Town altitude 26 m
Town land area 2 km2
Region averege altitude 43 m, lowland
Region land area 21 km2
Population 2011: 6.798, 2001: 5.895, 1928: 8.636, 1886: 5.258, 1869: 4.047, inhabitants & at the end of 17th c.: 500 houses (~ 2.000 inhabitants ). .
Area per person 167 m² per person.
Parish churches 8 orthodox, Saint Matron (Neo Karlovasi), Saint John the Forerunner (Limani), Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Nicholas (Ormos), Entrances of the Virgin (Meseo), Assumption of the Virgin (Neo), Birth of Christ (Paleo) and Holy Cross.
Economy It is based mainly on trade, tourism, services and less on agriculture (viticulture, olive growing, beekeeping).
During the period 1880 – 1930, the tanning industry flourished in Karlovasi, which changed the socio-economic image of the city. Also around the same period the branch of cigarettes industry (standardization and trade of cigarettes) developed.
During the 17th c. produces significant quantities of wine and onions that are traded with other islands.
Karlovasi town (Greek: Καρλόβασι) is located at the northwestern part of the island, built, from the northeast to the northwest of the homonymous plain.
The distances are: from Samos town 32 km, from Pythagorio village 36 Km and from Marathokampos village 13 Km.
Administratively consists the municipal community of Karlovasi which belongs to Karlovasi municipal unit, of west Samos Municipality, of which it is capital.
It consists of 5 districts, Paleo (=old) Karlovasi, Neo (=new) Karlovasi, Mesaio (=middle) Karlovasi and the newer Ormos (=bay) and Limani (=port), of which the first three were different communities until 1950, when they united in one and formed the Municipality of Karlovasi.
It is the second-largest in population city of the island and the commercial center of western Samos. It has a major port, serving the western part of the island. Karlovasi is the largest in size and most sparsely populated area of Samos.
Karlovasi is home of Samos unit of Aegean University, which consists of Mathematics and Statistics departments, the Positive Sciences School, as well as department of Information & Communication Systems Engineering of the Polytechnic School.
Paleo Karlovasi (old town) and Tambakika (the area that the old tanneries is) preserves elements of the local traditional architecture and since 2002, has been characterized by the Greek goverment, as settlement of special natural beauty (4754 / 30-4-2002), with many restrictions on the houses construction and repair.
Karlovasi suffered a lot of damage, in houses, churches and in the preserved buildings of the tanneries, from the catastrophic earthquake of 7 R that hit Samos on October 30, 2020.top
The wider area of Karlovasi town, was inhabited since antiquity, but also in later times, as evidenced by the remains of buildings and other objects of ancient Greek and Byzantine era, which had been found from time to time by inhabitants. At “Alonaki” area, in Neo Karlovasi there was the ancient Greek city of “Gorgira”, but also a later, unknown name city, that was inhabited during the 12th ~ 13th AD. c., which due to pirate raids, was abandoned at the beginning of the 14th c. and the inhabitants was moved higher, in the area of ”Kastrovouni” at Kontakaika village.
In modern history, the city of Karlovasi was created by the merging of the three settlements, Paleo (=old) Neo (=new) and Meseo (=middle) Karlovasi, which until 1950 (when merged) were different communities, which why called “Karlovasia” (plural of Karlovasi).top
Paleo (=old) Karlovasi, or Panochori (=upper village) as they used to call it, is the oldest among the three settlements of Karlovasi but also one of the first in Samos after the recolonization of the island in 1549.
The settlement began to develop from the middle of the 16th c., northwest of the Plain of Karlovasi, in the place “Palea Vrisi” (=old fountain), behind (south) of the current Port, hidden in the hills, invisible from the sea for protection from pirates. During its development, two neighborhoods were created, at the east “Akamatra” and at west “Galatas“.
The first settlers settled after 1550 and were descendants of Chiosamians, ie Samians who had taken refuge on the island of Chios, with the desolation of the island in 1476. However, a large population increase, occurred in the middle of the 18th c. from Peloponnesians, after the conquest of Peloponnese by the Othomans Turks in 1718, and its abandonment by the Greeks, who sought a safer areas to settle, such as Samos after the recolonization of the island (in 1549), with privileges to the new settlers. The Peloponnesian immigrants came mainly from the area of Nafplio, as evidenced by the nickname “Anapliotissa” (=from Nafplio) of Agios Nikolaos icon, which they brought with them and is located in the former parish church of Agios Nikolaos. Smaller population groups settled in Paleo Karlovasi and from the neighboring island of Ikaria, probably during the Russo-Turkish wars (1770-1774 AD) in the Aegean, which were devastating for the inhabitants of Ikaria.
In 1869 Paleo Karlovasi consisted by 173 houses, 3 churches and 1 school, while it had 591 inhabitants, of whom 16 were farmers, 2 merchants, 116 sailors, 18 craftsmen, 5 priests and 5 landowners.top
Neo (=new) Karlovasi, or Neochori (=new villgae), as called originally, is a newer settlement of Paleo Karlovasi, as its name suggests, which was created, probably, from the end of the 16th c., approximately.
The settlement began to develop at the south of “Alonaki” hill, in a wooded area, invisible from the sea, for protection from pirates, in the place that pre-existed the ancient city of “Gorgira”, of which, most of the ruins were used as materials for construction of the new settlement.
The first settlers were descendants of “Chiosamians”, while in the middle of the 18th c., Peloponnesians settled, mainly from the area of Nafplio town, as evidenced by the name of the neighborhood “Moraitika” (= people from Morias, as was also called Peloponnese, that time), but also the icon of Panagia Anapliotissa (=Virgin from Nafplio) that they brought with them and was kept in the church of Agios Dimitrios, while after its demolition it was transferred to the church of the Assumption of the Virgin. Other population groups followed, from Ikaria island , which created the neighborhood “Karioteika” (from Ikaria), as well from Naxos island, which created the settlement of “Axologi”, but also from Crete, Evia, Kea and other Aegean islands.
In 1869 Neo Karlovasi consisted of 600 houses, 5 churches, a court, the Porphyriada school, a girls’ school under construction, 5 olive mills, while it had 2,736 inhabitants, of whom 144 were farmers, 100 merchants, 220 sailors, 240 craftsmen, 10 priests, 3 teachers and 24 landowners.top
Meseo (=middle) Karlovasi, originally called “Kalivia” (=huts), because the inhabitants of Paleo Karlovasi, built there small makeshift buildings (huts) , auxiliary for their agricultural work in the area, which over time were converted into permanent houses. In the middle of the 18th c., the community was expanded by Peloponnesian settlers, creating the very picturesque settlement of Meseo Karlovasi.
The settlement began to be created around the church of Agios Athanasios, on the ruins of an older settlement, which existed before the desolation of the island (1476) and extended from the church of Agios Athanasios till to the sea and the church of Saint Pelagia. Many of the ruins of the oldest settlement were used as building materials for the construction of the new one, while during the renovation of the church of Saint Pelagia in the middle of the 19th c., were found foundations of an older Byzantine style church, probably of the 15th c., perhaps even older.
In 1869 Μεσεο Karlovasi consisted of 164 houses, 3 churches, 1 school and 1 olive mill, while it had 720 inhabitants, of whom 18 were farmers, 20 merchants, 110 sailors, 22 craftsmen, 6 priests, 2 teachers, 1 doctor and 2 landowners.
On May 8, 1821, in the square of Meseo Karlovasos, Lykourgos Logothetis (Georgios Paplomatas) as the viceroy of the “Filiki Eteria” (Society of Friends) in Samos, raised the Greek flag of freedom, and declaring the revolution against the Turks in Samos.top
From the beginning of the 19th c. approximately, when the fear of pirates had been overcome, began the development of Ormos (=bay) Karlovasou.
The comfortable and flat area of Ormos, far from inhabitable settlements, with a large coastal zone, and plenty of water, helped in the development of Ormos, as an “industrial park” of the time.
Initially, a few small workshops were created along with some houses, however the great development of Ormos began in the middle of 19th c. when the first small tanneries were created, which were the forerunners of the tannery industry that flourished during the period 1880 – 1930, with more than 50 tanneries with great profitability.
The rapid growth of the tannery industry, resulted the rapid reconstruction of Ormos, from tanneries factories, warehouses, buildings for ancillary services, but also mansions, mainly of the tanneries owners, which testify the great wealth that flowed from the industry and the social changes it brought to the city.
With the collapse of the industry, in the middle of the 20th c., factories, warehouses and several of the houses were abandoned and destroyed while some of them changed use. The final blow came with the catastrophic 7 R earthquake on October 30, 2020 that destroyed or caused significant damage to several of the buildings of Ormos.top
Until the end of the 19th c., an important problem that the city of Karlovasi had, was the lack of a port (artificial or natural bay), which made it very difficult to conduct trade, which was the main economic activity of the city.
The geographical location of the city, with the coastal zone exposed to the strong north winds, which often prevail in the area, forced the sailors to loading and unloading the boats with difficulty, while during the 17th c. they do that, after pulling boats to the land, a time-consuming, dangerous and painful process. This fact made urgent the need to create an artificial port (in the absence of a natural bay) which would facilitate trade and improve the further economic development of the city.
In 1870, with a unanimous decision of the municipal elites of the Karlovasi department, it was decided to build a port, in the place named “Schinos”, with money that would come from the imposition of taxes and fundraisers.
The construction of the port began on September 8, 1871 and was completed in 1903. To complete the project, it was necessary in 1899 to issue a bond loan of 450,000 francs, divided into 1,800 bonds, of 250 francs each, with guarantee the revenues of port.
The size of the port was very large for that time, with a length of the large pier 650 m., the small 250 m. and waterfront 400 m., while its area was about 100,000 m2. At the end of 1990, began the expansion of the port to the east , which was completed around 2010.
With the port construction, began and the reconstruction of the settlement, first with warehouses and buildings for ancillary services and then with houses that were developed to the east, along the road that leading to Ormos Karlovasou.top
One view of the origin of the name “Karlovasi” is that it comes from the paraphrase of the Turkish words karlı vadi (= snowy plain), a view which is disputed by many, because snow is very rare at the plains of Samos island.
Nikolaos Zafiriou in his book “Samos Archive”, claims that it was originally named “Kariova” and over time was paraphrased as “Karlovasi”, due to the large number from Ikarian settlers, or Kariotes as they are called in Samos (Kariotes ~ Kariova ~ Karlovasi).
It most likely comes from the surname “Karlovas”, as claimed by Nikolaos Dimitriou, at his book “Folklore of Samos” (1983).
In the past, before the unification of the three communities of Paleo, Neo and Mesaio, they were called “Karlovasia” (plural of Karlovasi). During the 1950s, when they all came together administratively, they formed Karlovasi.
In the past, before the unification of the three communities (Paleo, Neo and Mesaio), they were called “Karlovasia” (= plural of Karlovasi). During the 1950s, when merged and formed one municipality, they call it Karlovasi.top
Economic history & tanning
Karlovasi, from the very first years of its creation, developed its economy based on agriculture (mainly viticulture and vegetables), taking advantage of the rich waters and the large plain, which exceeds 6,000 acres. During the 17th c. develops significantly the trade, in wine and onions, to Skiathos island, Chios island and Smyrna, which bring significant income and making Karlovasi the most prosperous city of the island, as characterized by the Archbishop of Samos Joseph Georgirinis, in his book description of Samos during the 17th c.
During the period 1880 – 1930 approximately, the tannery sector flourished in Karlovasi, when there were more than 50 tanneries with 300 employees and average annual value of exported 12.4% of the total island exports, with maximum 24% in 1888 and a minimum 0.6% in 1894. It was a key factor in the Samian economy and became a regulator of the economic life of the island, while contributing significantly to the upgrading of the economic, cultural, educational and social level of Karlovasi.
Read more about the tannery in Karlovasi >>
Around the same time, the cigarette industry (standardization and trade of cigarettes) developed in Karlovasi, which significantly affected the city’s economy, although it did not have the development, as in the city of Samos.top
Three settlements belong to Karlovasi town,
>> Potami settlement at the seaside, 5 Km west of Karlovasi with 19 inhabitants,
>> Sakouleika settlement, 6 Km south of Karlovasi with 16 inhabitants,
>> and Sourides settlement, 5 Km southeast of Karlovasi with 23 inhabitants, which took its name from “Sourris” family who were the first settlers. Formerly the settlement belongs to Leka village.
- Operating since 1895 at Karlovassi is the Philharmonic Society of Karlovasi, called “Cleanthes of Samos”, which brighten with its music all the religious or national celebrations, etc.
- Karlovasi is the headquarters of the Mathematical school of the Aegean University.
- Karlovassi was the birthplace of the pioneer and leader of the Samian revolution (against the Othomans) at 1821 Lykourgos Logothetis, the bard poet of freedom and Samian anthem Georgios Cleanthes, the great composer Manolis Kalomiris and other prominent men.
- Walk through the picturesque streets with beautiful houses, Visit the museums of the city (Tanning museum & Folklore museum of Karlovasi) and the great churches of the city. Visit the area “tampakika” with the old tanneries and tanning museum.
- Visit Potami area, with the picturesque beach, the lush waterfalls, the ancient church of the Transfiguration of the Savior and the ruins of the Genoese castle.
- Follow hiking route # 4, and get to know Karlovasi Port, Paleo Karlovasi and Potami.
- Other hiking routes from Potami area are the route #1 to the beach Megalo Seitani, the route #2 the small round of Potami and the route #3 the big round of Potami.