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Why Should I Visit Ikaria?

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Ikaria at a glance

According to legend, Ikaria owes its name to Icarus, who ignored the warnings of his father Daedalus and fell into the sea and drowned after he flew too close to the sun and his wings melted. 

Fittingly, disobedience and youthful excitement are a hallmark of the Ikarian character and a culture that resists the modern way of life. Famous throughout the world for the longevity of its people, a relaxed attitude to time-keeping, and faith in the power of community, Ikaria is a carefree land characterised by imagination and optimism. 

Blessed with abundant water and wild vegetation, exotic beaches that take your breath away and beautiful villages, this idiosyncratic island with its welcoming inhabitants offers a different kind of travel experience for anyone choosing the ferry to Ikaria. It is a real initiation into the pleasures of a slower pace of life, a “less is more” philosophy, and living in the moment. 

10 reasons to visit Ikaria
  1. To discover the secrets of longevity of the Ikarian people, a phenomenon that has become the subject of serious scientific research.
  2. To become initiated into the art of slow living and the Ikarian zen philosophy for which the islanders are famed.
  3. To discover a surfing paradise on the beaches of Faros and Messakti.
  4. To wander the picturesque streets of the island’s capital, Agios Kirykos, built in the shape of an amphitheatre, with its beautiful sea captain’s houses in shades of red and blue, and flower-filled balconies.
  5. To swim at Seychelles one of the most exotic beaches in the Aegean, which you can only visit with a ticket to Ikaria.
  6. To enjoy stunning views of the Aegean from Koskina Castle, near the village of Kossikia. Built in the 10th century on a mountaintop, the Byzantine fortress was a watchtower to give warning of pirate raids. Inside is the church of St George Dorganas.
  7. To visit the verdant green village of Christos Rachon. A fiercely independent place, with an idiosyncratic way of life and perception of time, the shops here are open from sunset to sunrise and the day really gets going after ten o’clock at night.
  8. To explore Randi Forest, the oldest forest in the Balkans, home to a rare five-million-year-old species of oak tree. It is a unique natural monument of great botanical and historical value.
  9. To experience the authentic atmosphere and special customs of an Ikarian village festival.
  10. To learn the “Ikariotiko”, one of the most popular traditional Greek island dances.
The top 5 beaches

Seychelles: This exotic paradise on the southern coast of Ikaria is considered one of the best beaches in Greece. Its fine white sand and blue waters, imposing granite cliffs and hidden underwater caves make it a magnificent setting. A favourite destination of young people, couples and adventure lovers, the beach is ideal for jumping off the rocks, scuba diving and snorkelling. The beach, which was created by a landslide during the building of a tunnel, is at the end of a ten-minute walk down a steep path. Make sure you have everything you need before you go, as there are no tourist amenities here.

Messakti: Its fine golden sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters make this one of the island’s most renowned beaches. Especially popular among families with young children and lovers of windsurfing, the beach has umbrellas, sun loungers and a beach bar with a view of the pretty Church of the Ascension in the harbour of Yialiskari.

Livada: A large bay with golden sand and blue-green waters next to Messakti Beach. The beautiful setting is complemented by lush vegetation and a pond fed by a stream that flows down from the mountain. The beach is organised for water sports and is especially popular with families that have young children. Combine a swim here with a walk to one of the restaurants situated around the beach.

Prioni: One of the island’s most beautiful beaches – and best kept secrets – on its southeast coast. The emerald waters, the small area of sand and pebbles and the high rocks surrounding it give this cove a wild beauty. The beach is ideal for lovers of seclusion and diving. Access is via a steep downhill path from Agios Kirykos. It is well worth visiting if you choose one of the itineraries for Ikaria.

Don’t leave Ikaria without…
  • Exploring the breathtaking interior of the island with a tour of the Rachon villages. Follow the trail that starts in Christos Rachon, a 25-kilometre route along ancient footpaths, cobbled streets and dirt roads. Discover picturesque villages, beautifully constructed stone bridges, and rivers and lakes surrounded by lush vegetation.
  • Making a stop at Icarus’ Rock, near the villages of Vaoni and Chrysostomo. The place where Icarus, according to legend, lost his wings and fell into the sea is marked with a slab of granite and is overlooked by an open-air stone amphitheatre.
  • Visiting one of the four licensed wineries on the island to learn the secrets of Ikarian wine production. Explore the vineyards of Evdilos, Raches and Prespera, where the varieties of Fokiano, Begleri, Athiri, Vaftra, Assyrtiko and Mandilaria are grown.
  • Climbing up to Drakano Tower near the village of Faros, built of white marble bricks and dating from the Hellenistic period. Today, the remains of the acropolis and part of the defensive walls can be seen, as well as the church of St George.
  • Hiking through the gorgeous Halari Gorge, full of streams, small lakes, beautiful waterfalls, and rich plant life. The route follows the hiking trail that connects Nas beach (near the village of Armenistis) with the mountain village of Christos Rachon.
  • Relaxing with a revitalising visit to Therma, the island's renowned spa town, to bathe in the healing waters of the hot springs of Apollo and Artemis.
  • Going to one of the island’s famous yoga and meditation retreats.
  • Visiting the unique Theoskepasti Chapel near Theoktistis Monastery, built between the rocks in such a way that its roof is formed by two huge flat slabs of stone. It houses an elaborate woodcut dating from 1894.
Tasty Experiences
  • Raise a glass of Pramnios Oinos, the strong red wine (from the Fokiano grape) produced in Ikaria since antiquity.
  • Try a plate of soufiko, the Ikarian version of briam, a medley of roasted vegetables.
  • Sample the delicious traditional pies, such as the unusual fouskopita (with green pepper and melted cheese), and more standard offerings such as hortopita (with wild greens) and kolokythopita (with courgettes and feta cheese).
  • Order some favourite local mezes to go with your ouzo, such as courgette balls, tomato rissoles, chickpea fritters, and cheese pies made with kathoura.
  • Try local wild goat roasted in a wood oven or stuffed with rice and herbs.
  • If you take the ferry to Ikaria, don’t miss the opportunity to try kolokasi (taro root) the local sweet potato. This cone-shaped tuber with thick brown or purple skin and white flesh is served in a variety of ways: as a salad with garlic dip, slow-cooked with beans, in a soup, roasted, or in a casserole with meat.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with a preserve made from kaisi, a variety of apricot for which the island is well known.
  • Sample delicious anama (Ikarian heather honey).
  • Try some kathoura (also known as kathouritsa), a local unsalted goat cheese.
  • Order the catch of the day and seafood mezes straight from the grill at the fish tavernas in Evdilos, Yialiskari and Avlaki.
Trivia

Ikaria has been identified as one of the world’s five Blue Zones, where the inhabitants live much longer than average, frequently reaching the age of 90. The other four regions are Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya (Costa Rica) and Loma Linda (California, USA).​

MAP OF IKARIA
Useful Information