Ikaria (or Icaria) was named after Icarus of Greek mythology, who fell into the surrounding sea when his wax feathers started melting once he approached the sun. If you never heard this story but can’t recall how you know this island, chances are that you were reading some articles about the “Blue Zones” of longevity. Yes, Ikaria is one of the five places in the world where people live remarkably long lives. In fact, locals live on average 10 years longer than those in the rest of Europe and the USA, with one-third of the population living into their 90s!
But what is the secret of this magical island, where people forget to die? Ikaria is truly a mecca for the naturalists, offering mesmerizing hiking paths and rare wild beauty. It’s a pristine enclave of nature and history with a pure and unspoiled atmosphere. The topography of the island is a contrast between lush green slopes and barren rocks. Its beaches vary, from remote and sandy where only pure nature is to be found to cosmopolitan resort ones. But all of them have one thing in common: they are surrounded by the Ikarian sea, one of the cleanest in the world. The most popular beaches can be found on the north side, while the south side hosts the less crowded, rocky ones.
Ikaria offers a truly relaxing atmosphere, where locals are probably the most laid back people you’ll ever meet and you can’t help but follow their pace. If when you reach Ikaria your energy levels are still high, visit a “panigyri” and I can guarantee you that from the next day onwards you’ll also find your “Ikarian balance”!
How to get to Ikaria
You can reach Ikaria either by plane or by boat.
The shortest journey duration is by plane: Ikaria airport (code JIK) is located on the east side near Faros village. It serves daily domestic flights from Athens and Thessaloniki. During the summer months, connections with Crete and Limnos are also available. As the number of flights is relatively limited and the demand high, timely booking is strongly recommended.
If you decide to travel by boat, there are a few options: Conventional and high-speed ferries are available from Athens (Piraeus port), with a duration varying from 5.5 to 9.5 hours. In case you are not in Athens, you may consider taking a ferry from one of the other islands that Ikaria is connected, like Syros, Chios, Lesvos, Limnos, and Samos. If you are in Northern Greece and want to travel by boat, note that the island is also connected with Thessaloniki and Kavala. Keep in mind that there are two ports on the island and ferries arrive at both locations so it’s good to arrange your ferry considering where you will be accommodating.
Agios Kirikos – Agios Kirikos (or Agios, as the locals call it) is the capital of the island and one of the island’s ports. There are plenty of accommodation options and a small pebble beach next to the port for those who don’t want to leave the town.
Armenistis – One of the most popular resorts of Ikaria, mainly due to the fact that there are two long and sandy beaches in close proximity: Livadi and Mesakti beach. Armenistis has many restaurants and taverns and a good number of lodgings.
Evdilos – The second port, on the north side of the island. The beach is quiet, without any facilities but with crystalline waters and wonderful surroundings. Several accommodation options are available there.
Faros (or Fanari) – One of the most popular touristic villages. You can find the largest beach on the south coast, good for families and with great F&B options. For sports fans, every summer there’s a volleyball tournament.
Top Attractions in Ikaria
Christos Rachon – The largest village in the North of Ikaria and an attraction itself! This is the village that… never sleeps! It’s famous among tourists as it follows its own “rules”. The local stores only open late in the evening until the first morning hours! The village’s paved square with the surrounding cafes & bars attracts hundreds of visitors every day. It’s not uncommon to see a girl doing her grocery shopping at 4am in the morning, after a night out! And this is a good example of the “Ikarian time”.
Seychelles – One of the most beautiful and “exotic” Greek beaches, as the name suggests. It was created several years ago by a landslide. Seychelles is surrounded by dramatic limestone white cliffs and has bright pebbles and emerald waters. During summer there are often beach parties taking place. But regardless of whether you go there for the scenery or the parties. This is the number one beach on the island. Simply breathtaking.
Hot springs – Therma is a seaside village with thermal springs, known for their therapeutic properties since the 1st century BC. They are considered the best hot springs in the world, with temperatures ranging from 31 to 58 degrees. The island has several thermal springs in different areas, with the ones in Therma being the best, offering a fully organized spa.
Ikarian Panigiria – Ikaria is renowned throughout Greece for its “panigiria”, the local village festivals commemorating a local Saint. It is the absolute must-do when on the island. Locals and tourists gather all together on the evening, feast and drink, and then dance the local (and very fast and lively) Ikariotiko dance. Hands down one of the most cheerful events of Greece.
Nas – Nas is a beautiful place to visit. It has a great little beach and a tranquil river that starts and finishes here. A perfect place to relax.
When to Visit
All summer (June to August), along with the end of spring and the beginning of autumn are the best seasons to visit Ikaria. Earlier or later the weather is quite unstable and wet, so might prevent you from certain activities. Ikaria is not as “busy” as other Greek islands, so whichever month of summer you choose to visit, you will be having a pretty relaxed stay. It is highly recommended though that you be there around mid-August. This is when the best “panigiria” takes place.