Introduction

Astypalea’s main town, Skala, lies on the southern shore of the island’s western half, curving around an attractive bay that’s too shallow for large inter-island ferries. Little more than a village, with aromatic odours drifting from its bakery, Skala holds a small sand-and-pebble beach that’s popular with locals. Bars and tavernas punctuate the quay, which is the sole preserve of old sea dogs in low season, but surprisingly lively on summer evenings.

Modern visitors delight in the sheer beauty of the old settlement of Hora looming above, its white houses spilling down the hillside beneath its impressive kastro (castle). For the original inhabitants of Skala, however, the upward migration was prompted by the endless threat of marauding pirates. These days Hora is a delightful maze to explore. Stroll around the hushed tangle of streets and climb up to the fort. Suitably exhausted, you can then relax in the clutch of inviting kafeneia (coffee houses) and tavernas alongside the restored Cycladic-style windmills that mark the village entrance.