We loved the beaches on Evoia, the tavernas on Crete, almost everything on Paros (especially the view from the house and Naoussa’s harbour) and finally Chora, which means town, on Naxos is also just stunning. So what’s left to enjoy on Astypalea which is the little island where we spent our last week in Greece?
As Nick already mentioned, we learnt about the island purely by chance. We dropped Mon at the ferry on her way back to Cyprus and sat in a cafe trying to decide where to go next. I tried to match direct ferry connections with islands that looked pretty to available Airbnb flats but it was tricky!! We wanted to visit somewhere small and less commercial with a pretty town. Somewhere with enough to keep our interest but not big enough to be busy. The answer came out of the blue; Nick started chatting to an old guy at the cafe who predicted that the island of Astypalea would be the place for us. And right he was!
We arrived by ferry at 3.30am and were picked up by the owner of the apartment who spoke non-stop at machine gun speed all the way. Nick has been gradually regaining his Greek all summer and is pretty good but never quite caught up with the full extent of this guy’s conversation, his speed was out of reach. Nick gets lots of compliments, mostly along the lines of ‘you speak really good Greek for a foreigner’ although I think it’s partly because they see us together and assume we are both foreign, it’s amusing and catches people off guard very often.
The next afternoon we started exploring and quickly realised that this week in Astipalea would put our legs to the test. From the house it was a gentle downhill to the harbour and from there the only way’s UP to the beautiful Chora (town). There is a number of steep and stepped paths that lead to 8 old windmills and a little square with restaurants and from there you can either turn left and continue up to the castle or turn right and continue up to the other high point in town. Who needs Jacob’s Ladder or a stairmaster when you’ve got this?
We were happy to be car-less for the first time in Greece, there is only one sealed road covering just part of the island so we weren’t missing out on too much. Turns out the bus which runs every 1-2 hours (with a longer break at lunch time of course) is the social hub of the island. The driver was never short of a thing or two to say and surprisingly seemed to know most on the island, both locals and visitors. Conversations would range from supermarket scandals to lost and found pet’s, bags etc, on the side of his bus someone had written “the whole island loves you Paniko” .
He was the island’s “one man” Mr Transport, in his spare time he drove taxi number 2 (there are only two taxis on the island) and his t-shirt advertised his 3rd job, his car hire company. He knew us well after just one bus trip and was happy to drop us directly outside our house, stop or no stop, and even picked us up from there at 4am for the ferry back. It felt like a Greek island at its best.
Although Astypalea is part of the Dodecanese Islands it looks more like the Cyclades with all houses painted white on rocky and rugged slopes. It feels undiscovered and very laid-back. Tourism is low key and probably limited by the fact that there are only ferries every second day arriving in the middle of the night and a tiny 35-seater flight five times a week. The island is also popular with island hopping boaties from all over the world. Some seriously big yachts come into the marina but some were way too big for the little harbor and like the princess and the shoe would desperately try to squeeze into tiny moorings only to eventually give up and anchor out at sea.
High at the top of the hill stands the magnificent Venetian fort originally built to keep the inhabitants safe from pirates, now it’s just a shell with a commanding view. Back then the main town was down by the water but in the event of an attack they all moved up to the fort until the danger passed. With time and as the population grew both parts became permanently occupied, now it looks as though little white houses spill out of the fort and like an eruption trickle down to the harbour.
We spent hours on the terrace – relaxing, reading and watching the colours change at dusk. We wanted to soak up and enjoy the atmosphere and that small island feel. As the bus moved constantly up and down the coast it connected the two nice beaches which lay on either side of town but our favourate was Livadi with its crystal clear water.
We decided that before leaving we would join a daily boat tour to Kounoupa and Koutsomitis, which are a couple of nearby islets. We had seen the boats leave packed the first few days we were here but towards the end of the week numbers were thinning as the main holiday season had ended and this was our chance.
For 15 euros we had a great day out. There is something special about the water in Greece, the colour is so rich that you think if you scooped some up in a glass it would still have that solid blue colour as if someone had mixed blue paint into the water.
It was a great day out! Apart from the water there wasn’t much to see and we had a couple of hours on each island to swim and relax in the sun.
This was the last of our Greek island hopping. We are back in Cyprus now having a rest. Nick’s digestion system which is delicate anyway has taken a bashing so we’ll chill here for a while to draw out the last of the summer, do some home cooking… and have plenty of Cypriot choice delicacies.