The second-largest of the Dodecanese islands has no equal. Karpathos holds on dearly to its past in its ancient acropolis, caves, churches and even its traditional dress. The setting is dramatic in all the best senses of the word: striking vistas from untouched, clifftop and mountainside villages that defy gravity and a fearful hammering from the wind to keep a vigilant watch over the Aegean.
On Karpathos, you’ll discover an island with its soul very much intact, with living traditions, people of real character, musical skills passed down the generations and legendary festivals – untarnished by modern fads. Are you in the mood to discover one of the hidden gems of the Dodecanese?
Exposed to the winds, the village of Olymbos balances like a tightrope walker on a rough-hewn, remote ridge in northern Karpathos. Its houses spill down the slope seawards, tightly bound to each other and rooted in the rock. This wild place kept pirates and marauders eager to plunder Karpathos at bay, and it still resists intrusions by today’s more peaceful invaders. Just what you’d expect from a town that has been defying the tides of time since the 9th century
In a single glance, you can take in a wealth of clues as to the cultures that have had an impact on Karpathos island. Among the significant sights and attractions are early Christian churches, ancient Vroukounta and Arkesia; the castle and the acropolis at Aperi; the Roman cistern at Lefko; and the beehive tombs at Karpathos town and Arkasa. And then there are the more recent structures left by the Italians, such as bridges, aqueducts, wells, windmills and the outdoor ovens of Olymbos. Don’t miss this opportunity to travel into Karpathos’ past.
It’s as if time has stood still on Karpathos where you will find a Greece straight out of a bygone era. Many women still wear traditional dress, while men harvest their crops with scythes. Men and women sit separately at village festivals, where musicians play the bagpipes, lyre and lauto, crafted on the island, and sing in the style of their ancient ancestors. In northern Karpathos, you’ll find even older, sometimes strange customs still practised faithfully. The festivals of this island have to be lived to be believed.
The award-winning sandy crescent of Apella is the most beautiful beach on Karpathos and a contender for one of the best in the Dodecanese. Emerald waters will also tempt you in at Kyra Panagia, Ahata, Lefkos and Ammopi – only the beginning of a long list.
The north, above Olymbos and all the way to the tiny island of Saria (just north of Karpathos), is a favourite haunt for birds, seals, frogs and salamanders as well as the home of large, tasty but elusive fish. There you’ll also find the palaces of Doric Nisyros, sacred ancient Vroukounda and exotic Tristomo.
It’s like stepping into another world. The plateau of Avlona invites you to travel in time around its meticulous patchwork fields, barns, scattered farm dwellings and crofts. You just pick the century and Karpathos will do the rest.
If there is a hiker’s paradise in the Aegean, it must be Karpathos. Centuries-old cobblestone paths lead to forgotten ancient sites, roadless villages without electricity and with breathtaking views. The hiking trails crisscross the island but are best in the north.
Karpathos is one of the most important Greek islands for the protection of rare species and ecosystems. Two sites are included in the Natura 2000 network for their bird and seal populations.