General Information on Karpathos
Karpathos is the second largest of the Dodecanese islands, in the southeastern Aegean. The island is situated between the two well known islands Rhodes and Crete, and its history goes back to the Minoan and Mycenaean Eras. Karpathos is a very beautiful island, with wild, rugged landscape, mountainous in the north and fertile in the south.
Furthermore, the island has magnificent beaches, secluded small bays and locals who still wear traditional costumes. Despite its wild beauty and its traditional character, Karpathos has not yet been invaded by mass tourism and appears to be a true paradise. The island comprises of 10 villages and a total of 6,000 inhabitants. All villages preserve the traditional style of the island.
History of Karpathos
According to mythology, the first inhabitant of Karpathos was Titan Impetus, son of Uranus and Gaia. Archaeological finds proved that the island was inhabited during the Neolithic times and that the Minoans had a great influence on the civilization that lived here. Mycenaeans came to Karpathos during the 14th century BC, followed by Phoenicians.
In Doric times (1000 BC), the island was referred to as Tetrapolis, after the famous cities Potideo (Pigadia), Arkessia (Arkasa), Vrykous and Nissyros. Dorians brought great prosperity to the island. In 478 BC, Karpathos participated in the First Athenian Alliance; it remained an ally of Athens during the Peloponnesian War which took place from 431 to 404 BC. After the Athenian defeat, the island lost its independence to Rhodes in 400 BC. In 42 BC the island fell to Rome.
In the following centuries, Karpathos was ruled in turn by the Arabs, the Genovese pirate Moresco, the Venetians and the Ottomans. The Turks were never interested in improving Karpathos; they just sent officers to collect the taxes, every once in a while.
With the beginning of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, Karpathos joined the fight, offered its land to refugees and gave financial help. The island was liberated in 1823, and became a province of Santorini. However, in 1830, the protocol of London gave the Dodecanese, including Karpathos, to the Turks. The Ottoman rule ended when the Italians conquered the island, along with the rest of Dodecanese, during the Italian-Turkish War of 1911-1912.
The island stayed under Italian control during World War II. On 5 October 1944, the inhabitants revolted against the Italians and managed to free their lands twelve days later. The island officially became part of the Greek State, along with the rest of the Dodecanese, in 1948. Despite such a troubled past, the last half-century has been pivotal in the development of its character. A war-ravaged economy sent many Karpathians to eastern USA. Many of those immigrants return to Karpathos now, investing heavily on the island.
Towns & Villages in Karpathos
Pigadia: This is the capital and main port of the island. The settlement is built amphitheatrically around the natural harbour, on the site of the ancient Greek city of Karpathos. Pigadia is a modern, pleasant town, next to the ruins of an ancient acropolis to the left of the harbour. The town is built on the edge of Vronti bay, a 4-kilometer sandy beach. In the heart of Pigadia, visitors may find all public services of Karpathos as well as plenty of shops.
Aperi: This attractive village is situated in the mountains, between Pigadia and Volada, and was once the capital of Karpathos. The village lies at an altitude of 320 metres, in a green area of one of the slopes of Mt. Hamali. Aperi was chosen as a capital when pirate attacks ravaged the island, in a spot invisible from sea. The settlement is one of the richest in all of Greece, mainly because of the wealth of the Greek-Americans who have returned here. The ruins of a castle built in 3000 BC can be seen at Volada, north of the village, and the ruins of an ancient temple can be admired before the beach of Ahata. Accommodations, cafes and taverns are available in Aperi.
Olymbos: This village is like a living museum of architecture, ethnology, linguistics, and musicology. It is also the most famous place in Karpathos and one of the few places in the world that is ruled by women. Women over forty, still wearing their colourful traditional robe, seem to be doing all the work, unlike men, who only seem to be eternally involved in singing, dancing and playing the lyra –local music instrument. Unfortunately, the invasion of tourists and television have recently pushed aside traditional customs and way of life.
Menites: This is a small mountainous settlement situated 8km southwest from Pigadia. Its small whitewashed houses with yellow-and-blue shutters and doors create an attractive scenery, combined with narrow alleys and flowered balconies and yards. The village has accommodation, taverns and cafes and the beautiful Byzantine Church of Agios Mamas.
Messohori: Messohori is an incredible small town, located northwest of Pigadia, overlooking the sea. The settlement is full of traditional houses and tasteful new ones, narrow alleys, stone steps and running waters, which form an attractive and charming picture. A few rooms and various taverns are available here. There is also a great church in the town, and if you take the stairs, below the church, you will find a natural spring.
Othos: This mountainous village is situated just few kilometres west of Aperi, 12km northwest of Pigadia at an altitude of 500 metres. The settlement is famous for its sweet red wine, its excellent taverns and its traditional feasts; eight to ten celebrations are organized in the village each year.
Volada: Volada is situated right next to Aperi. It is a picturesque settlement built among trees, with traditional white-washed houses of typical Karpathian architecture, narrow alleys and balconies full of flowers.
Beaches in Karpathos
Kyra Panagia: This beautiful beach is situated in a cove between the mountains, 14km northeast of Pigadia. The beach has sand and pebbles, a few rooms for rent, as well as a hotel and a tavern. Furthermore, there are sunbeds and umbrellas available on the beach. Kyra Panagia is accessible by car or boat – leaving from Pigadia.
Apella: The white sandy beach of Apella is situated near the village of the same name, 15km north of Pigadia. Rated number one in Europe’s Best Beaches for 2003, this paradise is tucked away in a picturesque cove and has fine white sand, boarding azure waters. Pine trees are blended with the surrounding rocks, forming a beautiful image. Access to this beach is not easy. A couple of boats sail here every day and you can also get here by car. There are no rentals or any kind of accommodations in this beach.
Mikri & Megali Amopi: Amopi is a small area about 10 minutes from Pigadia by car. There are many beaches along the coast, but the most well-known are Mikri and Megali Amopi. Mikri Amopi is a small, organized and quiet beach with fine sand and azure waters. Megali Amopi is the most popular, mainly due to its shallow waters, ideal for families. Umbrellas and sunbeds are available for rent as well as all kinds of accommodations, shops and taverns. On the other side of Megali Amopi, is a small beach called “Votsalakia”. It is primarily for nudists, even though nude beaches are against the law in Greece.
Lefkos: Lefkos is a small fishing village on the northwest coast, 33km from Pigadia. There are three coves with white sand and emerald waters in the area. Accommodations and tourist facilities are available in the village.
Finiki: This small coastal village is situated 21km from Pigadia, on the western coast of Karpathos. It has a beautiful beach with sand and clean waters, few accommodations, cafes and taverns.
Arkassa: This beach is also known by the name of Agios Nikolaos. It is one of the best beaches for surfing, as there are always plenty of waves here. The beach is sandy with a small food truck and showers. Avoid the left hand side of the beach because there are some very strong currents. There are markers in the water for the rip-tide current on that side.
Ahata: This wonderful small beach is close to the beach of Agia Panagia, a few kilometres northeast of Pigadia. The beach lies in an idyllic cove, surrounded by mountains and lush vegetation. This is another beach where strong swimming skills are needed. After 2 steps into the water you will find yourself completely submerged. There is a food truck/café just meters away from the beach.
Diakoftis: This beautiful beach is located on the southern coast of Karpathos. It has white sand and shallow emerald waters and it is divided by a stretch of sand in two smaller beaches. There are no tourist facilities here.
Vrontis: Near the capital of Karpathos, Pigadia, you will find a long stretch of coast called Vrontis. The beach is usually crowded because of its proximity to the capital and its many hotels. It has sand and pebbles and tourist facilities.
How to Reach Karpathos
Air: There are daily flights from Athens. Three to five times a week, there is an air connection between the island and Rhodes and Kasos. The airport is 18km southwest of Pigadia.
Ferry: Karpathos is connected to Piraeus all year round (18 hours), while during summertime, there are ferry connections to Rhodes, Kasos and Crete.
Getting Around in Karpathos
To/From the Airport: There is no airport bus. Travellers must take a taxi or rent a car in order to reach their destination.
Bus: Pigadia is the transport hub of the island. A schedule is posted at the bus terminal. Buses serve most of the island settlements. However, there are no services to Olymbos or Diafani; a bus stops where the excursion boats from Pigadia dock at Diafani and transports people up to Olymbos.
Taxi: Pigadia taxis wait on Dimokratias street, near the bus station.
Excursion Boat: In summer, there are daily excursion boats from Pigadia to Diafani. There are also frequent boats to the beaches of Kyra Panagia and Apella. From Diafani, excursion boats go to nearby beaches and occasionally to the uninhabited islet of Saria where there are some Byzantine remains.
Weather in Karpathos
The climate of Karpathos is similar to the rest of the islands of the Dodecanese, but a bit dryer. It is a mild Mediterranean climate characterised by sunny and dry summers and mild winters. Refreshing breezes and winds blow during the months of July and August, making summers quite comfortable.
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Map of Karpathos