Discover its special charm by walking one of its many hiking trails or windsurfing in its crystal clear waters...
Text & Photo: Ioanna Paravalou
Exotic colors and crystal clear waters on the Apella beach.
How to go:
- by airplane: 1 hour ten minutes
- by ferry boat from the harbor of Piraeus - 22 hours
Nature has generously endowed it with enchanting beaches with white sand and crystal clear waters. From its lively harbor and the current capital, Pigadia, to the traditional village Olympus, which keeps well-kept and unaltered in the course of time the traditions of the place, Karpathos knows well to win you not only for a trip but forever! On this unique island of the Dodecanese one can live his holidays just as he has dreamed of. Calm and relaxed, enjoying the sun and the sea, or more intense, doing activities and excursions to nature and its beautiful mountain villages.
Life is pulsing here since many years
After the Minoans, the Dorians settled here around 1000 BC. The largest of the cities they created was Potideon or Poseidion (where Pigadia is today). The ruins of the Acropolis of the ancient city of Potideon are located on the hill above the harbor, at Posei, while the ruins of the three-aisled Byzantine church of Saint Foteini or Afoti (5th - 6th century) are found on Vronti beach.
The naked pelagic rock "flirts" with the deep blue sea at Ammopi.
Pigadia – the capital of the island
In southern Karpathos is the capital and main port, Pigadia, named after the many wells that once existed in the area. It is a relatively new city that keeps the sights of the island's entertainment, with bars, restaurants, picturesque cafes and taverns. Here are many hotels. In the sheltered harbor are the fishing boats that supply the taverns with fresh fish. Particularly impressive is the Venetian building, built with vestibules, a polygonal tower and its large square in front of it.
At Menetes and Arkasa
Leaving the harbor behind us, we head up towards the village of Menetes. Built as an eagle nest on the rock, it enjoys fantastic views over Pigadia. The medieval origin of the village has left its traces in some streets with traditional houses and cafes which we have to discover. Our eye was caught by the historic church of the Assumption of the Virgin, which dominates at the edge of the settlement and has the best view. Continuing to the west, we will reach the beautiful Arkasa, one of the most important tourist resorts of the island, with enchanting beaches and rich history. Here was the acropolis of ancient Arkaseia. In Palaiokastro, which seems to be fighting with the waves, life has been pulsing since prehistoric times. It is worth seeing the ruined church of Saint Anastasia of the 4th century with its magnificent mosaics, next to Saint Nikolaos beach, as well as the chapel of Saint Sophia. In Arkasa we will find remarkable accommodation for our stay. Just 3 km from here is the scenic fishing village of Foiniki, the best choice for fresh seafood.
Discovering her beauties...
Starting from Pigadia, we will move to Aperi, one of the most picturesque villages on the island, which stands out for its architecture. It was the old capital of the island from 1700 to 1892. It was built in this area in a way that no one could see it from the sea, due to the fear of the pirates. When there was no danger any more, the capital of the island was moved to Pigadia, the main port. It is worth a walk in the neighborhoods with the imposing mansions in Pano Aperi, a visit to the Folklore Museum and a coffee in one of the traditional café with their beautiful view. In Aperi is also the imposing church of Panagia, the Metropolis of Karpathos. Further up are the villages of Volada and Othos, each with its own character. In Volada, with its whitewashed streets and flower-covered courtyards, are the remains of three castles from different seasons. The village of Othos has been built at an altitude of 510 meters, "playing hide and seek" with the clouds. The traditional houses with pebbled floors, wooden carved traditional dining tables and ornate embroidery, are built amphitheater-like and offer beautiful views. One of them functions as a museum.
Want to go for a swim?
The options are many and one better than the other: Kyra Panagia, Achata and Apella, beaches with exotic colors. The pine trees which are all around them are giving the green tone to the sea. Sometimes sea and sky seems to be one. On the beach of Kyra Panagia, with the characteristic church with the red dome, high on the cliff, we will find esthetic quality hotels and taverns. Above Apella is a tavern with a wonderful view and delicious snacks. Leaving Apella, we see to our right an old little church with old frescoes. We continue towards the port of Saint Nikolaos, with its beautiful beach and tranquil scenery. Here we will enjoy fresh seafood.
Kyra Panagia: One of the most enchanting beaches of the island. Here you will find stylish guesthouses.
The best beaches
- Kyra Panagia
- Saint Nikolaos
- Papa Minas, Forokli and Saint Minas (access by boat from Pigadia or by car over dirt roads)
- At the island of Saria: Palatia and Almyranti
At the island of Saria
North of Karpathos is the Saria Island. We will see the ruins of the ancient city of Nisyros and the medieval Arabian settlement with vaulted buildings at the place named Palatia. We will walk to the gorge and reach the top with the chapel of Saint Zacharias with panoramic views. Saria is the third area in Greece where the mediterrenian seals are breeding. The Hellenic Society for Study and Protection of the Mediterranian Seal has taken initiatives to protect it. There is an information station in Diaphani.
18 old trails are recorded in Karpathos (all together are reaching 220 km!). The hiker has many choices, depending on his condition and strength. Typically, you do them as a day trip, which can be combined with a swim in some lovely beach or visiting a cave with stalactites... Most of them are leading through pine tree forests and have sea views. Walkers should always carry a water bottle and some snacks or fruit, certainly a hat and glasses, as well as a walking stick (proper shoes are necessary!).
Indicatively, we mention some beautiful routes:
- Kato Lastos – Spoa: Easy route, which combines mountain and sea (about three hours).
- Avlona – Tristomo - Vananta - Diafani: A route of particular interest, relatively difficult, combined with swimming (about 7 1/2 hours).
- Avlona – Vananta – Diafani: A nice path through pine tree forests and along the sea (4 1/2 hours).
- Spoa - Mesochori: Easy route through pine tree forests and along the sea (1 hour).
- An interesting route takes us to the unexploited cave with stalactites over the beach of Achata. On our way we see picturesque churches and springs with crystal clear water
Windsurfing at Afiartis
Karpathos is an ideal place for windsurfing, as the strong Aegean winds are enhanced by its high mountains. The island's ideal places for windsurfing are the three beaches of Afiartis, suitable for children, beginners and advanced. Makris Gialos, due to its shallow waters, is suitable for children and beginners. Valias, the largest bay, is ideal for free ride and due to its waves, is suitable for jumps and loops. The third bay, Vathas, is for speed-surf and advanced freestyle. If we add the beach of Agrilaopotamos, where the waves reach 2 meters, we will understand why Afiartis is considered from May to October an ideal place for all types of windsurfing.
Diving in splendid seas
Those who love this sport in Karpathos will find what they dream of as there are enough diving spots waiting to be explored. Those who have not yet tried it, have the opportunity to learn diving at the Karpathos Diving School, which has been operating since 2007, in Pigadia. The hitherto diving spots are: Kastellia, Fokias, Saint Petros, Achata and Diakoftis.
At Ammopi with its beautiful beaches
One of the best organized tourist resorts on the island is Ammopi, with many accommodation for all tastes and budgets, as well as taverns with local delicacies. It is located between the airport and the village Pigadia (6 km from each). Its whitewashed sandy beaches with emerald waters gather a lot of people in the summer. Near Ammopi are the beaches of Afiartis, ideal for windsurfing.
The beach of Ammoopi with the turquoise waters.
Incredible views and sunset from the traditional Mesochori.
Sunset from Mesochori and Lefkos
In the afternoon we take our walks in Mesochori, with its whitewashed streets and traditional houses, which have their "open" view to the endless blue. At its feet spreads the fertile plain with the vegetables, which are watered by the springs of Panagia Vrysiani, the pride of the village, which dominates at the edge of the rock and has a wonderful view. For her sake, on 8 September, a big festival is being set up.
We leave Mesochori behind and descend for Lefkos. To the left is the peak of the mountain “Kali Limni”. On a turn of the road a nice surprise awaits us! A sheltered bay, with turquoise shallow water and white sand, a few taverns and rental apartments overlooking the sea offer relaxation. We descend to the harbor with the small pier where the fishing boats are tied up. In Lefkos we enjoy one of the best sunsets as we see the sun sinking into the sea. The night breaks in and the sweet tiredness of a busy day requires traditional food and a good glass of wine.
With the boat to the village Olympus
In the north of Karpathos we will visit the most important village of the island, Olympus, a unique traditional settlement, built amphitheatrically on the slope of the mountain Prophet Elias, overlooking the sea. To get here we have two choices: by car and some dirt road or by boat from Pigadia to Diafani and from there by bus (in 10 minutes). We chose the second one. So we had the opportunity to see, even from a distance, some other beaches of the island. Diafani is a picturesque harbor at the foot of Mount Olympus. Walking on the beach we stop at its ornate fountain and the statue of Karpathiotissa, which overlooks the sea. A little bit further, we could see the women of the village baking their bread in a traditional way - as is still the case today. We drive up the mountain and at some turn of the road we see the traditional settlement of Olympus standing up imposingly on the steep slopes.
The unique Olympos keeps the traditions of the place immemorial and enchants us...
A settlement with a special, simple architecture unfolds before us and lets us marvel. Olympos (or Elympos) was built around the 7th to 9th century, during the period of Iconoclast, by the inhabitants of ancient Vrukountas and Nisyros, in an effort to be saved from the raids of the Arabs. The location was chosen to be invisible from the north and southwest but open to the west side to control the passage of pirate ships. The roads and communication with the other villages of the island are difficult. Perhaps this is an important reason why the inhabitants of the village keep their traditions unchanged over time, still wearing the local costumes (the kavai, the long outer dress, the robes, the leather boots with embroidery), or maintaining the local dialect (with words of ancient Greek and Doric idioms).
The open and hospitable people of the village, embrace you with the warmth of their soul. Walking on foot to the settlement, we follow the central cobbled road that leads to the village square where the church of the Assumption of the Virgin dominates. Should we come to the feast held on the 15th of August, we will live a unique party that lasts as long as the heart can withstand! We will listen to the music played by the traditional instruments, lyra, tsambouna and lagouto and we will dance and have fun with the Karpathians all together.
From the traditional products shops we will buy characteristic scarves and beautiful embroidery.
The sunset and the fantastic sea view are best enjoyed from the picturesque windmills
What are you going to eat:
In Karpathos you will find good and affordable food. Try hand-made macaroni, dolma (stuffed vine leaves with rice), fresh fish, local meats, cheese pies, bagels and loukoumas (donuts) in Olympus with local honey.
A great thank you, from my heart, to the people who are members of the Municipal Tourism Organization of Karpathos, who helped me with their valuable information and guided me to their beautiful island: Kalliopi Nikolaidou, Yannis Harokopos, Katerina Kakatsi, Marghete Elke, Vasilis Balaskas and Giorgos Diakos. Moreover, I thank Evdoxia and the Oceanis Hotel for its warm hospitality. Last but not least, I thank Manolis and Sophie Panagiotou (hikes), Manolis Kritsiotis (windsurfing) and Vivi Tsavali (dives) for the photographic material they gave us along with their valuable information.