Myths and Ikaria
According to the myth, it is the sea around Ikaria where the son of Daedalus landed when the sun burnt his wax wings; that sea neighbourhood owes its name to that leggend, as it is called Ikarian. It is said that Ikarus rests to eternity on the islet Níkari opposite the island. His fall is symbolised on a statue in the entrance to the island’s main port.
But that’s not all: Ikaria is linked to Dionysus (Bacchus) too. In particular, it’s the area of Drakano in the east that is supposed to be the god’s birthplace. Nowadays, the remnants of an old castle are there, a circular building of the Alexandrian era (4th century BC).
As far as archaeology is concerned, there is also the foundation of the ancient temple of goddess Artemis in the area of Nas. It is the same place that myths depicted as the home of the water nymphs Nayads.
Nature and Ikaria
Hiking on the island of Ikaria is not only a wonderful experience, but also the reason why a great many choose the island of the myths as their winter or summer holiday destination.
This pristine land is mostly mountainous and covered by a carpet of cypress, plane, oak, and pine trees. It is under that carpet that the island’s slopes maintain their moisture to enable wild goats to graze around. What is more, the South seems to have given into the historicity of olive and the tastefulness of apricot trees – don’t miss tasting the local variety called “kariotika kaissa”.
The forest of Radi: Part of the Natura 2000 scheme, this natural monument is considered to be the oldest in the Balkans. Low types of oak trees are its most numerous “residents”.
Chalaris’ Canyon: A great variety of flora and fauna go hand in hand with rich vegetation, while the river that crosses the canyon forms some marvellous little waterfalls and basins.
Another exciting experience is to walk through the canyon that lies underneath the aeolian park of Ikaria, all the way to the beach of Nifi. In the freshness of the arbutus trees and the scent of thyme, eagles build their nests to treat nature lovers with some fascinating birdwatching moments.
Finally, some of the best friends of some of the inhabitants of the island are… swarms of bees. As a matter of fact, beekeeping is a source of life and a means for providing locals and visitors with delicious thyme honey.
Villages and Ikaria
Agios Kirykos: Seamen and captains had built their houses in the capital of the island to give it an air of marine tradition. In the archaeological museum this tradition lives on, as a great part of the exhibits had been fished off the bottom of the sea.
In the North there is another port village, Evdilos. Built around and above the port, the village is a beauty with traditional houses, cobbled streets, and a characteristic local colour.
Karavostamo: It is the largest village and a very hard-working one: seafarers and the workmen who built the churches and the arched bridges of Ikaria used to reside here.
Karkinagri: It is an isolated fishing village, in the proximity of cape Papas, which is alleged to house the most fun-loving of the villagers of the whole island. It is also very impressive as it rests beneath a mountain with heaps of large stones. An old belief has it that the stones were thrown onto the island by God, when he had finished creating the world and had no longer need of building material.
Christos: One and two-storey traditional houses and cobbled streets mark the main village of the mountainous area of Raches. But tradition here does not hold strong only in architecture: in old times, farmers and unskilled workers of all kinds in an unrelenting need of making a living, would get here after the end of the working day, to trade their goods and shop. As a result, shops would be open when there would be no more daylight. Nowadays, shops in Raches keep the old habit: they are open from dusk till dawn!
Beaches and Ikaria
Wild beauty is a landmark of Ikaria. When it comes to thick vegetation or high mountains, enchanting rivers or gorgeous gorges, Ikaria is definitely the place to be. But that is no less true when it comes to beaches too. Sandy or pebbly, popular or isolated, easily accessible or non car-accessible ones, with or without food and drink amenities, the beaches of the island are proud for their crystal clear turquoise waters.
Not far from the village of Magganitis there is a very beautiful beach. Its sand is surrounded by masses of rocks, which have been left after digging through the mountain to build a tunnel to the village. The exotic –somewhat uncanny- picture recalls Seychelles, which is actually what the locals have named that beach. In the NW, the village of Armenistis is very popular with the young, mainly thanks to the most famous beaches of the island, Livadi and Messakti.
If you have arranged for your accommodation in Agios Kirykos, treat yourself with the joys of the sea at the beaches of Prioni, Lefkada, Faros, Drakano, while the area of Evdilos is closer to the beaches of Fytema, Fles, Kyparissi.
Thermal springs and Ikaria
In the ancient times, the thermal springs had caused for a town to flourish; it was a town that celebrated the natural phenomenon and its therapeutic effects by its name: Thermai. In the roman years, an earthquake devastated Thermai, but not the springs, which are considered to be among the richest in the world as far as radium content is concerned. Rheumatism, arthritis, neuralgia, neuritis, skin, circulatory, endocrine and gynecological conditions bring people to the springs to seek and find cure. Some of them dive not only into health, but into history also: they swim in the water coming out of an ancient basin, at the place where the ancient thermal site used to be.
History and Ikaria
The island was originally inhabited during the pre-historic era and its previous name was Makris (or Dolichi), due to its elongated shape. Current name derives from Icarus, son of Daedalus, who according to the myth, fell in Ikarian Sea while attempting to fly higher than his father. Since antiquity, it has been a place of exile for political dissidents.
During Byzantine era, the city of Oinoi was the center of the island and a place of exile for members of the Royal family. In the beginning of the 13th century, Ikaria was a part of the Latin empire of Constantinople, while in 1484 came under the authority of the Knights of Rhodes and in 1521 was occupied by the Turks. The island was liberated in November 1912.
During the centuries after 1.000 AD, the locals left the shore for fear of the pirates plundering and looting their island. That explains why all the traditional settlements are retired to the mountainous parts of Ikaría. Some splendid castles of the 11th and the 12th centuries testify to that. Pay a visit to:
Palaiokastro (in Miliopos area)
Kapsalino (in Mavratos area)
The castle of Nikaria, atop mount Athera (from which the view is just amazing!!!)
Here and there, age-old still wayfarers will be joining your hiking: beautiful windmills and watermills add to the traditional aspect of the scenery of the island. Speaking of mills, you’ll see one in every traditional old house: it’s a simple yet very effective hand-mill that enables some stones to move and turn and grind wheat.
Feasts and Ikaria
If one had to name one thing to identify Ikaria with, it would definitely be its feasts. Either for religious of for social reasons, there are feasts happening almost daily in the summer season. The inhabitants make their own full-bodied red wine off their vineyards and set the spirits on fire with it. People volunteer to roast or boil meat (of the wild goats of the island) prepare salads and cook potatoes, and then they offer them to the visitors, who are either strangers, or islanders whose turn is not to participate in catering for the feast, but to pay a token price as visitors, so that the local governments can finance their public works. Everybody dances the night out. They may wear stylish clothes in the day, they may look old and heavy, they may be very young and with a globalised culture; nevertheless, they are full of energy and enthusiasm to dance to sounds of good, folk, local live music. Join them for a genuine Ikarian experience!