The village of Olympos is located in the northern part of the island of Karpathos about 58 km (36 mi) North of Pigadia. This village is reachable by the main paved road from Pigadia to the village of Spoa then continuing with the unpaved road to Olympos. The total trip takes about 3 hours from Pigadia. It is also possible to take the excursion boats such as the Hrisavalandou, which departs daily at about 8:30 am for the 1.5 hour boat ride to Diafani then continuing with a 20 minute bus ride to Olympos. It is also possible to reach Diafani with the regular ferries such as the F/B Vitsenzos Kornaros and the F/B Ierapetra witch take about one hour from Pigadia.
Travelers who drive the demanding route to Olympos are rewarded by the extraordinary natural beauty found en route. This is a journey through several traditional villages, plains, pine tree hills, and steep rocky mountains offering some truly breathtaking views of the sea below. The village of Olympos finally appears with homes built one above the other, from hilltop down the entire slope of the mountain ‘Profitis Elias’. Then the houses are built up the mountain once again in a way entirely of its own.The main church of the village is the church of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (view below), which is celebrated on August 15th.
There are about 75 windmills presently in Olympos that were once a major production center for the community for producing flour for bread. Of these, 4 windmills are operational today (view below), which still produce flour from wheat and barley.
Its 450 inhabitants zealously preserve their tradition in their everyday life. Most homes are still decorated in the same way they have been doing for hundreds of years. Women can be seen clad in their traditional costumes or ‘kavaii’ (view below)with scarves around the head and colorful, joyfully embroidered camisoles. There are different costumes for the younger girls and the older women.
In the past the men used to wear their traditional costume that included blue breeches and a blue vest. It seems that the women do all of the work around the village, unlike the men, who only seem to be eternally involved in singing, dancing, and playing the traditional instruments (view below) ‘lyre’ ‘laouto’ and ‘tsambouna’. Olympos is described as a living museum, and in many ways to this day it is still a museum for architecture, ethnology, linguistics, and musicology.
Olympos truly is special. All vehicles park below the village so there are no vehicles in the village itself. There are alleys to explore, views to find, and places to sit and contemplate. The patterns made by the buildings over the ridge on which they sit are as charming as the individual houses themselves, it provides the sense of being hidden away from the rest of the world. This is the reason the village of Olympos is the most popular excursion from all the other areas of the island.
Olympos was always meant to be hard to get to. Built by the inhabitants of coastal Vrykounda (originally one of four key Dorian settlements on the island) between the 7th and 9th centuries, it was intended to provide a safe haven from pirates. Hidden away on a ridge beneath the 718 m high (2355ft) Mt. Profitis Ilias, it no doubt worked. It is said that the homes on the western side of the mountain were not painted on the exterior, so that they would not viewable from the sea. Its remoteness is responsible for the fact that so many village customs were maintained for so long - in terms of dress, handicrafts, and social organization (it is a matriarchy). Its inhabitants are even said to speak with a dialect all their own which has traces of Phrygian and Dorian origins.
In the vicinity North of Olympos, the area of ‘Avlona’ has small farmhouses or ‘stavli’ (view below) specifically built to be close to their fields at harvest time by the inhabitants of Olympos and Diafani or ‘Olympites’ who to this day cultivate the land with vineyards and cereals.
From Olympos it is possible to reach (after approximately a 2 hour walk) the ancient site of ‘Vroukounda’ a settlement built on a peninsula, at the island's northwest tip with its surviving Hellenistic walls, its ancient tombs and a chapel of St John (Agios Ioannis) hidden away in a cave (view below) next to the sea. The settlement was destroyed by a strong earthquake probably during the early Byzantine era. It is widely accepted today, that the inhabitants of Vrykous, scattered throughout Karpathos after the city's destruction and never rebuilt it, and that later their descendants gathered at Olympos where they built the first nucleus of the village, probably in the 16th century.
Northeast of Vroukounta along the coast is the enclosed bay of ‘Tristomo’ where a few houses stand on the water’s edge. In the Mycenean period it served as a natural port for the provisions to the settlement of Vrikous. Two large rocks formed the three entrances (view below) to the port hence the name.
Diafani is the port for the village of Olympos and the second port for the island. It is located on the east side of the island, 8 km. (5 mi) east of Olympos and 67 km. (41.6 mi) north of Pigadia. It was first inhabited by the inhabitants of Olympos around 1850, and since then has been used as its center for supplies.
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