Travels with V
Ikaria – a different greek island
We’re not altogether sure why we chose Ikaria in the first place, we most probably read about it years earlier when we “collected” greek isles that had something special. So when we decided to do a new kind of journey – and stay at one place – the idea of Ikaria resurfaced. And the more we read about Ikaria the more sure we were. That’s where we’ll go!
Five things that are good to know about Ikaria:
- Getting there: By air from Athens, or by boat from Piraeus. If you find a cheap flight to Samos You can take a ferry from there.
- Stay: Air B’n’B lists a few houses, most of them in quite remote places. Small hotels are found in the major villages. Karimalis winery (see below!) has a great Farm Stay.
- Best beach: Livadi/Mesachti. Two lovely sand strips next to each other with deck chairs, restaurant/bar and toilet. Simply perfect.
- Best food: Karimalis winery in Piyi near Christos. Anna’s fish tavern in Nas. Klimataria in Agios Kirykos. And of course Apostolis in Maganitis.
- Don’t miss: Reserve a rent car well in advance, it’s the only way of getting around. Hike on the old “monopatia”-paths. Tour on horseback or by bike. Swin in the warm spring in Therma. Climb Koskinas Castle, if you’ve got strong legs!
Most of what’s advertised about Ikaria is about the fact that it’s a so called “Blue Zone”, where locals live extremely long lives. But also that the food is particularly delicious ant that it’s an “unknown gem” in the Aegean Sea. And that’s exactly what we want to investigate.
Ikaria has been a remote place for hundreds of years, a forgotten backwater island even for the politicians in Athens. And even if boats have travelled here from Piraeus for a long time it wasn’t until 1995 that Ikaria had an airport. It was built on the only part of the island that is reasonably flat, but it still needed a lot of landfill in the ocean to extend the strip enough for small propeller planes to land.
But elsewhere there’s nothing flat on Ikaria. An elongated island about 40 km x 9 km with a mountain ridge that with peaks over one thousand meters over sea level span from east to west. So most of the ground leans. Everywhere. All roads bend in endless serpentines. There is no such thing as a straight road.
To be able to farm the land the Ikarians have since many hundreds of years built terraces all over the island. Many of them are still in use, especially for Olives and vines.
Ikarians have always been a poor lot. Not just due to the meager earth, but for a long period they were also plagued by pirates and foreign soldiers. Persians, Genoans, Ottomans and privateers have all been here and terrorised the islanders. who were forced to flee up in the mountains, dwelling in caves or building so called “hidden houses”. These houses were built under projecting boulders so they couldn’t be seen from passing ships. This was such a successful strategy that for long periods Ikaria was considered uninhabited.
The house we rented through Air B’n’B in Maganitis was quite modern, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room and kitchen. But you don’t spend much time indoors here due to the heat. One really irritating factor was the abundance of wasps, always attacking us on the porch. They were probably unusually aggressive due to the late summer heat that made all the flowers wither. But the Ikarians have a special wasp detergent – they pour greek coffee powder on a plate and set fire to it. And it actually works!