In this review, we will travel by Blue Star Ferries ship from Naxos to Astypalaia.
Booking the ticket
After spending a great day in Naxos Town, it was time to move onward to my first “real” destination of the trip where I would actually linger around for a longer time.
Although I originally planned to fly straight from Athens to Astypalaia with Sky Express, this wasn’t feasible in the end as due to a schedule change the bi-weekly flights just did not fit well into my itinerary.
The solution I came up with – taking one of the more frequent flights to Naxos and taking a ferry from there to Astypalaia – worked out great in the end.
I easily managed to book my ferry ticket in advance through the Viva ferry booking tool, which I personally prefer to search for and book ferries in Greece. Of course, you could also book your ticket directly with the ferry company.
During my trip in the summer of 2020, the ferry route was operated by Blue Star Ferries, although do note that ferry schedules change seasonally and sometimes routes can be taken over by competitors.
For the four-hour ferry crossing from Naxos to Astypalaia (sometimes also spelled as Astypalea on booking websites and timetables) I paid 18 euro.
On the day before departure, I already picked up my paper ticket from the Blue Star Ferries office in the port of Naxos, as well as the compulsory COVID-19 health and passenger locator forms which had to be filled in before departure and handed over to the ticket inspector upon embarkation.
To the harbour
Nick, the friendly host of my studio in Naxos, offered to drive me to the port before my ferry departure. As I was already well awake at 9am and had showered and eaten breakfast at 10, I just asked if he could drive me there already even though my ferry would only depart at 12.20pm.
After making one last walk across the seaside boulevard, I settled down at one of the harbourside cafes for a freddo espresso and to fill in the required Passenger Locator Form (PLF) for the ferry.
About half an hour before the scheduled departure time, I went to the actual quay where the ferry would depart from.
There is a small shelter where you can sit down and wait. Due to the low number of international tourists this pandemic summer, there weren’t too many other passengers around.
In normal summers, Greek ports can be bustling with activity with thousands of tourists and locals trying to get on board in a mad scrum of people. This time, it was a very civilised affair. There were three different queues in the covered waiting area, with the left line being used for my Blue Star Ferries departure, and the right line used for a Seajets ship which would depart around the same time for Santorini.
Needless to say, there were many more tourists waiting for the Santorini ship than for our departure to the Dodecanese.
In the end, my Blue Stars Ferries ship had a delay of about 20 minutes coming from Paros, which I was well aware off because I was tracking the ship on the Marine Traffic radar, which is a sort of Flightradar24 but then for shipping. It’s a great tool not only to check information about any big yacht or freighter you see, but works also extremely well to track the location of your passenger ferry.
Fortunately, time went by fast watching the Seajets ship arrive and leave again and before I knew it the Blue Star Naxos finally steamed into the same port after which the ship is named.
If you get on at an intermediate point of a ferry route, you of course have to wait first until all lorries, cars and passengers have disembarked. The port police officer, who in Naxos is apparently a hot blonde girl instead of the usual fat donut-eating bloke, then directed some of the departing lorries on board the vessel.
Only when the first cars were allowed to drive on board, did she open the gate for us foot passengers to walk to the ship.
On the ferry, you have to show your ticket and hand in your COVID-19 health declaration forms, before you are allowed to take the lift or stairs to the ship’s decks.
If you have a large suitcase or backpack, it is often possible to leave this in a specially designated storage rack in the car garage. This of course has the advantage that you don’t have to lug it along the entire time on board, although in most cases it also means you can’t access it until the ship again arrives in port as the doors to the garage are closed when the ship is on the open sea.
The Blue Star Naxos would complete a long route this day. From Naxos, it would make stops on the islands of Donousa and Amorgos before arriving in Astypalaia.
Although I would get off at Astypalaia, the ship would continue its way further into the Dodecanese island group towards Kalymnos.
I always think it’s actually an added benefit when your Greek ferry stops at intermediate points as the ride will be far more scenic. There is nothing better than sitting on the deck of your ship with a drink in hand and watch the scenery go by.
Naxos (JNX) to Astypalaia (JTY)
Blue Star Ferries – Vessel: Blue Star Naxos
Stops: Donousa, Aegiali (Amorgos)
Departure: 12:20pm – Arrival: 16:20pm
Duration: 4h – Distance: ~78 nautical miles
Costs: 18 EUR (deck space, no seat assignment)
Although for many people the first order of business once on board is to secure the best possible seat in one of the salons, I couldn’t care less about this.
Travelling by ship in Greece is all about the open deck. I don’t even care whether I’m sitting somewhere right in the sun or have a seat in the shade. What counts is having the best possible view.
Fortunately, the amount of passengers on board seemed to be very low, which might also be due to the fact that ships are only allowed to operate at a maximum of 80% of their normal capacity, although we were way below that on this day.
If you love outdoor views like me (and who doesn’t when travelling between the Greek islands?) it is definitely worth it to make sure you are travelling by convenient ferry and not one of the high-speed catamarans, as some of them do not have any (freely accessible) outdoor deck space.
On the Blue Star Naxos this was absolutely not a problem as there were even two decks with outdoor spaces. Although sometimes you have some great views from the side of the ship as well, on departure you really want to snag a spot at the rear of the ferry for the best views.
I was certainly happy I did so, because the views upon departure from Naxos were simply breathtakingly beautiful.
As we were circumventing the wild northern shore of the island of Naxos, I thought it was about time for a beer. After all, it was already after noon and I’m on holiday, right?
On the main outdoor deck on the upper level, there is a convenient bar where you can buy drinks, booze and some snacks. I settled for a draught beer and took a seat in the sun, resting my legs on the top of the railing.
With the great views of Naxos and the open Aegean Sea once we cleared the island, I couldn’t think of many better places to drink a cold pint of beer.
One deck below
While enjoying a beer or two I completely forgot that a) I forgot to put on sunscreen and b) my skin is of the Western European type which turns quite reddish fast.
Fortunately, there was a seating area one deck lower which had covered outdoor seating, which was a much better option for my skin this early during the summer holidays.
After a while, we were approaching the first stop en route to Astypalaia: the small Cycladic island of Donousa. Its harbour was nothing more than a small dock jutting into the sea, but then again the permanent population of this island is under 200 souls.
One of the great aspects of longer ferry trips across Greece is that you can see some islands from up close which you otherwise wouldn’t have encountered.
Although I have heard about the island of Donousa before and know about its reputation of a very low-key Cycladic beach destination, it was never on the top of my list of Greek islands to visit.
That however changed completely after this ferry crossing. I mean, just look at these views over the main settlement and the beach and those gorgeous blue waters!
I certainly wouldn’t have mind if the captain would have kicked me off the ship here.
On the open sea
As the ship hit the open sea between Donousa and Amorgos, it was time for yet another beer. I was really starting to enjoy the trip at this point.
Besides the effects of the alcohol slowly kicking in, listening to some old school Greek laïkó music only further improved my mood.
A short while later, the ship was slowly sailing into Aegiali Bay at the northern tip of the mountainous island of Amorgos.
Aegiali is Amorgos’ second port after the main harbour town of Katapola. Aegiali does not only have an amazing mountain backdrop, but also has a good-looking sand beach right next to the town, with a fertile green valley right behind it.
I stepped on board this ferry to Astypalaia with zero expectations what to see on the journey and so far everything had surpassed my expectations.
Small and barren Donousa already looked gorgeous from the deck of the ferry, but Amorgos perhaps looked even more spectacular, combining imposing mountains with the deep blue sea.
I really should get back once and visit these two beautiful islands as well.
So far the ferry crossing has been relatively calm, but this changed a wee bit when we hit the open sea between Amorgos and Astypalaia. Here, the northern meltemi winds showed their forces in all their might.
These seasonal summer winds certainly show themselves at stretches of open sea when there is no land directly to the north to protect passage. That said, it never got really choppy and I’m sure even the persons who get queasy relatively fast will be fine.
Even though we had a bit of chop, the views were perhaps at their best while we rounded the northern cape of the island of Amorgos. What a wild, gorgeous island Amorgos seemed to be!
I got instant flashbacks to extremely choppy crossings on the Canal de São Vicente between the ports of Porto Novo on Santo Antão and Mindelo on São Vicente on the Cape Verde islands. Sometimes you do not have to go as far as Africa or Hawaii to see wild island beauty. Greece will certainly do as well!
On board the Blue Star Naxos
With the stretch between Amorgos and Astypalaia being the longest at the open sea, I could finally take some time to explore the ship. The Blue Star Naxos is a Ro-Ro passenger ships and one of the main vessels of Blue Star Ferries.
Built in 2002, Blue Star Naxos has a gross tonnage of 10,438 tonnes and measures 124 metres in length and 18.9 meters in width. Its maximum speed is 24.4 knots.
Passengers can opt between deck space and free-for-all seating in the common areas or aircraft-style seats for a small surcharge (normally between 10 and 30 euro). Depending on the exact seat category you select, these seats are akin to premium economy on intercontinental flights or domestic first (business class) seats on intra-American flights.
Personally, I wouldn’t bother with it unless you have an overnight journey and don’t want to shell out the money for a proper cabin.
There are 26 cabins available for a more hefty surcharge, which typically is around 80-100 EUR. That said, if you have an overnight crossing it is well worth the money – although Blue Star Ferries normally schedules other ferries with more available cabins on its overnight crossings.
Inside, the ship is fully air-conditioned and has a few cafes and bars available for its passengers, as well as a Goody’s fast food restaurant. In the lobby, there is an information booth and an ATM, as well as a small boutique.
WiFi internet is available on the ship for a surcharge. That said, on this journey from Naxos to Astypalaia I had almost constant 4G internet connectivity thus didn’t really require the on-board WiFi.
After a while on sea, the barren north-western coastline of Astypalaia came in sight. Nowadays, all ferry operators use the modern but small port at Agios Andreas instead of the old harbour of Skala just below the island capital of Hora (also spelled Chora).
Although there is supposed to be an island bus, I didn’t see it at the port on both my arrival and departure at Agios Andreas, so I wouldn’t bet on it actually being there. All ferry arrivals are however met by taxis, but given that there are only a handful (like 3 of them) on the island you will have fierce competition for them which could mean you have to wait a far bit for a taxi to complete its first run.
It’s a far better idea to ask your accommodation whether a pick-up from the port is possible. My accommodation on the island, the lovely Belvedere Studios, offered this as a complimentary perk, which I gladly took advantage of.
Otherwise, if you plan to rent a car for your stay, do contact the car rental agency beforehand and ask whether it is possible to pick up the car directly from the port. As far as I know, all local car rental agencies gladly do so without charging a surcharge.
I had zero problems arranging with the highly recommended Rent a Car Astypalaia to deliver back my car at the port instead of their office before I left the island again by ferry.
Although I have always loved intra-island ferry trips in Greece, this journey between Naxos and Astypalaia is one which I will fondly remember for quite some years to come.
The views on this crossing are some of the best you will see in Greece. Starting with the great view of Naxos Town upon departure, the ferry will first halt at tiny yet beautiful Donousa with its lovely beach and deep blue waters, before steaming on towards Amorgos.
Mountainous Amorgos is another sight to behold, and the northern island port of Aegiali must surely be one of Greece’s most prettiest arrivals ever.
The Blue Star Ferries vessel which I was booked on, the Blue Star Naxos, is a perfectly adequate ship for a day crossing. Although it might lack proper dining options, it has ample options for refreshments from its many cafes and bars.
Personally, I would never bother with an airline-style seat or cabin on a day crossing, as there is plenty free-for-all seating both inside as well as on deck. And after all, you really do not want to miss those gorgeous views of the Greek islands! Why would you otherwise have come all the way to Greece for a vacation?
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘A Dodecanese Dream: Summer Island Hopping in Greece‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Back in the Skies – My First International Flight in the Age of Corona
2. Review: Kimon Hotel, Athens, Greece
3. Exploring Plaka: Through the Winding Streets of the Old Town of Athens
4. Climbing up the Acropolis: Visiting Athens’ Most Famous Sight
5. Review: Skyserv Melina Merkouri Lounge Athens Airport
6. Review: Sky Express (ATR 42) Athens to Naxos
7. Review: Studios Zafiri, Naxos Town, Greece
8. Naxos Town: The Gorgeous Historic Heart of the Cyclades
9. Review: Blue Star Ferries Naxos to Astypalaia (current chapter)
10. Review: Belvedere Studios, Astypalaia Town, Greece
11. Astypalea Town: The Unknown Crown Jewel of the Aegean Sea
12. Astypalea Island Guide: Exploring the Butterfly of the Aegean
13. On a Night Boat in Greece – Astypalea to Kastellorizo With Blue Star Ferries
14. Review: Traditional Apartments Alexandra, Kastellorizo, Greece
15. Kastellorizo: A Look Around Greece’s Easternmost Island
16. Hiking on Kastellorizo: Two Sunset Hikes Detailed
17. Review: Olympic Air Kastellorizo to Rhodes (Dash 8-100)
** rest of the chapters to follow soon **