Ikaria Island

Ikaria is 100% Authentic Greece

Ikaria is in the North part of the Aegean Seas between Mykonos and Samos. The name of the island derives from Greek mythology as it is named after Icarus, son of Daedalus. Icarus is said to have fallen into the sea nearby Ikaria as he didn’t pay attention to his father’s warning not to get too close to the sun, and the wax on his wings melted.

Ikaria is 255.00 km2 big, has 164 kilometres of coastline and has a population of 8350,00 inhabitants. The topography is a contrast between verdant slopes and barren steep rocks. The island is mountainous for the most part. It is traversed by the Aetheras range, whose highest summit is 1,037 metres. Most of its villages are nestled in the plains near the coast, with some in the mountains. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Agios Kirykos. Other villages of the island are, Evdilos (port for ferries to Mykonos and Samos), Armenistis, Nas,  Manganitis, Christos etc. Its residents are known for their devotion and respect for nature, love of good wine, food, music and dancing

History of Ikaria

Ikarian history dates back to 7000 BC; evidence of Neolithic culture has been discovered nearby Kampos and it is related to Pre-Hellenic populations. However is mostly famous because it has been a lair for pirates for centuries. This fact played a crucial part in the formation of settlements around the island. Inhabitants moved up to the mountains leaving the coastal area abandoned. This is the main reason why Ikaria has no urban centre, but has many villages scattered around, some of them with a couple of houses only. These were built being hidden in the mountains applying certain camouflage at all times. Only after piracy ceased in the middle of the XIXth century coastal life started to flourish again.

Recent History:  There was considerable dissatisfaction with the Greek government which invested little in developing Icaria which remained one of the most backward regions of Greece. Until the 1960’s the Icarians looked to the Icarians in America rather than Athens for help in building roads, schools and medical facilities. Throughout the first half of the 20th. century the economy depended on remittances sent from America by Icarian immigrants who began settling in America in the 1890’s.In America Icarians demonstrated a talent as steel mill workers, and independent business men. The island suffered tremendous losses in property and lives during the second world war and the German and Italian occupation.  After the war the majority of the islanders were sympathetic to communism, and the Greek government used the island to exile about 13,000 communists from 1945 to 1949. The quality of life improved after 1960 when the Greek government began to invest in the infrastructure of the islands assisting in the promotion of tourism.

Blue Zone Ikaria

After extensive research on the island, acclaimed New York Times Best Seller author of “Blue Zones”, Dan Buettner and his team, discovered the secrets of longevity on Ikaria and declared it as one of only 5 other Blue Zones worldwide. A Blue Zone is defined as a place where the environment is conducive to old age and in Ikaria it was found that residents are several times more likely to reach the age of 90+ compared to normal. Its also notable that on Ikaria instances of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes are significantly lower, and dementia is rare.
Besides the Greek island of Ikaria the other Blue Zones of the world are: Nicoya in Costa Rica, Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in California, and Sardinia, Italy.
What is the secret of Ikaria which gives Ikarians a better chance of a long and healthy life compared to the rest of the world?
Its a combination of factors including diet, social life and exercise.
Little or no stress, maintaining a home vegetable garden, looking out over the bright blue Aegean Sea, walking in nature, picking and eating fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, drinking wine with your friends and family, sleeping well and taking a siesta (short afternoon nap) and eating according to the Ikarian Diet.
The Ikarian Diet is based on lots of homegrown vegetables including wild vegetables and beans, limited amounts of sugar and meat, more grains and fish, goat milk, honey, herb tea, Ikarian red wine and, of course, olive oil. For Ikarians, keeping a garden is also a very healthy way of life. Not only for the homegrown vegetables, but because it means plenty of exercise: digging, sowing, weeding and harvesting. In general, the topography of Ikaria makes physical activity a necessary part of the Ikarian lifestyle. Ikarians burn calories just by walking around their homes and villages, in addition to working outdoors.
The surprising factor of Ikarian longevity is the social side of it. Family ties here are very important and houses often contain multiple generations. Grandparents in Ikaria play an important role in the upbringing of their grand children and the household. This means that older Ikarians have an active social role. From the Ikarian perspective, living alone is unhealthy.

Lifestyle of Ikaria

Most visitors to Ikaria come to realize that the island and its people exist beyond the normal concepts of time as we are used to in the modern world. The Ikarians tend to live at their own pace and visitors to the island must be aware of this. For example, if a shop owner happens to wake up at 15:00 and open his/her store at 18:00, so be it. Their mentality goes, it’s their life, and their store, and there is no need to live life bounded by the ‘anchos’ (stress) that obeying and serving others is one’s prime purpose.
The slow and moderate development of tourism on Ikaria has indeed created a slight shift in this area, so one can now find essential services like pharmacies and minimarkets open from maybe around 10am, but most Ikarians are not reliant on tourists (in contrast to the rest of Greece that thirsts for visitors with thick wallets). This is not due to the “Ikariotes” being unfriendly – quite the opposite. Ikarians are open, relaxed, down to earth and passionate people who greet you with a genuine smile and say hello to you when you drive or walk past them. Ikarians have always been self-sufficient people, mainly shepards, farmers, fisherman, shop owners and craftsmen. They farm their own land – with most households growing their own supply of organic fruit, vegetables and herbs. Youths start learning to harvest the land and herd goats and other animals, as well as other traditional labour, as early as their adolescent years. Young men and women work hard and see it as a way to carry on their heritage.

Arriving at Ikaria

– flight to Mykonos and then Ferry (Hellinic Seaways) to Ikaria Evdilos (2 hours)

– flight to Samos and then Ferry (Hellenic Seaways) to Ikaria  Evdilos (1 hour)

– flight to Athens and then flight to Ikaria or ferry (Hellenic Seaways)  to Ikaria Evidilos  (7 hours from Pireus)

– sometimes you need to sleep one night in Athens (of course we arrange this for you)