Only an hour away by air from Athens we find the island paradise of Karpathos. Still largely undiscovered by tourists, it is mostly visited by Greeks looking for a nearby getaway. One of the primary reasons that visitors are few is the fact that there is only one weekly ferry from Athens. Therefore, all visitors either come by group charter flights from Europe; or as independent travelers on scheduled flights from Athens.

Karpathos is Unique…

Karpathos is a small island in the southernmost segment of the Aegean Sea, between Crete and Rhodes, with a population of about 7,000 year-round. Although you may only find a handful of American tourists here, there is a wave of what the locals call “The Americans” each year, who come back to spend the summer. This refers to those who have Karpathian roots, but moved away; or for those born in the United States, where they live during most of the year.

Many who return to the island to live permanently are younger (second or third generation Americans), who are tired of the American way of life, and wish to live more simply and embrace their cultural roots. They set up shop as artists, carpenters, builders, and restaurateurs in these villages, revitalizing the communities during the process.

What Is Here…

With the recent popularity of Greece as a destination, you are going to want to visit for what is not here. And that is over-tourism. The Municipality of Karpathos Island Tourism Committee is a group of local officials, a tour company and accommodation owners – along with others who have a vested interest in the community. They have seen what hordes of tourists do to an island, and they are developing their programs to welcome visitors, while making sure that overdevelopment and over-tourism don’t occur on their ecological wonder of an island.

On Karpathos, you can take day boat trips such as Kapetan Nikolas or the boat ”Sofia My Love” up the coast to glorious beaches; enjoy private tours of the villages like the traditional Olympos with Ecotourism Karpathos; or go local with guided hikes, biking, wind and kite surfing, bird watching, fishing, cooking classes, museums, visiting historical ruins, glass bottom boat, scuba diving, and perhaps attend a festival. My suggestion is to contact Holiday World Karpathos Travel and have them arrange a complete itinerary for you. From finding the best flights from Athens and determining the best hotels to fit any budget, to arranging activities for you in Karpathos and even hiring a private guide, they are a local, family-run company with many years of experience with international visitors. One of the best places to gather info about Karpathos before and during your visit is the free app Karpathos Guide on Google Play or App store. (It works offline too)

Island accommodations run the gamut of rooms to-let in private homes and self-catered apartments, to a diversity of hotels from small standard hotels to a full-service, more luxurious hotel with dining, bars, pools, and music in the evening. Looking for a luxury hotel experience? Alimounda Mare Hotel Karpathos is situated directly on the beach, and is only a short walk into the port town of Pigadia. The hotel’s sumptuous buffet breakfast, which also includes traditional Greek breakfast items, is the best way to wake up. After your day of exploring the natural beauty of the island, enjoying a sunset here from the infinity pool with a refreshing drink in-hand is perfection.

The Food…

Most islanders have gardens and raise vegetables, fruit, and wine grapes. Fish and seafood is featured prominently on menus, and in the everyday diets of the locals. In fact, there is no commercial wine or olive oil production on the island, but many of the Greek Americans come each year and get their supplies of Karpathos foodstuffs, homemade wine and olive oil to take home with them. One of the most delightful aspects of Karpathos is dining in the tavernas that are typically situated by the waterfront, ports, or fronting the beaches. At Maxims Taverna in the main port of Pigadia, you can order a small carafe of white or red wine that the owner makes to go with your meal. Plus, that Mediterranean diet that we always hear about is alive and well here – taking advantage of the plentiful fresh ingredients. Visitors are always amazed at the fact that they don’t gain weight while enjoying such amazing food at every turn!

There are several traditional dishes that are made in a distinct Karpathos-style. For example, you will find the famous Makaroúnes (Ma-kah-roux-nays) handmade pasta all over the island. But in the village of Olympos, they hand make them using a roll, push, and indent method all in one smooth motion.  The unique shape differentiates these Olympos Makaroúnes from the shapes made on rest of the island. The fresh pasta is then boiled, drained, mixed with goat butter and goat cheese, and topped with crispy roasted onion. It’s a hearty, fragrant and definitely a filling dish. The type of cheese and butter used on Karpathos makes all of the difference in the flavor of the dish, but it is unfortunately not available in the United States so savor every last bite in Karpathos.

Why Visit…

Tourism is just taking off on Karpathos. They have a large airport (by Greek island standards), numerous accommodation options to fit every budget, delicious food, a relaxed way of life, interesting small museums like the Agricultural Museum of Piles (Pyles) offering a glimpse of daily life in the not-so-distant past, the important Archaeological Museum of Karpathos with artifacts dating back to the Mycenaen era, miles of world-class hiking, crystalline waters perfect for diving, snorkeling and swimming, stunning beaches, exceptional windsurfing and mountain biking, visits by boat to a deserted island called Saria, pine forests, and indigenous birds to view. There are also festivals and celebrations with traditional dancing and music that go on for days with people who are welcoming and genuine. But the most compelling reason to visit Karpathos and spend some time here, is for what it doesn’t have ˗ it’s one of the most peaceful Greek islands without the crowds. The caveat? You should go now before the rest of the world catches on…

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