Information about Karpathos

Karpathos, an affordable island, rich in beauty and steadily rising in the preferences of domestic and non-tourists. The capital of the island and the place where the boats tie up is Pigadia and from here the acquaintance with the island begins. Here you will climb the hill where the Minoan Acropolis was located and continue towards Panagia Larniotissa, to admire the breathtaking view of the entire city, the port, and some villages.

The route to the port constantly includes stops for a coffee, drink, dessert or snack at the countless tables that open the shops between the main and the beach streets of Pigadia. The capital lies at the more populous flatter southern end of the island. Surprisingly for an island capital, it lacks a historical heart and is, in truth, a rather drab concrete affair. Its main assets are a picturesque harbour setting and a 4 km sandy beach that runs north of the town

High Season caiques also run up the coast to several beaches ending up at the best Apella. The main tourist resort on Karpathos lies to the south of the capital at Ammopi where three sandy bays, backed by a growing taverna village, play host to the growing number of tourists. If Ammopi doesn’t take your fancy, then irregular caiques also run from the beach to quieter coves backing onto the drab airport road

The rest of Karpathos is divided between a dozen villages (most of which lie in the southern half). First among these is Aperi, the former chora and still home to the island cathedral: dominated by expensive holiday homes built by US émigrés, it offers an interesting contrast with more traditional villages elsewhere.

From Aperi the road climbs to the less spoilt Volada before topping the island spine at Orthos, at 510 m the highest village on the island before running down to one of the most attractive hill villages on Karpathos at Piles, and the resort of Lefkos. However, a rival to Piles exists at Menetes, which offers an interesting mix of old mansion-style and white-washed houses (depending on how posh a part of town you are in) and a folk museum.

Beyond Menetes lies the growing resort village of Arkasa. Straddling a narrow gorge, it is home to the scanty remains of one of the four Mycenaean cites that once thrived on Karpathos and a reasonable beach. Villages in the northern halfof Karpathos are few and far between. The island at this point becomes little more than a mountain ridge sticking out of the sea

Rough dirt roads do extend north from the hill villages of Mesohori and Spoa, but caiques running between Pigadia and the small northern port of Diafani remain the principal means of travelling between the two halves of the island. In fact, quiet Diafani largely owes its survival to the package-tourists en route to explore the famous hill village of Olympos

Easily the most photogenic village on the island, lofty Olympos complete with restored windmills galore straddles a steep ridge, is notable for retaining a traditional village lifestyle

Regarding the name of Karpathos there are various versions. The main version is the “carpathian” plant related to flax. Local legend says that because its first inhabitants loved their land too much, they kidnapped the Olympian gods and brought them to the island. For this act they were called Arpatheos.

According to another version, it borrows its name from “karpassinon” (a wick that was lit on the statue of Athena on the Acropolis), Karpassia (in Cyprus) and Karpasinon (a village in Lemnos). One of them connects the name of the island with the karpaso plant that thrived in Karpathos.

The same plant, however, gave its name to Karpasia, a city in Cyprus. According to another version from “tina Titanan Karpon” or from the noun “fruit” (fruit). Homer calls it Crapathos, according to a reference by Strabo. Other ancient names of the island are Tetrapolis, Anemoessa, while in the Middle Ages it was called Scarpanto (this name for the island is still valid in Italian)


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-deographyKarpathos, together with the islet of Saria that belongs to it geopolitically, is one of the most endowed Greek islands. Limestone rocks form its stratigraphic core and define its morphological character. In some areas, flysch layers, as well as younger layers of gypsum, travertine, cobblestone and contemporaneous deposits, develop above the limestone.

The variety and color magic of the natural landscape of Karpathos is unique. The changes and contrasts are so frequent and unexpected, that they leave no room for monotony and boredom.

High mountains (Lastos 1215 m altitude, the highest in the Dodecanese) and rugged, whose peaks sometimes appear covered with snow. On the mountain slopes one can see steep ravines and winding torrents, deep caves endowed with the alluring multicolored stalactites, verdant valleys and springs with crystal clear waters that melodiously gurgle, generously spreading their coolness.


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 folk tradition

karpathos-cultureKarpathos, although a small island, has a very large and rich folk culture and still preserves its traditions and customs with great commitment. This commitment is due to its geographical location and to the genuine and pure Greek soul of the Karpathians.

Many Greeks and foreigners dealt with Karpathos and plenty of folklore material has been published in books, magazines and newspapers, but also a great deal remains unpublished in the hands of researchers.

Due to its great folklore wealth, Karpathos is considered one of the most important “blood donors” of Greek Folklore. Inestimable treasures for Karpathos are the folklore works of Manolakakis, Michailides Noirou, Georgiou, Alexiadis. Most of their folklore material is still preserved by the local Karpathians. It is remarkable how reverently not only the permanent residents, but also the Karpathians of the diaspora preserve the philological, but also the traditional folklore of the Karpathians.

Folk songs and spur-of-the-moment mandinades, proverbs, riddles, fairy tales, myths, traditions, wishes, curses and oaths are in the mouths and in the daily conversations of Karpathian young and old, men and women.

Of course, the traditional Karpathian feast has a special place, which gives the opportunity to bring the folk songs of Karpathos to life, but also presents the poetic talent of the Karpathians, with the mandinades of the moment, which express their pain and joy, depending on the circumstance.

Such feasts, which always include the local musical instruments (tsabuna, lyre, lute, violin), can be seen at festivals, at social events (christenings, weddings, name days) after the rich tables (tavla) with traditional foods, which are arranged for all the guests.

At the same events, it also enjoys the locals who end up having good parties. Some of these dances are the Siganos, the Kneeling, the Pano choros, the Susta, the Fumistos (only at the wedding), the Zervos, the Kefallonitika, the Antipatitis, the Arkistis. Of these, the first five are most often danced. Mainly Pano choros and Susta.

karpathos traditionsMany original customs, which have their roots in antiquity, are still preserved in Karpathos and the Karpathians feel particularly proud every time they participate in them.Cultural Associations and the Spiritual Center of the Municipality organize events of local character and color (revivals of customs, “Volada and Othos” wine festivals, meetings, dance festivals and dance parties).

The elaborate, multi-colored woven embroideries and knits that make up the decoration, the “adornment” of the Karpathian “sufa” are the business of the Karpathian housewife and an important chapter of her folklore heritage.

Inside this house, the large Karpathian house which is in itself a small folklore museum, with artisans, the wood carvings, the frames of the grandparents and parents, become the joys of the family, as well as the rich tables for the “guests”, the which are also offered traditional dishes, drinks and sweets.

But what still characterizes the island’s culture, is the traditional women’s costume of Olympos village. Remnants of old women’s costumes – tseberi, techremi, fota – can be found among older women in Mesochori and especially in Spoa.

Of the footwear, the “stivania” ( boots) are still preserved by farmers and breeders as remnants of the men’s costume and are manufactured in Olympos. Many more types of folk art and traditional professions are preserved in individual cases in the villages such as blacksmiths, weavers and basket weavers.

Local products

karpathos-cakesKarpathos, although mountainous and wild, nevertheless proved to be fertile and offers rich products, such as grapes, citrus fruits, oil and honey. Many of the locals are engaged in fishing and thus supply the tavernas daily with mackerel, sardines, sardines and walleyes, which are quite common on the island.

The rich vineyards in northern Karpathos produce excellent grapes, from which their famous wine is also produced. The wine of Karpathos is of excellent quality, delicious and quite different. The most popular is the semi-sweet red wine produced mainly in mountainous Karpathos, Othos and Volada. The most famous varieties of the island are the athiri, the seal, but also the Cretan thrapsathiri and the Cycladic donkey.

Karpathian cheeses have a strong flavor and are a key element of the residents’ diet. The most widespread are the very soft manouli, armyrotiri, which as its name indicates is a very salty hard cheese, with which the locals usually accompany their pasta and meriari.

Honey is a product that the housewives of Karpathos often use in their sweets, sesame honey, xerotigana and baklava. In summer honeys, thyme dominates, in spring honeys, sage and in winter ones, riki. Alochorta are small herbs that are usually eaten as a salad. They grow on cliffs among thorns.

The specialty of Karpathian gastronomy is macaroons, tagliatelle-like pasta accompanied by the famous sitaka, a dairy product similar to yogurt.The cakes are pies with a gender that resembles a kouro. It is filled with mijithra and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Examples, also, of the meticulousness of Karpathi’s artistic concern and his commitment to traditional professions, are the woodcarvings, temples, sofas, benches, furniture, but also the handmade footwear (stilettos, slippers) which, fortunately, are still preserved (mainly) on Olympus.

What is admirable and probably does not exist to such an extent elsewhere, is the instrument making. In all the villages, there are people of all ages who make lyres, lutes, violins, and most of them are instrumentalists themselves.

Local cuisine

cuisineThe island has excellent cuisine. The main local products are grapes, wine, oil, cheese, honey, quinces and citrus fruits. Local products are handmade “macaroons”, sesame honey, triangles, xerotigana.

The sardine – the well-known Spoitian pasti menoula, capers, krithamo, pastes and swimming small elises, pumpkins, kopeles (triangular vegetable pies), stuffed lamb with plagouri in a wood oven, mizithropitas, baklava and zimbilia stuffed with dried grapes.The traditional “buns” baked with branches from the forest are used as bread and as  leavened bread for every religious celebration.


villagesKarpathos has ten villages and some smaller settlements, which following the road network form two “circles” on the map going around the island.
Starting the course for the short route from the capital of Karpathos and the town of Pigadia, visitors follow the road towards the east coast of the island and up to the village of Aperio which was the former capital of the island.

Follow the route that passes through the three mountain villages of Volada, Othos and Pyles until the road begins to descend towards the west coast of Karpathos. To complete the route, visitors follow the road to the village of Arkasas and continue towards Menetes high until they return back to Pigadia.

For the longest route, after reaching the village of Aperio and again instead of turning left towards the village of Volada, visitors follow the road to the northern part of the island. After an enchanting drive, visitors will reach the small village of Spoa with its many windmills.

At this point the road leads to the famous village of Olympus. After a long journey, visitors return to Spoa and after passing the small village head towards the western part of the island and the village of Mesochori. After Mesochori follow the main road to reach Arkasa, Menetes and it returns again to Pigadia.


karpathos beachesThe beaches of Karpathos offer options for every style. Towards the North is the sandy Afoti with the backdrop of the columns and stone carvings of the early Christian basilica of Agia Fotini from the 6th century, while the most popular beach is Kyra-Panagia with the organized sandy beach at the edge of the rocky bay.

For the alternatives, the beaches of Agios Nikolaos and Agios Georgios in the settlement of Arkasa are recommended. The pebbly Achata (10 km northwest of Pigadia) that deepens sharply and Apella with its 7 km long golden sandy beach also stand out.

Diafani, at a distance of 70 km from Pigadia, is also – although distant – a recommended destination (you can also get here by ferry from Pigadia). Finally, Ammoopi (just 6 km from Pigadia) with its organized beach and tamarisk trees is suitable for lovers of water sports.

What to see and do

karpathosKarpathos is an island with a rich history and tradition and has several museums and monuments that are worth visiting. The island is also known for its special natural beauty: high mountains and dense vegetation combine with small charming bays along the coast. Explore nature and the hidden corners of Karpathos by walking along its numerous paths!

The true soul of Karpathos is hidden in its picturesque villages and beautiful countryside, in the plateaus with the farmhouses and ancient threshing floors, in the paths that lead to holy states, in the mountain peaks that play with the clouds and the wind, in the melodies of the lyre, the lagoutou and tsambouna, in the mandinades of the pure people of the island. And there, the uniqueness and nobility of Karpathos has no end.

Where to stay

On the island there is a large number of accommodations (hotels, apartments for rent, rooms for rent, etc.) able to satisfy the wishes and needs of even the most demanding visitor.

How many days do you need to stay in Karpathos?

A week on the island of Karpathos is the minimum time to discover mainly the southern part of the island with relative comfort. A week would be ideal to get a good taste of the northern part of Karpathos If you have 10 days to “spend” then you will have a royal vacation Divide your days ideally between north and south Four days in the southern part of Karpathos (Pigadia) and almost 3 days in Olympos, north of the island . Calculate that for the cruise to the uninhabited Sharia, in the north, you will spend a whole day

Getting there

The island of Karpathos is accessible throughout the year, either by boat or by plane.The many hours on board are almost prohibitive for someone to choose to make the Piraeus – Karpathos trip. The plane is the fastest and most relaxing way to such a distant destination. Two airlines, Aegean and Sky Express, have frequent flights to Karpathos airport.

If you book your plane tickets early, the cost will not exceed that of the cabin ferries. Our advice, if you are determined to visit Karpathos, book your flights early. The flight takes just 50 minutes

By Ferry

karpathos ferriesThere are two ports in Karpathos, Diafani in the northern part of the island and Pigadia, in the southern part. The nearest port to the village of Olympos is Diafani (at a distance of 10 km or 15′ driving), while from Pigadia the distance is longer (42 km, approximately 40-45 minutes driving).

The routes from Piraeus are 2-3 times a week. The route, with stops on other islands, takes about 20 hours. The island is connected by regular routes with Rhodes, Anafi, Halki, Kasos, Milos, Santorini and with the ports of Heraklion and Sitia in Crete.

By Air

how do you get to karpathosKarpathos has a modern, international airport and is connected daily with flights to Athens, Rhodes and Crete. From Athens, the route takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. It is also connected with flights from Thessaloniki, as well as charter flights with many foreign countries (spring & summer).

The airport of Karpathos is located in the southern part of the island, at a distance of 55 km (about 1 hour drive) from the village of Olympos or 13.8 km from the capital of the island Pigadia Karpathos (15-17′ drive).

Bus routes

Karpathos has a bus network that connects Pigadia with the villages and some of the islands’ beaches. Buses go at different times to the villages of Ammoopi and Pyles, via Aperio, Volada and Othos, while to Arkasa, via Meniti and Lefko. There is a special bus that connects the capital of the island with the village of Olympos. This bus runs three routes a day, throughout the year.