Karpathos (Κάρπαθος)~A Gem in the Aegean!
Kukla’s Kouzina was born in Karpathos, so come visit with us and find out about the inspiration that makes our style of cooking so unique and delicious!
Surprisingly, this island only started to appear on tourist’s radar about 10 years ago. The oversaturation of tourism to popular isles like Crete, Rhodes, Mykonos, and Santorini no doubt led people on a road of discovery in search of a less congested place of natural beauty, authentic, picturesque villages, and exotic beaches.
Their search ended in Karpathos, a long narrow island partitioned by a mountainous ridge (boasting an altitude of over 1,200 meters), which separates the modernized southern part of the island from the virtually untouched northern region.
In the south you'll find the island's capital, Pigadia, with it’s kefi-filled tavernes, water sports, resort-style hotels, and award-winning beaches.
In the northern region, visitors can observe the most traditional villages dating back to the 1400s, where age-old customs and lifestyle reveal a simpler time and place.
This is the charm and allure of Karpathos!
An Island Paradise
In this multi-part blog, we’re going to get you up close and personal with the many intriguing facets of this remarkable precious jewel at the center of our cookbook's heritage. In this first segment we’re going to hit the best beaches and explore the sports activities Karpathos is famous for around the globe.
Top 10 Notable Beaches
TIPS: A beach must is to halfway fill a large bottle of water, freeze, then fill the rest of the bottle with cold water and take it with you to stay hydrated. Pack snacks and lunch if you’d like to save on eating out and take along a blanket and towel if you want to avoid the expense of rentals. And don't forget the sunscreen!
· Rated #1 in Europe's Best Beaches for 2003.
· Located on the central east coast, this white sand-and-pebble beach with a crystal-clear, sapphire-blue sea, is surrounded by luxurious green pine.
· This is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
· A restaurant sits above the beach…a bit pricey but, hey, it’s Apella!
· About 11 miles north of the island’s capital, Pigadia, this beach can be accessed via excursion boats departing from Pigadia, or by car. Parking is seriously limited so, if you’re driving, get there early!
Kyra Panagia Beach
· One of the most famous beaches in Karpathos, Kyra Panagia, on the central east coast, is a tourist and native favorite for two reasons, it’s close to the capital, about 9 miles north, and absolutely gorgeous.
· The beach is named after the Virgin Mary (with its namesake church situated above the beach) and is composed of golden sand and deep-blue water with chair and umbrella rentals.
· There’s also a rock that you can safely jump off of into the sea. The water in this area is pretty deep so you have to be a strong swimmer to dive in.
· The beach is easily accessed from the village of Aperi, 4.4 miles away.
· Eight miles north of Pigadia on the east coast is Ahata, a lovely, quiet pebble beach with large pebbles on land that become tiny in the water.
· Great for sunbathing but beware if you’re not a strong swimmer—after 2 steps into the water you will find yourself completely submerged and it can be tricky to climb out because the pebbles shift as you try to get out.
· There is a taverna just steps from the beach and they have great frappé!
· The beach is easily accessed from the village of Aperi, about 3 miles away.
There are two Amoopi beaches (because just one wouldn’t be enough!) on the southeast coast: Megali (big) Amoopi or Votsalakia (meaning little pebbles) and Mikri (small) Amoopi. Umbrellas and chairs can be rented at both beaches. Both are about 4.5 miles south of Pigadia and can be accessed by car or bus from the capital.
· This is the most popular beach in Karpathos, with a mix of young and older tourists. Greek/Karpathian-Americans, island natives—this is where they all meet up and hang out.
· There are three restaurants at Megali Amoopi and a taverna called "Avra" where young people drink coffee and play tavli (Greek backgammon) and there’s beach volleyball right next door.
· One of the loveliest beaches on the island with light golden sand and shimmering blue water.
· Smaller and more quiet than Megali Amoopi (perfect for the serious sunbather).
· This beach has a few tavernes.
· Just south of Megali Amoopi (you can walk between the two beaches).
· A lovely sandy beach situated on the southwest side of the island in the town of Arkasa, about 10 miles from Pigadia.
· The waves make this one of the best beaches for windsurfing, body surfing, or boogie boarding.
· You do need to be a strong swimmer, and stay away from the left-hand side of the beach where markers are posted in the water about the riptide that exists on that side only.
· Facilities include umbrellas, sunbeds, and freshwater showers.
· Arkasa's Agios Nikolaos features great fish tavernes near the beach.
· The beach can be accessed by car or bus from Pigadia.
Agios Minas Beach
· A remote beach on the northeast side of the island north of Apella, Agios Minas is one of the most beautiful small, flat-pebble beaches in Karpathos.
· This secluded, wide beach, tucked into the heart of nature, could only be accessed by private boat prior to 2004, but today it is a tourist mecca, with sunbed rentals and an odd little taverna. Your best bet here would be to bring your own chair, food, and drink.
· There’s a rough gravel road leading to the beach, so the best way to access it is to rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle or take a boat excursion from Pigadia.
· Within the bay of Pigadia on the east coast is Vrontis (the locals also call it “Xenonas”), the largest sandy beach in Karpathos. It stretches 2.5 miles, and is connected to Ammos and Afoti beaches.
· The beach is covered with sunbeds and umbrellas, and there’s a large soft-sand area where visitors can play a number of beach games.
· Perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and families.
· Many restaurants, tavernes, and shops surround the area.
· Vrontis is easily accessible on foot if you’re staying in Pigadia.
· Diafani is a fishing village built around a small bay and is home to the second most important port in Karpathos. The picturesque white flat-roofed houses surround the bay, offering a lovely view of the fishing boats and port. The beauty of the village and port have turned Diafani into a budding tourist destination over the last few years.
· Diafani is on the northeast side of the island, 41.5 miles from Pigadia, and 6.2 miles from the traditional village of Olympos.
· Diafani's small beach is next to the port and consists of little, flat pebbles and trees for shade.
· After swimming and sunbathing, walk up to any of the fresh-fish tavernes that line the waterfront and enjoy their local dishes, a cold beverage, and their hospitality while looking out at the beautiful Aegean Sea.
· There are a few small hotels in this laid-back town. Add the charming setting and it’s the perfect destination for a relaxing family or couple’s getaway.
· The roads leading to Diafani are long and difficult by car but the beach and village are easily accessed by boat from Pigadia.
· The exotic beach of Diakofti, with its white-golden-sand beach and crystal-clear emerald water, is on the southern end of the island, about 13 miles from Pigadia. The magnificent landscape surrounding the beach, on it’s own, is worth the trip.
· Accessing the beach is easy. By car from Pigadia, take the road to Arkasa, then turn left and follow the road along the runway to the airport (about 3.7 miles). This is the ultimate scenic route and the remarkable beauty of this place will make up for the time it takes to get to the beach.
· If you turn right at the fork (heading west) just before Diakofti Beach, you will come across bays with three secluded sandy beaches that are equally as beautiful: “Tou Mihaliou o Kepos”/Michaliou Kipos (“The Garden of Michael”), Psorari(s), and Pounta. These beaches have no facilities at all but are perfect for peaceful moments to enjoy the splendor of their natural wonder.
Lefkos Bay Beaches
· Lefkos Bay is on the central west coast and has shady pine trees that surrounded a long white-sand beach that includes three coves with crystalline waters. The first cove, Gialou Chorafi (the field at the beach), is the most popular beach in the area and offers the most in facilities; the second, Panagias Limani (the port of the Holy Mother) is small and quiet; the third, Fragolimniona(s), is the largest and most impressive which also has many facilities and lies across from the small island of Sokastro.
· There are many hotels and good fish tavernes near the beach.
· Lefkos Bay is 19.3 miles from Pigadia and 10.6 miles from Arkasa village. To access the beach and village from Pigadia, drive west through the mountains. From Arkasa, drive north along the coast.
· The small rocky, volcanic islet of Saria, on the northern edge of Karpathos, is separated from the mainland by a long, narrow channel (330 feet wide). It’s believed that at one time the two islands were joined and a strong earthquake divided them.
· This tiny isolated island has a stunning landscape of sharp cliffs, calcareous rock beds, deep caves and fast-running streams that surround virgin white-sand beaches with crystal-clear water.
· Historical records reveal that the ancient city and kingdom of Nisyros existed here. The ruins of Nisyros, including a temple devoted to Apollo, can still be found on the seabed between Saria and Karpathos.
· Today Saria is inhabited by a handful of people, mostly shepherds that tend their flocks. There is also a breeding area for a falcon variety called Eleonora’s Falcon.
· In the summer, you can access Saria via small tour boats from Pigadia with frequent daily excursions.
A Treasure Trove Of Water Sports And More!
Windsurfing / Surfing
Because of its distance from mass tourism, Karpathos is able to offer its isolated beaches, scenic, welcoming mountain villages, and intimate tavernes. What makes this island so attractive is the untouched countryside, hospitable natives, and natural wonders. One of those wonders is Karpathos’ well-renowned wind guarantee, making windsurfing the ultimate sport.
In the summer months, Karpathos is a windsurfer's dream come true. The geography of this long, narrow island situated between Rhodes and Crete puts Karpathos in the ideal location for the Meltemi anemos (ἄνεμος, wind) blowing full force from the north through the high mountains. High-winds peak In July and August making the surf conditions beyond perfect for experienced windsurfers.
ION Club offers rentals and instruction. Three bays at the southern tip of the island (where the wind is strongest) cover all experience levels and styles: beach-start, waist-deep Chicken Bay (for novices, intermediates, and freestylers), world-famous Gun Bay (for intermediates and experienced), and Devil’s Bay (for the pros). Steady winds in May and between September and October, make conditions ideal for beginners and intermediates, as well as for experts.
Kitesurfing courses for beginner to advanced are also available.
Surfvival is the first surf school in Karpathos
and offers classes (and boards) on four beautiful beaches on the west coast of the island near the village of Arkasa−Agios Nikolaos, Agia Sofia, Agios Georgios, and Fokia−that are ideal for kids, beginners, intermediate, and advanced, as well as for swimmers and non-surfing friends who just want to relax and watch. The shore-braking waves are perfect for any surf experience. They also offer windsurfing and bike rentals!
Diving is first rate here and the Karpathos Diving Center, located in Pigadia on the main promenade road near the center of the city, is your ticket to diving tours through the island’s underwater caverns, corridors, reefs, alleys, a cathedral (an enormous chamber with numerous entrances and beams of sunlight streaming in from the surface), and so much more!
Shore and boat diving adventures and classes for beginners to experienced go from 12m to 40m deep, and reveal a stunning view of marine life and pelagic species, including stingrays, spiny lobster, tuna, rare yellow anemones, red sponges, sea bream, sardines, gold-blotch groupers, moray eels, and monk seals.
Excursions take divers to over a dozen prime locations, including Kastelia Bay, Fokias Reef, Ahata Beach, Kyra Panagia, Diafani (with a visit to the 1988 shipwreck MS Dias visited by amberjacks), Saria Island (a favorite spot for monk seals), Pigadia Bay (where you can spot ammo from WW2 or check out St. Peter’s Cathedral).
Karpathos is also the best snorkeling destination in the Mediterranean, especially on the pebbly west coast, which attracts a variety of fish, and the underwater nature is staggering. Lonely Planet named Karpathos among the best islands for snorkeling/diving and for good reason. The natural coral reefs throughout the island are home to a number of sea creatures and flora, and you can snorkel off any beach.
You never know what you’re going to find so pack your flippers and get ready to discover the many underwater utopias this island has to offer!
Walking, Hiking & Mountain Biking
This is an ideal place for families, trekkers, and thrill-seekers interested in walking, hiking, ATV rental, and mountain biking.
The trekking paths that cross the island lead visitors to breathtaking settings, and there are 60 or 70 fun trails in Karpathos for serious mountain bikers, as well as beginners, that are enjoyed year round. Wear good shoes (no flip-flops) and bring SPF and water!
And for those who are into surf & turf, get directions to walking/hiking locations up above the water to a spot where you can safely jump in and cool off.
BEST HIKE: Take a walk up the lush and wild Flaskias gorge to the plateau of Lastos and climb to Kali Limni (1,215 m), the highest summit on Karpathos (a 5- to 6-hour walk). The view from the top is spectacular!
BEACH YOGA: Find Your Inner Greek Yogi!
How to Get There
From Piraeus in Athens, there are 17- to 21-hour ship and ferry excursions to Karpathos throughout the year. In the summer, there are boat tours to Karpathos from Crete and other Aegean islands.
Karpathos also has an international airport, with direct summer flights from Athens taking just 30 minutes. Olympic Air offers flights to Karpathos from Athens, as well as from Thessaloniki, the two largest cities in Greece.
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Kali orexi! Good appetite!
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