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The Nymph of the Dodecanese

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Astypalea: The Nymph of the Dodecanese

Elegant, quiet and stylish, Astropalia, as the locals call it, is often believed to be an island of the Cyclades, while it is actually the westernmost island of the Dodecanese. This proximity to the Cyclades is evident in its architecture, which combines elements from both island groups.

A favourite alternative destination, the "butterfly-shaped" island with the rocky landscape, impressive beaches for every taste and the beautiful Chora, enchants its visitors at first sight.

Routes & Attractions

The eight much-photographed traditional windmills welcome you when you enter the Chora, which stands on a high rock, between Pera Gialos (the old harbour) and the downhill slope that leads to Livadi beach. At the top of the hill, the Venetian Castle overlooks the island and the surrounding, picturesque, cobbled streets and whitewashed houses with multicoloured windows, that resemble those of the Cyclades.

Walk up to the Castle of Astypalea, rebuilt by the Querini family in the 15th century. Inside the Castle, the churches of Agios Georgios (1790) and Panagia tou Kastrou (1853) with the stone bell towers. From this point, the view of the Aegean Sea is magnificent.

At the base of the castle is the emblematic church of Panagia Portaitissa (1762), with the three-storey bell tower, the characteristic blue dome, and antefixes. Its interior is stunningly ornamented with the gilded baroque altar screen. This is where the great feast of the Assumption takes place on the 15th of August.

Visit the Archaeological Museum in Pera Gialos that houses important findings, such as ceramic vases and pots, as well as tools from chamber tombs of the Mycenaean period.

A one-of-its kind ancient infant cemetery was discovered in 1996 on the hill of Katsalos, which seems to have been used uninterruptedly from the 8th century BC to the Hellenistic period. A necropolis with more than 2,170 burials (bones belonging to infants and toddlers), which are since studied by archaeologists and anthropologists from Greece and Europe investigating diseases or epidemics of the ancient times.

In Maltezana you will see the impressive baths of Talara, from the Late Roman period, with mosaics representing the zodiac and the four seasons, in blue and tile colours, and a personification of Time holding the globe.

Near the beach of Vatses is Negro's Grotto, which according to the legend was the hideout of an African pirate. There you can admire the stalagmites and stalactites in their exceptional formations.

Beaches & Activities

The most popular beach of the island is Livadi, where you will find everything you need for a comfortable stay, as the beach is organized and also offers water sports facilities, as well as tavernas and cafes. A vast sandy beach, with turquoise waters and views of Chora awaits.

The sandy beach of Kaminakia is equally favourite, with natural shade from the tamarisks that surround it. Fully organized, with deep blue waters and sheltered from the winds.

The large, pebbled beach of Vatses with deep blue waters, where you will find umbrellas and sunbeds, as well as natural shade from the tamarisk trees, also has a view of Chora. From here you can follow the hiking trail to Negro's Grotto.

To enjoy the untouched natural landscape, visit one of the four pebbled beaches forming, in a row, the Tzanakia coast. Hidden from the main road, this beach with its rocky landscape, large pebbles and quickly deepening waters is a favourite destination for nature lovers and nudists. From there you will enjoy unobstructed views of the Castle of Astypalea.

A favourite destination for families with children is the organized beach of Steno, named after the strip of land in the centre of the island connecting the "inner" to the "outer" part of Astypalea. Its impressive morphology and shallow turquoise waters create a postcard-like scenery. Access is easy, the bus stops here and there is also a canteen and natural shade from the trees.

Plan a visit to the heavenly beaches of the deserted islets of Koutsomiti and Tigani, but also to the island of Kounoupa, to swim in the crystal-clear waters.

Thanks to its unique terrain, Astypalea offers a rock climbing field at Ftera, mountaineering overlooking the Aegean sea, or mountain bike routes. Similarly, there are many hiking trails you can follow, such as the one from Chora to the old harbour, but also the trails that lead to Panagia Poulariani (at the top of Kastelanno Mountain), the chapel of Profitis Ilias or the Castle of Agios Ioannis.

Tastes of the island

In the island’s traditional bakeries, you will find kitrinokouloura (yellow cookies) with the aroma of local saffron, lampropites (pies with cheese and saffron), as well as olive oil and thyme rusks. Dessert lovers should try the pougkia (sweet cheese pies with myzithra cheese), lokma (deep fried dough balls), xerotigana, rose-shaped diples, topped with aromatic thyme honey from Astypalea.

Try the unique local flavours of fresh cheese (mizithra), ladotyri, anthotyro and kopanisti. Don’t miss one of the most special local dishes the rantista or arantista (lentils mixed with a kind of trahana) and stuffed lazanakia (small lazania) with saffron and fresh cheese.

From the local recipes, try the dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with minced meat), stuffed zucchini flowers and labriano (stuffed goat baked with rice, herbs and chopped pluck).

In Astypalea you will find wonderful seafood delicacies, such as traditional octopus balls, baked fish with local saffron, skaro plaki (baked parrot fish), lobster spaghetti and kakavia (fish soup).

Traditions & Events

Every summer, the island celebrates the occasion of religious holidays with multiple feasts. The culmination of all festivities is the three-day festival of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, which takes place on August 14th, 15th and 16th in Panagia Portaitissa, in Chora. On the eve of the 15th of August, a great feast is held in the church courtyard with music and dancing until dawn, while on the 15th visitors are offered the "Lampriano", i.e. stuffed lamb. On the next day the famous "Koukania" traditional games take place in Pera Gialos; it includes swimming, egg races, feeding yogurt and the "catching of the rooster".

The windmills of Chora host exhibitions while in the summer the Astypalea Festival offers theatrical plays, art and musical events.

Don’t miss…

Sit on the stone benches at the square, next to the renovated windmills, to admire the marvel sunrise.

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