When you think of Greek islands you probably think of Santorini, Rhodes, Mykonos and the other classic destinations for a Greek summer vacation and so did I. When the travel agent suggested us Karpathos for our one-week trip, it was the first time I heard of this island and to be fair I was a little sceptical. Less touristy and beautiful nature were however the keywords that convinced me and I am so glad we followed this tip.
From the moment we arrived we fell in love with the relaxed atmosphere and beautiful views anywhere on the island. We fortunately figured out immediately, that the best way to get around is by car and rented a 4×4 for the week. We absolutely loved having the freedom to explore every corner of Karpathos and this is probably the most important advice I’d give any visitor.
Thanks to its remote location, Karpathos has preserved many peculiarities of dress, customs and dialect, which allows you to really dive in the culture. We were lucky enough to have been on the island on the 15th of August for the celebrations of the church of the Assumption of Mary. Celebrations take place in different towns, we decided to go to Olympos for the day. Only locals are allowed to participate but it was so interesting observing the traditions and customs and made our trip very special.
I’m not saying Karpathos is a secret, plenty of tourists visit the island every year, but compared to many other Greek islands it is still much less touristy and quiet and a perfect destination for nature-lovers who don’t mind getting around independently. I’m a huge fan and can’t wait to get back there, in the meanwhile I have tried to create a guide for you guys, obviously to my best knowledge!:-)
Have you travelled to Karpathos and want to add something or do you have any other questions? Then let me know in the comments!
Things to do in Karpathos
Karpathos isn’t an island to be lazy and just hang out at the beach if you ask me, even though you could easily do this! This island has so many beautiful places that it’s definitely worth trying to explore some more than just the main town. Here are some things you shouldn’t miss.
Do a boat tour to Saria
Saria is a tiny island in the North of Karpathos, with a nice beach and a very interesting history. We joined Captain Manolis Tour from Diafani and had a great day on board of his boat. He knows everything about the area and the island and is very happy to share his knowledge. We also had the chance to snokel, swim in a cave ago for a little guided walk on the island. Definitely worth the trip.
Learn about the history and culture – museums
Visit a museum. There are the Folk Art museum in Menetes and the Archaeological Museum Karpathos in Pigadia. A great way to learn more about the history and culture of the island
In the south-east of the island there are a few windsurfing shops and you can either rent equipment if you are already experienced or take some windsurfing lessons and learn how to ride the waves.
Oympos is up on the hill and probably the most authentic village of the town. It’s cozy and has a very relaxed atmosphere. You can enjoy beautiful panoramic views and the sunset in the west and shop for some special souvenirs in the little shops.
Go Beach Hopping
There are numerous breathtaking beaches on Karpathos and you settling simply at the closest one to the hotel would be a shame. Rent a 4×4 for a couple of days and go beach hopping!
Top 5 beaches
There are many beautiful beaches and everyone has there favourite. Here is my personal top 5.
A beautiful, white sandy beach with crystal clear water. Possibility to rent umbrellas and beds at reasonable prices. There is a tavern close-by, but as the beach is a bit secluded you may want to bring drinks and food if you want to spend the day there. The way to get there is by dirt road or on a tour by boat.
Kira Panagia Beach
A nice pebble beach close to the town of Kira Panagia. That means you can stay in a pension or B&B close-by, go to a restaurant for lunch and reach it by public bus.
This is were the iconic photos with red church roof are taken.
A gorgeous beach with white sand and clear shallow water. It’s in the very south of the island and extremely popular, so it can get a bit crowded at times. It can be reached by dirt road and is not that easy to reach. There is a cafè though, which means you can spend the day there. Visit on a non-windy day and know that a couple of planes will fly straight over your head due to the proximity of the airport landing strip. It is a true beauty though and worth a visit!
A wonderful sandy beach that is usually a little less crowded due to the slightly less touristy location in the north-west. The water is very calm, it’s easily-accessible and there are restaurants and shops in the area. There is a bus from Pigadia to Lefkos.
It’s a very small beach and not as pretty as others, but it’s often also a bit more quiet, close to the fishermans village and the sunset from the beach is just stunning or have a drink at the bar “Tutuola”, overlooking the town and beach and enjoy the sunset from there.
Karpathos isn’t a big island but getting around can be a bit challenging at times as there isn’t much public transport, so if you want to be more flexible I suggest renting a car, best a 4×4 to really get everywhere without any problems. Renting a scooter is another option but keep in mind that there are very few gas stations, which might limit you in terms of distances you can drive.
If you are travelling in high season (July-September), book your car rental in advance to make sure to get a car, as it’s a very popular solution.
What and where to eat
I think I gained a few kilos in the week we where there. Greek food is just so delicious and various: fresh fish, perfectly cooked lamb, feta cheese, tzatziki, helado (similar to the Italian gelato) and plenty of sweets, especially different pastries. I could probably continue for another two pages!
- grilled or marinated octopus
- Kleftiko, a traditional lamb dish
- Dolmades, the famous stuffed wine leaves
- Moussaka, a bake with aubergine and minced meat
- Baklava (filo pastry with honey and ground nuts)
- Retsina, a Greek table wine
- Ouzo, obviously and you’ll need it after a Greek meal!
- Frappe, coffee like the locals drink it (iced instant coffee, water and sugar)
Pigadia – Pigadia Restaurant: There are many restaurants in the main town, but we found this to be the best value for money. Not a fancy restaurant but delicious food!
Olympos – Blue Garden Restaurant: When we where there there was no menu and I usually don’t like when I can’t decide, but the recommendations were spot on, the food delicious and great value for money and the sunset view just stunning. Definitely my favourite!
Finiki – Dimitrios Fisherman: There are many good fish restaurants but we absolutely loved this one! It’s also right by the sea, so you got a great view from many tables.
Amoopi Bay – Taverna Esperida: Best Kleftiko in our humble opinion and I usually don’t eat lamb!
Afiartis – Poseidon We actually didn’t make it to eat there but this restaurant is owned by the Greek MasterChef winner Angela-Anna Papavasiliou and it’s supposed to be fantastic, for sure on my list when I go there next time!
How to get there
Getting to Karpathos can be a bit tedious, especially if you are travelling from overseas. Due to its secluded location and size, there aren’t to many flights and ferries, but remember, its location and less tourists than on many other Greek island make it so special. The best way to visit is by connecting it with a trip to the European mainland, you could for example visit Athens and then fly on a domestic flight to Karpathos.
Karpathos has a rather small airport and a pretty short landing strip, so there are mainly domestic fligths and some flights from and to European countries, such as Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. If you’re travelling from overseas, you could fly to Athens and then to Karpathos.
3 times a week there’s a ferry from the Greek mainland, precisely from Piraeus, but it’s a long trip that takes about 18-20 hours. Karpathos is also connected to some other islands, like Santorini, Rhodes, Milos and a few more, but also these don’t operate daily.
Sandra is the founder of 4 Itchy Feet. She has travelled to over 30 countries and is trying to add as many more as possible, even if everyday life and her job as a translator and web marketing specialist currently don’t allow her to pack her suitcase as often as she’d like. She loves the outdoors, the sea and discovering places off the beaten track.