Olympos is the northernmost village on the island of Karpathos, located high up in Mount Prophet Elias. Although it’s just 58 kilometers from Pigadia, the capital of Karpathos, it takes a bit over an hour to travel by car since the road goes high up in the mountains and has a lot of twists and turns.
In 2011, 556 residents were living at the municipal unit of the area.
Like many other villages in Karpathos, Olympos was built in 900 AD in the mountains because the island used to be a frequent destination for pirates, who attacked the villages by the shore.
The pirates didn’t bother to go up to the mountains though, which is why it was safe to settle there. However, although the villagers were now protected from the pirates, the area was harsh and residents became isolated from the rest of the island. The road leading to the village is fairly new – before its construction, it was difficult to reach this unique place.
The rich traditions of Olympos have been wonderfully preserved mainly due to this long-lasting isolation. Olympos has been described as a “living folklore museum” since visitors can feel and hear bits from the past everywhere. The local dialect has remnants of ancient and Medieval Greek, so it’s a unique opportunity for Greeks themselves to experience some flashes from the past.
The older women of the village still wear their traditional garb in everyday life: weekday clothes include a black apron and a simple headscarf, and for celebrations, the women wear colorful clothes and big golden jewels.
The traditional lifestyle can also be tasted: the cuisine is fresh and exquisite.
One of the many local dishes that is truly noteworthy is makarounes: a local handmade pasta from a soft dough that is served with fresh mizithra cheese and sauteéd onions.
The isolation ended in the 1980s after a better road was built, and Olympos opened itself up for tourism since many travelers are keen to experience the historical atmosphere of the village. Although the area is full of beautiful souvenir shops, this doesn’t take away from the town’s true authenticity. The villagers have embraced their traditions in everything they do – the shops are full of handmade crafts, clothes, and other local items, such as handmade doilies. None of the shop owners are pushy, so tourists can walk around in peace, enjoying the view.
Olympos is also known for its picturesque scenery, traditional houses and old pedal-shaped windmills. The homes have preserved their traditional color and layout, and are surrounded by green forests. The village continues on both sides of the line of mountains, and the view to the sea is just breathtaking. The narrow streets and numerous stairs offer something new to see behind every corner. The air is fresh high up on the mountains, close to the sky, and Olympos serves as a great place to get away from the stress and fuss of the modern world.