Astypalaia: Butterfly of the Aegean

Escaping the crowds for a post-corona Summer…

Last year, I spent the part of my holidays with friends on the island of Astypalaia. Little did we know how privileged we were back then! Now I am thinking again and again that nothing should be taken for granted!

A throwback to a gentler, more mellow way of life, Astypalaia was surprisingly easy to get to (just a one-hour flight from Athens).

After landing at the tiny airport, we picked up our rental car and drove a mere 15 minutes to our Airbnb accommodation, a 3-bedroom small villa with a beautiful terrace, located directly on the beach of Maltezana, with a dreamy view to Chora.




We swiftly settled in our new-found routine… Mykonos-style late breakfast at the house, swimming at the (very) close-by beach, reading (more social-media update and gossiping if I want to be honest…) and a fusion of late lunch – early dinner feast. Every other day we would tackle the project of exploring the island, with Kaminakia beach being our favorite destination. On some of the evenings we went to Chora for ice-cream, drinks and the occasional shopping, mainly from Deximi Art Shop, one of the loveliest and most artistic shops I have ever seen on an island with impeccable aesthetics (a real bonus!).

I could live like this for months…It was only for ten days this time!



Astypalaia is known as “The Butterfly of the Aegean,” because of its peculiar shape but also the beauty of the landscape. For those seeking purity, tranquility, beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters and good food, it’s love at first sight.

Nothing pretentious here. You can live in your swimsuit and kaftan or Bermuda shorts the whole day long!

Located at the SE edge of the Aegean in the Dodecanese (not the Cyclades as some may think), it bears a memorable blend of Dodecanesian and Cycladic architecture, with an amalgam of traditions evident in other aspects of its character as well.

The coasts of Astypalaia are rocky with many small pebble-strewn beaches. A small band of land of roughly 126 meters wide, almost separates the island in two sections at Stenó. Every gap in the burnished hills frames a different view of Chora, cascading from the Venetian castle to seaside Skala.

Some history

In Greek mythology, Astypalaia was a woman abducted by Poseidon in the form of a winged fish-tailed leopard.

During the Middle Ages it belonged to the Byzantines until 1207, when – in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade – it became a fiefofthe Querini, a noble Venetian family, until 1522. The Querini built the castle that is still in place and added the name of the island to their family name, which became Querini Stampalia. Astypalaia was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1522, and remained under Ottoman control until 1912.

In 1912, during the Italo-Turkish War, Astypalaia became the first island of the Dodecanese to be occupied by Italy. In 1947, through the Treaty of Paris, it became part of Greece along with the rest of the Dodecanese island group.


The villages

Astypalaia or Chora, Analipsi or Maltezana, Livadi, Vathi

Enter the Gate

At the Venetian Castle, you’ll walk among the ruins of the old settlement, see the well-preserved churches of Aghios Georgios and of the Panaghia (from the 18th and 19th c., respectively) and take in amazing views of Chora on one side and the vast blue sea on the other. Castro bar has a magical terrace that seems to float above the archipelago.



The beaches

Most of the island is stark and wild. We were lucky enough that our designated driver (always the same…!) is experienced and tireless. Treacherous tracks hurtle down to shingle bays such as Vatses, with a rocking beach bar, and Kaminakia, where Linda’s farm-to-tabletaverna serves yummy, real food and the best roast goat in the Dodecanese. Livadi, is a sort-of-resort beach surrounded by citrus orchards (too busy for our taste).

At Vathy, a lagoon where erotic graffiti was etched into the rocks 2,500 years ago, the only taverna is rightfully called Galini (Peace).



Boat access only

The uninhabited tiny islands of Kounoupa and Koutsomitis are connected by a double-sided beach and can be reached by excursion boats out of Pera Gialos.  Stretches of white sand, clean waters in every shade of blue and the fun of diving off the boat will make you feel like you’ve been cast away in heaven.

Some Tips

If you chose to stay in Chora, opt for The Pulse Residence.

Deximi Art Shop, Chora

For desserts, drinks and a stunning view of Chora, try Kafenio Karai.

For lobster pasta, a local specialty, opt for a sea-side table at Almyra and Astakoukos in Maltezana.

Wishing you an enjoyable corona-free summer!



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