Astypalea, while in the Dodecanese, is its western most island. It lies nearer to the Cyclades in geography and architecture. It has a land
mass of 97 sq. km and 110 km of coast.
The island is shaped like a butterfly
and connected by a 105 meter long isthmus at times only 50m wide.
The population is about 1100. The highest peak, Vardia, is 482 meters.
There is an airport and the back-up port of Aghios Andreas. Astypalea
Town (Hora - Kastro) is the capitol and encompasses part of the port
Pera Yalos. At its top rests a Venetian Castle or Kastro.
is a lovely island that has gently rolling hills, verdant valleys,
sheltered coves, nice beaches and a few villages and farms. The island's
mascot is Carlos the Pelican. The best beaches are to the east of
Astypalea Town and accessible by foot.
Its a good place to really enjoy the summer because it's relatively less accessible and doesn't have huge summer throngs of tourists.
ancient name for the island was Ichtynoessa or 'fishy island' and the
fishing continues to be good, perhaps due to the many coves and small
bays. The island is rocky and austere, with dazzling white houses spilling down the hillside from the citadel on the top.
Inland it is more verdant. Homer called Astypalea's fertile Livadia Valley the Table of the Gods because of its rich soil and fertility. There are citrus groves and corn fields in the valley. It
has a shingle beach popular with locals in the summer. Windmills overlook
the valley from the west while towards the foothills small paths lead
to the tree shrouded artificial lake where ducks float in the afternoon
Astypalea Town Pera Gialos the Port
Town, the capital, consists of two parts. There is Skala (or Pera Gialos), the old town which curls down toward the beach, and Chora, the upper town.
This the is the hub of the island and all paths lead from it including the
Skala or stairs to the harbor below. The harbor below is called Pera
Yalos ('further sand') and where ferry passengers disembark. Here the
islands' pelican mascots receive morning fish handouts from local fishermen. Pera Yalos offers
most basic amenities including an ATM, cafes, international newspapers,
and public facilities.
It also possesses the new Archeology
Museum (Mon-Fri, 8-2:30, Sat 10-2:30) with finds from around
the island; classical burial steles, 6th Century Byzantine artifacts, the
Quirini coat of arms and, the finds
of four Mycenaean tholi or round burial chambers.
The Chora is dominated by
its Castle of St. John. Upon ascending to the outskirts of town are eight windmills along the ridge. There are many appealing lanes where you can see
Turkish style houses with their painted poundia or wooden balconies.
The bones of Hora's oldest families are buried in nine small barrel-vaulted
chapels you will pass on the way. Many cubistic Cycladic stone and white
washed houses are also to be seen.
The Castle or Kastro
Keep winding your way upwards and after a pleasant
walk you will arrive at the portcullis of the Kastro for whose embellishments
we can thank the islands' Venetian rulers, the Quirini. Outside the
castle, the aptly named Xokastro area consists of numerous
dwellings attached to its exterior walls and is the oldest section
of the town. Within the keep the ruins of several houses built into
the walls may be seen as well as the Church of St. George and the
Church of the Annunciation. Archeologists have discovered within the
keep ruins of ancient roads, temple foundations and sophisticated
drainage systems from the 6th Century BC.
the Castle is the most important church of the Island the Panagia Portaitissa.
This richly decorated edifice is one of the most beautiful of the
Dodecanese and is crested with a white tiled dome. Intricate gold-leaf
carvings decorate the interior. It is open to the public until sundown
and its eminent location makes it an ideal spot to enjoy the sunsets.
Astypalea's Best Beaches
Just to the
west, downhill from the windmills, lies Livadia, literally meaning
valley. This shingly, sandy beach is popular with familites.
Just to the south of Livadias' beach is the nudist beach of Tzanaki and continuing further will bring you to the beach of St.
Konstantine, one of the island's best.
To the north of Skala
and on your way to the steno (isthmus), a paved road passes a group
of beaches collectively called Marmari. Continue on to Maltenza (Anlypsi)
just past the isthmus, which was once the lair of Maltese pirates. The airport is nearby.
Its neighboring cove is secluded and naturalists sun bathe there. It also
boasts the remains of ancient Roman baths with well preserved floor mosaics.
beaches include Vathy (deep) with its stalactite cave, which can only be reached by boat. It is popular with yachting enthusiasts, has a good seafood taverna
and a few rooms to let. Its Drakospillia or Dragons Lair Cave is likewise
only attainable by boat and it's best to bring your own supplies and flashlight.
two beaches of Kaminiakia and Negrou are only attainable by water taxi
or private boat.
Drinking and Dining
Most of the better eateries are in the Skala/Chora area. There are also a few bars offering a relaxed nighttime scene.
was known, due to its Venetian past, as Astropalia and Stampalia. The current name is derived from a sister of Europa, the mother of King Minos. In classical times the island was famed for what it lacked: snakes! There was a short-tempered boxer named Kleomedes from Astypalea who killed his opponent while competing in the Olympics. This got him disqualified from the Olympics, so he went back to Astypalea and knocked down the school, killing all its pupils, in his rage.
Inhabited since pre-history, excavations show traces of both Phoenician and Karian
settlements. Early Cretans, Mycenaeans and Megarites followed. Pyrra,
Pylaia, and Theon Trapeza are additional names the island was known by.
The many inscriptions discovered hint at its importance. Under the Romans
it became a base from which to pursue the Aegean's many pirates.
The present castle or Kastro (9th Century), which overlooks the capital, Astypalea,
was initiated under Byzantine Rule and called St. John or Aghios Ioannis.
From 1203 the island was ruled by the Venetians (who enhanced the Byzantine
keep) and subsequently sacked by the Turkish pirate-admiral Barbarossa
in 1537. It took part in the War of Independence in 1821 but remained
under the Turks until 1912 when it again passed to the Italians who
held it until 1948. At that point all the islands of the Dodecanese
were incorporated into the current version of the Greek state.