A butterfly in the center of the Aegean Sea!
- The location, getting there, accomodation
- Getting there and accommodation
- Chora and the Castle
- Pera Gialos and Livadi
- Aghios Ioannis and Maltezana
- Vathy and the beaches of the island
- Extra info
The island on the sea route from the Cyclades Islands to the Dodecanese! "Butterfly of the Aegean" is called. Really looks like butterfly with open wings, with all the colors of the Aegean and the island architecture.
Astypalaea belongs to the Dodecanese complex of islands, but has many of the Cycladic characteristics. The capital Chora is one of the most beautiful island towns, with its Venetian castle, the beautiful churches and the traditional houses.
All in Astypalaea compose a wonderful destination; picturesque villages, bays and beaches, hiking and climbing, caves and sea excursions to the surrounding islands. Calm and fun, fresh fish and traditional cuisine, good accommodation; nice holiday!
Astypalaea is the westernmost island of the Dodecanese, the closest to the Cyclades. It is located in the center of the Aegean Sea, southeast of the island of Amorgos, northeast of the islands of Santorini and Anafi, southwest of the island of Kos and west of the island of Nissyros; is 117 nm from Piraeus, 23 nm from Kos and 96 nm from Rhodes. It has an area of 97 sq km and a length of 19 km. It is called "Butterfly of the Aegean" due to its shape. It consists of two parts, like the open wings of a butterfly, connected by a narrow neck.
The western part is called Exo Nessi (Outer Island) and has a width of 14 km. The eastern part is called Messa Nessi (Inner Island) and has a width of 10 km. The sandy strip that joins them is called Steno (Strait) and has a width of only 180 meters. The highest hill in the Outer Island is at 482 m and in the Inner Island at 366 m.
The coastline has a length of 110 km; the shores are steep in several points. Apart from the two large gulfs north and south of the Strait, many small and large bays with beautiful beaches are formed. Within the two gulfs and near the western coast are many islets.
Astypalea is connected with Piraeus and the islands of the Cyclades and Dodecanese by ferry and with Athens and islands of the Dodecanese by plane. By ferry from/to Piraeus and connections with the islands of Paros, Naxos, Donoussa, Amorgos, Kalumnos, Kos, Nissyros, Telos and Rhodes. The journey from Piraeus takes about ten hours. The new port of the island is in the bay of Aghios Andreas.
There are also three local trips per week from the island of Kalymnos. The ship catches in Pera Gialos, the old port. The trip lasts three and a half hours. In Pera Gialos is a small marina for yachts. Small ports exist in Maltezana and Vathi.
Astypalaea is connefcted by plane with regular direct flights to Athens and with three weekly flights to Athens, Rhodes, Leros and Kos. The airport is located near Maltezana.
Bus connects the settlements of Chora, Pera Gialos, Livadi and Maltezana. Small boats go to the beaches of the island and the islets south of the Strait. You can rent jeep and get to know all the beaches. There are also nice hiking trails.
Hotels and rooms to rent in Chora Pera Gialos, Livadi and Maltezana; also shopping facilities; in the taverns fresh fish and traditional dishes. Famous bars are in Chora; fun and leisure also in the other settlements; night party at the campsite of the island in Marmari, northwest of Chora.
In Greek mythology Astypalaea was one of the daughters of Phoenix and Perimidi, and sister of Europe. Astypalaea met Neptune and gave birth to Angaeos member of Argonauts, and Eurypylus king of Kos.
It has the same name from the ancient times with small variations over time – Astypaleia in antiquity, Astoupalia, Astropalia and Stypalia during recent years. It has been inhabited since prehistoric times. As in many other islands Kares are considered as the first inhabitants. In Astypalaea were followed by the Minoans of Crete. The first settlers from mainland Greece came from Megara or according to one version of Epidaurus. The island is often mentioned by ancient writers.
During the Classical era was a member of the First Athenian League and during the Hellenistic era one of the naval stations of Ptolemy of Egypt. The ancient Greeks called it "Gods’ bank" for the many products and flowers. The Romans used its ports as bases against pirates; so it had been granted the privileges of "free city". In the new period of piracy during the Byzantine era, the residents abandoned their coastal settlements and moved inside building fortifications. At this time the castle of Aghios Ioannis was built on the west coast.
After the conquest of Constantinople by the Franks and the spread of the Venetians in the Aegean Sea, Astypalaea was conquered in 1207 by the Venetian Marco Sanudo together with the Cyclades. Sanudo founded the Duchy of the Aegean based in Naxos and gave Astypalaea to the Venetian nobleman Giovanni Querini. The Venetians built the castle in Chora. In 1269 the Byzantines returned, but in 1310 Giovanni Querini the second, ruler of Tinos and Mykonos, recaptured the island. Each new ruler of the family renovated the castle with various additions.
Astypalaea like many other islands was conquered in 1537 by former pirate Admiral of the Turkish fleet Hayrettin Barbarossa. During the Ottoman rule it remained self-governing with various privileges. It took part in the Revolution for Independence in 1821 following the example of the island of Kassos but like the other Dodecanese was left out of the Greek state. During the war between Italy and Turkey in 1911 – 1912 the Dodecanese was conquered by Italy, in which remained until March 7, 1948, when was united with Greece.
On the east coast of the Outer Island, south of the Strait, the capital Chora sees from above the sea and the two bays on its feet, Pera Gialos on the north side and Livadi on the south side. United with Pera Gialos it stretches at an altitude of 80 from the blue surface, around and under its Venetian castle, one of the most beautiful of the Aegean, as well as itself. It is one of the most beautiful towns of the great sea.
Preserved traditional settlement, reminds more the folk Cycladic architecture with the whitewashed houses and courtyards, the white churches with the distinctive domes, the vaulted chapels and the picturesque windmills. The houses have two rooms with thick walls and small windows. The wooden parts – especially the corner with the bed and the ceiling – show the development of woodcarving art on the island.
Eight windmills near the central square add their picturesque beauty to the landscape. On the steps next to them we can enjoy the magnificent sunrise. In the square, the summer nights are charming. Food, drink and relax in its corners and to the surrounding alleys.
High the Venetian castle dominates, built of dark local stone; around white houses with blue doors and windows. Two main streets starting from the Town Hall lead towards it. One brings to the church of Panagia of Portaitissa (Our Lady of the Door), the other to the church of Megali Panagia (Great Our Lady). The church of Panagia of Portaitissa in Rodia under the Castle, is one of the most beautiful Greek churches; bright white with blue dome and nice belfry. It was founded in 1762 by blind Blessed Saint Anthimos from Cephalonia, who brought a copy of the image of Our Lady from the homonymous church of the Monastery of Iveron in Mount Athos. Built in nine years became the religious center of the island. Every year on August 15 in celebration of the Virgin Mary, a big festival takes place. Attached is a small ecclesiastical museum with rare relics and old pictures.
The church of Megali Panagia reminds some typical churches of the Cyclades. It consists of five small churches which compose an exceptional building. Very nice is also the church yard with pebble floor.
The Venetian castle of Querini is one of the best preserved in the Aegean. It spreads throughout the plateau at the top of the hill. It belongs to the architectural type of fortified settlements. The houses on the outer side were built joined to each other with small openings for loopholes creating the wall of the castle. Ascending from the main square we reach the paved area in front of the entrance. Whitewashed stairs lead to the wooden door. The storey houses of Querini were built after entering to the east side. In the south side is maintained a strong bastion called Serai. Inside the castle are two white churches with fine stone bell towers. The church of Panagia Evangelistria (Our Lady of Annunciation) at the entrance was built in 1853 and the church of Aghios Georgios in 1790.
An important archaeological discovery has taken place in Kylindra, towards the south of Chora. This is an infant cemetery from the Geometric to the Hellenistic era. It is unique in the world of great archaeological and anthropological interest.
At the foot of the hill of Chora on the north side, is located Pera Gialos, united with the capital.
It is the old port. Always picturesque, it hosts the small boats which take us to the beaches of the island. We can go to the beaches south up to Aghios Konstantinos and west on Vatses, Kaminakia and Aghios Ioannis; also in the islets Koutsomytis and Kounoupia; in the small marina yachts and sailing boats tie up.
In Pera Gialos are several of the island services, as well as the bank. Above the harbor is the bus stop where a large bulletin board with all the information about the daily life in the island – bus service and excursion boats, events, accommodation, entertainment and everything else.
There are hotels and rooms to rent and the nice beach with trees resisting to saltiness is sheltered from the wind. Above are taverns and hangouts for ouzo and meze (appetizers).
Here is the Archaeological Museum of Astypalaea with exhibits from all historical eras. Exhibits include Prehistoric pottery, jewelry and tools, silver jewelry from the Classic era, dedicatory inscriptions from the sanctuaries of the island, finds from the Classical and Hellenistic times, such as architectural elements, reliefs, little statues and inscriptions, and pottery from the Geometric to the Roman era of the cemeteries in the areas of Katsalos and Kylindra; also column capitals of basilicas and a marble coat of arms of the Querini family from the castle.
On the other side of Chora is Livadi, a small resort in a fertile valley with a beautiful beach, hotels and apartments. Here stretches the cultivated area of the island with fruit trees and flowers.
The road in front of the windmills of Chora at one point is divided. On the one side we go to the beach, on the other to the orchards. The beautiful sandy beach is organized with taverns and cafes around.
From Livadi, taking the passable dirt road at the end of the beach we can go to the beaches of the south Tzanakia, Moura and Pappou, up to the southeastern edge where lies the sandy beach of Aghios Konstantinos, 7 km from Chora.
On the southwestern edge are the nice beaches of Vatses and Kaminakia. In Vatses is the Cave of Negrou. According to tradition is connected with pirates and hidden treasures. We can go to all the beaches with a boat from Pera Gialos.
The area of Aghios Ioannis
North of Chora is the monastery of Panagia of Flevariotissa celebrating on February 2. It is built in the cavity of a slope. A part of the church is in the cave. Architectural elements in the courtyard show that the area was a center of worship in antiquity. The dirt road ends at the area of Aghios Ioannis (St. John) in an impressive landscape with hills on the western coast of the island, 16 km from Chora.
Between two steep slopes is the monastery of Aghios Ioannis seeing the sea and the islets of Ktenia, Pontikoussa and Ofidoussa. The sunset here is enchanting. Opposite the monastery are the ruins of the castle of Aghios Ioannis, older than the castle of Chora. Below the white chapel of the monastery, are springs and orchards.
On the coast lies one of the most beautiful beaches of the island. Caution descending to it. We can also come by boat from Pera Gialos. North, on the northwestern edge of the island, are the isolated beaches of Panormos and Pachia Ammos (Thick Sand).
Analepsi or Maltezana
On the Strait connecting the two parts of the island are nice spots to enjoy the sea – Marmaria, Steno and Plakes. The road crossing the Strait leads to Analepsi (Ascension) or Maltezana, the second largest settlement on the island. Shortly before a branch leads to the island's airport, 10 km from Chora.
The seaside Maltezana is connected by bus to Chora. There are hotels and rooms to let and a beautiful beach with sand and trees. At the port tie up fishing boats and tourist boats which go to other beaches and the islets on the south – Chondro, Ligno, Aghia Kyriaki, Koutsomytis, Kounoupia and farther Syrna.The chapel of the Ascension is also nice to visit. The oldest name Maltezana probably came from the Maltese pirates who had their base here. The monument of the French admiral Biggot, who led the fight against the pirates in the early 18th century, is located near the site of Schinontas.
Worth visiting the Baths of Talara, where are wonderful mosaics of the Hellenistic era. The artistic composition is about the seasons and symbols of the zodiac ascribed with blue and brick red colors.
At the crossroad to the airport we can take the dirt road that leads to the magnificent beach of Psili Ammos (Thin Sand). Good to have with us water, light food and a tent for the sun and not having north wind.
From Maltezana a passable dirt road leads to the northeastern side of the island, where the small village of Vathy. We arrive after passing the fortress of Castellano, built by the Italians in 1912 as a lookout on the east coast.
Vathy is located in a long narrow bay which enters like a river to land forming a lagoon called Lost Lake. At the entrance of the bay is Exo (Outer) Vathy with a small harbor and at the cove Messa (Inner) Vathy. We can go by boat from the nice bay of Vai, where we go by bus from Chora.
From the little harbor we can go by boat to the Cave of the Dragon with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites; at the trail on foot takes two hours.
South of the fort of Castellano a difficult road leads to the southeastern tip of the island. On the eastern cove of a lonely little bay is the church of Panagia of Poulariani, protector of seamen. We can also go by boat.
Outer side of the island
East coast: Pera Gialos, Livadi, Tzanakia, Moura, Pappou
Southeastern tip: Aghios Konstantinos
Southwestern tip: Vatses, Kaminakia
West coast: Aghios Ioannis
Northwestern tip: Panormos, Pachia Ammos
Inner sides of the island
South coast: Maltezana
North coast: Psili Ammos, Vryssi, Schinontas, Vai
West, north and south of Astypalaea are several small islands and rocky islets.
Near the west coast is the small island of Ofidoussa with an area of 1.8 sq km, a length of 4 km, a width of 1 km and a height of 133m. There are also the rocky islets of Pontikoussa or Topi (Ball) with a height of 225m, Ktenia and Katsagreli.
North, in the middle of the bay formed by the two parts of Astypalaea are the three islets of Fokonessia (Seal Islands) or Seals. The largest is Fokonessi or Seal with a height of 53m. Much smaller are Aghios Nikolaos and Maxilari (Pillow).
South, near Maltezana are side by side the islets Ligno (Slender) or Glino and Chondro (Thick). A little farther is Aghia Kyriaki and east of it the islet of Koutsomytis and the largest Kounoupi (Mosquitos) with an area of 1.3 sq km.
At a short distance is the cluster of Trianissia (Three islands), consisting of the islets Messonessi, Plakia and Stephania, and the cluster Adelphia (Brothers), also consisting of three islets. Near are other rocky islets.
Events - Each summer the Festival of Astypalaea organize theatrical, musical and art events. The big festival is on August 15, the feast of Panagia of Portaitissa in Chora; a complimentary dinner with first course the traditional "lambriano" (see bolow).
Local dishes and delicacies - Poughia (cheese pie with kopanisti and honey), rantista (lentils with grated dough and vinegar), dolmades, lambriano (goat stuffed with rice, spices and sliced pieces of liver), fish, lobster pasta and octopus balls.
Local products - Kitrinokouloura (yellow small round cakes with chlori cheese and saffron), oil cheese, myzithra cheese in small basket, chlori (green) cheese, xylina yogurt, sweets from fruits and honey.