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1. Olympos

Olympos is the northernmost village on the island of Karpathos, located high up in Mount Prophet Elias. Till the late 1980s, the village was isolated from the southern part of the island. Even today the trip to Olympos takes more than an hour, due to the winding road that crosses a very mountainous area of Karpathos. The road weaves up and down steep hills and then the village comes into view. It is a very picturesque village, filled with beauty and rich traditions that have been preserved to date, thanks to this long-lasting isolation.

Olympos was built in 900 AD. by refugees from the ancient town of Vrykounda, one of the three ancient cities of Karpathos. Vrykounda was located in a small bay near the village of Avlona. The ruins of the ancient village can still be seen today. Vrykounda was not safe due to pirate raids so the inhabitants moved to a more protected place in the mountains, where they built the village of Olympos. The new village expanded and became the most important on the island.

In Olympos you will meet local women who are still dressed in their traditional dresses which include a black apron and a simple headscarf around the head during weekdays, and colorful clothes with a double row of golden coins on celebration days. Local craftsmen still make the traditional leather boots while others make musical instruments for feasts and festivals. And people still speak the local dialect that has remnants of ancient and Medieval Greek.

Walking through the narrow passageways and the numerous stairs, you will discover dozens of traditional bakeries, small orthodox churches and numerous windmills, some of them still in use. The shops sell handmade wooden utensils, crafts and excellent local products. The tradition can also be tasted in the family tavernas which serve fresh and exquisite dishes like ‘makarounes’, a local handmade pasta from a soft dough that is served with fresh mizithra cheese and sauteed onions. The traditional lifestyle is everywhere in Olympos. That is why it is considered a living folklore museum, making it a unique place not only in Karpathos but in the whole Greece.

Among the main attractions is the church of the Assumption of the Virgin, adorned with frescoes that date from the years of the Ottoman rule. In the Cultural Museum of Olympos you can learn more of the island’s cultural heritage while on the backbone of the village, numerous windmills are lined up, most of them ruined now. In the past Olympos was one of the largest producers of flour, supplying the rest of the island.

What makes the Olympos so beautiful apart of its traditions, is its exceptional location. Typical Karpathian houses are amphitheatrically built on the top and the slopes of the mountain, all with breathtaking view to the rest of the island and to the endless blue of the Aegean Sea. Unfortunately, many of the houses are uninhabited because of immigration but many have been renovated. Vehicles are not allowed and they have to stay in the car park, in the outskirts of the village.

Despite the mountainous terrain of the area, the residents took advantage of the water springs and any arable part of land they could find, in order to create farming fields. Being innovative and hard-working, they managed to become self-sufficient with their own crops, animals and windmills (almost all houses had one). The stone-built ovens were too many to be counted and all the women used to bake bread and food. The villagers were not only tough workers but also great musicians. Thus, some of the best traditional musicians of the island come from Olympos. Nowadays, most of the people are also engaged in tourism.

Protected Historical Monument - ΦΕΚ 594/Δ/13-11-1978

2. Pigadia

During the Bronze Age, the first Minoan settlers arrived at the location of today’s capital and port of the island, which was then called Poseidio or Potidaio. Potidaio was abandoned after 1200 BC due to raids and its residents moved to a naturally fortified position, where the town of Aperi is located today, and founded the town of Karpathos. Today, under the name Pigadia, the capital is the administrative and commercial centre of the island and can serve as a great base for trips to the southern and central part of the island. You can pay a visit to the ruins of the ancient town which are located next to the port.

3. Menetes

Menetes is the largest village on the island and is located on the south side of Karpathos, 8 km from the capital town, Pigadia. It is amphitheatrically built on the northern slope of Mount Profitis Elias. It is distinguished by its traditional architecture, with the colorful houses and the narrow alleys. The landmark of the village is the church of the Assumption of the Virgin with the carved, wooden iconostasis dating from the 19th century, which is built at the edge of the cliff. Every year on the 15th of August a big festival takes place in the village in honor of the Virgin. The view from the courtyard towards the village and the capital town of Karpathos, Pigadia is really stunning.

The village dates from the Middle Ages during the time that the Greek islands were exposed to pirate attacks. In the dark centuries of the raids, the Menetian resistance was a symbol against every conqueror, and their inhabitants were always pioneers in the liberation wars and symbolized patriotism and freedom.

In the outskirts of the village lies the church of Agios Mamas, a chapel of remarkable architecture and frescoes dating from 1300 A.D. Menetes also houses the folklore museum of the island, with collections of archaeological finds, vessels and sculptures. The visitor has the chance to walk in the small alleys, to taste traditional dishes in the taverns of the village and to drink coffee in traditional cafes.

 

4. Mesochori

Mesochori is a traditional, picturesque village on the island of Karpathos. It is built on the northwestern slopes of Mount Lastos, 31 km from the island's capital, Pigadia and it offers panoramic views and amazing sunsets over the Aegean Sea and to the huge mountains on the north.

Mesochori is considered to be one the most picturesque and beautiful villages of Karpathos. It displays a traditional character with whitewashed houses and stairs, narrow alleys and beautiful gardens filled with flowers and agricultural plants. Most of the houses have preserved their traditional architecture. In the center, lies the square, which according to the residents is one of the most beautiful squares of all the villages. It is surrounded by cafes and traditional tavernas and can only be reached through the paved alleys that cross the village.

The most important attraction of Mesochori, is the Byzantine church of Panagia Vrysiani, built in 1553 and renovated in 1791. The church owes its name to the natural spring that stands next to it. It celebrates annually on September, 8 and during the three-day feast, crowds of pilgrims from Karpathos and neighboring Kasos visit the village to pay honor to the icon of the Virgin and participate in the feast. Only a few kilometers of Mesochori lies the small seaside village of Lefkos and the traditional village of Spoa.

Why to visit Mesochori

  • To enjoy breathtaking sea and sunset views
  • Because it is an authentic, traditional village of Karpathos

5. Diafani

Diafani is a small fishing village situated in a bay, on the northeast side of the island, below the traditional and historic hilltop village of Olymbos. It is the second most important port of Karpathos and in ancient times the harbor of Olympos. Although not as picturesque as Olympos, it is a charming village, famous for the hospitality it offers and the friendly inhabitants. Colorful houses beautifully decorated are built amphitheatrically on the slopes of the surrounding hills, overlooking the Aegean Sea, while on top are some abandoned windmills. 

The beach of Diafani, stretches right in front and is organized with parasols and sun loungers. The beach is covered with pebbles like most beaches in this part of the island and has crystal-clear waters. If you like hiking and discovering small bays, Diafani is the right place. There are many lovely beaches nearby, the most famous of which is Vananda. The port is the starting point for daily boat trips to the island of Saria, many unspoiled beaches and the little village of Tristomo.

Diafani is an ideal destination for people seeking relaxing holidays and traditional Greek hospitality in a wonderful setting. Walking through the streets, you can come across little taverns where you can taste the local Greek dishes and fresh fish. In Diafani you will not find any big hotels but there are small family hotels, apartments and studios to rent.