Astypalea Island, Greece

Two slices of rocky land connect at their tips to form the butterfly-shaped Greek island of Astypalea, part of the South Aegean’s Dodecanese archipelago, 27 miles south east of AmorgosWednesday, 2 November 2016

By National Geographic Traveller The Collection

Two slices of rocky land connect at their tips to form the butterfly-shaped Greek island of Astypalea, part of the South Aegean’s Dodecanese archipelago, 27 miles south east of Amorgos.

Named by Dorian locals — ‘asty’ means ‘city’ and ‘palaios’ ‘old’ — Astypalea is a cultural melting pot, drawing influences from both the Dodecanese and the Cyclades islands. The result is an enchanting mix of ancient buildings, rich history and unique traditions, combined with picture-perfect landscapes that see mountainous meadows give way to rugged coastlines. Its crumbling churches and whitewashed towns have inspired mythological tales, including the legend of a goddess imprisoned on the island by Poseidon.

Dominated by numerous dynasties over the millennia, this far-flung island has been conquered and claimed by Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman cultures, finally becoming part of Greece through 1947’s Treaty of Paris. Reminders of the empires and monarchs who once held sway on the Dodecanese islands include Astypalea’s numerous historic chapels, castles and churches, which captivate visitors with stories worthy of Queen Scheherazade herself.

From Chora’s sugar-cube houses, wrapping around the hilltop Venetian fort, to the sprawling bleached-white facade of Pera Gialos just steps from the aquamarine bay, Astypalea offers a slice of sleepy ancient Greece at its best. A plethora of stony shores and sandy coves hug the coastline: the two ‘wings’ connected only by a narrow sliver of land, known as Steno.

Two of Astypalea’s most famous beaches, Pera Gialos and Maltezana, can be found on the periphery of the famous land strip. From here, locals set out on motorboats, taking visitors on windsurfing, scuba or kite-surfing tours, or lead canoe and kayak trips, dropping off snorkel-sporting swimmers and neoprene-clad divers into the deep blue to glimpse the spectacular underwater marine life.

A little further afield, a handful of islets are ripe for exploration — the natural beauty of Kounoupi and Koutsomytis is unmissable.

Don’t miss

Make a beeline for Steno, the rocky sliver that connects the two wings of the butterfly-shaped island to soak up the coastal views

Need to know

Key Facilities

• 19 beaches
• Castles and forts
• Hotels and apartments
• Restaurants, bars and taverns
• Archaeological sites
• Mycenaean vaulted tombs

Contact Information

visitastypalea.com
T: +30 22430 61406 (tourist board)
E: d.astipalea@gmail.com

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