scattered across the Old Town. Each of them is smartly decorated, retaining Chora’s traditional ambience, but with all modern comforts for a fantastic stay. Some of them boast unique views, while others enjoy a location filled with authentic vibes. All of them are impeccably clean, home-like, and comfortable and promise to make your holidays in Astypalaia all the more memorable.
Where To Eat & Drink in Astypalaia
Here’s a list of some of the best places to eat and drink in Astypalaia:
- Castro Bar in Chora is more than just a bar. It’s one of the best attractions in Astypalaia in its own right. Situated under the shadow of the imposing Venetian Castle, there’s no better place to enjoy a sunset cocktail or late nightcap than Castro Bar.
- Kafeneio Apanemia is a new addition to Chora’s food scene, but it quickly became everyone’s favourite meze restaurant. Don’t forget to try pouggia there.
- Meltemi in Chora is the ultimate hang-out for locals and visitors alike. Open all day for coffee, drinks, snacks, and sweets, it’s the latter you don’t want to miss.
- Since we’re talking about dessert, Archipelago in Chora is also an essential stop for your sweet tooth.
- Kafeneio o Mouggos in Chora is a blend of meze restaurant and Greek culture museum. With mosaic floors, old-fashioned furniture, and hundreds of black and white pictures covering its walls, this place screams history and nostalgia. For that alone, a visit there should be added to your list of things to do in Astypalaia.
- Akrogiali in Pera Gialos is one of the best Astypalaia restaurants for seafood dishes.
- Korkodeilos in Livadi for Greek cuisine with a twist.
- Artemis in Chora for late-night drinks with a view.
- Notos in Chora for snacks and breakfast.
- Sti Thea for cocktails with the best view.
Final Thoughts: Why Visit Astypalaia Island Greece
Astypalaia is one of the most easy-going small islands in Greece. As such, it’s the ideal destination for a relaxing, stress-free summer vacation like no other. So, now that you know what to do in Astypalaia and why it’s worth visiting, why don’t you let this sweet butterfly carry you on its wings on a unique journey in the heart of the Aegean Sea? You’re sure to enjoy the ride!
Disclosure: We were guests at Esperia Luxury Suites, but, as always, we express nothing but our honest opinion about the experience we had.