Karpathos, a Greek island of the Dodecanese, situated halfway between Rhodes and Crete, is an ideal destination for those who are looking for a relaxing vacation, sun and sea. It is also a dream destination for surfers thanks to the meltemi, a wind that blows almost constantly from the north and that makes some beaches of the island constantly ventilated and suitable for the practice of this sport.
Thanks to the recent introduction of charter flights and low cost, Karpathos is becoming more and more an important destination in the international tourist scene, and the reasons are obvious by observing its postcard beaches and its beautiful scenery. But fortunately the island has not yet been taken by storm by tourists, so those who will be lucky enough to visit it will still find pristine beaches and untouched villages, without the crowds and chaos that can be found on other more emblazoned islands, or perhaps just more touristy.
To fall in love with Karpathos is enough to see for the first time some of the beaches of the island, such as Poliou Patami (the beach of the birds), Damatria or Apella. Some of them are easily accessible by land while others, such as the beautiful Kato Lakos, can be reached only by sea. Needless to say, once landed you will feel like in paradise, thanks to the turquoise colors of the sea and the tranquility that you breathe.
As for the towns and villages, Pigadia is the most developed from the tourist point of view but does not offer much from the historical point of view, while is built like an eagle’s nest on the sea.
It reached its maximum importance in the past centuries when the Aegean Sea was ploughed by pirates: in fact from here the sentinels were able to sight them even at several kilometers distance. Today Olympus is a first class tourist destination thanks to its magnificent views and its ancient windmills.
But there are numerous other things to do in Karpathos decidedly interesting, let’s see some of them:
Pigadia, also known as Karpathos Town, is the capital of the island and the administrative center of the homonymous municipality, and is the most populated center thanks to its over 3000 inhabitants. The town covers a large area in the south-eastern part of the island.
Today’s Pigadia was already inhabited during the Minoan period and later by the Mycenaean Greeks. Because of the continuous incursions of the pirates, in particular of the Saracens, the city was abandoned in the Middle Ages, and the inhabitants withdrew inland founding new settlements. A few centuries later the city was rebuilt and in 1892 it was called Pigadia, from the word “Ta Pigádia” (the fountain), due to its richness in water.
Tourism developed in Karpathos and particularly in Pigadia after the opening of the international airport. The town can accommodate 4,500 tourists, about half of all those who visit Karpathos. Although small it is nevertheless the main center of the island, and there are hotels, bars and restaurants, as well as attractions such as mini golf and night clubs, thus making Pigadia the most frequented place by the increasing number of tourists who come to Karpathos every year.
If you want to immerse yourself in the historical culture of the island, the Archaeological Museum of Karpathos is the ideal destination: it is located in Pigadia, and inside you will find many artifacts found on the island dating back to the period of Ancient Greece, such as coins, ceramics and tools for everyday life.
TheAcropolis is on the road from the promenade to the cemetery with the Church of St. Nicholas behind. Slightly above the cemetery you can admire the Panormitis Church. Sticking with the theme of churches, Agii Apostoli is the former main church of the city, and contains frescoes by local artists.
The building of an ancient Italian villa, whose style is very different from the other buildings, now houses the offices and facilities of the local government. Finally, about 2 kilometers from the city center, along the coastal road to Aperi are the ruins of the Basilica of Agia Fotini. The basilica was built in the 5th or 6th century in honor of the martyr Fotini on the ruins of an ancient temple.
From the small port of the village of Diafani boats depart for theisland of Saria, located just north of Karpathos. The two islands are separated by only 100 meters of sea but are completely different: Saria in fact is mountainous and rugged, the vegetation is almost non-existent, almost as well as the population: the island at the 2011 census resulted inhabited by only 45 individuals, mostly shepherds. To see, in addition to the beautiful beaches, the ruins of the ancient city of Nisyros.
The church of Agia Sofia (Saint Sofia) in Palekastro and the church of Zoodochos Pigi in Diafani are two of the most beautiful religious architectures of Karpathos. Both can be worth visiting in half a day: St. Sofia is a small church with mosaics and a colonnaded courtyard, and together a beautiful archaeological site, while Zoodochos Pigi has beautiful frescoes, an ideal place to restore yourself after a day spent in the sun.
Near the village of Menetes, set on a hill in an enviable position, there is a traditional Karpathos house, the Folk Museum. There are some interesting artifacts dating back to World War II, and other very interesting things, which provide an idea of life in Karpathos before the advent of tourism. To reach it you can take the local bus in the morning from Pigadia.
The beauty of Karpathos remains however the beaches and the sea: those of the east coast are more sheltered and tend to be of gravel (such as Amoopi, Apella or Kato Lako, reachable only on foot), while those of the south part of the island are sandy, such as Damatra or Diakoftis. The beaches of the west coast are exposed to the winds that blow constantly on the island and are therefore the favorite destination for lovers of kite surfing or windsurfing, while “normal” bathers can enjoy them only on days of low wind.
Karpathos is certainly an ideal destination for those who love the beautiful blue postcard sea, but if you want to take a break from beach life here’s what to do in Karpathos between baths.
For those who simply want to have fun doing sports, in Karpathos you are spoiled for choice: soccer fields, tennis courts, nautical activities, snorkeling… there is nothing better to do in Karpathos than to take a break from the beach and dedicate yourself to sports, even on vacation.
Karpathos for its nature and conformation lends itself perfectly to a boat tour. From the ports of Pigadia and Diafani depart daily tourist boat trips along the coast, discovering beaches and unspoiled coves and postcard views.
A day on a boat in Karpathos is aday of relaxation, fun and swimming in a crystal clear blue sea; you can also admire a very rich marine life and beautiful backdrops.
The island of Karpathos is mountainous and its highest point is Mount Lastos, whose summit is located at an altitude of 1215 meters above sea level. A hike on this peak will allow you to explore a wild and unspoiled nature, and admire breathtaking views.
The morphology of Karpathos is very rich, you will be able to admire many different geological conformations, such as headlands, overhangs, stratified rocks and many streams. You will be surrounded by a varied and beautiful natural landscape.
On August 15 of each year is held the most important festival of Karpathos: the Panigiria festival (the Assumption of Mary), which attracts many tourists and inhabitants of the island, even from abroad. Participating in the festival you will be able to admire the numerous traditions that still remain alive and well among the inhabitants of the island.
Traditional festivals take place in Menetes, Piles, Aperi and Olympus. The 8th of September is celebrated the Panagia festival in Messochori, in Pigadia and in Ginatou Othos.
The Greek island of Karpathos is really easy to reach, there are basically two means of transport according to your needs: the plane and the ship.
Flying to Karpathos is very simple and often cheap, thanks also to some direct routes opened by low cost airlines. The alternative is instead to fly to Athens, reachable from various airports, and continue with an internal flight. Note that this is the only way to get to Karpathos by plane outside the tourist season.
But perhaps the most exciting way to get to Karpathos in the summer is by ferry. The island is located halfway between Rhodes and Crete, and can be reached rather easily from Heraklion (the capital of Crete) and Rhodes port in a few hours by ferry. This will allow you to build even a vacation involving two islands, perhaps choosing Rhodes or Crete – and why not both – for entertainment and then Karpathos for relaxation.
The alternative longer but perhaps the most fascinating is to leave by ship from Piraeus, the port of Athens. In this case the journey will be even longer, count on at least 12 hours or even more passing through the Cyclades and the Dodecanese; but it will certainly be a very exciting and special experience.
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