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Karpathos

Located in the middle of the Karpathian Sea between Rhodes and Crete, Karpathos is the second largest of the twelve islands of the Dodecanese with a population of seven thousand people. In the third part of our trilogy we will have the opportunity to introduce you to the unique beauty of this island, which was under Venetian, Ottoman and finally Italian rule until officially united with Greece in 1948.

The remnants of the Italian regime can still be seen on Karpathos in the village of ‘Tristomo’ which is accessible only by boat; the ruins of what was once the seat of the Italian army and fleet, an important military base including a dockyard and dormitories which are now abandoned and used as shelters in the summer by friendly local herders.

Tristomo is not the only time capsule in Karpathos. At a stone’s throw from the island is another tiny piece of land with its own stories to tell. Here one can experience the true layering of history with ruins from different eras each narrating their unique tales. The ruins of Ancient Nisiros, a powerful island city and a member of Pericles’s “Athenian Coalition”, can be found here next to Roman and Byzantine Palaces and Baths. What is more striking is that on Saria one can find a well preserved settlement of Saracen Pirates who settled here in the 7th Century AD recognizing the strategic position of the island. The archaeological site is open to the public at all times but accessible only by boat.

Karpathos is a rocky but green island with high mountains secluded beaches. The island is quite remote. Due to this isolation, Karpathos has preserved many peculiarities of dress, customs and dialect. The capital, known as Karpathos or Pigadia, is a classic example of the architecture in Greek islands, cozy houses gathered together in a picturesque white cluster with splashes of pink and green gardens. Apart from the capital there are twenty more tiny villages scattered all around Karpathos. They are all charming in their beauty, simplicity and hospitality.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in Karpathos is the traditional community of Olympos. To reach the village you have to take a winding road but the beauty of the landscape and the view of the Apella beach from above more than make up for any inconvenience. If it weren’t for the traditional architecture and view of the sea below, you would probably forget you are on an island. Situated on a steep hill is a small traditional village whose beauty is equivalent to that of the village Oia in Santorini. We will explore its winding stone paths; visit little shops that sell handmade traditional arts, crafts, jewelry and clothing; meet the friendly locals who run them; speak to the old women crocheting in the street, picturesque in their traditional dress and kerchief; listen to their stories and taste delicacies like “makarounes” (handmade fresh pasta) and kouloures (traditional coil-shaped biscuit bread). Everything here is made gradually by hand with special care and selected materials. The highlights of the village are the white windmills, standing proudly on the edge of the cliff, offering a spectacular photo opportunity.

After visiting the mountain, you can go for a relaxing dip in one of Karpathos many beaches. You will be pleasantly surprised by the diversity that Karpathos has to offer despite its small size. In the past, the island was also called “Anemoessa” or Lady of the Winds and it is here that windsurfing speed races take part every year with famous participants from all over the world. Lovers of scuba diving will feel at home in the blue waters and the underwater caves of the island which are offered for exploration. One must bear in mind that Karpathos lacks the infrastructure to receive massive waves of tourists. Perhaps that is best, as this might irreparably alter the traditional character of the area or damage its natural beauty. It is ideal though for visitors with intellectual, historical, cultural and environmental interests. Contrary to other islands, Karpathos has a well developed network of hiking paths through which you can explore its natural beauties on foot. Of particular interest are the old stone paths (kalderimia) which survive to this day with their original character.