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Ikaria: Relaxed and alternative

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Ikaria: Relaxed and alternative

Ikaria, known around the world as the "Island of Long Life", the mythical land of Icarus and Dionysus, resembles an elongated mountain thrown into the sea of eastern Aegean. 

From the mild slopes with dense forests and abundant springs in the North to the bare limestone cliffs of the South and the exotic beaches, Ikaria is gifted with landscapes of untouched natural beauty and charming contrasts. The peculiar identity of the island was carved over time by the prehistoric Pelasgians, the Greeks of Miletus, the Genoese, the Knights Hospitallers and the Ottomans. 

Everything here is different. The archaic language and the melodic way of speaking of the Ikarians. The spirit of "disobedience" and freedom that once turned Ikaria into a place of exile. The idea of slow-living and the famous "Ikarian time". The faith in the power of "togetherness" expressed with youthful passion and ecstasy in the famous Ikarian festivals, a trademark of the island. More than just a travel experience for lovers of alternative holidays, Ikaria is a philosophy of life. 

Routes & Attractions

Built amphitheatrically around the harbour, Agios Kirikos is the capital of Ikaria. The stroll around the picturesque, cobbled streets with the blooming balconies and the colourful captains' houses is an unforgettable experience. Visit the stunning neoclassical building that houses the Archaeological Museum to admire unique exhibits from the Archaic and Classical eras. A few kilometres east of the city is Therma, the ancient spa town with the natural thermal springs of Apollo and Artemis.

Discover the mesmerizing Ikarian hinterland, a realm of castles, viticulture, dense forests and running waters. Visit the mountainous Christos ton Rachon, the "Gaulish village" of the island that turns night into day (shops open from sunset to sunrise and life begins after 10 o’clock in the evening). From here you can take a tour of the beautiful villages of Raches or follow the path that connects Christos with Nas beach through the gorge of Halaris. It is a complex of exceptional beauty with narrow rivers, small lakes, beautiful waterfalls and rich flora. Alternatively, wander in the historic Ranti Forest, the oldest prehistoric oak forest with rare species of holly oaks in the Balkans, which is 5 million years old.

Near the village of Kossoikia, up on a hill stands the Castle of Nikaria, a Byzantine fortress - observatory of the 10th century used for averting pirate raids. Inside is the church of Agios Georgios Dorganas. Walk up the ramparts with the stunning view of Northern Ikaria and the Aegean Sea. Near the Holy Monastery of Panagia Theoktisti, in the village of Pigi, is the namesake historical chapel. Built inside a cave, this enigmatic building has a door of only 1.40 m high and is roofed with two slab rocks. Go inside to admire the ornate wooden carved altar of 1894. 

Beaches & Activities

Wild beauty of granite rocks, lush vegetation and all the shades of the Aegean blue decorate the Ikarian coastline with its amazing beaches.

Impressive Seychelles beach, famous for its exotic setting of white sand, molten turquoise sea and underwater caves, is one of Greece’s most beautiful beaches, ideal for loners. The lively beach of Messakti, with its vast golden sand and very good organization, is a real paradise for families with children and the Mecca of windsurfers. Next to Mesakti is Livadi, one of the busiest beaches of the island and a go-to for water sports and food enthusiasts. The touristy beach of Faros in the South is also crowded with water sports devotees and its huge sandy shoreline hosts volleyball tournaments every summer. Kampos is the paradise for racquetball and beach volley fans.

Loners head to Prioni, a dazzling cove with emerald waters perfect for diving. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the beach of Nas, a magical scenery where river Halaris meets the sea, with the famous river gorge and the ruins of the temple of Artemis Tauropolos in the background. The lacerating north winds and strong currents often make swimming here prohibitive, which explains why free campers and nudists are attracted by this bay. In the sheltered beach of Anefanti in the South, difficult access is compensated with the stunning view of the island of Fournoi. Kyparissi and Avlaki, two northern beaches with golden sand, are ideal for families with children.

An island of mountains and sea, Ikaria is a true paradise for nature lovers who love exploration and adventure. From the enchanting hinterland of Raches with the beautiful ancient forests to the epic routes of the serpentine undulating hilltops of Atheras, this strip of land is crossed by uncountable ancient paths for hiking and mountaineering that cover all degrees of difficulty. The most famous and popular among hikers who love wuthering heights, open sea horizons and history is the medieval "Mavrato – Kapsalino Kastro – Karavostamo" trail. The busiest hiking trail is the Round of Raches (a circular route of 14 km) that passes through stone-built passages with lush vegetation, running waters, oak forests and countless iron or wood fences of ancient houses.

Extreme sports enthusiasts will be fascinated by the options this island has to offer. Go bouldering on granite rocks and imposing limestone cliffs. Take diving lessons in Faros, Agios Kirikos and Manganitis to explore the sea caves. Practice mountain biking, exploring the ancient oak forest or other off-road routes. Take advantage of the ideal conditions for wind-surfing lessons on the island’s northern beaches (Mesakti & Livadi) or canoe-kayaking on the southern beaches of Faros and Armenistis. Sign in for some cooking workshops to indulge in the secrets of the Ikarian diet that promises longevity or book your place at one of the famous yoga and meditation retreats that operate on the island. If you have time, it is worth circumnavigating the neighbouring island of Fournoi on a sailboat. 


Tastes of the island

Ikarian cuisine is considered an elixir of longevity. Based on the island's fine products, local gastronomy is an example of tasty simplicity and sustainability. Try traditional pies with vegetables, such as greens pie (with local wild greens, zucchini and tarhana), tampouropita (sweet zucchini pie), and fouskopita (with green pepper and cheese), cheese pies with local kathoura (white unsalted goat cheese), zucchini balls, tomato balls, chickpea balls. Discover kolokasi, a rare bulb with rough brown - purple peel and white flesh in conical shape. Locals savour it in various versions, either in salads with garlic sauce or cooked with beans, in soups, or as a side dish (boiled or roasted) with meat recipes. Taste the famous raska (local wild goat) cooked in a wood-fired oven, stuffed with rice and herbs or braised (served at the island's festivals).

The Ikarian sea offers daily fresh fish and seafood for the local table. The famous fish tavernas in Evdilos, Gialiskari and Avlaki transform sea bream, sea bass, scorpionfish, octopus and squid into true masterpieces. The famous soufiko (the Ikarian briam) encloses all the aromas of freshly cut vegetables, a dish that takes off with a little kalatha and freshly ground pepper. Don't forget to also try the top local heather honey (known as "anama"), the island's select extra virgin olive oil as well as the kaisia (local variety of apricots with edible pit) that gives a delicious spoon sweet. 

Make a toast with a glass of local Pramneios Wine, the exceptionally strong red and black brusco wine (of the fokiano variety) produced in Ikaria since antiquity. The island cultivates 6 varieties (fokiano, begleri, athiri, vaftra, assyrtiko and mandilaria) and the best way to get initiated into the local wine culture is by touring the vineyards of Evdilos, Raches and Proespera or the four welcoming wineries of the island. 

Traditions & Events

Ikaria is also famous for its "festivals", a long tradition of the island. Do not miss the opportunity to experience the Dionysian atmosphere and the energy of the feast. The tables are set with plenty of Pramneio Wine and Raska, the bands tune their instruments and the sound of the tsampouna signals the start for singing and dancing. The feast culminates with the famous "Ikariotiko" dance while the crowd yells and shouts in ecstasy, dancing in a spiral formation. The biggest feast is that of Agia Marina (July 17th) as it coincides with the Ikarian Revolution of 1912 against the Ottomans. Also popular, the feast of St. John (June 24th), where locals and pilgrims jump over fires. The feast in Manganitis is also unique, against the backdrop of the full moon of August. 

Don’t miss

Hike to the top of the Lighthouse at Cavo Papa (near the village of Karkinagri), a listed monument of maritime heritage, to admire the vastness of the Aegean Sea.

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