Majestic mountains suggest this is the mythological home of the Titans
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Exploring the Past on Karpathos

According to legend, Karpathian pirates loved their island so much that they travelled to Mount Olympus to kidnap the gods. The unsuspecting captives were taken back to Karpathos and settled in a village high on a mountain, which the pirates named Olympos. The hilltop town definitely exists today. And much of the island’s history has indeed been defined by pirates; certainly as much as its character has been shaped by striking mountains. Whether the ancient gods lived here or not, Karpathos is one of the least commercial of the Greek islands. Mountain settlements, of which Olympos is only one, are so remote they have often been described as having been left in the past. Another myth, as some enterprising residents use AirBnB to advertise their accommodation for tourists. Karpathos is unequivocally an island of contrasts: beautiful beaches and magnificent mountains, a worldly present with a fascinating past.

Top Tours & Activities in Karpathos

Archaeology and History Sites in Karpathos

Lefkos Roman Cistern
The Roman cistern near Lefkos, Karpathos.

Between the town of Lefkos and the seaside resort of Kato Lefkos are the relatively well preserved ruins of a Roman cistern. Cut out of bedrock and covered over with large carved rock, seven underground galleries were used to collect underground water. A flight of steps into the structure enabled people to access these storage tanks for water supplies. The facility probably served the community living at Kato Lefkos. The site is well sign posted, and well worth a visit as there are few specifically Roman sites on the island ... More Information & Photographs >>

Church of St George, Lefkos
The Byzantine Church of St George near Lefkos, Karpathos.

Just above a river bed at the base of mountains overlooking the town of Lefkos is a Byzantine church dedicated to Saint George. The stone-built church dates to the 12th century, perhaps even earlier. A number of well preserved frescoes can be seen in the church, including an image of St George. As with many Byzantine churches, the frescoes were whitewashed - possibly during the Ottoman period of the island's history.

Museums in Karpathos

Karpathos Archaeology Museum
The Karpathos Archaeology Museum in Pigadia.

The museum is housed in the west wing of the early 20th century building that overlooks the port of Pigadia. An eclectic mix of architectural styles, the building was constructed to house the Italian administration. Three galleries cover the three main periods of the island's past: prehistory, Classical and Byzantine. Although not extensive, the exhibits give a very good introduction to the early history of the island. One of the most striking displays is the collection of artefacts recovered from a 14th century BC chambered tomb.

Archaeological, Folklore & Historical Museum of Arkasa
The archaeology, folklore and history museum in Arkasa, Karpathos.

In a purpose-built museum a local priest gathered together a small but interesting collection of artefacts from the area around the town of Arkasa. A wall in the entrance displays a series of religious icons in various states of preservation, the oldest about two or three hundred years old. Alongside bleached bones of sea animals is a shell encrusted Roman amphorae. Capitals from the columns of early Christian churches are staked on on top of each other next to a collection of historic shoe-making tools.

Where to Stay in Karpathos

Karpathos is a big enough island to have the usual range of hotels; from budget to 5*, as well as B&Bs and AirBnBs. Out of season the choice is a bit limited, but from May through to September most hotels are open for the summer. Arriving early, I was so limited and made the wrong choice. Just avoid any establishment that alludes to the rising sun. It offers nothing but a false dawn. I found the Alimounda Mare Hotel too late, but wish I had stayed there my entire time. Right on the edge of a wonderful beach, and within walking distance of an Early Christian Basilica. That bed! Heaven really is a place in Karpathos.

The Alimounda Mare Hotel on the edge of Pigadia, Karpathos.

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