How to explore the Pirate island Saria, arrr!

Have you ever heard about the small island of Saria (in modern Greek Σαρία)? It is a rocky, volcanic island on the northern side of Karpathos. With only a couple of Shepherds living in Saria it is still said to be an uninhabited island.

The history of the name

In ancient times the islands Karpathos and Saria were connected by a bridge. Due to an earthquake the lands started moving, breaking the bridge and resulting into isolation of the islands. It is said that the name of the island Saria relates to the family name of an ancient Greek princess named Catherine who descended from a royal family in Saria. Greek legends say that she was as beautiful as Helen of Troy and so they gave the name of her majesty to the island. According to history the kingdom at that time in Saria was called Mikri Nisyros.

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The broken bridge on the Saria side

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The broken bridge on the side of Karpathos

The pirates in Palatia

The Saracen pirates once turned the ancient palaces in Palatia (one of the four ancient cities in Karpathos) into small arched houses. In 1420 almost all island residents abandoned Saria because of constant pirate attacks. The pirates changed the houses in the city of Palatia into theirs and one single-chamber bizarre building with a semicircular roof, reminding us off an egg, is still standing.

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The Saracen pirate village of Palatia

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The egg-roof building in Palatia – picture by Protected Area Karpathos & Saria

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The ruins on top of the rocks

Hiking

Saria is the place to be for some hiking adventure! The rough terrain is ideal for a good walk and even though it has little flora and fauna the view everywhere is amazing. It is however also a breeding area for Eleonora’s falcons. You can find steep cliffs, an imposing ravine, underwater caves that serve as excellent shelters to the Monachus Monachus seal and the ruins of an ancient city on top of the rock formations make the island quite appealing. You could for example hike to the highest peak of Saria, Pachy Vouno, with an altitude of 631m and enjoy the stunning view.

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The rocky terrain of Saria

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High walls and deep cliffs

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The entrance to a partly underwater cave

Walking to the settlement of Argos

Arriving to Saria by boat from Karpathos will take you 1,5 hour. Start your hike from the beach where the boats are moored and look for the path. Carry on the path and you will find yourself soon enough walking through the imposing ravine of Saria. Follow the colored signs on the rocks which will guide you to the right way once you leave the ravine. After about 40 minutes you’ll stand in front of Argos, which is the second abandoned settlement of Saria. It is invisible from the sea, but you’re standing right in front of it. Argos became uninhabited in 1991 and many families living now in Olympos and Diafani used to own the stone-built houses. You can still find the settlement of Argos the way it was some millenniums ago and it has never been changed. Fresh water can be found just outside one of the stone building where a draw-well, almost confusingly looking like a toilet, can still be used.

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Argos

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Argos

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The draw-well in Argos

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The stone building next to the draw-well with its blue door

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The natural walls in Argos

The view at Agios Zacharias

To get to the beautiful viewpoint of Agios Zacharias you have to cross the stone-built settlement of Argos up a path that leads to the east. After 10 minutes a white church will provide you with Saria’s best balcony to view the Aegean sea. To walk back to the boat nearby Palatia you will need about 1 hour.

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The view from Agios Zacharias to the beach

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The view from Agios Zacharias on Palatia

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Lavender herbs in Saria

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Plants of Saria

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The church bell of Agios Zacharias

Exploring the underwater caves

Where the boat is moored you can find an entrance to a cave and once you enter it you should keep on going through this half underwater tunnel until you find your way out on the other side. While you explore this amazing tunnel you’ll have to mind your step as it is an exciting walk slash swim. At some deeper areas you can see a light show of the sun mixing with the perfectly blue water. Do please watch out with your feet for the rough rocks and the sea urchins!

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The cave

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A darker part of the cave

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Looking down into the water

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The crystal clear water – perfect for underwater photos

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Bring your GoPro camera!

If you go to Saria also try to visit the beach of Alimounda. The beach of Alimounda is considered one of the most pretty beaches in the surroundings of Karpathos where you can go swimming and spot some sea stars.

 

How do I get there?

Buy a round trip ticket for the boat leaving from Pigadia, Karpathos. If you decide to go with a tour operator a guide will show you around, but if you’re more comfortable on your own you should buy a ticket directly at the boat with the captain. One of the boats I like is named Captain Nicolas.

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Wonderful scenery

In the summer I work on the Greek island Karpathos as a tour guide and therefore I could learn a lot about Saria. If you feel like adding information, please do not hold back and leave a comment.

Have you ever been to Saria and if so, What did you enjoy most?

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Ever since I left my home country I felt at home at any other place I went to. I enjoy getting to know more cultures by talking to strangers and hearing their philosophy about life. Speaking with gestures when you can not find a shared language, finding places only the locals go to and learn about their customs and values. Hanging out with local people makes me happy. The experience of every new place is a step out of your comfort zone where I like to wander around until it feels like a second home.

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