Astypalaia, Greece

Photo: astypalaia.com
Photo: astypalaia.com

There is a Greek island for everyone. Are you looking for gorgeous sandy beaches? No problem. Ancient ruins and historic artifacts? They’re covered. Parties that last not just all night but all week? Taken care of. But as people venture beyond the well-known spots where the cruise ships dock to find their perfect island, it’s getting harder and harder to find a quiet retreat.

So don’t tell anyone about Astypalaia. Most people have never heard of the little island. The butterfly-shaped island sits in between the Cyclades and Dodecanese island chains. Its location in the southeast Aegean Sea made it a strategic position for the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans. The Venetians built a defensive castle on the island’s highest point. The Italians occupied it from the Italo-Turkish War until World War II. Then it was finally returned to Greece in 1947. It’s been known as a far-flung escape—from both the heat and the crowds—ever since.

You realize just how small and remote the island is when you try to make travel plans. Flights arrive five times a week, not fives times a day, from Athens. Less frequent flights from Rhodes have multiple stops along the way. While the ferry from Piraeus, Greece’s largest port, takes more than 10 hours.

Photo: Pylaia Boutique Hotel & Spa
Photo: Pylaia Boutique Hotel & Spa

But the transportation headache is worth it. You arrive to find the black stone castle at the top of Chora. Eight well-preserved windmills sit along the hillside. Whitewashed buildings, with blue doors and shutters, tumble toward the sea. Little tavernas, a sweet-smelling bakery, and a pebbly beach line the coast beneath the main town. Small fishing boats fill the well-protected bay. While the azure water extends farther than your eye can see.

Your hotel is on the other side of the massive hill. Pylaia Boutique Hotel & Spa looks like a traditional Greek village itself with more whitewashed buildings, narrow stone alleys, and wide staircases. Spacious patios have panoramic views of the castle and Livadi, the island’s best beach. Olive trees and fragrant bougainvillea dot the property. An outdoor pool is shaded by white sailcloth. While the mostly white rooms feature stone bathrooms, platform beds, and lots of sunlight. But best of all, it’s quiet.

The week ahead will be filled with big Greek breakfasts and island-made cheese, freshly caught seafood and bottomless carafes of wine. You’ll explore the castle and the windmills, the chapels and a unique cemetery. You’ll find hidden coves and sandy beaches. You’ll sleep late, take naps in the sun, and watch one perfect sunset after another. And you’ll promise not to share your exact location. Astypalaia is your Greek island.

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