The second largest island of the Dodecanese has no equal. It holds its past close: in its ancient acropolis, caves, churches and even its traditional dress. The setting is more than dramatic: stunning vistas from untouched, mountain-clinging villages that keep vigilant watch over the Aegean, despite being hammered by ferocious winds. In Karpathos you’ll discover an island with its Greek soul intact, living traditions, real people, local musicians and mythic festivals – untarnished by modern fads.
What to do in Karpathos
Olymbos: a timeless eagle’s nest
Exposed to the winds, Olymbos balances on a rough and distant ridge like a tightrope walker. Its houses spill down, tightly bound to each other and rooted in the rock. This harsh, wild place kept pirates and marauders 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.
A colourful history of the Dodecanese
A single glance takes in multiple cultural reminders of multiple periods, inviting you to dig deeper. 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, the beehive tombs at Karpathos town and Arkasa. And then there are the more recent structures left by the Italians: bridges, aqueducts, wells, windmills and the outdoor ovens of Olymbos. Don’t miss this opportunity to travel back into the past.
Manners and customs alive and unspoiled
On this island, it’s as if time has stood still. Here you will find an authentic Greece, like something out of a bygone era. Many women still wear the traditional dress, while men harvest their crops with scythes. The two sexes sit separately at village festivals, where musicians play the bagpipes, lyre and lauto, crafted on the island, and sing in ancient modes. In northern Karpathos you’ll find even older, sometimes strange customs still practiced faithfully. The festivals have to be lived to be believed.
Emerald waters and countless beaches
Award-winning, the sandy crescent of Apella is the most beautiful beach on Karpathos and a contender for one of the best in the entire Mediterranean. Emerald waters will also lure you at Kyra Panagia, Ahata, Lefkos and Ammopi – only the beginning of a long list.
Hidden gems of Karpathos
Nature and history in the untrodden north
The north, above Olymbos and all the way to Saria, is a favourite nesting place 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.
The fertile plateau below Olymbos
It looks like the centre of a vanishing world. In Karpathos, the plateau of Avlona invites you to travel in time through its meticulously squared fields, silos and scattered houses. You just pick the century.
Walk to your heart’s content
If there is a hiker-paradise in the Aegean, it must be on Karpathos. Centuries-old cobblestone paths lead to forgotten ancient sites, roadless villages without electricity or other mod cons and breath-taking views. The hiking trails crisscross the island but are best in the north.
A rare ecosystem
Karpathos, along with the islet of Saria, is one of the most important islands in Greece for the protection of rare species and ecosystems. Two sites are included in the Natura 2000 network for their bird and seal populations.