Venturing into the village of Olympos feels like taking a trip back in time. This village remained secluded until not so long ago and managed to keep ancient traditions almost intact until this day. Visiting it, either as a day trip or a longer stay, is one of the best things to do in Karpathos. It’ll give you the opportunity to learn about their society and absorb the authentic atmosphere of this village. If you’re wondering what to do in and how to plan a trip to Olympos Karpathos, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find all the inspiration and tips you need!
An introduction to Olympos Karpathos
Olymbos, here refered as Olympos, is one of the most genuine and historical villages in Greece. We had the chance to explore it during a 2 days stay in the north of Karpathos and couldn’t have been more impressed. This is a unique place on earth, where tradition with natural beauty are perfectly combined. It’s also a place of distinctive beauty offering picture-perfect views everywhere you look.
The origins of Olympos can be traced back to an inland migration driven by the need to protect coastal inhabitants from pirate invasions. Most inhabitants lived in Vrykounda and established themselves in the mountains in the 7th century AC. For centuries, Olympos thrived in isolation, devoid of electricity, paved roads, or communication with neighboring towns. It wasn’t until 2011 that Olympos officially became part of Karpathos municipality and ceased being a self-governed community.
Having been isolated for so long, Olympos evolved into a unique community with customs and traditions that continue to flourish to this day. They developed their own dialect and a unique matriarchal structure that challenged the standard Greek’s heritage. Although the village has less than 250 full-time inhabitants, they fiercely preserve Olympos heritage and ways. While strolling in town you’ll certainly be exposed to their unique traditional costumes, ancient architecture and typical local products such as hand woven fabrics and local honey. Let me tell you what are the best things to do in Olympos Karpathos.
How to get to Olympos Karpathos
Olympos is located in the north of Karpathos, approximately 45 km from Pigadia, the capital of the island. The first paved road to the village was built in 2011, so nowadays it’s possible to reach the village independently by car. We rented ours with Karpathos Car and had a good experience, but I recommend comparing prices with Discover Cars before settling with a supplier.
- From Pigadia, it’ll take you approximately 1 hour to drive up to Olympos. The road is elevated and the winds are pretty strong, so I’d recommend getting a sturdy car instead of a small economic model. Beware of falling rocks and drive safely in the narrow roads, as they are mostly surrounded by steep drops.
- From Diafani, it’ll take you less than 20 minutes to reach Olympos. The road is curvy but much safer as it’s protected from the heavy winds that blow in the island. I’d recommend planning for a couple of days in either Olympos or Diafani and from there exploring the north of Karpathos.
Once you arrive, leave your car at the parking lot right at the entrance of the town. If it’s full, just drive back and park in the road leading up to the village. The earlier you arrive, the easier it’ll be to park.
- The second best way to get to Olympos is joining a full day excursion leaving from Pigadia. The first part of the trip will be done by boat between the ports of Pigadia and Diafani. Once you dock, you’ll be boarded in a bus and taken directly to the village of Olympos. After some hours exploring the village, you’ll do the opposite trip to get back to the island’s capital.
- There’s also a public bus connecting Pigadia to Olympos, but it takes 2 hours to reach the destination. It’s definitely not the most advisable way to get to Olympos Karpathos.
Day trip or overnight stay in Olympos?
Although it’s possible to visit Olympos as a day trip, I’d recommend staying overnight. You can either plan for a couple of nights at the village and on the second day head to Diafani and Saria Island. Or, you can stay in Diafani and visit Olympos during a day and night.
During the day, Olympos is packed with day-trippers. But when they leave in the afternoon, the village becomes of the most serene and genuine place you’ll ever visit. The shops close their doors and you’ll be amongst locals a a few other visitors. It’s common to see locals playing games of cards in the main street and women chatting at their doorsteps. We loved strolling through Olympos after sunset and enjoying its ethereal atmosphere. It’s an experience we’ll certainly share forever and one I definitely recommend planning for!
Where to stay in Olympos
If you’re planning for an overnight stay in Olympos Karpathos, you should check Olympos Archipelagos, with very comfortable rooms and the most beautiful views. This is the best place to stay in the village, so book in advance if you’re traveling in high season.
Best things to do in Olympos Karpathos
Olympos is not a big village, so you can easily visit it in a few hours. However, it’s with quality time and no specific itinerary you’ll be able to make the most of it. These were our favorite things to do in Olympos Karpathos:
1) Stroll around the village
Olympos is a pedestrian only village, so get ready to explore it on foot. As soon as you step into the village you’ll notice how unique and authentic the cobblestone streets are. It’s a maze of small alleys heading up and down creating beautiful sights. You can start your journey in the main street, where you’ll find an orthodox chapels right at the entrance of Olympos.
Continuing on this street, you’ll be presented to a myriad of shops and restaurants. Being able to watch the food being prepared was something that caught our attention. In these displays, you’ll be able to purchase the dishes you watch being prepared. They’re moussakas, stuffed peppers, souvlakis and other traditional dishes.
Take some time to explore the narrow alleys around the main street. They’ll show you the most genuine side of Olympos, which are the houses where locals live. While strolling through these alleys, you’ll certainly be presented with beautiful views of the mountains where the village is build upon.
Continuing on the main street, you’ll find a square with a few restaurants and bars, as well as the most important church in the village. Assumption of the virgin is a beautiful church in byzantine style and decorated with frescoes. The interior is also decorated with sacred items, wooden carved objects and paintings.
If you continue walking the street behind the main square, you’ll find the church of St. Filimon, from where you can admire beautiful views. You can go downwards in this road to find Milos Restaurant under an operating windmill. This is the best restaurant in Olympos, but it’s better experienced during sunset.
For now, continue exploring the streets around the main square and admiring the beautiful views of the ocean, village and windmills. This is definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited and can’t really describe in words how amazing it feel to explore its streets.
2) Shop local products
The main street in Olympos is totally taken by shops during the day. There’s a lot to choose from, be it artisanal products such as local honey and hand-painted arts. Or typical tourist souvenirs which are not locally produced.
I found an art piece depicting the town of Olympos and just had to buy it. It’s was a perfect ethically sourced decoration for our living room shelves. I was also impressed by the products at J. Prearis Handmade Shoes. A shop where leather shoes are hand-crafted in different style, from typical Olympian boots to summer sandals.
Locally produced honey and olive oil can be found in the streets of Olympos. The same goes to makarounes pasta, a traditional delicacy from Karpathos. And the typical head scarves worn by the women of Olympos to this day!
3) Dine under an ancient windmill
Dining under an ancient windmill is not only one of the best things to do in Olympos, but also in the whole island of Karpathos. Milos Taverna is a unique restaurant with the most epic sunset views and delicious home-cooked meals. It’s increasingly becoming a popular place, so make sure to book in advance if you’re traveling in high season. We absolutely loved having dinner there and were very surprised to find out the windmill is still functioning to this day!
Milos Restaurant is a family restaurant and has been managed by 3 generations to this day. The menu is hand-written and varies daily, and the whole family is involved in creating the most unforgettable experience to their guests. We tried makarounes, souvlakis and a Greek salad and loved everything. On our way out, we checked the oven in the main house, where the grandma produces traditional Karpathian breads. What a delicious and authentic experience it is to dine in this restaurant!
4) Visit Diafani and Saria Island
Saria is an inhabited island to the north to Karpathos, separated from it by a narrow straight. It can only be reached by boat and the best way to explore it is joining a guided tour. There are full-day excursions leaving from Diafani almost daily during high season. Commuting between Olympos and Diafani will take you less than 20 minutes.
We joined one of these tours and had a really great time out in the sea. We snorkeled in sea caves, spent some time and the beach and learned about the history of this island which one once upon a time has been a small empire. Combining a visit to Olympos with an excursion to Saria Island and Diafani is the best way to spend 2 days in the north of Karpathos!
Best restaurants in Olympos
- Milos restaurant with sunset view and romantic atmosphere
- Edem Garden Restaurant serves delicious dishes and has a very friendly staff
- Taverna Parthenon is a traditional restaurant in Olympos
I hope you feel inspired you to visit Olympos during your stay Karpathos. You may also want to check the posts about Karpathos published on the blog:
- Karpathos travel guide for the best things to do in the island
- Our top 7 best beaches in Karpathos
- Complete guide to Apella Beach, the most beautiful in Karpathos