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Hiking the butterfly island

We were on our way a good 40 nautical miles from Kardamena. Our destination: Astypaleia. We really wanted to visit this island. First we sailed along the south coast of Kos with a nice sailing wind. Then the wind shifted more to the north and a strong swell meant that we could not keep the direct course to Astypaleia. So that we could still arrive before nightfall, we motored the last stretch.

Astypaleia is certainly one of the most beautiful islands in the Aegean. It has the shape of a butterfly with a width of only 100m at its narrowest point and a total extension of about 25 by 15 km. The Chora, white Cycladic houses with a brown castle on top, towers majestically above the tiny old harbour (a maximum of 12-14 boats fit in). The castle was not built by crusaders or Ottomans, it was part of the village and protection against pirates. You can see this landmark from almost every point on the island. There are also eight windmills opposite, but they are no longer in use. 

We wanted to rent a car, but then realised that the landscape is so beautiful that it is best to walk: Rusty brown shining hills with many deeply cut dry valleys, now and then green olive trees, in contrast to the deep blue or turquoise green water in the countless bathing bays. Barren landscape, partly karst, overgrown with millions of silver thistles, now shining golden, and various hard prickly salt weeds. At the confluence of several valleys, a freshwater reservoir, dammed up to store water. All the hills (up to 500m high) are criss-crossed by gravel tracks and goat paths - sometimes it sounds like in the Alps: the goats carry bells. You walk on the gravel tracks and paths far up the heights with gigantic views. Only the old mill, which stands on a central vantage point and has been converted into a cocktail bar, was unfortunately closed due to the end of the season. 

The harbour is small and familiar, surrounded by a few bars and cafés where the locals sit - you hardly see any tourists here. In short: an idyll. We stayed for a whole week and it was hard to say goodbye.

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