Discover Greece’s hidden gems – Astypalea

11/07/2022
Home » Discover Greece’s hidden gems – Astypalea

Astypalea has been likened to a butterfly, because of its two winged-shaped sections of land linked by a narrow stretch of beach. The shape of this unique island seems fitting, considering it’s a haven for nature and the outdoors and is one of the Greek islands that’s leading the way in sustainability.

The Greek Government sees sustainable development to protect Greece’s natural beauty, clean air, seas and biodiversity as essential to its long-term growth projects. Plans – which include achieving zero-emission mobility by 2030 and introducing an all-electric year-round ridesharing service designed to revamp the current limited local bus service – are afoot to improve the everyday quality of life on Astypalea.

The relatively few tourists that visit are attracted by its low-key feel and ‘traditional Greek’ appeal. For clients who love Greece but want to try a quieter island, Astypalea is perfect.

The westernmost island in the Dodecanese is not featured in mainstream operator brochures, but this Aegean gem can be booked through specialists, including Sunvil, which often packages it as a two-centre.

Chora

Where?

It’s part of the Dodecanese islands but more remote than the better-known islands in the chain, such as Rhodes or Kos. And it has a different feel. The cubist whitewashed houses of its main town, Chora, are more akin to Cycladic islands such as Mykonos or Santorini. It’s relatively isolated but is served by carriers including flights from London via Athens with easyJet, and other islands such as Rhodes or Kos, as well as ferries.

Overnight stays in Rhodes or Kos may be necessary on arrival or departure due to limited flight connections. To minimise this, it can be packaged as a two-centre with another Dodecanese island or with one of Cyclades, for example, Naxos, for ferry crossings from Athens.

Why Astypalea?

It’s managed to escape mass tourism and that means it’s a heaven for people wanting to get away from it all. It has many secluded beaches, such as Agios Konstantinos, Vatses, Plakes, and Kaminakia, including some that are only accessible by boat, such as those on the nearby islets of Koutsomitis and Syrna. The island gets busier during mid-July and late August, but is otherwise quiet, particularly at the start and end of the season.

Kounoupa

Things to do

There are footpaths, cycling and hiking routes at levels to suit everyone from experienced walkers to beginners. Water sports, such as canoeing, windsurfing, diving and snorkelling, are also available. Astypalea’s rich history is everywhere to be explored, having been under Venetian, Ottoman, Italian, British and German rule.

Main areas

The main town is Chora, a picturesque town overlooking two bays, where attractions include the Castle of Astypalea, windmills and an archaeological museum. The tourist area is mainly concentrated around the seaside village of Maltezana (Analipsi), 9km north east of Chora, where there are plenty of beaches and good tavernas. It is named after the Maltese pirates who used the island as their hideout.

Don’t miss

  • Snorkelling off the nearby islands of Kounoupa and Koutsomitis
  • Visit Red Rock, where submarines used to hide away during the Second World War. Its clear waters are perfect for diving
  • Tour the capital, Chora, including its Venetian castle of Astypalea, windmills and museums. The town has two main areas: Skala, around the harbour and the old village part, called Hora.
  • Go kayaking or swimming in the bay off Maltezana village, also known as Analipsi
  • Visit St Fokas, for one of the best sandy beaches on Astypalea
  • Explore the tall rocks on a diving expedition at Agios Ioannis Richtis

Find out more about Astypalea at: www.visitgreece.gr

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