The charming island of Astypalaia is known to locals as “The Butterfly of the Aegean” because of its shape. Geographically, it’s part of the Dodecanese – but when you visit, you’ll feel like you’re in the Cyclades.
Combine an action-packed vacation with serene relaxation on this island of contrasts! There are countless outdoor activities to pursue here. Astypalaia is perfect for families seeking a refined holiday with a delightful Cycladic backdrop.
The island has remained virtually unmarred by the growth of the tourism industry. In fact, preserving the natural landscape has been a top priority for developers, so you can look forward to a fabulous holiday immersed in nature. There are lots of options for exploration and adventure!
In fact, the unique caves of Astypalaia make the island a popular attraction for alternative tourism.
On most weekends, you can catch a traditional wedding in the main town! Don’t be shy – the wedding party will probably pull you into the festivities themselves! And the festivals are simply not to be missed.
Parents should know that Astypalaia is a popular youth destination, but don’t let that put you off! There are countless options for family fun and adventure. Also, parents should know that to get around the island, you’ll need to rent a car or bring own.
The main town, or Chora (as most Greek island “capitals” are known) is built like an amphitheater, with an unbelievable view and very little noise.
The Chora comes alive in the town square. Your youngsters can join the local and other visiting children – they’re all one big gang! There are also lots of bars in the Chora where the grownups can have fun, too!
Take some time out of your afternoon and climb up the lovely, well-maintained castle, visit the church of Panagia (Madonna) Portaitissa and see the one-of-a-kind traditional homes of Astypalaia – they’re typically two-roomed with very thick walls, small windows and unique designs.
The next stop on your walk is Pera Gialos, where the Chora continues towards the sea.
Windmills in the Chora
In the town square of Chora, across from the cafes and next to the war memorial, you’ll find the eight traditional windmills that attract a big crowd all day. It’s a beautiful spot to hang out and stargaze on warm nights. Most of the windmills have been recently renovated and 4-5 are in such good condition that they’re still in use! One windmill serves as the municipal information desk and another is used for exhibits and events during the Festival of Astypalaia.
Festival of Astypalaia
Every year on the 15th of August (The Feast of the Dormition of the Madonna) the residents of Astypalaia honor their guests in an open celebration in the castle of the Chora – in the cool shade of a pomegranate tree.
In the Chora and Pera Gialos you’ll find lovely little taverns where you can sample the local cuisine, as well as little shops selling traditional products and more!
Livadi is a great beach for families with kids, while the sandy Aghios Konstantinos beach is in a little gulf with seaside taverns and cafes.
The sandy beach at Schinontas is easy accessible and popular among families, too. You’ll find wild greens and fish restaurants here.
If you’re looking for an adventure beyond Pera Gialos, take a boat to the best beaches on the island. The boats depart from Pera Gialos and run during the summer. They go to Vatses, Kaminakia (which has restaurants), Ai-Giannis and the tiny, uninhabited islands of Kounoupa and Koutsomitis.
Where to Eat
For traditional cooking, try Linda’s tavern in Kaminakia. Linda Koulourioti serves giaprakia (that’s dolmas or rice and minced meat wrapped in vine leaves),sykotaria stifado (a casserole of lamb liver, lungs, and sweetbreads with onions), and wild grilled goat. If you’re a fan of goat meat, you’ll find it here in Linda’s tiled garden! If you place an advance order, you can also get lambriano (stuffed goat baked in a wood oven) and goat boiled in milk. She also makes her own cheese and bread (6972290088).
For grilled and fried fish fresh off the boat, check out Akti at Pera Gialo. The view is breathtaking! Fish is their specialty, but you can’t miss the spaghetti with lobster, wild pickled greens, octopus meatballs and all kinds of other goodies (2243061114).
For hand-made dumplings and fritters, visit Mrs. Froso Astroulaki in Meltemi Square (2243061479, 6977093579)
For traditional yellow soft ‘pretzels’ (flavored with saffron) and traditional biscotti, head to the Iliana’s Workshop or Maroulia’s Bakery. The Iliana’s Workshop is on the way to Livadi. While you’re sampling the yellow pretzels, don’t forget the milk cookies and the biscotti with almond, thyme, or wild oregano.
For a hearty meal, head to Barbarosa in the Chora
Where to stay
Some other great options include the Pylaia Boutique Hotel, a high-end option with minimalist décor, a view of Livadi, two swimming pools, and a rich breakfast with local products.
Arhitektoniki Studios also offer serviced apartments with a sitting room, built-in beds, and a well-stocked kitchen. They’re on the way to Kaminakia with a view of the Chora.