Although the island belongs to the Dodecanese complex, it has an intense Cycladic architecture, with white sugar houses, paved streets and traditional windmills. On a hill above Chora, there is a Venetian Castle that used to protect the island in the Medieval times. The other villages of Astypalea are mostly tourist places above relaxing beaches.
The beaches in close distance to Chora are partly organized with sun beds, umbrellas, taverns and accommodation, while a drive around the island will bring visitors to many totally secluded places. Agios Konstantinos, Pera Yalos and Livadi are among the most frequented beaches. In the evenings, head to Chora for a lounge drink and a romantic walk across the narrow paths.
Astypalea is known with the same name from antiquity. According to the Greek mythology, Astypalea and Europe were the daughters of Finikos and Perimidis. According to the several excavations, the island of Astypalea was first inhabited in the 2nd millennium BC by the Caraes, who came from the ancient region of Caria in Anatolia (present-day Turkey). They were followed by the Minoans of Crete. Astypalea seems to have been a wealthy place during the Classical times as it is evident from the high annual tribute they used to pay to Athens. There were many temples on the island at that time, another symbol of prosperity. Fruits and flowers practically covered the whole island, which is why the ancient Greeks used to call it the Table of the Gods.
During the Hellenistic period (4th-1st century BC), Astypalea was an important naval base of Ptolemy of Egypt and remained as such until the Roman period, while the natural assets of the island provided an exquisite spot for the expeditions of the aristocratic navy against the pirates of the Mediterranean. During the Byzntine years, (4th - 13th century BC) the constact attacks from the pirates forced the inhabitants to abandon their houses at the coast and create new settlements inside the island with the strong walls as a protection. The castle of Saint John was also built at that time, parts of which you can still see.
The Venetians occupied the island of Astypalea from 1207 to 1269, when it was surrendered again to the Byzantines. After the Fourth Crusade which almost destroyed Constantinople, the sovereignty of Astypalea passed on to the noble Querini family of Venice who built the most important monument of this island. The family of John Querini ruled the island of Astypalea for 300 years and built several fortifications. The Venetians lost the island from the Turks in 1537. The period 1537-1912 was a peak for the history of Astypalea, as the island enjoyed certain privileges that offered their autonomy to the inhabitants. The island took part in the Greek revolution in 1821 but it was still under the Turkish rule. After it was occupied by the Germans and the Italians, in 1948 it became part of the Greek State.
Museums - Archeological
Since Astypalea is a small island, it has only one museum: the Archaeological Museum in Chora Astypalea. The Archaeological Museum of Astypalea was inaugurated in 1998 and is a treasure trove of important archaeological findings ranging from prehistoric period down to the Medieval era. There are displays of numerous items found through various excavations conducted throughout the island. Coins, bronze and stone tools, jewellery, vessels made of clay etc. that are collected from some of the tombs show the existence of civilization in the island from the early Stone Age. Some remnants from early Christian Basilicas like marble panels and other holy properties are also displayed there.
Maltezana, Pera Gialos beach, Livadia beach, Agios Konstantinos, Agios Andreas, Marmari, Pachia Ammos, Plakes, Psili Ammos, Vathi beach, Vatses
Religious Monasteries and Churches
Churches and monasteries are spread throughout the island of Astypalea that can definitely reward all visitors and adventurous travelers. The picturesque chapels of Astypalea lie hidden in the corners among the whitewashed houses, and mark the historical past of this place. Most of the churches in Astypalea are dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The church of Panagia Portaitissa is the gem of Astypalea with its beautiful bell tower dominating the main town and one of the most beautiful religious sites in Dodecanese. It appears on the foothills of the Venetian castle of Gouerini, in Rodia village and dates back to 18th century. Right next to the church is the Ecclesiastical Museum of Astypalea.
The church of Megali Panagia is built right at the castle in Chora and is part of a complex that consists of five small churches which offer an amazing view to the Aegean sea. Some kilometers from the main town of Astypalea, between two steep slopes stands the picturesque monastery of Agios Ioannis overlooking the endless sea. After some meters you will find a beautiful sandy beach.
The church of Panagia Poulariani is found on the way to Vathy and the saint protector of the sailors. According to the locals the rock formation forms a shape of the Virgin embracing her child. This church can be accessed by boat or on foot. Other chapels scattered in the island are Agios Dimitrios and Agios Panteleimon.