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Driving in Karpathos – Everything you need to know

The Greek island of Karpathos is loved by those who are looking for hidden gems among the Greek islands. Great beaches, amazing atmosphere, and charming towns make this destination loved by travelers. Many visitors also get a taste of driving in Karpathos as they rent a car to get around the island.

Driving in Karpathos is moderately difficult. The main difficulty comes from the terrain. As you need to navigate narrow and winding mountain paths you got to pay extra attention in order to stay safe.

That being said you will experience amazing landscapes and some beautiful roads when you opt to drive in Karpathos. The mountains provide the looks and the inviting beaches are always easiest to access via car.

Do you need to rent a car in Karpathos?

Now before we get into the driving in Karpathos let’s get the obvious question out of the way. If you’ve read any of our ‘Driving in …’ guides you know that we always start with this one. After all, if you don’t need to rent a car then you can save some good money.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case in Karpathos. The island itself is pretty big and the public transport is pretty lacking.

If you want to visit the most amazing beaches, look at the most amazing scenes, and find the best tavernas we highly recommend that you rent a car in Karpathos. It’s just the best way to get around the island.

Driving in Karpathos – The Guide

So we have settled that you should indeed rent a car when visiting Karpathos. There is just one question left: what’s driving in Karpathos like? Is it hard? Is it easy? Do you need a lot of experience to tackle this Greek island? Let’s find out!

Karpathos Narrow Road
Narrow roads are not uncommon in Karpathos

Roads in Karpathos

When it comes to the roads in Karpathos you can expect reasonable quality. The asphalt is usually good and there aren’t a lot of potholes.

The problems start when you examine the width of the road. As the majority of the island is mountainous, the road is winding and curvy in many places. The available space is not even enough for two cars wide in many places.

You can expect sections where only one car can fit. These have wider ‘waiting’ spots at the end and beginning. So if you see a car already inside the narrow parts you can slow down at the wide-area and wait until you get a clear pass.

We recommend driving in Karpathos only if you have sufficient experience driving on mountain roads. Especially European mountain roads. In the US people are usually spoilt by wide roads.

Considering the size of the island there are only a few roads. They cover the whole area and run between the important towns. The lack of roads is due to the mountains that make it difficult to traverse the terrain.

For the most part, roads are paved but you can expect some unpaved sections near beaches or lesser-known tourist attractions. The north parts of the island above Diafani are mostly unpaved.

There are no highways or toll roads on the island. Also, many mountain roads don’t have any kind of safety barriers so make sure that you pay extra attention when driving on these roads.

Roads are narrowest inside cities. Always practice defensive driving and be vigilant whenever entering cities in Karpathos.

Traffic in Karpathos

As the roads make driving in Karpathos a bit difficult, the traffic comes to the rescue. Luckily the island is still a little bit undiscovered among mass tourism markets.

This means that the traffic on the island is sparse and it makes traveling the narrow roads a breeze. Of course, you will still need to pay attention while driving but it’s much easier without heavy traffic.

The busiest months for traffic are July and August. This is where most tourists visit the island and this is where driving in Karpathos is the most difficult.

Off-season months are generally good and you will rarely encounter other drivers on the roads. Traveling through Karpathos these months is tons of fun.

General Driving Rules

Karpathos is a Greek island and as such, it has the same rules as mainland Greece. If you’ve ever driven in Europe you will be familiar with the rules of the road but let’s recap the most important rules.

  • Seatbelts are mandatory
  • You can’t have your phone in your hand
  • Speed is 50 km/h in cities and 90 km/h outside cities
    • Further limited by road signs on the island
  • No drinking and driving
  • Driving is on the right-hand side of the road
  • International road signage is followed
Small Town in Karpathos

Is driving in Karpathos for you?

As you can see the difficulty of driving in Karpathos varies based on where you go. Traffic is not that much of an issue but mountain roads are present, many times without even safety barriers.

You need to have experience in driving such roads before you take Karpathos. It’s recommended that you are always paying full attention to your driving which at times will be hard due to picturesque scenery.

If you are confident in your driving ability and if you are not scared of some mountains then we say go for it. It’s the best way to enjoy the island and discover everything Karpathos has to offer.

Tips for renting a car in Karpathos

You should be able to tell now if you want to try your hand at driving in Karpathos or not. If the answer is yes then don’t let us leave you without some tips on your actual car rental.

Great offers from our partner:

What to expect from your rental?

The first thing you need to note about your Karpathos rental is the lack of automatic gearbox options. They exist at the car rental companies but they only keep a few automatic cars.

This means they are usually reserved way in advance. If you need an automatic then we recommend that you book your car months before your actual travel dates. This way you can ensure that you’ll drive an automatic.

It’s okay if you keep the car class low. Especially if it’s just the two of you. There are unpaved roads but none that would really require a 4×4 car. A small car will get you around the narrow roads more comfortably than a bigger vehicle.

As always when it comes to renting in Greece, make sure that the AC works. It’s a hot place and you’ll have a miserable time without a working AC.

More Travel Guides:
Driving in Milos - What to expect?
What's driving in Zakynthos like?
Driving in Corfu - Full Guide
Cheap Flights to Corfu Island

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