A short guide to Karlovasi.
The town of Karlovasi
Karlovasi is the “ugly duckling” of Samos. At a first glance it may appear not as appealing to a tourist as Pythagorio, but it certainly has its own unique character. The reason is that Karlovasi was a very rich trading center during the early 1900s and a big manufacturer of tannery and tobacco. As a result, the majority of the buildings near the port and the seaside are abandoned warehouses and tanneries instead of picturesque little houses that one would expect from a Greek island town. Yet, this is just a façade. It is through exploring the town to discover the beautiful neoclassical manors, the impressive churches and beautiful squares, that one may comprehend the real spirit of the town. For a great way to understand the town’s history I would recommend Karlovasi’s Tannery Museum.
Thanks to the university located in Karlovasi, the town has the vibrant spirit all year round. Therefore, there are many bars and cafes, especially around the square in front of the town hall. The port of Karlovasi and the “neighborhood” known as Meseo are great places for food and wine. And it is worth visiting Palaio, which is used to be the old town and offers great view and traditional places to sit for a coffee or drinks.
The area known as Potami is more or less 5-10 minutes by car from Karlovasi. The beach of Potami is one of the best of the island, it has parts that are organized beach bars and restaurants and others which are way calmer. But the real beauty of the area is the nature. Not far from the beach there is a path that leads to the waterfalls of Potami. It is an unexpected experience. On your way to the waterfalls there is a stunning Early-Christian church and small path to a medieval watchtower. There is also a taverna on top of the cliff next to the waterfalls, which has breathtaking view and very good food.
Mikro Seitani & Megalo Seitani
Two of the best beaches of the island are near Karlovasi. However, the Mikro and Megalo Seitani are not easy to reach but there are spectacular! Mikro Seitani is a small white beach with turquoise water, while Megalo Seitani is way bigger with an exceptional beach and a paradisiacal atmosphere. There is a path from Potami beach that lead there and you have to hike for one hour for Mikro Seitani, and two and half for Megalo Seitani. There is always the option to ask for a fisherman to take you there with his boat. Just ask around the port of Karlovasi and they will point you to the right person.
Tour of the Villages
If you are in Karlovasi it is always a great idea to visit the villages of Kerkis mountain. The villages themselves but also the way up is very rewarding. You can drive there, or hike, (if you are an adventurous kind of person) and it is a great way to explore the heart of the island and the way that locals live. The village of Leka is very close to Karlovasi and many locals from the town visit it daily for the nice little cafes on the village’s square for food, drinks and the view. Kastania is just after Leka and has a gorgeous square with traditional stone houses. Nikoloudes and Kosmadei are further up the mountain and have a spectacular view over the sea.
At the villages the local women serve the two delicious traditional dishes. The first is called tiganites and is a kind of Greek pancakes, served with grated cheese, or honey; and the other is loukoumades, which is an Aegean delicacy, Greek small donuts with honey. It is also interesting to try the local firewater called Suma. Some like it, some not (I love it!), it is similar to the Italian grappa, and is strong but rich with the flavor of the unique grapes of Samos.