Astypalea, the Dodecanese princess loved by all

Astypalea is the westernmost island in the Dodecanese, and as such, it has received many influences from the Cyclades. It is often referred to as the "butterfly of the Aegean" due to the shape of the island. The town of Astypalea is one of the most beautiful and impressive in the Aegean. It stretches amphitheatrically on a hill with windmills and white houses, while the famous castle dominates the top.

Holidays in Astypalea combine tranquility, relaxation, swimming in crystal-clear waters, good food, and entertainment in the town's tavernas. During the summer, the Astypalea Cultural Festival is also held, along with many festivals featuring live music and dancing.

Astypalea is the "bridge" that connects the Cyclades and the Dodecanese, blending elements from both island complexes. It covers an area of 97 square kilometers, has a coastline of 110 kilometers, and a population of 1,113 residents. It is 23 nautical miles away from Kos and 96 nautical miles from Rhodes. With its tall cliffs, hills, beautiful beaches, and picturesque villages, Astypalea invites visitors on a magical journey through the blue of the Aegean and the white of its houses.

Its name, which means "old city," is attributed, according to mythology, to a sister of Europa, the mother of King Minos. Astypalea and Europa were the daughters of Phoenix and Perimede. From the union of Astypalea and Poseidon, Aegeus and the King of Kos, Eurypylus, were born.

Another version regarding the origin of its name suggests that it comes from the words "astu" (city) and "palaios" (old), as Dorians who settled on the island found an older settlement built by the Phoenicians. Through a transformation of a foreign name, possibly Phoenician, the words "astu" and "palaios" might have meant a low-lying place, as the island consists of two parts connected by a low isthmus. Many researchers consider the toponym as non-Greek and trace it back to the Sumerian language, as-dub-gal-e, which means "bank of the great gods."

An island with a rich history, tradition, unique images of beautiful white houses and whitewashed courtyards with bougainvillea, picturesque chapels, Astypalea is an ideal place for peaceful vacations.

The capital and port of Astypalea are built on a rock that protrudes into the sea, forming two harbors. On one side is the port, and on the other is Livadi Bay. The capital, almost connected to the port, Pera Yialos, is considered by many to be the most beautiful capital of an island in the Aegean.

At the top of the capital stands the Venetian Castle of Guerini, built with traditional local dark stone, surrounded by white houses. The external walls of the houses create a wall with small windows for archers. Inside the castle, there are two whitewashed churches with stone elaborated bell towers, dedicated to Panagia Evangelistria and Saint George. Across from it is the Castle of Ai-Giannis, which tradition holds as impregnable, a refuge for the residents during pirate raids.

The striking windmills located on the ridge above Skala in the capital have a cylindrical shape and belong to the category of pivot mills, whose roof turns depending on the wind direction.

The island is divided into the "Inner" and "Outer" island with a sandy strip, the Steno, measuring 100 meters in length. Without this narrow strip that connects them, Astypalea would be two separate neighboring islands. Many beaches are formed by the lace-like coves around the island. Agios Konstantinos, Vatses, Kamikia, Agios Ioannis, Panormos, and Pachia Ammos are some of them. Small boats transport visitors who want to enjoy secluded beaches on the nearby islets of Koutsomyti and Syrna.


Almost every major religious festival is accompanied by a traditional village festival: Prophet Elias (July 19), Agios Panteleimonas (July 26), the Transfiguration of the Savior (August 5), the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (August 14-15), Ioannis Prodromos (August 28), and Panagia Poulariani (September 7). Each religious festival is followed by a village festival in the churchyard, where after the evening service, the celebration begins with traditional music, abundant food prepared by the island's housewives, and dancing until the early morning.

The big gathering is, of course, on August 15th, centered around Panagia Portaitissa, where every Astypalean living abroad considers it their duty to attend. As part of the celebrations, there are traditional competitions called "koukania," in which children of all ages participate. Also of special significance to the locals is the festival of Panagia Flevariotissa, which is the only one that takes place in winter (February 1st). The patron saint of the island is Saint Anthimos, whose icon is paraded through the streets of the capital on September 3rd.

Another effort to highlight the island's tradition and local customs is the traditional Astypalean wedding. Just like in the old days, it still lasts for three days, starting with the bed-making, followed by the "kalesmata," "asimomata," "rizomata," "gambrologia," and many other customs, the origins of which are lost in the mists of time. A multitude of symbols indicative of religious and non-religious beliefs of the inhabitants of another era have reached the present day, providing clear evidence of the continuity of this place.


The term "lace-like shores" was created undoubtedly to describe the Greek islands. If you want to see a characteristic example, travel to Astypalea. You will find it hard to believe that any other word could illustrate this unique relief created by the union of the sea with the rugged coastline. Each cove has a small beach waiting to be discovered, either from the land or the sea.

Livadi, Pera Yialos, Schoinontas, and Steno are the largest beaches that attract the most visitors. Kamikia, Vatses, and Agios Konstantinos are a little more remote but have their own natural beauty. The list truly seems endless as there are many smaller ones, where their magic is the greatest lure to explore them with enthusiasm.

However, no one leaves the island without visiting the beaches of Koutsomyti and Kounoupes, where access is only by boat. Daily excursions are organized that will give you the opportunity to swim in their azure waters and experience the wonderful feeling of swimming in the deep blue Aegean, feeling like you are at the edge of the world.


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