Karpathos Island, Greece
GoNOMAD DESTINATION MINI GUIDE Karpathos Island, Greece
By Roberta Beach Jacobson
A 302-square kilometer Greek island.
Unlike Corfu, you won’t encounter any maddening crowds of tourists or all-night partiers on this tiny island, which still has a very traditional Greek culture. Main port towns of Pigadia andDiafani are pedestrian-friendly and low-key.
WHEN TO GO
The relatively small number of tourists to have discovered this island arrive in July and August, when sunshine averages 12.5 hours per day. Most are adventurers interested in hiking, cycling, swimming or windsurfing.
By October, all charter flights have ended, marking the unofficial end of the season. Shops close their doors and restaurants roll down their awnings. Many hotels close until Easter. Winter is a bit chilly, but still pleasant. And definitely low-key.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
The Karpathos Airport is linked by charter flights to much of Europe: Vienna, Graz, Salzburg, Munich, Frankfurt, Duesseldorf, Amsterdam, Ljubljana, Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki and Milano.
Olympic Airways connects Karpathos to Athens, Rhodes, Kassos and Sitia.
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Regular ferry service in season connects Karpathos to Pireaus (Athens) via Naxos, Paros, Thira, Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Kassos, Diafani, Halki, Rhodes, Kos, Kalymnos, Samos, Mitilene, Chios, Lesbos, Alexandroupolis.
Taxis operate day and night, while bus service only runs days and not Sundays. The island’s port towns (Diafani and Pigadia) are connected by ferry. You can also rent a bike, motor scooter or car.
BEST MAJOR ATTRACTION
- Art Center
Minas Vlahos returned home from California about a dozen years ago and has developed a method of painting on marble. His gallery (near the town hall in Pigadia) sells his cards, sculptures and paintings, most with dolphins and angels as themes. He uses lights and New Age music to highlight his latest works.
BEST UNUSUAL ATTRACTION
In the northern village of Olympos, you’ll see women in traditional costume baking bread in huge outdoor ovens atop hills.
BEST ACTIVITY AND TOUR
Notice how the island’s trees grow bending toward the south. The harsh north winds make Karpathos a windsurfing paradise, but it is no place for beginners! Windsurfing boards can be rented at hotels and in the main towns.
Hike up the goat path to the top of Kali Limni peak (1215 meters), but only go on a clear day. If fog sets in, you can’t find your bearings to make it down.
BEST LOCAL HAUNT
- Galileo Cyber Cafe
Internet café located in the pedestrian zone of Pigadia’s town center.
- Pension Olympos (in Olympos)
Rooms are decorated in old Karpathian style, including the traditional platform bed. Walls are adorned with handcarved lutes and lyres. Cost: $18 for a double.
Avoid the tourist traps in the harbor town of Pigadia and head to the small fishing village of Finiki, The friendly tavernas serve the fresh catch of the day. BEST ENTERTAINMENT
Festivals are held in all the villages throughout the year, where food is free, wine flows freely and music is in the air. Dancing is encouraged.
VISAS AND DOCUMENTS
Valid passport only.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
No special shots necessary for entry to Greece. The island has a clinic and though lines can be long, medical care is free (the patient pays only for medicines). If you sleep on the beach, beware of sand fleas.
MONEY AND COMMUNICATIONS
Foreign currencies can be exchanged for Greek drachma at the three large banks (closed weekends) in the harbor town, at many travel offices (same rate, less a small fee) and some stores (these at a lower rate). There are ATMs at two banks. Less than a quarter of the island’s restaurants, shops and hotels accept any form of credit cards, so think cash.
- Galileo Cyber Cafe
Internet café located in the pedestrian zone of the town center.
Roberta Beach Jacobson is a writer who, lucky her, lives on a Greek Island.