Last updated on March 21st, 2017 at 09:02 pm
Astypalaia where? That was the comment I received from most of my friends when I talked about my next destination in Greece. Indeed, Astypalaia is a beautiful island, however not one on the main radar.
My first trip to Greece was a long time ago, when Internet was a rare thing to have. My first experience was in Santorini and Ios, and from there I explored many other islands. By now I have visited most of the islands and the mainland too. I also lived in Athens for 6 months, my base for lots of local tours.
What is the most beautiful thing of Astypalaia?
I think it is its isolation from the rest of Greece.
I have seen the spelling of this island in 2 ways: Astypalaia and Astipalea.
Which one is correct? Probably both.
The name in Greek letters is Αστυπάλαια which, in Latin letters, is Astypalaia, however the pronunciation is Astipalea. I will use both in this guide. Either ways it’s an awesome island to visit, a bit harder to reach 😉 .
It was time to visit this beautiful island I have read so much about it.
There are two ways to arrive to Astipalea, by boat or airplane
If you decide to fly than you will arrive to JTY, an acronym used for the small Astypalaia airport. To give you an idea about the size, just think that the opening and closing time is based on the arrival time of the flights, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Once the passengers leave the airport, the keeper closes the main gate with a chain and see you later.
Really fascinating. It gives you straight away a sense of isolation from the world.
If you decide to take a boat, the experience is quite similar. You will arrive in a port which is active uniquely when the tourists arrive or leave. The Ferry terminal is located on the North Coast, a side of the island which can be quite windy through the summer.
The Meltemi wind blows from around end of May till end of September, with the strongest gusts in July.
Most of the settlements are on the South coast and the Meltemi is probably the reason for that
Let’s start saying that the island has not that many sealed roads. The main one goes from west of Livadi Beach to Analipsi (less than 10km). There are also a bunch of small winding roads that can take you to isolated beaches and to the main port.
If you want to experience the island you may want to rent either a scooter or a car (more on this later).
Do not be afraid to drive on the unsealed roads. Most of them are perfectly fine. I rode all around the island with a little scooter and I never experienced any problem. Of course it all depends by how wet was the winter and how that ruined the unsealed roads. What is the worst case scenarios? Easy, the road is not anymore usable and you will have to go back. Just make sure to have always enough petrol.
As it happens in most of the Greek islands, the main town is named after the island (or viceversa?).
Astypalaia town is a beautiful waterfall of typical white Greek houses that start on the top of a hill, where you will find the castro (castle) , to finish down in the small local port. A bay of amazing beauty, completely repaired by the winds coming from the north.
This is the town I would suggest to stay if you like to experience the typical Greek island scenery.
As we said, this island is not that touristy and this means you will be quite likely to experience the real local life.
The alleys and lanes of this town can be pretty steep and they can take you suddenly in an expected and beautiful tiny square as well as to an amazing viewpoint where you can admire the never ending Aegean Sea or the coast lines to either the north or the east of Astypalaia.
The highest point of the town is the castle. Plan a visit just before sunset time for the best light
Walking in this lanes is an activity by itself. It does not require an high level of fitness however it is not either an easy walk.
Most of the restaurants and bars are around the mills area, where the street is closed to the traffic, creating a beautiful square that gets “crowded” in the late stage of the day, with live music and many open air food options.
If your accommodation is not in town, try to spend at least an evening here. Taxis are available to drive you through the island.
Panagia Portaitissa is actually in Astypalaia town however it deserves a section by itself. It was built in the 18th century by Anthimos, an Athonite monk, who worked on many other churches in the Aegean Sea.
The attention to the details in the construction is quite impressive. Ornaments are everywhere. Really outstanding. How can you not enjoy a visit here.
This church hosts the icon of Panagia Portaitissa, the Guardian of the hearth
If you are here around the 15th of August (book well in advance) you will experience a big celebration of Portaitissa. This is the most famous festival in the island with violins, lutes and lots of local music. A great fun for sure.
Drive around 5km west of Astipalea and you will arrive in Livadi. It is a small village which is very popular with its beach life.
Most of the accommodations are meter away from the sea and restaurants and this is what make Livadi so popular with the tourists
I have spent there a couple of afternoon relaxing and reading my book, definitely a great quiet place with few facilities.
You can also have an active day with some trekking to the island dam, probably around 10 km away. You never know what you can meet in the country side
Kaminakia Beach is reachable through unsealed road or by boat. The beach was great however the trip that took me there was even better.
I rode my scooter up and down few hills and through amazing switch backs from where I experienced one of the best view of Astypalaia town.
If you are in the island and you have a spare afternoon, rent a vehicle and have a go. There is a lovely restaurant too.
This is another quiet small village metres away from the airport. It is super quiet and still with a fishermen population.
Go there for a visit to the local pier and if you want to rent a boat to navigate to the closeby islands of Chondro and Glino
This is my favourite beach for a quiet time reading my book on the sun bed. There is a small pier from where you can have a dive. Worthless to say that the water is to die for.
My only daily activity was the short walk (less than 10 meters) to the restaurant for some fresh and extraordinary food…..and beer obviously 🙂 .
This is an afternoon trip to explore the north- east of the island. There is also a small church, Agios Nikolaos, that you can visit with a short walk.
This area is favoured by nudists
Vathi is the northern most settlement. Just few houses and a little port. A restaurant is also available.
Again, it’s more for an exploration day than a destination as such.
On the way to Vathi you can also experience the ruins of an old furnace, probably reminiscence of an industrial settlement, actually an interesting site to visit, considering you are in an otherwise really touristy island.
Certainly there is no lack of photography opportunities in Astipalea.
I decided to travel light and I took with me only one zoom lens, a 24-120mm, beside a Nikon D600, which certainly it is not a light camera LOL
Going back, I would probably take with me also a quick prime lens in the 40-50mm range as the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8
That would have helped with some travel- street photography, so many interesting and characteristic elderlies around, everyone with the own story. Although my Greek is not that great I could still have a small chat and they did appreciate my effort.
I felt like the 24-120mm was on the big side and a bit intimidating. Also the narrow depth of field of the 50mm is amazing, a great buy if you are looking for a similar solution.
What are the places I loved to photograph?
Astypalaia town was the spot I liked the most and that is why I suggest to look for an accommodation in this area. So many little corners and lanes to explore. Typical Greek island colours all around; blue and green on the doors and windowws, red and purple on the flowers. Amazing contrast
You have two great points of view.
The first one from the castle down to any direction.
The second one from the hill opposite Astypalea. It’s quite a long walk from the town but definitely worth the effort.
I tried also some night photography down at the local beach. Just worth the visit for the restaurant LOL
If you venture out of Astypalaia town I suggest a visit to the viewpoint from the top of the switch backs, after Livadi.
My biggest photography regret? I should have shot more portraits of the interesting local people.
I start saying that the island can be relatively windy. Also, the all road network is quite winding. If you feel confident driving a scooter or a motorbike in these conditions than it is the best solution to explore Astipalea island.
There are few shops down at the Astipalea town port. I had a great price for a week rent. I was surprised myself
The alternative is to rent a car. A small one is ok, better if 4WD in case you want to explore the whole island
I decided to book at Aphrodite Studios. I read so many great feedback and honestly, after my stay, I can only suggest it. I had also the lift from the airport to the studios included in the price, beside an almost daily supply of freshly cooked cake and biscuits.
I really felt part of the family with daily talks and suggestions on the best spots to visit.
Great price too!!
For an interactive Google Map click here
Stef Ferro is the founder and editor of MEL365, a travel & photography website made to enhance the travelling experience and improve the photography work.
Stef is a professional travel photographer with past experience in the cycling and film industry.
Stef runs travel photography workshops in Melbourne and around the world.