Perfect for two. These three words encapsulate my summer experience on the island. Astypalea is a beautiful mix; it’s a Cycladic island in the Dodecanese. In the old neighborhoods you’ll see whitewashed houses, but there are also ochre-colored mansions with ornate reliefs on their pediments. It has wild stretches of open space, miles of dirt tracks and plenty of desert scenery. You feel like you’re light years away from everything, just you and your loved one.
Those who have been coming here for years know that the island really comes to life after sunset but, of course, the “Butterfly of the Aegean,” as it is known, is beguiling all day long. Its main town, Hora, is a chameleon: during the day it looks like a blue-and-white painting, and at night, when the moon rises alongside the castle, it turns gold and brown.
A stroll within the castle walls is a must. The ascent requires some effort, and the descent is long but it’s a beautiful walk down through whitewashed alleyways to the plateau and to Hora.
The windmills scattered around the island provide plenty of opportunities for photography, but as the sun climbs higher, you’ll probably want to pick a beach. There are plenty of large ones where you won’t have a problem finding a spot, but there are smaller ones, too, that are chaming in their own right.
Ble Limanaki barely fits a dozen people. Livadi is perfect for your first day, after the long boat ride, and is the closest beach if you’re staying in Hora. At pebbly Tzanakia, you can look up from the crystal waters and see the castle. Bring a mask and snorkel to Kaminakia, recommended for underwater explorations. At Vatses, it’s worth staying until sunset.
To swim in turquoise waters, book a seat on a boat to the islands of Kounoupes and Koutsomitis. Dive straight off the boat into water that looks fit to drink. Make it a table for two at one of the spots on Moungos Alley in Hora, with tsipouro (a local spirit) on ice and grilled octopus. The whole island walks by here every night on their way to the bars around the castle. It’s likely to be the only time you’ll realise how many visitors the island has.
Before leaving, treat yourself to an unforgettable night, making memories as you hang out until dawn on the cool veranda of the bar Artemis and then share a cheese pie fresh from the oven of the bakery in Hora before sunrise. As for souvenirs, a jar of honey from Astropalia will make the memories last longer.