Olympos Karpathos – The Greek Village That Time Forgot

Olympos is a mountain village in Karpathos Greece. It’s famous for its remote location, and its women who still wear traditional costumes. Here’s what to do and see in Olympos Karpathos Greece.

Olympos Village in Karpathos Greece

The best known village in Karpathos is Olympos, a remote settlement built amphitheatrically up on the mountains. If you are doing research for a Karpathos vacation, you will undoubtedly come across photos of the colorful village.

Olympos is famous for its isolated location, and idyllic atmosphere. It looks like it’s hanging between the sky and the sea, and enjoys fantastic views towards the Aegean Sea.

A view of Olympos village Karpathos

Olympos is also known for its strong traditions. People who live here follow centuries-old customs, and stick to the values they learnt from their families many decades ago. Some women still dress in traditional attire, and the local celebrations are a sight to behold.

Although the village is no longer as secluded as it was in the 1980s or 1990s, it still remains one of the highlights of Karpathos and has an authentic feel. Here’s what makes Olympos so special.

The traditional Olympos village in Karpathos

Olympos village was first inhabited in the Byzantine times. Due to its isolated mountainous location, it offered shelter from the pirate attacks, which were frequent during those times.

Until the 1980s, the village was completely cut off from the rest of Karpathos. There was no road connection and no electricity, and communication with the outside world was very limited.

This is one of the reasons there are so many small churches in the village. As the locals were so detached from the outside world, they put all their hopes in God’s hands.

A view of Olympos in Karpathos

Ιn the last few decades, infrastructure projects were carried out on Karpathos. As a result, Olympos was finally connected with the rest of the island, and started attracting visitors.

Enhancements to the road network played a pivotal role in the accelerated tourism growth in the village. These days, there are quite a few cafes, tavernas and tourist shops selling various products. 

Still, Olympos largely retains its traditional character and its local charm. Its religious celebrations, particularly during Greek Easter and in summer, are famous all around Greece. 

The women of Olympos Karpathos

Olympos is one of the very few villages in Greece where a matriarchal society has been thriving for centuries. This is one of the things that makes Olympos village stand out.

The women of Olympos have always been responsible for managing the household, but also for working in the fields. They did all the cooking, house cleaning, and sewed the family’s clothes. Every Saturday, they all got together to bake their weekly bread in the communal bakeries.

A woman in Olympos Karpathos

Olympos women learnt how to dance Greek dances from a very young age. Dancing took place during the traditional religious celebrations, which provided an environment for future couples to meet.

One of the strictest customs in Olympos was that women should marry someone who originated from the village. Traditionally, newly married couples settled in with the wife’s family and lived in her mother’s house, which is pretty unique for Greece. 

As a result of this, inbreeding was very common in Olympos until the early 1990s. In fact, some seniors were quick to offer me this information!

If you can read Greek, have a look at this article which offers more insight to life in Olympos Karpathos not too long ago.

What to do in Olympos Karpathos

Olympos is arguably the most popular attraction in Karpathos. Visitors love the quaint atmosphere and the traditional costumes worn by the women, making the village something of a living folklore museum.

As Olympos is built on the side of a mountain, the only way to explore it is on foot. You will need to be prepared for narrow streets, steep inclination and lots of stairs! But that’s the only way to observe the village’s architecture, which has been beautifully preserved.

When you need a break from all the walking, you can stop at one of the numerous tavernas or cafes in the village.

Taste traditional Karpathian food in Olympos

Like most places in Greece, Karpathos has it own uniquely traditional cuisine. The various restaurants in Olympos serve popular local delicacies.

One of the dishes that you shouldn’t miss is Makarounes. This is a type of local pasta, which is handmade and left to dry in the sun. It is usually served with fried onions.

Makarounes is also a great souvenir to bring back from Karpathos and prepare at home, as they are sold everywhere.

Handmade makarounes from Olympos

While some of the specialties you’ll find in Karpathos are local to the island, you will also find dishes that are common throughout Greece. Here’s a guide to 50 popular Greek dishes, to put you in the mood!

Observe the local customs in Olympos village

Even though Olympos village has become more of a tourist attraction over the last few years, the primitive customs still play a significant role in local life.

One of the highlights in Olympos are the religious festivals, known as panigiria in Greece. They begin with a solemn mass in the beautifully adorned Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God. Later, celebrations follow in the village’s central square.

Women of all ages wear their festive costumes, which are rich and embroidered. The village musicians play traditional musical instruments, such as the lyra and the lute.

One of the most important and authentic panigiria in Olympos is the Dormition of the Virgin on the 15 August. On that day, the village organizes a big feast dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Festivities continue all night long, and people eat, sing and dance like there’s no tomorrow. If you are in Karpathos at that time, it’s a fantastic opportunity to experience the traditional colour of the island. It doesn’t get more authentic than that!

If you are a fan of Greek celebrations, other important dates are the 28 – 29 August, when a unique panigiri happens at St John’s underground church, a 2-hour hike from Olympos. There’s also the feast of St Zacharias, which happens on the uninhabited Saria island on the 4-5 September. Yep, Greeks love their panigiria!

Traditional costumes of Olympos Karpathos

Stillshot taken from this video. Have a look at this video as well.

Look out for the traditional clothing

As you walk around Olympos, you will see some local women, usually the older ones, wearing their traditional attire on a daily basis. During the panigiria festivals, like the one on 15th August, all women typically wear colorful, embroidered festive outfits.

These traditional clothes are precious family heirlooms, passed on from generation to generation. They comprise of several parts, including an embroidered headscarf.

If you are interested in authentic local crafts, ask around for any artisanal workshops. Olympos still has craftspeople who know the art of making handmade headscarves, clothes and shoes. You can find some of those in the local shops.

Souvenir shop in Olympos village Karpathos

Enjoy the beautiful views to the Aegean Sea

The village’s location is out of this world. If you climb up to the top of Olympos, you can see the Aegean Sea in all its glory.

As you are walking among the many churches and old windmills, look around you and enjoy the incredible views.

We loved sitting on the rooftop at Zefiros cafe, probably one of the village’s highest points. If you go there, make sure you talk to the owner, who has some very interesting stories to share!

Vanessa in Karpathos

What to do around Olympos Karpathos

Apart from Olympos, there are a few more places worth visiting in North Karpathos. We loved Diafani port town, a small fishing village that largely remains under the tourist radar.

Moreover, this area of Karpathos is ideal for hikers. There are numerous hiking paths, and you can spend several days exploring them all.

Spend an evening around Diafani port town

Diafani is a small port town in North Karpathos, a short drive from Olympos. It’s a small fishing village, and is totally worth spending some time at.

You can go for an evening stroll along the coast, and have a drink at the traditional kafeneio where the locals hang out and play tavli (= backgammon). Or you can have a meal at one of the little tavernas by the sea.

Diafani is also where small boats depart for a day trip to Saria island. You can find information at the agencies around the port.

We stayed in Diafani for a few days, and very much enjoyed the laid-back pace and lack of tourist crowds. I would recommend it for anyone looking for an authentic Greek experience!

Diafani port town Karpathos

Hike the area around Olympos village

If you like hiking, you will love North Karpathos. This part of the island is a true paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with its numerous trails that meander through the rugged, unspoiled landscape.

Depending on your level of fitness, you can choose which trails to follow. We did the hike to Ancient Vrikous and St John’s underground church, which was really amazing, with breathtaking views!

If you end up in Avlona village, make sure to stop at the small taverna Avlona. Mrs Anna and her husband will have prepared something yummy!

Hiking around Olympos Karpathos

Best time to visit Olympos Karpathos

Like most Greek islands, Karpathos is a seasonal destination. The peak tourist season is in July, August and early September. May, June and October are less crowded.

As Olympos is one of the highlights in Karpathos, it tends to get busy with tourists during the day. Many people visit on a half-day trip from Pigadia Town, so the village is quieter in the evenings.

Overall, the best time to go to Olympos is outside the high season. You will then experience the village at a more relaxed pace, with fewer crowds, and enjoy the incredible views.

With that said, if you can only visit Olympos in August, by all means do. In this case, try to attend the festival on the 15th August, which will offer you a unique insight into the local culture of Karpathos island. It’s worth spending the night there, so you can witness the traditional dances and celebrations.

Vanessa in Karpathos

How to get to Olympos Karpathos

Olympos is located 44 km (27.3 miles) from Pigadia, the capital town of Karpathos. Most people get there by public bus, rental car or taxi.

The views and landscapes on the way to Olympos are truly spectacular! In my opinion, this is one of the most impressive routes on the Greek islands, and it’s an experience on its own.

It’s also possible to take a bus / hike to Olympos from Diafani, the island’s secondary port, that you can reach by boat from Pigadia.

Take the bus from Pigadia to Olympos

On some days, public buses go from Pigadia to Olympos. As the road is narrow and winding in places, the bus takes around 1.5 hours. One-way tickets cost 7.50 euro.

Bus timetables vary throughout the year, and aren’t always straightforward to find in advance of your trip. For up-to-date information, you can try this unofficial Facebook page, or ask your hotel.

Get to Olympos by boat and bus / hike

If you don’t want to take the long bus trip, there is also a bus option from Diafani, which only takes about 15 minutes. You can take a boat service from Pigadia to Diafani, and then get to Olympos by bus – or hike.

The cruise boats at Pigadia port usually depart at 8:30 am, and are back by 18:00. If you take an evening stroll around the quay in Pigadia, you can ask for information on trips to Olympos, and book a ticket for one of the next few days.

You can take a boat from Pigadia to Diafani in Karpathos

Hire a car and drive to Olympos village Karpathos

Another way to get to Olympos village is to rent a car. Discover Cars is a great website where you can compare car rental prices and book your holiday vehicle easily.

It should take you a little over an hour to drive straight to Olympos from Pigadia. That said, there are many lovely places to stop on the way. The beautiful landscapes will more than make up for the challenging drive!

You will need to park your vehicle at the designated areas outside the village, and continue on foot. If you are visiting Karpathos during the peak season, you may need to leave your car at some distance from Olympos.

Note: It’s important to rent a suitable car and drive carefully to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. Also, make sure you fill up the tank in Pigadia, as there is no gas station close to Olympos.

Some people might consider renting an ATV or scooter instead of a car. Before you go ahead, you should know that it can get very windy up on those mountains.

To book your Karpathos rental vehicle ahead of your trip, check out Discover Cars, who offer a wide selection of vehicles at very competitive prices.

Driving in Karpathos Greece

Take a taxi to Olympos Karpathos

If none of these ideas sound appealing, you can always pre-arrange a taxi ride. Prices vary, depending on where you are departing from.

As a rough idea, a one-way taxi trip to Olympos from Pigadia will cost you around 100 euro. Definitely not the most cost-efficient way to get to Olympos!

Here is more information on how to get around Karpathos.

Is it worth staying in Olympos?

If you want to spend more time in Olympos, you can consider staying here for a night or two. There are a few hotels and rooms to let, as well as a few mini markets for the basics.

In fact, if you are in Karpathos around the 15th August, it’s totally worth staying in Olympos. Then you can celebrate the traditional panigiri with the locals!

One of the best options is Olympos Archipelagos, where you can enjoy spectacular views of the villages surroundings.

You can check alternative accommodation in Olympos here: Hotels in Olympos Karpathos.

If you are planning to stay in Olympos, it’s best to have your own rental vehicle so you can explore the surrounding area. Check Discover Cars for the best offers.

Colors of Karpathos Greece

FAQs about Olympos Karpathos

Here are some questions travelers ask about Olympos village and Karpathos:

Is Olympos Karpathos worth visiting?

Olympos Karpathos is a unique, remote village. As it’s built on the slopes of the mountain, it is a fantastic place for beautiful panoramic views. Moreover, it’s famous for its local traditions, and the women of the village who still wear traditional dresses and shoes in their everyday life.

Should I stay in Olympos Karpathos?

You can stay in Olympos Karpathos for a night or two. Other popular areas to stay on the island include Pigadia, Amoopi, Arkasa and Lefkos. Here is my guide on where to stay in Karpathos.

Do women wear traditional costumes in Karpathos?

Women in Karpathos island wear specially made traditional clothes during the panigiria festivals. In Olympos and Diafani, some women wear traditional attire on an everyday basis.

Do people in Karpathos speak a local dialect?

Before visiting the village of Olympos, my understanding was that the people use words from an ancient Doric dialect. To be honest, I only caught a few odd words here and there, mostly spoken by seniors. But they definitely have a very unique accent!

What is Karpathos known for?

Karpathos is known for its incredible beaches, fantastically clear waters, beautiful landscapes with lush green forests and rich traditions.

Where is the main town in Karpathos?

The main town and capital of Karpathos is Pigadia, which is also the main port. There is also a secondary port, Diafani, and a few traditional villages like Olympos, Aperi, Pyles and Othos.

More travel guides about Karpathos Island

Here are a few more guides about Karpathos:

If you’ve been to Olympos Karpathos, I’d love to know what you thought to it! Feel free to leave a comment below.

Vanessa from Real Greek Experiences

Hi! I’m Vanessa from Athens, and I’ve been to over 60 of the Greek islands. I loved Karpathos for its fantastic beaches and stunning wild landscapes. Follow me on Facebook for more Greece-related inspiration.

Olympos Karpathos traditional village

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