Karpathos travel guide

Karpathos is an island of the Dodecanese, located between Rhodes and Crete. Its history begins somewhere in the Neolithic era, with mythology having the Titans as its first inhabitants. Crete and the commercial transactions between them helped a lot in the development of the island. Many relics of antiquity or from the periods of the Venetian and Turkish periods exist in Karpathos and can be visited. The uninhabited island of Saria, in the north of the island, there are finds from the Neolithic era, even buildings from the 10th century. The museums in Karpathos enrich the knowledge of those interested.

Ecclesiastical tourism in Karpathos visits monasteries and convents mainly from the 19th century, without missing ones older than the 13th century. Scattered throughout its territory, they also have great historical value at the same time. With images, amazing frescoes, iconography and bell tower worth noting.

Karpathos has a coastline with the most beautiful beaches of the Aegean. Whether sandy or pebbly, the crystal clear waters look perfect with their azure hue and have a seabed worth exploring. Many are organized with deckchairs, umbrellas and water sports, open to the ocean with a long length, ideal for windsurfing, while others are sheltered in bays deep inside. Many with the green of the trees that reach the coast reflecting in the waters giving an emerald hue. Some have been awarded for years.

The villages of Karpathos are built with traditional architecture that is not only preserved but maintained by the locals. The houses themselves are worth observing with their balconies and sea views, their tiled roofs, their layout. Olympus, literally hanging from the top of the mountain, descending on the slopes, will leave the visitor amazed with the traditional costumes worn by the women even today.

The topography of Karpathos consists of green mountains with precipitous cliffs ending in capes in the sea, many streams that contribute to the rich fauna of the island, caves with wonderful decoration, accessible to visitors and settlements built on slopes or coastal areas.

Alternative tourism follows marked paths from easy to difficult that pass through forests, end up in villages with countless attractions or on beaches of fantastic beauty. The bicycle also has a place in Karpathos for its friends. Certainly the seabed attracts many lovers of diving and amateur underwater swimming. Over 100 slopes are waiting to be climbed. Birdwatching and botany lovers will find the island of Karpathos unique

Karpathos boasts a rich history and vibrant culture that dates back thousands of years. The island has been inhabited since ancient times, with evidence of early settlements found throughout its rugged landscape. From the Minoans to the Dorians, Karpathos has seen many civilizations come and go, each leaving its mark on the island’s identity.

The local culture is deeply rooted in tradition, with colorful festivals and celebrations held throughout the year. Traditional music and dance are important parts of Karpathian culture, reflecting the island’s unique blend of influences from Greece, Turkey, and beyond.

In terms of architecture, Karpathos is known for its picturesque villages with narrow streets and whitewashed houses adorned with colorful shutters. The locals take great pride in preserving their heritage, making it a delight for visitors to explore and immerse themselves in the island’s history.

From ancient ruins to traditional crafts, every corner of Karpathos tells a story waiting to be discovered by those who seek a deeper understanding of this enchanting destination.


historyKarpathos plays a significant role in the Greek history. Karpathos was inhabited since the times of the Neolithic age from Protohellenic populations.
During the Minoan age was colonized by the Cretans who they carried a wider breath of civilization.
The historian Diodorus assumes that its inhabitants where Cretan settlers send there by the King Minos of Crete.

They probably followed the Argiians coming from from Mycenae. Although Homer supports the presence of the Achaeans. the island continued being a center of the Minoan civilization until the end of the Bronze age. Karpathos participated to the campaign against Troy. Later on it was colonized from the Dorians.

In the classic period Karpathos probably introduced a high degree of civilization due to its vicinity with the Rhodian port of Lindos.In 478 BC Karpathos became member of the first Athenian Delos alliance but in the 404 BC, year of the end of the Peloponnesian wars was dominated from the Spartans.

In 42 BC. it was conquered by the Romans. With the partition of the roman empire in the 4th century AD Karpathos becomes part of the Byzantine empire. At the time of emperor Heraklious becomes part of the Cretan theme. Karpathos had a lot to suffer from the Pirates attacks.

From the 7th century its inhabitants were forced to withdraw themselfs to the inside of the island. The phenomenon of the Piracy was diminished only at the end of the 18th century.


karpathos-deographyNestled in the heart of the Aegean Sea, Karpathos is a picturesque island that boasts diverse geography and a mild Mediterranean climate. The rugged terrain of Karpathos features majestic mountains, pristine beaches, and lush valleys waiting to be explored.

The geography of Karpathos is marked by steep cliffs, rocky beaches, and deep valleys. The rugged nature of the island makes it less accessible and therefore, it retains a more traditional and unspoiled charm compared to more developed Greek islands.

The northern part of Karpathos is particularly mountainous, while the southern part is slightly flatter and is where most of the agricultural activity takes place, including the cultivation of olives, grapes, and citrus fruits.

The coastlines of Karpathos are indented with numerous bays and coves, providing stunning seaside vistas and spots for secluded swimming. Despite its rocky coasts, the island also hosts some sandy beaches, such as those found in the villages of Amoopi, Arkasa, and Lefkos. The island’s remote beaches and clear waters are ideal for snorkeling and diving, attracting adventure-seeking tourists. See the island’s location of a map of Karpathos


flora-karpathosThe island is dominated by luxuriant vegetation, with the main species being ladania, afanas, ephedra, lavender, heather, kritama, caper, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, styrakas, thrumbia and galatsides .

The trees that are found are sea cedars, cypresses, hollies, aries, phyllikias, skins, cockles, wild olives, carobs, kumarias, gorcias, hawthorns, bitter almonds and tamarinds.
In the center and in the north, rich trachea pine forests grow, which used to cover almost the entire island, while near the streams there are plane trees, maples, oleanders and ligaria. It is important that in a few areas of the island there are stands of Theophrastos palms.

923 plant species have been recorded throughout Karpathos, of which 66 are endemic to Greece, 28 are endemic to Crete, eleven are endemic to the Kasos-Karpathos complex and nine are endemic to Karpathos-Saria.The most important species that are endemic to the island or only found here in Greece are the sedums, wild carnations, bellflowers, amaranth, peony, fern, wild garlic, iris, while other important species are crocuses, viola , colchicum and orchid.


fauna-karpathosThe island is important for avifauna, as it lies on a major migratory route. Among the raptors here live griffon eagles, black petrels, aetogerakines, gerakines, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, kestrels and rock kestrels.The island partridge is still found in the phrygana, the crow and the red-breasted heron are frequent in the mountains, while the wetlands of Tristomos are home to many waterfowl.

The area is important for seabirds, such as the rare egret, cormorant, artemis and mychos. Other birds of the island are the wren, the wood pigeon, the tit, the owl, the grebe, the grebe, the woodpecker, the skylark, the grebe, the gray grebe, the rare sandpigeon, the grebe, the white-billed grebe, the blue-throated grebe, the black-throated , the black-billed warbler, the Aegean warbler, the pallid shrew, the eagle-owl, the red-headed, the goshawk, the goldfinch, the grebe, the woodpecker, the wagtail, the vine-grower and the shrike.

Karpathos holds a special position at world level because of two endemic amphibians that are found exclusively here. The cochineal is a salamander that lives in North Karpathos and the Karpathos frog is a small stream frog. Both species are in the Red Book of Threatened Vertebrates of Greece and are strictly protected by international laws. The reptile fauna includes the endemic kurtodactylus, avlepharos, liakoni, samiyamid, ophisopa, black snake, bush snake, water snake and water snake, while the presence of the loggerhead turtle is common in the seas. Among the mammals in Karpathos, there is an undisputed protagonist, the Mediterranean seal.

Of the remaining mammals, only hedgehogs, hares, wild rabbits, some species of small mice and bats live here, such as the rhinoceros, pyrromyotid, mountain bat, dwarf bat and night owl. The island is also home to many rare and endemic invertebrates, such as land crabs, crickets, grasshoppers, butterflies, cicadas, isopods, beetles and snails. In the sea area around Karpathos there are large areas with posidonia meadows, while the seabed holds good numbers of lobsters even in spite of overfishing.

Culture and People


Karpathos is steeped in a rich cultural heritage that reflects centuries of traditions and influences from various civilizations that have controlled the island, including the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and Italians. This blend of influences is evident in the island’s architecture, cuisine, and local customs, which have been preserved remarkably well, partly due to the island’s relative isolation.

The people of Karpathos are known for their strong sense of tradition and community. Many of the island’s customs and practices are rooted in ancient beliefs and rituals, particularly in the more remote villages like Olympos, where traditional attire is worn daily by some older women, and ancient dialects are still spoken. This village is particularly notable for its preservation of a lifestyle that mirrors the past, making it a living museum of Karpathian culture.

Festivals and local music play a central role in the community life of Karpathos. The island is famous for its lively festivals, especially during Easter and the feast of the Assumption of Mary in August. These celebrations often include traditional music, dancing, and food, and can last until the early hours of the morning. Traditional instruments like the lyra and laouto are commonly played, and folk dances are passionately preserved and performed.

Karpathian cuisine is another expression of the island’s culture, characterized by simple yet flavorful dishes that make use of local ingredients. Dishes often feature grains, goat meat, and local cheeses, with a distinct use of herbs and spices that reflect the island’s trading past. One of the unique features of their culinary tradition is the use of wheat in various forms, from breads to sweets, which is a staple in their diet.

The sense of community is strong on Karpathos; family ties are important, and many locals are involved in fishing, agriculture, and small-scale tourism, which are the mainstays of the island’s economy. Despite the influx of tourists, particularly during the summer months, the residents have managed to maintain a balance between welcoming visitors and preserving their way of life.

Local products


One of the island’s most famous products is its honey. The abundance of wild herbs and flowers across Karpathos provides bees with a rich source of nectar, resulting in honey that is thick, golden, and aromatic. This honey is a staple in local kitchens and is often used in traditional Greek dishes and pastries, or simply enjoyed with Greek yogurt.

The olive oil from Karpathos is another treasured product, characterised by its purity and exceptional quality. The olive groves, often ancient, are tended with traditional farming methods, ensuring an olive oil that is rich in flavour and low in acidity. It serves as a cornerstone in local cooking, enhancing dishes with its robust flavour.

Cheese production on the island is also noteworthy, with local varieties such as ‘sitaka’, a type of cheese made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. This cheese is particularly unique to Karpathos and is used in many traditional recipes or served as a side dish. It is known for its creamy texture and slightly sour taste, making it a favourite among locals and visitors alike.

Wine-making is an age-old tradition in Karpathos, where local grape varieties are cultivated to produce distinctive wines. These wines are typically robust, with a deep colour and rich flavour, reflecting the island’s climatic conditions and the passion of local vintners who strive to keep their traditional methods alive.

Aside from these edible products, Karpathos is also known for its traditional crafts, including weaving and ceramics. Handwoven textiles are particularly prized, often featuring intricate designs that have been passed down through generations. These textiles are used to make everything from clothing to decorative home items. Ceramics, too, are a part of the island’s artistic expression, with local clay used to create both functional and decorative pieces.

Local cuisine

cuisineThe gastronomy of Karpathos vividly reflects its rich history and geographic isolation, presenting a tapestry of flavors that are both unique and traditional. The dishes are deeply rooted in the use of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, mirroring the island’s natural bounty from both the sea and the rugged, mountainous terrain.

Seafood is a significant part of the diet in Karpathos, with the surrounding Aegean Sea providing an abundance of fish, octopus, and squid. These are often prepared simply, grilled with a dash of local olive oil and lemon, emphasizing their freshness. Alongside seafood, goat and lamb are also common, often slow-cooked or roasted with a medley of local herbs that grow wild on the island, such as oregano, thyme, and mint, infusing the meat with robust flavors.

Vegetables play a pivotal role in the diet, with dishes often featuring locally grown produce like tomatoes, zucchinis, and eggplants. These are used in a variety of ways, from fresh salads to being stuffed with rice and herbs or layered in savory pies. The use of wild greens and herbs, picked from the hillsides, is also a distinctive element of Karpathian cooking, often boiled or sautéed as a side dish.

The culinary practices in Karpathos also include a strong tradition of cheese-making, with local varieties such as manouri and mizithra featuring prominently in the cuisine. These cheeses are often homemade, using milk from goats and sheep grazed on the island’s mountainous pastures.

Bread and grains are central, with homemade breads being a fixture in most meals. These breads are often baked in wood-fired ovens, giving them a distinctive flavor. Local pastries, both sweet and savory, also hold a special place in Karpathian culinary tradition, often filled with cheese, spinach, or sweetened squash.

Desserts in Karpathos typically include honey and nuts, reflecting the island’s production of thyme honey, which is considered a delicacy. Baklava and other syrupy pastries are popular, as are simpler sweets made with local almonds and walnuts.


Karpathos is dotted with villages that are as rich in culture as they are in history. Each village on this island has its own unique charm, from coastal settlements to mountainous retreats, offering visitors a glimpse into traditional Greek island life.

Olympos is perhaps the most famous village on Karpathos, often regarded as a living museum. Situated in the northern part of the island, it is known for its preservation of traditional customs, dialect, and dress. The village was originally built high in the mountains to protect its inhabitants from pirate raids. This isolation helped preserve its unique way of life. Women in Olympos still wear traditional dresses and the village is known for its windmills, colorful houses, and narrow, winding streets.

Pigadia, also known as Karpathos Town, is the capital and main port of the island. It is comparatively modern but still offers a taste of the island’s history with its blend of traditional and contemporary buildings. The town features a bustling waterfront lined with cafes and restaurants, and it serves as a commercial and cultural hub for the island.

Menetes is another picturesque village, perched on a hillside just west of Pigadia. It offers spectacular views of the sea and nearby mountains. The village is known for its beautiful architecture, including white houses with colorful doors and windows, and narrow alleys lined with blooming flowers. Menetes plays host to several traditional festivals and is known for its vibrant community life.

Finiki is located on the west coast of Karpathos, close to some of the island’s best beaches. It is a small fishing village with a charming harbour and is known for its seafood tavernas. The village offers a peaceful retreat with beautiful sunset views over the Aegean Sea.

Arkasa on the southwestern coast of Karpathos is rich in history, with archaeological remains that include a 5th-century Christian basilica. The village has a laid-back atmosphere and is surrounded by beautiful landscapes, including beaches like Agios Nikolaos.

Aperi, once the capital of Karpathos until the early 19th century, is nestled in the mountains and was another location chosen for its defensible position against pirates. The village is surrounded by lush vegetation and is known for its traditional stone houses and the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, which has a remarkable wood-carved iconostasis.

Volada, Othos, and Pyles are small mountain villages that offer breathtaking views and a cooler climate, ideal for hiking and enjoying the natural scenery. These villages are known for their traditional houses, serene environment, and as great starting points for trekking paths that explore the natural beauty of the island.

Things to Do

With its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters, Karpathos offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. One of the must-do things on the island is exploring the picturesque villages scattered throughout its hilly terrain. Wander through Olympos with its traditional architecture or visit the colorful village of Menetes for a taste of local life.

For those seeking adventure, head to one of Karpathos’ many hiking trails that lead to breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the Aegean Sea. Water sports enthusiasts will find paradise in locations like Apella Beach where they can try their hand at windsurfing or snorkeling in the turquoise waters.

Don’t miss out on sampling delicious Greek cuisine at seaside tavernas while watching unforgettable sunsets painting the sky orange and pink. And if you’re looking to unwind, spend a day lounging on one of Karpathos’ secluded beaches surrounded by rugged cliffs and lush vegetation – pure bliss!

With its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters, Karpathos offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. One of the must-do things on the island is exploring the picturesque villages scattered throughout its hilly terrain. Wander through Olympos with its traditional architecture or visit the colorful village of Menetes for a taste of local life.

For those seeking adventure, head to one of Karpathos’ many hiking trails that lead to breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the Aegean Sea. Water sports enthusiasts will find paradise in locations like Apella Beach where they can try their hand at windsurfing or snorkeling in the turquoise waters.

Don’t miss out on sampling delicious Greek cuisine at seaside tavernas while watching unforgettable sunsets painting the sky orange and pink. And if you’re looking to unwind, spend a day lounging on one of Karpathos’ secluded beaches surrounded by rugged cliffs and lush vegetation – pure bliss!

With its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters, Karpathos offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. One of the must-do things on the island is exploring the picturesque villages scattered throughout its hilly terrain. Wander through Olympos with its traditional architecture or visit the colorful village of Menetes for a taste of local life.

For those seeking adventure, head to one of Karpathos’ many hiking trails that lead to breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the Aegean Sea. Water sports enthusiasts will find paradise in locations like Apella Beach where they can try their hand at windsurfing or snorkeling in the turquoise waters.

Don’t miss out on sampling delicious Greek cuisine at seaside tavernas while watching unforgettable sunsets painting the sky orange and pink. And if you’re looking to unwind, spend a day lounging on one of Karpathos’ secluded beaches surrounded by rugged cliffs and lush vegetation.

Best Time to Visit Karpathos

The best time to explore the beauty of Karpathos is during the spring and autumn months. In spring, from April to June, you’ll experience pleasant weather with blooming flowers all around the island. It’s perfect for outdoor activities like hiking and enjoying the pristine beaches without the summer crowds.

Autumn, from September to October, offers mild temperatures and fewer tourists compared to the peak summer season. You can still soak up the sun on beautiful beaches or wander through charming villages without feeling overwhelmed by large crowds.

Summer can get quite hot on Karpathos, so if you prefer cooler temperatures and a more relaxed atmosphere while exploring this hidden gem of an island, consider planning your visit in spring or autumn for an unforgettable experience.


karpathos beachesKarpathos boasts a stunning array of beaches, each offering a unique slice of the island’s natural beauty. The beaches here range from secluded coves to expansive stretches of sand, appealing to every type of beachgoer. Due to the mountainous nature of the island, many of these beaches are nestled between dramatic cliffs and crystal-clear waters of the Aegean Sea, providing breathtaking views and a sense of remote serenity.

In the south, the beaches tend to be more accessible and are often equipped with amenities such as sunbeds, umbrellas, and nearby tavernas. These beaches are popular among families and those who appreciate convenience and comfort close at hand. The northern part of the island, in contrast, offers more rugged and isolated spots, appealing to adventurers and those seeking solitude. Here, the beaches can be reached via winding paths or by boat, adding an element of adventure to the day.

The water around Karpathos is known for its clarity and vibrant shades of blue, making it ideal for snorkelling and diving. The underwater visibility reveals a rich marine life and sometimes even archaeological remains, submerged beneath the waves. This pristine aquatic environment is cherished by water sports enthusiasts who frequent the island, particularly for windsurfing and kitesurfing, with certain beaches offering perfect conditions due to consistent winds.

Despite its growing popularity as a tourist destination, Karpathos still retains a touch of unspoilt charm. The beaches remain uncrowded for most of the year, offering a peaceful retreat. Whether looking for a family-friendly spot, a haven for water sports, or a secluded corner to unwind


Karpathos offers a relatively low-key nightlife compared to some of the more bustling Greek islands, but it still provides ample opportunities for enjoyment after the sun sets. The nightlife here mainly revolves around cozy bars, traditional tavernas, and a few nightclubs, focusing on providing a relaxing and authentic experience rather than the high-energy party scenes found elsewhere.

In the capital town of Pigadia, you’ll find the highest concentration of nightlife options. Bars and small nightclubs line the waterfront, offering a variety of settings from casual to slightly more upscale. These venues often play a mix of international hits and Greek music, with some places hosting live bands, especially on weekends. The atmosphere is friendly and inviting, making it easy to mingle with both locals and other tourists.

Another hotspot for evening entertainment is the village of Arkasa, where you can enjoy drinks at beach bars with views of the sunset over the Aegean Sea. These bars often have a laid-back vibe, ideal for enjoying a cocktail as the evening winds down.

For a more traditional night out, many visitors and locals head to the tavernas that dot the island. These establishments offer not only delicious local cuisine but also the chance to enjoy Greek live music and occasionally, spontaneous traditional dancing. This experience is deeply rooted in Greek culture and provides an authentic way to enjoy the evening among friends and family.

During the summer months, some beach areas might host bonfires or small beach parties, particularly appealing to the younger crowd. These are usually informal gatherings and can provide a memorable way to spend a warm summer night under the stars.

Accommodation Options

When it comes to accommodation options on the picturesque island of Karpathos, there is something for every type of traveler. From luxurious resorts with stunning views of the Aegean Sea to cozy guesthouses tucked away in charming villages, Karpathos offers a variety of choices.

For those seeking a more upscale experience, boutique hotels and villas are scattered across the island, providing personalized service and top-notch amenities. If you prefer a more budget-friendly option, there are plenty of affordable apartments and studios available for rent.

For a truly unique stay, consider booking a traditional stone house in one of Karpathos’ authentic villages. Immerse yourself in local culture and experience Greek hospitality at its finest. No matter your preference or budget, Karpathos has accommodation options that will make your stay unforgettable.

Getting around

One of the best ways to explore the picturesque island of Karpathos is by renting a car. With its winding roads and stunning coastal views, driving around the island offers a sense of freedom and adventure. You can easily rent a car at one of the many rental agencies located on the island.

For those who prefer not to drive, there are also local buses that run between the main towns and villages. This is a budget-friendly option for getting around while still being able to enjoy the scenic beauty of Karpathos.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, consider renting a scooter or ATV to navigate through some of the smaller, narrow streets in the villages. It’s a fun way to get around while taking in all that Karpathos has to offer.

Walking is another fantastic way to explore Karpathos, especially if you’re staying in one of the charming villages. Wander through cobblestone streets, soak up local life, and discover hidden gems off the beaten path.

Getting There

To reach Karpathos, you can either take a direct flight from Athens or ferry from other Greek islands like Rhodes and Crete. The airport is located near the capital town of Pigadia, making it convenient for travelers to start exploring as soon as they land.

By Air

Karpathos has its own airport, which is located in the southern part of the island, near the village of Afiartis. The airport handles both domestic and international flights, which can vary seasonally.

Domestic Flights: There are regular flights from Athens International Airport to Karpathos, which typically last about an hour. During the summer months, the frequency of these flights may increase due to higher demand. Occasionally, there are also flights from other major Greek cities like Thessaloniki and Rhodes, especially in the peak tourist season.

International Flights: In the high season, which generally runs from late spring through early autumn, Karpathos Airport may also serve direct flights from several European cities. These are mainly charter flights catering to the tourist influx and can be a convenient way for international travellers to reach the island directly.

By Ferry

The ferry is a popular option for reaching Karpathos, offering a more scenic and potentially less expensive route. The main harbors on the island are in Pigadia (the capital) and Diafani, and the services vary significantly between the peak and off-peak seasons.

From Athens: Ferries to Karpathos depart from the port of Piraeus in Athens. The journey can be quite long, typically taking between 20 to 24 hours, depending on the route and the number of stops along the way. These ferries often stop at several other islands, which can extend travel time but also provide a scenic introduction to the Aegean Sea.

From Crete: There are also ferry connections from Crete to Karpathos, with services usually running from the port of Sitia. This route is shorter than from Athens, making it a convenient option for those already visiting Crete. The travel time from Crete to Karpathos can range from 4 to 5 hours depending on the service.

From Rhodes: Being closer, Rhodes offers fairly regular ferry services to Karpathos, especially in the tourist season. The journey here can take about 5 hours, making it one of the quicker sea routes to the island.