Pigadia is the capital and main port of the island, where you’ll easily find the accommodation you prefer, as well as some interesting monuments to visit. At the port entrance, Vounos will catch your eye: it’s an imposing 23-metre high rock, where you will see the ruins of an ancient citadel. To your left, there is the Governor’s House [called Eparcheio], an impressive building dating to the period of Italian rule. Today, it houses an information centre for the mediterranean monk seal; there is also an open air museum with exhibits dating to various historical periods. Make sure you visit the Afoti location, where you will see the ruins of the early Christian Basilica of Agia Foteini, and the Myloi location where you’ll find the Cave of Poseidon.
Olympos is a village built in the north part of the island, on the gap of Mt. Profitis Ilias. It has carried the name ‘Olympos’ since ancient times. Its geographical isolation from the other villages has played a great part in preserving its unique cultural identity and traditions to this day. An archaic dialect is spoken here and the music, the customs and the architecture all add to the singularity of its character. Women wear their traditional hand-woven costumes in their everyday activities, let alone during special occasions such as the traditional weddings, Easter celebrations, and the customary practice that takes place on a newborn child’s 7th day of life, to welcome and wish him/her well. In older times the baby’s christening would also take place on that day.
The village’s centre of social life is the church. Every religious and social event takes place in the church courtyard. The biggest festival in Olympos is on August 29th (St. John’s Feast), which takes place outside a small country chapel, at a distance from the village. The ritual performed during the festival attracts tourists as well as scientists (anthropologists and ethnologists) who travel to Olympos to study the local practices and usages.
Diafani is a picturesque fishing village and the island’s second harbour, which was originally built to provide Olympos with access to a seaport. Take a trip to the mountainous village of Aperi, once the cultural centre and capital of the island. Climb up to the top of the hill to see the ruins of the ancient acropolis of Karpathos, and to drink in the stunning panoramic view.
If you enjoy walking, head to Volada Village, and stroll along the narrow winding alleys and past the whitewashed yards shaded by blooming bougainvillaea. Explore the various trails that cross the Lastos plateau and add some fun and adventure to your trips. Along the way, you will pass by country cottages and picturesque little churches. Othos is the highest village on the island as it is built 510m above sea level. Make sure you visit the Folk Art Museum, where you will see the inside of a traditional Karpathian house, and you’ll get a glimpse of life on the island, as it once was. You’ll get the chance to participate in one of the island’s traditional feasts (panigyri in Greek), which are carried out in honour of St Panteleimonas (July 26-28) and St Georgios Methystis ( November 3).
Lefko is a popular seaside village with sandy beaches. Pay a visit to the ancient citadel at Pelekito location and the 13th century church of Agios Georgios. Make sure you crossover to the islet of Sokastro, home to various Byzantine and Mediaeval ruins; this piece of land once was a peninsula of Karpathos that got separated by an earthquake.
Romantic Mesochori village with its beautiful traditional Karpathian houses and their pebble-paved courtyards will offer you fine views of the open sea. Menetes is built high on Mt. Profitis Ilias; when you get to this colourful village visit the impressive church of Koimisis Theotokou (Dormition of the Mother of God), which houses a large archaeological collection of vessels, sculptures and religious icons that have been found in the area.
Palaiokastro Hill dominates Arkasa Village where you will see ruins dating back to antiquity, the Venetian and the Ottoman occupation period. Don’t miss out on visiting the Archaeological Museum and the 4th century early Christian church of Agia Anastasia with its marvellous mosaics.
Trips to nearby Saria
Opposite the north tip of Karpathos Island, cross over to Saria Islet. There too, you will see ancient ruins dating as far back as the Neolithic Period. Visit the old (abandoned) Palatia village which is in the north of the island, and you will see impressive stone-built houses dating to the 10th c. (possibly pirate hideouts), old little churches and a small beautiful sandy beach. Saria Islet and the northern part of Karpathos Island along with the nearby marine areas are all part of the Natura 2000 network, since they are the habitats of over 80 species of rare or endemic plants. Also, there are many predatory birds and Monachus-monachus monk seals which find refuge here.