Despite being the third-largest Dodecanese island, poised halfway between Rhodes and Crete, long, narrow KÁRPATHOS has always been a wild and underpopulated backwater. The island’s usually cloud-capped mountainous spine, which rises to over 1200m, divides it into two very distinct sections – the low-lying south, with its pretty bays and long beaches, and the exceptionally rugged north, where deeply traditional villages nest atop towering cliffs. If you prefer to stay in a sizeable town, then Pigádhia on the east coast, Kárpathos’s capital and largest port, is a good choice, with a wide range of hotels as well as a good beach, but several smaller resorts and isolated coves also hold lovely beachfront accommodation.
Touring Kárpathos’s magnificent, windswept coastline is consistently superb, with its verdant meadows, high peaks, isolated promontories and secluded beaches, lapped by crystalline waters. The interior, however, isn’t always as alluring: the central and northern forests have been scorched by repeated fires, while agriculture plays a minor role. The Karpathians are too well off to bother much with farming; emigration to North America and the resulting remittances have made this one of Greece’s wealthiest islands.
Although the Minoans and Mycenaeans established trading posts on what they called Krapathos, the island’s four Classical cities figure little in ancient history. Kárpathos was held by the Genoese and Venetians after the Byzantine collapse and so has no castle of the Knights of St John, nor any surviving medieval fortresses of note.