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My Greek Island
Roberta Beach Jacobson

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Discover Karpathos
Trip Report
Roberta Beach Jacobson

There's no such thing as a private beach for residents or resorts here. All beaches must be accessible to the public and any property fences are required to have gates for people to walk through to access the sea. So you can swim where ever you wish.

All beaches are free from boat traffic unless you count the occasional rented canoe or paddle boat. Most of the island's beaches are pebbled or rocky. A great number are located in the middle of nowhere, with no restaurant or other amenities to be seen for miles. The paths to many involve a tricky climb down a cliff.

Each beach, of course, maintains its own character. Some attract anglers nearby. Others have a family of salt-water ducks camped out. A few are dotted with tents where tourists camp out.

Greece remains a little skittish about nude bathing. As long as the beach isn't right next to a Greek Orthodox chapel, nobody will say anything about going topless. There are plenty of secluded coves for privacy.

For our favorite island beach, my husband and I vote for Agios Nikoloas in the town of Arkassa. I like it because it's one of the few beaches where I can pick up some shells for my collection. The parking lot is large, albeit a bit rocky. The sandy beach is always clean and has placed on the list of the Top Ten Beaches in Greece several times.

There's no charge for the shower or the bathrooms. You can rent lounges (aka sun beds) and umbrellas and there's an on-site snack bar.

What's a necessity when you make your home on an island is you visit beaches all year round. To us, they represent more than just a place for summer fun. We always meet a group of friends at a beach restaurant to mark the end of tourist season, knowing the restaurant will be closing in early October. It's a tradition that reminds us we'll have to wait until about Eastertime to dine there again.

My husband and I make numerous trips to area beaches to collect driftwood and pine cones to burn in our winter fires. Houses here are unheated and we're grateful for our wood-burning stove during the long rainy season. (While it never reaches the freezing point here, we do get snow most years.)

You'll be happy to hear you won't encounter beaches overflowing with tourists on this little island. The relatively small number of tourists to have discovered Karpathos hits in July and August, when sunshine averages 12.5 hours per day.

Wind loves the Dodecanese Island of Karpathos, located in the sparkling Aegean, midpoint between Crete and Rhodes. The 116-square mile island where we make our home is ideal for windsurfing because the wind funnels in north-to-northeast between nearby Kassos Island and the hills of Karpathos. The proof is seen in our island's trees, bowed growing southward.

Karpathos is no place for beginners to the sport, with an average wind strength of five to six on the Beaufort wind scale. Starting in May, the Meltemi wind often reaches eight, sometimes even nine. Ships can't navigate and the waves are too high for ferries. Windsurfing materials will probably hold to an eight, but with nine, it'll get uncomfortable. Windsurfing director Alexandra Haugg estimates Karpathos has wind ninety percent of the time throughout June, July and August.

The island's surf clubs are open from early May to mid-October and offer regular clinics. About 80 percent of the customers are men, but increasing numbers of women are drawn to the sport every year. Most surfers come from Austria, Britain, Germany, Greece, Holland and Italy. A few from Australia, the United States and Canada find their way to Karpathos in their quest to battle the white horses.

Equipment can be rented by the hour, by half-day or the day. Those who opt for a week's rental will usually not be charged for any days the gear is not used. The clubs are clustered together on Afiartis Beach. You'll see the clubs' flags almost flying off the poles as you get close. Club officials have wind meters, but why measure? In Gun Bay you'll find a meter-high wave about every five hundred meters, ideal for perfecting your surfing skills.

You can count on Devil's Bay to offer a slightly stronger wind strength. The red, yellow, green and blue sails meet the challenge head-on, as they bob and whip around, sometimes making it to the shoreline, more often tipping before. Speed Lagoon, not for the faint of heart, is where you can force your board to speeds usually only achieved by catamarans.

Surfing may be the island's top attraction, but it's not the only game. Starting around Easter, a few backpackers start to appear. Besides the windsurfers, many visitors are hikers or mountain bikers.

If you're a scuba enthusiast, you can find everything you need to rent here on the island. Recent changes to laws allow diving all around Karpathos, although it is still forbidden to take underwater photos (due to archaeological concerns).

By mid-October, tourist shops and restaurants have closed their shutters. Hotels have locked their doors. The final charter flight marks the official end of tourist season. It's not that the 6000 inhabitants wouldn't welcome more outsiders. Even all year round. After all, the Greek word "xenos" means both "foreigner" and "guest".

It's just that tourists prefer following the crowds to larger, more established islands to play in the sun. Karpathos, some 250 sea-miles from Athens, is barely on most maps. So people just don't know about it. What luck for us!

If you have questions, I'd love to hear from you. Send me an E-mail.

Yours truly,
Roberta Beach Jacobson

Learn more about Karpathos





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