A long, narrow island between Rhodes and Crete, wild Kárpathos has always been an underpopulated backwater, although it’s the third largest of the Dodecanese. A habitually cloud-capped mountainous spine rises to over 1200m, dividing the lower-lying south from an exceptionally rugged north. A magnificent, windswept coastline of cliffs and promontories attracts numerous package tourists, who pretty well monopolize several resorts in the southern part of the island, pushing independent travellers up to the remote north, where facilities are basic. Most visitors come for a glimpse of the far north’s traditional village life, and for various secluded beaches lapped by proverbial crystalline water.
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. The Ottomans never bothered to settle or even garrison it properly; instead they just installed a civil governor, charging the Greek population plus a few scattered Muslim gendarmes with his safety during the many pirate attacks.