Geographically, historically and architecturally, Astypálea really belongs to the Cyclades – on a clear day you can see Anáfi or Amorgós far more easily than any of the other Dodecanese. Its inhabitants are descended from colonists brought from the Cyclades during the fifteenth century, after pirate raids had left the island depopulated, and supposedly Astypálea was only reassigned to the Ottomans after the Greek Revolution because the Great Powers had such a poor map at the 1830 and 1832 peace conferences.
Astypálea’s main visitor attractions include a beautiful old citadel – not just the castle itself, but also the whitewashed village of Hóra beneath it – as well as several good, easily accessible beaches. The island may not immediately strike you as especially beautiful: many beaches along its heavily indented coastline have reef underfoot and periodic seaweed, while the windswept heights are covered in thornbush or dwarf juniper. Hundreds of sheep and goats manage to survive, while citrus groves and vegetable patches in the valleys signal a relative abundance of water. Besides the excellent local cheese, Astypálea is renowned for its honey, fish and lobster.
There is no package tourism on Astypálea, and its remoteness discourages casual trade. During the short, intense midsummer season (mid-July to early Sept), however, visitors vastly outnumber the 1500 permanent inhabitants. The one real drawback is that transport connections are so poor.