When you first time come to Karpathos, you will soon understand that this island is somehow special. You straight feel this refreshing and relaxing energy, which is emitted everywhere on the island. You take a swim at one of 75 spectacular beaches and you enjoy a taste of great homemade food which you can get in all traditional taverns. In the evening you take a romantic walk through picturesque streets of the main city or other beautiful village, where you stay for your holiday. “It was a beautiful day… “ You say. And it was just the first day. All the adventures are still waiting for you so let us bring some of them closer to you.
Karpathos and Saria (on the north of Karpathos) are one of the most gifted Greek islands regarding the nature, culture, folklore and even the history.
When you realize that so many beaches (75) can be found on Karpathos, it’s at first hard to believe. It is something the visitor cannot find in many islands of Greece: virgin beaches with crystal clear waters, sand or tiny pebbles, which have remained untouched by human activity. Just a few of them are touristic; the rest (around 60 beaches) you can enjoy alone.
Such a variety of scenery of the island is incomparable. The transition from one landscape to another is frequent, unexpected and it never gives the visitor a feeling of boredom or monotony. In contrary, high and steep mountains (Kali Limni 1215m high – the highest in the Dodekanese) compose unique scenery.
The most interesting about Karpathos is its effort to support protection of nature. Big part of the island belongs to protected area Natura 2000. The biodiversity of the region is significant and includes numerous rare endemic species of plants and animals, which are protected by law. North of Karpathos with Saria island are the habitat of “number one” endangered animal – the Mediterranean seal. You can visit the agency in the port of Diafani, where you will see beautiful photo exposition and get more interesting information.
Karpathos is very exceptional in Europe because of its rich tradition, which has origins already in the ancient times. Local people are really devoted to preserve their customs, music, dances and lore. It is most probably due to its geographical position (Karpathos is quite remote island and historically was very isolated) and due to genuine unique Karpathian spirit.
You can taste the strongest traditions of Karpathos in the north of the island – especially in villages of Olympos and Avlona where local people wear traditional dresses still nowadays. Electricity was introduced here in 1980. For these and many other reasons has been Olympos on waiting list to be included in UNESCO World Heritage Site.
History is not a hobby for everyone. But the history, which you will taste in Karpathos, is very adventurous, mythical, interesting and full of mysteries. Maybe you have already heard that Karpathos is an island of Poseidon, the God of the Sea. It is said, that he was born there. Not far from Pigadia (the main city) can be found a cave, where he was born. It is a beautiful cave with carved tombs, surely older than 3400 years. There are more places on the island dedicated to the God of the Sea like Poseidon’s throat (artificial water geyser), Poseidon’s eye – beautiful natural rock sculpture and so on.
Interesting for nowadays traveler can be the history of pirates, which is very significant on Karpathos. The first fleets of Pirates (Saracens) arrived to the island in 7th century AD. They were very aggressive and pushed the citizens to flee and hide in the mountains of Karpathos for centuries. This is how the Karpathian people build castles and villages in the mountains – on hardly reachable places and not easy recognizable from the sea. The pirates used the island for centuries – it was very strategic point placed straight on commercial maritime routes of the merchant ships, which were trading between Alexandria and Greece. There is not much known about the pirates on the island, as they didn’t assimilate with local people – but that is the mystery, which is so interesting to search for. You can listen to interesting stories about the pirate treasures found on Karpathos – you can go to see the caves where they have been found. You can see authentic pirate village in Arkasa and on Saria or you can go snorkeling with our guide on special places, where he shows you the rests of big naval battle…. Doesn’t it sound interesting?
… and now something about the far history. First traces of human life are from 4000BC but the first strongest influence comes with Minoans (2000-1450BC) from Crete. They were peaceful colonists building trading network with other far lands and brought strong economic and cultural development. The traces of their settlements can be found in Pigadia (ancient city of Potidaion) and in Afiartis, where they had probably situated their biggest ports. After the volcanic eruption of Thira (Santorini), which devastated northern Crete and crippled the Minoan trading fleets, Mycenaeans used the situation and took control not only of Crete, but also other centers including Karpathos. From this time there are remains of Mycenaean walls, which are still visible in Pigadia (ancient city of Potidaion), Arkasa (ancient city of Arkesia) and Vroukounta (ancient city of Vrykous) and many findings of beautiful pottery. The Karpathians participated in Trojan War (around 1200BC) by sending huge fleet over the sea to assist the Greeks against Troy. In another century Poseidion (renamed Potidaion by Mycenaeans) became trading harbor for Phoenicians, who most probably found also port of Finiki and named it after them. But the situation changed again and Greek tribe of Dorian migrants arrived on the island around 1000BC. They were aggressive but they built four cities – Tetrapolis (Poseidion, Arkesia Vrykous and Nissiros in Saria) and brought the biggest prosperity to the island.
Karpathos was involved in several Greek wars over the centuries, and enjoyed self-rule during the Hellenistic period. Then various invaders came to conquer and rule: Romans, Arabs, Venetians, Ottoman Turks, Italians and others. Each left a mark on island history.