Ikaria island is magical, its inhabitants live long lives with good health and joy.
The landscape is largely untamed by agriculture, with dramatic green gorges, rocky moonlike landscape and secluded beaches with crystal-clear, turquoise blue waters.
Ikaria has a unique culture and an independent spirit – here you will experience village festivals, Panigyria, where everyone from the age of 10 to the age of 110 take part in the festivitas.
Find out how to spend your holidays in Ikaria in my post below.
Top 10 things to do in Ikaria
- Hiking in Halari Gorge
- Swim and relax at secluded beaches
- Visit the ancient thermal springs
- Visit the Temple of Artemis
- Mountain biking in the mountains of Ikaria
- Go on a daytrip to the island of Fourni
- Spend an afternoon at Kambos Archaeological Museum
- Hike your way up to the Tower of Drakano
- Visit the Church of Panagia Theoskepasti
- Spend the evenings at the taverns tasting the local, healthy diet
Where is Ikaria island?
Ikaria is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, lying 19 km southwest of Samos, being one of the middle islands of the Northern Aegean. In size it is 255 km2 and with a population of around 8,300. In Ikaria you will discover an island with mountains with both green slopes and barren steep rocks. Through the island of Ikaros runs the mountain range Aetheras, whose highest peak is 1,037 meters.
Map of Ikaria
What is Ikaria known for?
Ikaria is a Greek island world famous for the longevity of the island inhabitants and the healthy Icarian diet. The island of Ikaria in Greece is of outstanding beauty with stunning beaches, rocky mountains, picturesque villages, dramatic gorges, and hiking trails – the true dream destination for any nature lover.
The Icarians live for many years – probably for many reasons combined. First, because of their life attitude with a stress-free everyday life and optimism. The locals are walking around the island instead of using motorized transportation, they all follow their nutritious Icarian diet, and enjoy a vivid social life with regular traditional village feasts and excellent local wines.
Spend a few weeks in Ikaria, and try to live like the locals, enjoying life with all the simple qualities, combined with the excellent local wine and traditional festivities taking place every summer in Ikaria island.
What does Ikaria mean?
Ikaria derived its name from Icarus, the son of Daedalus in Greek mythology, who fell into the sea nearby. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Agios Kirykos.
Ikaria – what to see?
Stone houses: The Ikarians used to construct their houses camouflaged in order for them to look as rocks from a distance and in this way to protect themselves from enemies.
Halari Gorge: Is found near Nas Beach and is a great area with lakes, small waterfalls, plane trees and stone bridges.
Temple of Artemis: In the archaeological site of Nas, on the north western side of Ikaria you find the Temple of Artemis built in the 6th century BC.
Ancient thermal springs: Therma in Ikaria was historically an extremely popular thermal bath offering hydrotherapy since the 4th century BC. You will find the ruins of the ancient baths around two kilometers from Agios Kirikos.
Kambos Archaeological Museum: In this museum you will see various findings from excavations on the island of Ikaria, both sculptures, Neolithic tools, pottery vessels, coins, columns, as well as grave carvings from the Classical and the Hellenistic period.
Church of Panagia Theoskepasti: Like many of the stone houses on Ikaria island, this small church has a rock on its roof. Inside the chapel the skulls of some monks are housed.
Tower of Drakano: This old tower is dated to the 4th century BC. It is constructed with fine marble blocks of a compact quality.
Monastery Evaggelistrias Mavrianou: This monastery is dedicated to the Annunciation and its construction is estimated around the end of the 18th century AD. It has been abandoned since 1960.
Koskina Castle is a Byzantine fortress built in the 11th century AD. It is offering great views to the valley of Plagia from its mountain top.
Fourni Island is great for a day trip by boat from Ikaria. It is a quiet island, with only few tourist facilities since it has not been much developed.
The church of Agia Irini is the oldest church of Ikaria, built in the 12th century on the site of a 4th-century basilica in the village of Kambos, near the port of Evdilos. The only remains of the basilica are the columns standing in the ground. Within the church you will find some fine frescoes of significant artistic value.
The church of Agios Kirikos is the impressive, metropolitan Church of Ikaria, standing in the capital village.
Ikaria – how to get there?
You can choose to take the long way to Ikaria by ferry from Athens, where ferries depart from the Port of Piraeus 3 times a week, but it is a long trip lasting about 11 hours. Between Ikaria and some nearby islands, including Syros, Samos, Chios and Mykonos, there are ferry connections. During summer, Ikaria is connected by ferry with Kavala in the northern part of the Greek mainland as well.
The easiest way to reach the island of Ikaria is by plane. Ikaria Island National Airport has domestic flights coming from Athens, Thessaloniki, and Lemnos. The flight duration is about 1 hour from Athens as well as Thessaloniki. From Ikaria Airport you will need to take a taxi or use public transportation for your transfer, since the airport is situated around 10 km from Agios Kirikos.
Is Ikaria touristy?
In Ikaria you can forget about luxurious resorts, glamourous bars, and pretentious people ‘snapping selfies’ all the time. Ikaria is completely unpretentious!
As soon as you set foot on Ikaria island you feel the tranquility and peacefulness. This is an outlandish place perfect for recharging and get away from the fast-everyday routines. This is one of the main reasons to visit Ikaria – somehow time on the island slows down and everyone is totally relaxed.
In the island of Ikaros you will experience authentic, laid-back people, and take part in traditional feasts, dine in excellent taverns, drinking the locally made, rather strong wine. Your days will be filled with wandering in the wild nature on the trails used by the locals, swimming in the incredibly blue sea from idyllic, hidden beaches and staying at a beautiful seaside hotel.
The best beaches on Ikaria
In Ikaria you will find the most stunning beautiful beaches set in wild natural landscapes. The Ikaria beaches of Mesakti, Nas and Livadi are must-sees during your holidays in Ikaria. If you want to combine the day at the beach with exploration of Ikaria, you can go trekking through Halari Gorge on your way to Nas Beach, one of the best beaches on the island to enjoying the sunset from. You can also go hiking to some of the picturesque villages like Manganitis, Armenistis Ikaria, and Karkinagri. The best way to immerse yourself with the local lifestyle and to get to know the islanders firsthand, is in the villages where you can hear their stories, taste the local wine, and homemade dishes.
The history of Ikaria
Ikaria has been inhabited since at least 7000 BC, when it was populated by the Neolithic pre-Hellenic people that Greeks called Pelasgians. Around 750 BC, Greeks from Miletus colonized Ikaria, establishing a settlement in present-day Campos, which they called Oenoe for its wine.
Ikaria in the 6th century BC became part of Polycrates‘ sea empire and in the 5th century BC the Ikarian cities of Oenoe and Thermae were members of the Athenian dominated Delian League. In the 2nd century the island was colonized by Samos. At this time, the Tauropolion, the temple of Artemis was built at Oenoe. Coins of the city represented Artemis and a bull. There was another, smaller temenos sacred to Artemis Tauropolos, at Nas, on the northwest coast of the island. Nas had been a sacred spot to the pre-Greek inhabitants of the Aegean, and an important port of the island in antiquity, the last stop before testing the dangerous seas around Ikaria. It was an appropriate place for sailors to make sacrifices to Artemis Tauropolos, who, among other functions, was here a patron of seafarers; the goddess here was represented in an archaic wooden xoanon.
The climate and fauna of Ikaria
Most of the villages on Ikaria are nestled in the plains near the coast, with only some of them on the mountains. Ikaria has a tradition in the production of strong red wine. Many parts of the island, especially the ravines, are covered in large bushes, making the landscape lush with green. Aside from domestic and domesticated species (small goat herds make their presence known with their bells, disturbing the serenity of Ikaria) there are a number of small wild animals to be found, such as martens, otters, jumping spiders and toads. Ikaria exhibits a typical Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers.