Karpathos is one of the Greek Dodecanese Islands located midway between Rhodes and Crete where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean. It's the third largest island in the archipelago after Rhodes and Kos but despite having its own international airport Karpathos has remained mercifully unscathed by the ravages of mass tourism. It may not stay that way for much longer because an increasing number of international visitors are now discovering the many delights of Karpathos - rugged mountains concealing centuries-old unspoilt villages, beaches which are some of the finest in the Aegean and working windmills in which the local women still grind their own corn.
You can fly directly to the island from several UK airports and other European destinations and regular Olympic Airways flights connect Karpathos with Athens (one and a half hours) and the neighbouring islands of Rhodes and Kasos. The mainland port of Piraeus is a 19-hour ferry ride away. Ferries also connect the island with Crete and Rhodes which is the main connection hub for the other Dodecanese Islands
Ferries dock at the island's main port and capital, Pigadia, in the south east corner of the island. The airport is 18 kilometres south west of Pigadia at the southern tip of the island but there's no bus service connecting the two so if you're arriving by air you'll need to take a taxi or arrange your own transport.
Pigadia is a modern town and burgeoning tourist resort at the southern end of scenic Vrondi Bay which is a three kilometres stretch of sand extending north west along the coast from the main harbourfront. You'll find plenty of lovely beaches to the north and south of the capital, along the south east coastline, and over on the west side of the island.
A rugged mountainous spine divides the wild northern part of the island from the lower-lying, more fertile and populated southern end. For centuries the two halves of the island developed completely independently of each other - even today there's no decent road joining the two and the best way to get from one to the other is by boat.
Besides the wonderful sandy beaches and crystal clear waters of the south east of Karpathos, the other main attraction of Karpathos lies in the north at the extraordinary village of Olymbos where time seems to have stood still (except for the tourists!). Perched on a bleak 600-metre ridge, this remote 15th century village was virtually cut off from civilisation for centuries and even today remains a strange mix of the modern and medieval.
The older women still dress in elaborately embroidered traditional costumes with headscarves and goatskin boots. They grind corn in the local windmills, bake bread in outdoor communal ovens and speak a strange dialect which includes words from Dorian times, hundreds of years BC. In some cases they still preserve the ancient "matrilineal" system of inheritance whereby the mother's property is passed down to her oldest daughter.