Olymbos, or known as Olympos is one of the most famous villages in Karpathos island and also in Greece, which offers interesting history, ancient traditions and amazing panoramic views for its visitors. The village is usually described a ‘living folklore museum of Greece’, and in Karpathos Olymbos is definitely one of the best attractions and a highlight of many sightseeing trips.
The village is located in the northern part of Karpathos, about 43 kilometers away from Pigadia, and 58 kilometers away from the airport. For centuries Olymbos was well isolated from the southern part of Karpathos, and it can’t be accessed by asphalt road until the last few years.
The primary connection to the outside areas of Karpathos and to the other villages was just the port of Diafani, a few kilometers away. From the southern parts of Karpathos (from the airport, Pigadia, Arkasa, Amoopi, etc) the trip takes to Olymbos by car or by bus more than one hour, because the road is quite winding, and passes through a very mountainous area.
Travel guide of Olymbos (Olympos) in Karpathos
Before we start, it’s worth to clear the right name of the village. There is a common written modification about the name of Olymbos, or Όλυμπος in Greek. Several travel guides, blogs, magazines, and also some road signs write the name of village as Olympos in Karpathos, just like the famous mountain where the Greek Gods rule, but these names are slightly different.
The most correct name of the village in Karpathos island is Olymbos, with ‘b’, instead of ‘p’! There is a tiny difference in a Greek language, because the name of Olymbos village have to written as a feminine word.
Location and Access: how to get there by boat and by car?
One of the best things about of the village is its exceptional location in Karpathos island. The houses of Olymbos were built on the top of a mountain and on its slopes, amphiteatrically to the west and to the east. Due to its picturesque location the village is filled with stairs and narrow alleys, so the cars and other vehicles must stay outside Olymbos.
At the entrance of the village you can find a free parking lot for cars and scooters, and the local buses also stop there which arrive from Pigadia. The boat trips and excursions to Olymbos depart from the port of Pigadia, sail to Diafani, and the last kilometers are taken by buses.
History of Olymbos
Olymbos village, or Olympos of Karpathos was founded in the 7. century A.D., when the inhabitants of the ancient Vrykounda town (Vroukounta, Βρουκούντα) were frequently attacked by the pirates. The houses of Vrykounda were situated in a small bay in the north, the ruins of the village can be seen if we follow the hiking trail from Avlona to Tristomo. The inhabitants leaved their land and moved into the high mountains, far away from the north coast.
The place of the new village ensured much safer conditions from pirate attacks, but it was also much secluded from other parts of the island, because Olymbos lost its direct exit to the sea. After moving in the mountains the residents lived in a much safer place, and they preserved their ancient traditions, the old customs and the local dialect. These traditions came from the ancestors, originated from the Doric people.
The village became the most important settlement of the area: the inhabitants of Olymbos began to use the port of Diafani for maritime trade, which is even today the largest port nearby. The population of the village is nowadays 270 according to census 2011, who live in Olymbos in the most period of the year.
Traditions and folklore
The unique traditions of Olymbos (Olympos) are special in Greece, and can be seen almost everywhere on the streets. Residents of the village, especial women dress in traditional costumes, which is unique not just in Karpathos island, but even in the country! There are two main types of these clothes: one is for weekdays, a black coloured apron and a simple scarf around the head. If there is a celebration, women of Olymbos village wear colorful clothes and a double row of gold coins.
The residents of Olymbos are very proud of their ancestors and the ancient traditions. Decorations of the houses represents also the traditions through small paintings and small sculptures, which can be seen on the facades. Due to these interesting and very old traditions, tourists say often that Olymbos (Olympos, Όλυμπος) is a living folklore museum of Greece.
What to see in Olymbos, sights and attractions
If walk from the parking lot up to the houses, we can’t miss the main pedestrian street of Olymbos (Olympos). This is a narrow, but picturesque street which leads to the top of the mountain, where most of the sights can be find.
This street is filled with souvenir shops with clothes, laces, t-shirts, handmade wooden utensils, visitors can find mini markets and some traditional taverns, coffee bars as well. In most cases the sellers of the stores are the women of Olymbos village, dressed up in traditional clothes. The ladies of Karpathos seat or stand usually in front of their shops and alway happy to help during purchase.
In some of the restaurants you can clearly see how the food are made, and if you like, just sit down and enjoy your meal. In the taverns there can be taste some of the tradional foods of Karpathos island, it’s always worth to ask for a freshly baked or cooked daily menu.
Don’t forget to explore the narrow alleys of the village as much as you can, because there can be find several amazing lookout points, beautiful houses and picturesque views to the sea! In front of the houses bougainvilleas, oleanders and geraniums grow and make more friendlier the village.
The contrasts of the deep blue sea, the mountains and the buildings are simply breathtaking, especial when we looking around from the top of the village. Due to its location the sunsets in Olymbos are also unforgettable, when the sun touches the sea and slowly falls below the horizon. Some of the best accommodations of the village are situated here, such as Aphrodite Hotel or Anemos Guest House.
On the top of Olymbos there are a few paths which lead on the mountain ridge to some windmills and chapels. The village is not so large, so you can’t get too lost in the streets, just take a walk leisurely.
The main church of the village is one of the best sights in Olymbos (Olympos). The church is called Assumption of the Virgin, it was built in Byzantian style on the top of the village. It’s very easy to find, because the pedestrian road leads directly to there. The interior of the church is covered with invaluable old frescoes, which were painted also in Byzantian style. Inside the curch you can find a lot of sacred icons, wood carvings, and gold plated objects.
Olymbos is famous in Karpathos island for its other chapels and churches also, we can can see a lot of these in the area. Small chapels were built almost everywhere, in the heights and in the valley of Olymbos both. Some of the chapels are closed for public, but the largest church of the village is awaiting for visitors most of the time.
One of the most beautiful churches on the top of the village is the St. Filimon church (Ιερός Ναός Αγίου Φιλήμονα). This small church is located about hundred meters away in the north, where you can walk up behind this church, and offer also great views to the surroundings.
A picturesque chapel in Olymbos is located in the south, which is marked as Church Christos or Παρεκκλήσι in Greek on maps.
Unfortunately today some houses of Olymbos are uninhabited because of immigration, but several houses (primarily in the center) are in pretty good condition, many of them are well renovated.
The other interesting sights and attractions of Olymbos (Olympos) in Karpathos are the old windmills. These buildings are very common in the area, because this village was one of the largest producers of flour until some decades ago. Most of the windmills of Olymbos are nowadays in ruined condition, the residents use these buildings mostly as lumber rooms. Always be careful with the old houses and the ruined windmills, because most of the roofs are not safe to climb up!
Why visit Olymbos (Olympos) in Karpathos?
This village is a unique place in Greece with old traditions and interesting local folklore, which can’t be seen elsewhere. It offers for visitors breathtaking panoramic views, nice sunsets, beautiful churches and tiny chapels. Olympos can be discovered by car or motorcycle from every village of Karpathos, or by boat trip from Pigadia.
Where to stay
If you would like to spend one or more nights at this magical place, just take a look the accommodations below. In Olymbos there are not much apartments and hotels for tourists, but as you see, you can find some options for stay.
Olymbos additional info
- Known as: Olympos, Όλυμπος in Greek
- Location: 45 kilometers to Pigadia
- Coordinates: 35.738999, 27.175382
- Population: 270 (census 2011)
- Can be accessed via asphalt road by car or by bus, or by boat trips and excursions
857 00 Greece