Take The Love Boat cruise around the island of Karpathos for a rustic experience. TOP RIGHT: Discover a forgotten world at Olympos where bent women keep tradition.
Take The Love Boat cruise around the island of Karpathos for a rustic experience. TOP RIGHT: Discover a forgotten world at Olympos where bent women keep tradition. PHOTOS ANN RICKARD

A cheaper alternative in the Greek Isles in summer

SANTORINI and Mykonos are stunning Greek Islands guaranteed to give you a lifetime of memories. However they are expensive, especially in the summer, which is the best time to go.

The island of Karpathos with its jagged mountain range and beguiling coastline is an excellent alternative, and very affordable.

Karpathos is the second largest island in the Dodecanese situated between Crete and Rhodes.

In a local guide book, Karpathos says of itself: "it is the place that has kept its customs and manners better than any other".

It is a long, thin island with distinctive landscape differences between the north and south. Its main harbour in Pigadia is rimmed with family run tavernas and locally owned gift shops. Fishing boats and watercraft bob prettily on the harbour and weathered old men sit at wooden tables drinking coffee and working their worry beads.

Pigadia doesn't try to compete with the brash vibrancy of the Mykonos harbour, but the retsina is half the price and the smell of char-grilled octopus just as tantalising.

There is history to contemplate on Karpathos if you must, ruins and archaeological sites dating back to 2500 BC.

A cruise around the island on The Love Boat, an old wooden thing, will cost about 20 euros and give you a day of peasant-like pleasure as you stop in isolated bays to disembark over make-shift Robinson Crusoe-like rickety platforms and swim while the "captain" and his wife and sister-in-law grill pork over an open fire and serve local wine from old water bottles.

Karpathos is home to the forgotten city of Olympos perched high on a cliff where time has stood still, where the men toil in the hills in nearby Avlona, and bent old women carry bundles of sticks on their backs. Olympos tumbles down the cliff in a jumble of pastel coloured houses and inside its labyrinthine lanes, you feel as though you have stepped into a movie set.

But Karpathos can put on the glamour when it wants to, even if it is a little minimalist.

In the tiny resort town of Lefkos on a small and captivating horseshoe bay, the new villas are modern and stylish and right on the sand.

Aside from its affordability, there is a lot of love about Karpathos.

IF YOU GO:

 Karpathos has a small airport and is accessible from Athens airport.

 Ferries operate from Athens to Karpathos and on to other Greek Islands.

 The port of Pigadia is sleepy but worth getting to know, especially its little back streets.

 Finiki is a tiny fishing village with a sprinkling of tavernas where Nick (there is always a Nick) presents "the best fish on the island".

 Lefkos is a summer location, drowsy during the day, sleepy at night.

 The forgotten city of Olympos in the north is a long, winding and scary drive high up in the mountains, but more than worth the effort.



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