Astypalaia is a beautiful butterfly-shaped island of the Dodecanese. In ancient Greece, it was considered the “bank of the gods” because it produced such beautiful flowers and fruits. It’s special to me as I’ve spent my summer holidays there since I was eight – we had a cousin who went to the island in the late seventies after visiting and falling in love.
We will arrive on a boat, and since the big boat cannot go to the port area, a different boat will have to take us. It felt like the place for people looking for adventure and this particular distance in the Aegean Sea. We would come with our tents – or my father had a caravan – and go to a secluded beach. There were family gatherings as well as traditional public gatherings – August 15, the feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary, a two-day celebration with great music and wonderful food. All households cook – you eat food cooked overnight in a wood stove. The tradition is preserved to this day.
When I visit now, a typical day has a typical routine. We go down kafenioWhere you have your coffee. There is a particular one called Multami Cafe in Chora that I go to almost every day. Chora has always been the capital of the Greek islands, and its location in Astypalaia is beautiful. It has a castle on the top from the 14th century, and the ruins have an amazing beauty. Then you have the whitewashed houses that line the port of Astypalaia. In Multami, traditional small cakes filled with local cheese and honey on top, so sweet and savory. They also make fantastic omelets. After a few hours, I go and chat over coffee, buy some fruit from a neighboring shop and go to the beach.
Since the island has this butterfly shape, you will find interesting beaches and beaches along the coast. My favorite beach is Plaks, the water is very beautiful. It is very rocky, which is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it because you can swim from one rock to another. I love vats too. This is a dramatic beach with a bar that plays amazing music. It’s always nice to have some tapas there accompanied by a fresh beer. I will dive there with my partner, and we will find a high place to jump into the sea.
I’ll stay on the beach until I’m really hungry and go to one of my favorite pubs. From Plax to Maltezana – the second largest village in Astypaglia – I go down to the Almira restaurant, which has beautiful starters. Make a great tarmasalata accompanied by dakos, dry baked bread. They have a different way of looking at Greek food and adding a bit of a twist. At Astropelos in Livadi, under Chora, you can eat excellent seafood – beautifully grilled or raw fish. I love the ceviche made with Fagri, or sea bream, sea urchin salad and sea bass carpaccio. The owner Maria is a wonderful host and they have an excellent wine list.
In Chora, Deximi Art & Design Gallery there is a shop selling beautiful gifts made in Greece; I always like to bring some things back to London or Athens for my friends. When I stay in Astypalaia, I stay in a friend’s house, but if I were to recommend somewhere to visitors, I would go to the traditional houses of Kaldirimi, built on the hill just five minutes from Chora.
In the afternoon, before the rain and bed, we stopped at the traditional mills cafe. We drink tsipouro or tsikoudia and have a nice little chat. As there is a balcony overlooking the amphitheater on the slopes of Chora Mountain, you will see the beautiful sunset slowly.
After showering, we go to one of the restaurants near the castle. I would go to Agoni Grami, where they make delicious stuffed grape leaves called dolmadakia, or towards the palace to Karaya Kafenio, where they serve good mezze with a beautiful view. After dinner, there’s the sophisticated Archipelago Cafe and Bar. It’s in a beautiful old building, and they have really delicious desserts. I normally have a chocolate cake with red pepper or a pear topped with yogurt cream, which is really refreshing.
Then it is on the hill in the direction of the castle, when we pass through the bars of friends. My favorite places are Castro Bar which plays great music and has a fantastic view and Artemis Bar for dancing which has a great DJ and makes great cocktails. If we weren’t so adventurous we would have slept, but it was too late at Astypalea. We can end up on a rooftop watching the sunrise. It has the most incredible colors – it fills you with energy. You return to city life with your batteries recharged and thinking about your next visit.
Return flights to Athens British Airways From £98, connecting flights to Astypalaia from £168. Sky Express