Astypalea Greece is a guest post by Theresa Steinkellner
Among tourists Astypalea is – so far – not well known. It is Greece off the beaten tracks. To go there takes time. It is part of the archipelago Dodecanese, where in total twelve islands of the southeastern Aegean sea belong to. Butterfly shaped Astypalea is located between Amorgos, Kos and Santorini and has about 97 km² with four inhabited small villages: Astypalea (or by the locals also called Chora), Livádi, Maltezana and Vathy. Only 6 aeroplanes and 4 ferries per week head towards Astypalea from Athens. By ferry the journey takes at least 8 hours, often even more. But it is worth to go. Once reached – I promise – you won´t regret your efforts to come a single minute.
Astypalea fulfils every Greek island dream ever imagined: whitewashed houses, blue painted doors and windows, tavernas with fresh and delicious seafood, traditional windmills, hospitable and warm people all next to crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean sea.
Compared to other Greek islands you can enjoy the idyllic atmosphere without crowds and in perfect silence. Locals welcome you friendly, enjoy to talk and nobody ever tries to convince you to enter a restaurant or store. As inhabitants told me, only during high season in August the island gets busy. Mostly Greeks, a few Italians, and some individuals enjoy their holidays here. Because coincidently you never ever come to Astypalea, neither came here by the accident, maybe by fate, if you believe in it.
I got invited to Astypalea by the municipality for 5 days at the end of March 2016 while Greek Easter celebrations took part. I am not getting paid for writing any articles but was allocated accommodation, food and transfer. I really enjoyed my stay that´s why I am taking efforts to write about it.
All activities were planned respecting the importance and schedule of the orthodox Easter ceremonies. Celebrations took part all days including masses at church, a procession through the Chora, traditional Greek easter food preparation and as for the finale big fireworks. By the way, if you are interested in religious celebrations then during Greek easter is your time to go there.
When no activities regarding the festivity were scheduled for our group we relaxed at the beach, went to different viewpoints, discovered nature or explored the small villages. Because it was the end of march, the weather was all day mild and a bit windy – only around midday the temperature rose to estimated 28°C. (But I came from cold Austria – where in the same week appeared partial snow falls. So maybe I had a different temperature feeling.) For me, it was warm enough to take a bath in the sea.
We didn´t go to Vathy in the far northwestern part of the island. However, we explored Maltezana, located close to the strip of landscape connecting the two butterfly wings, which originally has been a rural fishing village, but recently rose in touristic popularity for its close sandy beaches. Livádi, only 1km away from the Chora in Astypalea is a flat and fertile area in front of a delightful beach which a small promenade full of shops, bars and restaurants. Astypalea, as the lively center of the island, offers the most impressive views with the red windmills on the ridge of the hill, the narrow alleyways of the Chora and the castle on the top. Although it is possible to swim right there, more charming spots can be found.
The castle of the Chora was built in 1413 being fortification and settlement at the same time (which is quite unique in the area) to protect people from piracy. A little unspectacular, but close to the castle you find Kylindra, a mystic cemetery of unborn and infants discovered in 1996. Although there is not much to see, I felt quite appealed about the mystic aspect. Until now about 2400 bodies buried in amphoras from the whole eastern Mediterranean area where found, making this to the biggest ancient children cemetery worldwide.
The Greek island Astypalea is the perfect place to relax at sandy or pebble beaches, enjoy fresh seafood, hand-made cheese or island honey. You can hike through the snake-free scenery while having the scent of sea, thyme, oregano and sage giving your nose a “good smells” treatment. Sheep and goats – lots more than inhabitants – stroll around the island, running away immediately or observe you irritated as you pass. For independent island exploration, a rented car or motorbike is highly recommended. To some secluded beaches, you only get driving and hiking. Alternatively, you could go there by boat.
I didn´t go while if have been on the island, but I was told that there are superb spots to dive. Climbing opportunities are available too.
Astypalea is a hidden gem in Greece. It is perfect for you if you want to experience a familiar and relaxed atmosphere far away from mass tourism and party excesses. It is a great destination for individualist travelers and nature lovers as well as for families – that don’t mind a long and adventurous arrival and departure journey with their kids.
In my opinion, Astypalea Greece is the most authentic greek island experience you can get. I can´t wait for the day to go there again.
This great story is part of the series Tales from Greece, where travelers share their experiences from their holidays to Greece.