Astypalean Islands Cruise

On our last full day on Astypalea we were fortunate to catch one of the first Avra island tours of the season. This daylong cruise in a wooden boat took us to some of the tiny unpopulated islands we’d been glimpsing off the coast of Astypalea during our stay.

Leaving the Chora behind

When we pulled out of the Pera Gialos port the weather was still grey and hazy. We’d left a touch earlier than scheduled, then returned to pick up one additional passenger who had arrived right on time, only to stand on shore and watch the boat sailing off without her. This drama proved highly entertaining to the fishermen cleaning fish at the adjacent spot on the docks.

First, we skimmed by the dramatic rocky cliffs of one of the closer islands (probably Agia Kyriaki or Glino or Chondra). Some of the cliffs had round caves in them that almost looked like they’d been carved, or at least enhanced, by human hands.

After a brief pass through Koutsomiti in the rain (we would return later) we headed to Kounoupi and its unique two-sided beach. When we first arrived, the rain was still falling and the sky was grey. The captain suggested we anchor for a while and see if the rain cleared — if it didn’t, we would head back to port and abort the cruise at no cost.

There was only one other boat anchored at Kounoupi, a sailboat, and lots of nice photo opportunities while we waited. After about 15 minutes, the rain started to subside. The sky grew brighter, and the water got bluer.

The captain declared the rain over for the day, and he was right. One of our fellow passengers celebrated by leaping off the boat and swimming to the beach himself.

The rest of us waited for a ride to shore in a small motorboat. We met some nice people on the cruise, including a woman from Lisbon, a family from Portland, and visitors from other parts of Greece. Everyone exchanged tips about the other Greek islands they’d visited.

Coming ashore

From the beach we had an impressive view of our little wooden ship anchored off shore, like a scene from a pirate movie.

I climbed up one of the steep hills beside the beach to get an overview. Looking to the left, I could see the beach where the Avra was anchored.

Left shore

Looking straight ahead, I could see two beaches sharing a single strip of rocky sand, back-to-back. Most passengers on our cruise were already swimming.


Looking right, there was another beautiful cove and beach, this one with nobody in sight.

Right shore

Walking across the beach, the masts of the anchored boats sank below the horizon, giving the impression of a Sahara desert mirage.

Tucked into one corner of the far beach was one of the most remote bars we’d ever seen. They were fully stocked with liquors and an appealing cocktail menu, though we settled for iced coffee and water from the friendly bartender. The fridges are powered by solar panels.

After a couple hours to swim and relax at the double-beach, we got back on board and returned to Koutsomiti, now in the full sunshine, for another swim.

This swim was off the side of the boat in deeper water — I went in for a few minutes, and the water was nice, but I wasn’t confident enough of my swimming skills to stray far from the boat ladder. I could feel the current of the ocean trying to pull me away.

The colour of the water was incredible — like a swimming pool. I didn’t colour-correct any of the photos in this post because the colour of the water was what amazed us the most.

We took the leisurely route back to port, passing some more incredible cliffs and then skimming the south coast of Astypalea, giving us a different perspective of some of the beaches we’d visited by car earlier in our stay, including Maltezana. It was a good way to finish our visit to this very special place.