Thought to be the place where the hapless Ikarus fell to his death after his wax wings melted, if you visit Ikaria today you will meet some of the oldest people in the world.

This Northern Aegean Island is a certified ‘Blue Zone’ and much studied by doctors and health experts around the world. It is also believed to be the birthplace of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine (perhaps there’s something in that right there.

Rugged, authentic, fascinating – if you are island hopping in the Eastern Cyclades or the Dodecanese islands this is somewhere you should consider as a great add-on.

 

visit Ikaria

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When to visit Ikaria

 

Summer is the best time of year to visit Ikaria.  This island never gets too overcrowded – no matter what time of year – but the height of the tourist season is July and August.

The average temperatures this time of year are around 29 degrees Celsius with mild nights and warm seas. Outside of the summer months, Ikaria is quiet. Autumn and spring are both pleasant times to visit with lower temperatures, cheaper accommodation, but not so good beach or swimming weather.

 

Where is Ikaria?

Situated just 10 nautical miles southwest of the island of Samos, Ikaria is one of the middle islands of the northern Aegean, residing not too far away from Mykonos and Samos.

From the mainland, it is about 290 miles east of Athens and some 580 miles south of Thessaloniki. It is also about 680 miles south of Vergina and 490 miles south of Kavala.

An island with a rich history that goes back all the way from Greek, Ottoman and Byzantine times to Roman, Hellenistic and Prehistoric periods, Ikaria has been inhabited since at least 7000 BC.

Boasting a unique landmass that resembles an upturned ship, its exact GPS coordinates are 37.5967° N, 26.1123° E.

What makes Ikaria so unique?

As previously mentioned Ikaria is one of 5 places in the world designated as a ‘Blue Zone‘. These are the places where people are the healthiest and live the longest.

On Ikaria, in particular, they also have an extremely low rate of Dementia.

The 5 places are very similar in many ways and significant research show they all have these similar traits:

 

  • a lean diet low on meat and usually consisting of food they grow themselves (no supplements or fad diets), and small portions
  • lots of incidental exercise, especially from their gardening
  • a strong sense of family and community – most of these people live in multi-generational homes
  • a strong sense of purpose
  • great destress techniques – on Ikaria this is a daily nap every afternoon
  • they eat their smallest meal late in the day
  • they all drink moderate amounts of alcohol – wine on Ikaria
  • they all have a religious faith, although denomination seems irrelevant
visit Ikaria

How to get to Ikaria

Ikaria has a small domestic airport and is also serviced year round by ferries.

Flying to Ikaria

Most people who visit Greece fly in to Athens International Airport.

From Athens, you can choose to take a connecting flight to the little airport in Ikaria that is located near Agios Kirikos. Aegean Airlines/Olympic Air service the island year-round.

Ferry to Ikaria

Alternatively, you can choose to take the ferry to the island from Athens. Ikaria has two main ports, Agios Kirykos and Evdilos, which both receive regular ferry traffic from the port of Piraeus.

While this method of transit is slow, taking anywhere between six and eleven hours to complete, it is undoubtedly a nice way to travel.

Ikaria can also be reached daily by ferry from the mainland port of Kavala, as well as often from the nearby islands of Samos, Chios , Lesvos and other islands in the Cyclades. A couple of ferry companies that offer routes between them include Hellenic Seaways and Dodekanisos Seaways.

visit ikaria

Getting around Ikaria

 

Encompassing a landmass of 255 sq km and a 150 km coastline, Ikaria is one of the largest of all the Eastern Aegean islands.

But despite this, it is a pretty easy place to get around.

 

Ikaria can be traversed in five different ways:

 

By bus

The bus system on the island is pretty inexpensive, reliable and efficient. So it shouldn’t cause you any issues.

Furthermore, the locals are only too happy to provide you with advice and directions if you need help as to where to get off.

You can find the timetable HERE.

 

Car and Scooter rental

The easiest way is to drive by car or motorcycle.

There is only a limited supply of rental vehicles available in Ikaria, so you will need to book well in advance – especially during the high season of July and August. But if are you able to reserve a vehicle you will be able to tour all around the island at your own pace and convenience. Try Rent A Car Ikaria or Icarian Way.

 

Further reading : Driving in Greece

Taxi

If you don’t want to hire a car, but still want to visit different villages and beyond, you could always grab a taxi.

A number of independently-operated taxis are available on the island. Like with cars, most require pre-booking and whilst this is a very convenient option, it can also be costly. A journey from Agios Kirykos to Evdilos, for example, will set you back about 55 Euros.

Water-Taxis

Another option for transportation is boats. During the summer months, water taxis can take passengers from Agios Kirykos to Therma, as well as from Manganitis to Seychelles beach. Both of which are lovely ways to get around.

Bike Rental on Ikaria

Another option is to rent a bike. This provides plenty of exercise and enables you to visit other parts of the island. Though be sure to pack plenty of water! 

 

amorgos island greece

Ikaria Hotels, Houses and Apartments

 

Unlike many islands where most of the accommodation is centred around just 2 or 3 towns and villages places on Ikaria tend to be scattered across the island.

In the capital and main port town Agios Kirykos, Nefeli Hotel is very popular or, if you want to hole up in your own little tree-house check out amazing Captain Ikaros.

In the other small port town of Evdilos Kerame Studios and Apartments sit high on the high with sweeping views of the harbour and beyond.

Further west you will find the pretty village of Armenistis where Anemi Apartments and Erofili Beach Hotel are both hard to beat.

If a mountain retreat is more your style check out Olivia Villas or for a truly authentic and very charming experience in the interior village of Raches ( where many festivals are held).

Lastly Toxotis Villas are the best reviewed on the island as well as Anemoessa Luxury Villas at the furtherest tip of the Eastern point. Both great for people looking for luxury and seclusion at a great price.

visit Ikaria
visit ikaria

Anemoessa Luxury Villas

Food in Ikaria

Greek food is incredible! So you really should take as much opportunity as you can to immerse yourself in its gastronomy.

In particular, Ikaria is known for excellent goat dishes and fine honey, so you should definitely try meals featuring both of them.

In addition, the island is championed for its wonderful seafood, especially its freshly grilled fish like mullet. With most of the restaurants and tavernas serving perfectly cooked fish that has been caught that day, locally by fisherman.

If you are vegetarian look out for soufiko too. It’s a hot vegetable dish that has been cooked with herbs, Greek spices, and lots of olive oil, which is absolutely delicious!

Given that Ikarian food results in some of the healthiest people in the world it is no wonder that its food has become much sought after. Legendary Greek American Chef Diane Kochilas, the creator of the TV Show My Greek Table is from Ikaria and runs the Glorious Greek Cooking School there every spring and summer.

 

visit Ikaria

Pitaraki Ikaria

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Calamari

Things to do in Ikaria

 

When it comes to things to see and do Ikaria is blessed with a plethora of sights and attractions. Outlined below is a selection of the ones we most recommend.

 

IKARIA Beaches

No Greek Island holiday experience is complete without enjoying the beach. Ikaria beaches are excellent and include the likes of Livadi, Seychelles and Nas, all of which offer excellent opportunities to work on your tan.

Livadi beach is notable for its very fine sand, as well as the small island that resides in the middle of the bay, which many swimmers gamely try to get to. By contrast, Seychelles is known for its stunning blue waters, smooth marble pebbles and intriguing sea caves.

Learn to Surf

Believe it or not surfing is a very popular activity on Ikaria and at any given time you will see plenty of people riding the waves.

But if you are a novice who doesn’t know how to negotiate the swell, why not take the opportunity to get some lessons?

The surfing season runs from the end of May until the latter part of September. With the most popular beach for it being Messakti Beach, on the north side of the island.

The Ikaria Surf School here provides lessons in surfing, as well as stand-up paddle-boarding for people of all experience levels. Which will have you catching a break in no time.

 

visit Ikaria

image@Visit Ikaria, Facebook

 

Explore  Agios Kirykos

Agios Kirykos is both the main port and capital city of Ikaria. Situated on the southeastern coast it is home to around 2000 people and is well worth checking out.

Built around a charming central square that features an eclectic mix of shops, cafes and tavernas, this charming town features fascinating neoclassical architecture, lots of pretty flowers and a wonderful ambience.

Here you will also find the Archeological Museum of Agios Kirykos and the Folk and Historical Museum.

 

Do an immersive Cooking Class

Ikarian Greek American Chef Diane Kochilas, the creator of the award-winning TV Show My Greek Table and author of many cookbooks, runs the Glorious Greek Cooking School and tours every May through September.

 

Visit the Hot Springs of Therma

Situated just outside the capital city, Therma has been providing therapeutic comforts in the form of hot natural springs for hundreds of years.

There are three main geothermal springs here that are believed to possess curative power to rid your body of pain, soothe aches and dissipate stress.

If you do come here you will also be able to check out the ruins of the marble spa, which was used thousands of years ago by the ancient Greeks too.

 

Winetasting at Afianes Winery

We mentioned earlier that Ikaria was known for being the birthplace of Dionysus – the Greek god of wine. So it would seem like a missed opportunity to not go and visit a winery whilst on the island.

One of the best of them is the Afianes Winery. Nestled on a hilltop that overlooks Hristos Rahes, this quaint, award-winning family-owned winery offers tours, wine-tasting and a number of interesting exhibits on display including wine presses and antique wedding dresses.

 

Hike the Halari Gorge

If you really want to get out and explore the island, then hiking to the Halari Gorge is one of the best ways to do that.

A very rugged region situated about 30 miles northwest of Agios Kirykos, this picturesque area has an extensive network of trails and bridges that will lead you through a diverse landscape of rivers, waterfalls and small lakes.

Be sure to take your camera or iPhone with you, as you will want to take lots of photos for your Instagram page whilst here.

 

Visit The Kavos Papas Lighthouse

Tucked away near the island’s southwestern tip, the Kavos Papas lighthouse is a must-visit place.

Awarded cultural heritage status by UNESCO, this magnificent lighthouse was built between 1886 and 1890 for the Ottoman Empire, by the Société Française des Phares.

Offering protection through one of the Aegean Sea’s most difficult passages between Mykonos and Ikaria you can only get to the lighthouse on foot.

Once you are there though, you will enjoy sensational views of the sea and rugged coastline.

 

Other historic sites

If you love taking photographs, then there are plenty of historic buildings dotted around Ikaria that will make excellent subjects.

This includes the Fortress of Drakanos, a crumbling 4th century stone tower – once used as a Hellenistic military fortress – which resides upon a hilltop near the village of Faros.

Other spots of note include the magnificent 11th century Agia Irini Church, (found within the village of the same name), which is the oldest structure on the island.

In addition, the eye-catching Agios Kirykos Church, replete with an iconic blue dome and high, rust-coloured walls is well worth photographing. As are the stunning stone houses of Maganitis, and the impressive whitewashed houses of the Armenistis Village.

You may also want to snap the ancient ruins of the Byzantine Odeon and some of the exhibits on display at the Archaeological Museum of Kampos.

 

Enrol in a Longevity Retreat

If you too would like to learn how to live like people in a Blue Zone it’s possible to book a Longevity Retreat.

According to the people who run it, there are several key steps to living well and long. Through their program, you will be given the knowledge to apply this to your daily lives back home in the form of specific foods and activities like meditation and water yoga.

 

Learn to Surf

Believe it or not, surfing is a very popular activity on Ikaria and at any given time you will see plenty of people riding the waves.

But if you are a novice who doesn’t know how to negotiate the swell, why not take the opportunity to get some lessons?

The surfing season runs from the end of May until the latter part of September. With the most popular beach for it is Messakti Beach, on the north side of the island.

The Ikaria Surf School here provides lessons in surfing, as well as stand-up paddle-boarding for people of all experience levels. Which will have you catching a break in no time.

 

Go Spelunking

On account of its complex geological composition and rugged mountainous topography, Ikaria has over three dozen caves located at various points on the island.

Although most of them are inaccessible or frankly unsafe for tourists, the ones you can visit are steeped in local tradition and present huge archaeological significance and interest.

Of these, the impressive stalagmite-lined Raos Houtra, which is located on the north side of the island, is one of the best to check out.

 

visit Ikaria

Seychelles Beach

visit Ikaria

Theokitsis Monastery 

Events on Amorgos

Religious Events

There are multiple religious events that take place across Greece and Ikaria is no exception.  For example, during Holy Week, you can expect processions of icons in the main towns and villages of the island.

One particularly interesting celebration is the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. This is the biggest religious festival in the country apart from Easter and on Ikaria festivities take place in Christos Rachon and the abandoned village of Lagada.

Taking place on 15th August, this is sometimes referred to as “Easter in the Summer” and celebrates the time when Mary ascended to heaven. Think good food, traditional music, dancing and an all-around festive community atmosphere, often well publicised in the media too.

Also on July 20 is the feast of Profitis Ilias at Agios Kirikos and on August 6  there is another festival in the village of Xristos Rahon with lamb and local wine served to everyone for the entire day and night.

Other Events

The Icarus Festival is a cultural showcase of music, art, dance and cinema. It is usually held in July.

 

Further reading: When to visit Greece – weather, holidays and more

 

amorgos island greece