While the south side has a relatively busy town with modest tourism infrastructure and many hotels, the north offers an isolated experience with more individual accommodation such as guesthouses, apartments that look like private homes, and small family hotels. In fact, the whole northern part of the island, along with the neighboring mountainous islet of Saria, falls in the Natura 2000 protected reserve, as well as in Greece’s third and latest marine park area. This means the biodiversity on this island is unparalleled, from endangered species from the monk seal (Monachus Monachus) to endemic flowers.
According to the Environmental Management Agency of the Karpathos-Saria protected area, Karpathos is home to one of the largest populations of the monk seal and has been declared one of the ‘Important Bird Areas of Europe’. Its caves has rare owls and bats, while are salamanders, frogs and serpents roam the land.
Apart from fauna and flora, a breathtaking collection of wild beaches, sign-posted hiking paths, archeological sites, folklore museums, lazy traditional cafés, authentic seaside restaurants and historic whitewashed churches await visitors to this enchanting island. Eco-friendly sporting activities include hiking and trekking there are great spots for windsurfing, diving and rock climbing, kite-surfing, birdwatching and mountain biking, so be prepared to embrace nature in a myriad of ways.
You’re going to love exploring the handful of villages or settlements on the northern side, such as the stunningly traditional village of Olymbos, the area of Avlona in a valley with 300 traditional farmhouses yet not many inhabitants, and the seaside port of Diafani with its seafood restaurants. Adventurers could also hike to the gorgeous bay of Tristomo (reached only by foot or by boat), representing the furthest and north-most little settlement on the island – but do take enough water and snacks with you as there are no public shops or café there.
The south side shouldn’t be neglected either, as it also hides some superb sights and secrets. Othos, the highest village of Karpathos, boasts a folklore museum and the gallery of local artist Yannis Hapsis. The nearby village of Piles offers spectacular sunsets and great views of Kasos island, especially from the Panorama Café Restaurant. Marvel at the houses of Aperi and dine in its restaurants, then pass by nearby Volada to admire the houses as well. If you’re fond of the sea head to the small fishing villages of Finiki (known for its seafood restaurants) and Lefkos. As you go from south to north, make a rest stop at the traditional village of Mesochori with its breathtaking views and to nearby Spoa to see the views of Karpathos’ eastern side.
Lastly, the mouth-watering culinary secrets of Karpathos shouldn’t be neglected. Based on healthy Southern Mediterranean ingredients with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and sumptuous seafood, the cuisine boasts delicious local cheeses (armotyri and meriari), flavourful baby olives, fresh bread from wood ovens, rye rusks to eat in salads, a curious cabbage pie (lahanopita), alevria cookies, onion bread rings, the occasional lamb dish and much more uncommon dishes. On the sweeter side you must try the sesame honey (sousamomelo), sweet cheese pies and the island’s special version of baklava.
If you crave an authentic Mediterranean experience that does not cater to mass tourism, Karpathos will certainly not disappoint.