IKARIA or ICARIA lies at the very southern tip of the Aegean group of Greek islands, southwest of Samos. Since ancient times, Ikaria has been known for it's dark red wine, its thermal springs, and the legend of Icarus.
Ikaria is a relatively large island and, until recently, unfairly neglected. The island is not immediately appealing to many visitors. A long mountain mass catches the full force of the scouring meltemi wind and steep mountain slopes plunge into the sea on a long coastline that has few sheltered bays or good harbours.
In the interior of Ikaria the landscape is rugged, the villages unkempt, and there are only a handful of good beaches. But the island has its adherents and the best Ikaria beaches compare with any in the Greek islands.
For those looking for somewhere off the beaten track and want a taste of authentic old world Greece, Ikaria could be well worth a visit.
Ikaria is known for its health spas, fed by underground springs heated by radiation. These attract the Greeks in their thousands, but very few foreigners.
Ikaria had a reputation as a 'hippy' island some years ago. Many were attracted by the island's relative isolation and one large German commune had an international reputation.
Ikaria has been used on several occasions as a place of exile, most recently under the military Junta which banished 13,000 communists there during its control of the country.
The sheer, rugged, and sparsely vegetated southern half is separated from the flatter north by the Atheras mountain range. There is an abundance of fine quality slate used construct traditional terraces of many villages.
Ikaria's Main Towns:
Akamatra · Armenistis · Christos Raches · Evdilos · Faros · Gialiskaris · Kampos · Ag Kirikos · Livadi · Messakti · Nas
Pezi · Seychelles · Therma
Agios Kirikos Ikaria
AGIOS KIRIKOS is the island's main port and administrative centre. It is found on the north-east coast and, though a pleasant enough town and well provided with trees and gardens, it is not what the casual visitor might call picturesque.
Many of the buildings at Agios Kirikos are relatively new and have a drab utilitarian air about them. Most visitors are here to book ferry tickets or to catch the island bus.
To the east of the ferry quay is a small strip of stone and pebbles used more for beaching fishing boats than for sunbathing or relaxing. In the summer water taxis shuttle visitors to the island's mineral hot springs at nearby Therma.
There is a small archaeological museum that is free to enter and opens daily 10am - 3pm except Monday and Tuesday.
About 1km west of Agios Kirikos, just past a couple of nightclubs is TSOULKA beach, popular with the local youngsters. Its a pebble and rock beach with plenty of shade and a cafe bar.
A little further west is XILOSIRTIS beach, a narrow strip of rock and pebble with a small jetty and a beach cantina that opens during the summer. Access is down a stairway path at the lower end of the village
About 1km east of Agios Kirikos on the coastal road to Therma is the secluded sand and pebble cove at PRIONI. Access to Prioni is down a very steep pebble path
The resort at THERMA is not much prettier than its neighbour Agios Kirikos. Therma resort is set in a narrow rock cove with a row of cafes along the shore shaded by attractive tamarisk trees.
They look out over a small, quiet beach which stretches out from the small jetty in the middle of the stretch of sand and shingle.
There are half a dozen or so hotels in the compact village of Therma which appears totally deserted out of season but gets overrun in the summer with people visiting the hot mineral springs nearby.
A 10 minute walk east from Therma beach along a waymarked footpath leads to the ruins of ancient Therma. Only the walls of Roman baths remain of the once prosperous Ikarian city that thrived on the reputation of its mineral spring water.
Ancient Therma was destroyed by an earthquake in 205 BC when the city slid into the sea. Swimmers can see the underwater remains just offshore from the Roman baths.
Those that follow the path further will find the place on the coast where the hot water spring flows into the sea. It forms a small pool where you can enjoy a warm dip.
The coastal resort of FANARI, also known as FAROS, lies at the eastern tip of the island and, as a result of a new road having been built to the nearby airport, has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.
Fanari is a particular favourite of those living in Agios Kirikos who enjoy it as a weekend retreat and for tourists looking to escape the rather drab surroundings of the island's main port.
The sand and pebble beach at Fanari runs the full length of the village for about 2km and curves around the headland at the eastern tip of the island. There are tamarisks behind for natural shade.
There are a couple of large tavernas on Fanari beach and a cafe bar. Windsurfing is very popular here and there are plenty of rooms for rent behind the beach. There is no road to Fanari beach and visitors must pass through yards of houses and tavernas to reach the sands.
The island airport is nearby but completely invisible from the beach and flights are few enough to be of an interest than a nuisance. Also nearby are the ancient ruins of Drakano (not to be confused with the third largest town on Ikaria) where there is an acropolis and the ruins of ancient walls and houses.
Further east, beyond the ruins of Drakano, is are the impressive coves and beach of AGIOS GIORGIS. The sandy beach sits in a cove below the church and the recently restored Drakano Tower.
Access is along a rough track, a 20min walk from Faros. There are also water taxis in Faros that will drop you off at the beach. There are no facilities here.
A track north from Faros leads to the remote IERO beach. The deep cove has some interesting rock formations making it ideal for snorkeling.
The beach lies at the end of a deep horseshoe bay is mostly stone and shingle but gets sandy underfoot out to sea. Despite having no facilities there it can get surprisingly crowded in the summer.
Agios Giorgis beach
EVDILOS is the main north coast port of Ikaria, about 40km northwest of Agios Kirikos. Evdilos can be reached from Agios Kirikos along the island's one main road.
The road climbs steeply over the scrub covered mountain ridge to the more attractive terraced slopes of the north coast.
Evdilos is a pleasant enough little port with cafes around the harbour. It is one of the more traditional settlements with simple houses, narrow streets and old mansions.
There is a small and quiet sand and stone beach near Evdilos port but it is seldom visited except by the locals. There are no facilities on the beach and much better beaches can be found within walking distance both east and west.
The better beaches are to the west of Evdilos with a series of good sandy stretches but visitors are warned of dangerous currents along this stretch of coast and care must be taken when swimming.
AKAMATRA is a beautiful village, just south of Evdilos, full of attractive houses with a picturesque square, a folklore museum and several chapels.
The central square of Akamatra has a 500 year-old oak tree, once used as a gallows. There are also several mansion houses in the village with fine balconies.
Just to the south-east lies the area of Alama, where a stoned paved path leads through a dense woodland of towering plane trees, ancient water mills and the springs that supply water to the village.
At one spring is the Alama cave full of stalactites and stalagmites and at nearby Arethousa is the much photographed Theokepasti chapel which has been carved out of the rock. (see highlights)
Just west of Evdilos is the village and beach of KAMPOS. This was once the ancient capital of Ikaria when the island was known as Oino.
There are ruins nearby of a Roman odeon of Ancient Oenoe. Kampos Archaeological Museum can be found on the hilltop of Agia Irini and is well worth a visit.
Local legend has it that the first vine sprouted here, and today vines are cultivated here to make small amounts of strong black wine according to an ancient Kampos recipe.
The Kampos beach is long and sandy. Bamboo grows right up to the water's edge fed by the fresh water river that runs through the plain at the back of the beach and forms small pools.
There is a snack-bar here in the summer and a popular bar and club behind Kampos sands. The nearby village has an excellent museum with more than 250 exhibits, from Neolithic tools to carved headstones.
There are also rooms for rent, tavernas, a Kampos village mini-market and a cafe.
Messakti and Gialiskaris Ikaria
About 11km on the coast road west of Evdilos are a string of good beach resorts and some of the best sands to be found on Ikaria.
The village of GIALISKARIS, about 55km from Agios Kirikos, is also home to a huge white sand beach with waters at MESSAKTI beach, as clear and as blue as the Caribbean.
The resort is at the junction of two small rivers that form fresh water lagoons at the back of the wide and long beach that is mostly pure sand. Shallow water makes it ideal for families but there are strong currents further offshore.
At the eastern end of the beach, a traditional white and blue chapel sits at the end of an outcrop of rock. There are plenty of tourist facilities here including toilets, changing rooms and sun beds.
Not surprisingly this is a very popular beach, with ranks of sun beds, beach cantinas and the usual water sports. But the beach is big enough and deep enough to soak up the visitors with ease.
Several beach volleyball and beach soccer tournaments are held on the sands during August.
Just further along the coast from Messakti and basically the other end of the same beach is LIVADI. The setting is made even more attractive by a freshwater lagoon behind Livadi beach which adds lush vegetation to the scene.
On the beach there are umbrellas and loungers for hire, as well as a waterfront cantina. Above Livadi beach along the main road are a variety of restaurants and rooms to rent.
A picturesque offshore islet makes a challenging target for swimmers, but only if you are a strong swimmer.
The Livadi lagoon offers an interesting change from sunbathing on the beach and there are young turtles to watch and perhaps feed, but not touch, as they can give you a nasty nip.
Just over the headland west of Livadi and below the road as it snakes along the cliff is the tiny cove of AMMOUDAKI. The beach is sand and shingle but the water here is crystal clear so it's ideal for those who enjoy snorkeling.
There are also small underwater caves to investigate but there are no facilities and it is a steep climb down the cliffs to reach the beach.
The small fishing village of Armenistis is one of the more popular tourist resorts on Ikaria, thanks mainly to the necklace of good nearby beaches described above.
Armenistis village consists of clusters of newish and well restored old houses that climb up the hillside and overlook the fishing boats in the harbour and a small patch of beach. It is about 57km from Agios Kirikos and 13km west of Evdilos.
A number of small hotels have been built at Armenistis recently and the resort is a pleasant mix of traditional Greek village and modern tourist resort, though the are only about 70 permanent inhabitants.
There are no cash points here but there is a bakery, mini-market, tavernas and bars. There is also a small museum of Ikarian art in Armenistis village.
Armenistis is surrounded by dense pine woods, mainly thanks to an abundance of fresh water streams and this is the start point for a number of good walks inland.
Christos Raches Ikaria
The beautiful inland village of CHRISTOS RACHES, CHRISTOS RAXES or CHRISTOS RACHON, is about 5km from Armenistis.
It is found about 500m up in the mountains, buried deep in pine and oak woods and dotted with surrounding vineyards.
Christos Raches is the principal village of the region, though it only has abut 350 living there. There is a school, police station and health centre as well as a number of small shops, tavernas and cafes around the central square.
Christos Raches has an imposing church with a marble bellower, some pretty old houses lining narrow cobbled streets and an old ruin of a water mill, hidden in the pines and which is now being restored.
Sleepy and empty during the day Christos Raches 'comes alive' in the evening when the locals come out to wine and dine in the tree-shaded cafes and tavernas.
Also in the evening it's worth seeking out the nearby Litani, a rock with breathtaking sunset views.
Raches water mill
South of Christos Raches is the PEZI plateau where a tiny village of the same name sits on a flat, barren upland plain near a huge dam built in 1994.
It's bit of a change from other Ikarian villages, perched high on mountain sides or along fertile valleys. The Pezi area is more moonscape than landscape.
Apart from creating a refuge for local wildlife the water from the dam irrigates the entire area of Christos Raches. The area around Pezi was once the main hideout for islanders escaping plundering pirates in the 16th century.
Houses, so-called "girotokamada" were built behind granite rocks, both as shelter and as hiding places. The village of Pezi is a step back in time and has notable folklore interest including some traditional stone wine presses.
About 5km west of Armenistis is another of the more popular beaches, known as NAS. The beach can be reached from Armenistis by a very attractive coastal walk.
The small bay is enclosed by outcrops of rock that serves as natural protection from the open sea. It lies at the end of the Chalari Gorge where the river Chalaris flows into the beautiful deep inlet.
The Nas beach of pebble and sand is quite small and the water is prone to heavy swells. As a result a rope has been strung out for swimmers to grab if waves get too big.
There are several tavernas in the nearby Nas village that offer outstanding views over the sea, particularly good at sunset. There are rooms to let in the village and camping nearby.
Near Nas are the ruins of the ancient temple of Tavropolos Artemida and the dock of an ancient harbour, though only the temple foundations and couple of small walls are visible today.
The only other beach of note on Ikaria is on the south coast below the dramatic white cliffs of SEYCHELLES or SEIHELES. This is one of Ikaria's most stunning settings.
The Seychelles beach of brilliant white stones huddles in a picturesque cove surrounded on each side by deeply carved limestone cliffs. It is less often visited as it is far from other resorts but can get quickly crowded as it is quite small.
Seychelles beach is found on the southwest coast about 25km from Agios Kirikos and access is down a very steep path that follows the river bed from the village of MANGANITIS.
You enter the village through a long tunnel cut into the granite bluff. Manganitis is a pretty village of traditional houses and a fine church with views over the sea and edged by the steep cliffs that drop to Seychelles beach.
The white stones of Seychelles not only make the beach blindingly white but also turn the waters a clear azure turquoise, though swimmers should take care as the drop into the water is quite steep and this is not a beach for children.
A large rock sits just offshore at one end of Seychelles beach and offers a place to paddle out at sea. There are no facilities here but there are tavernas and cafes in Manganitis.
Ikaria Island Highlights
Drakanos watchtower is one of the best preserved examples of a military watchtowers from the Hellenistic period. The 44ft high tower was built in the 4th century BC to watch sea traffic in the channel between Ikaria and Samos.
It's located in the eastern half of Ikaria along a dirt road out of Faros and, being a watchtower, has extensive views out to sea. It takes about 15min from where the metalled road peters out.
In 1827 the Greek Navy used it for target practice and a large part of the watchtower was damaged. Nearby is the chapel to Agios Giorgios and below the church is the remote sandy cove of the same name.
The Byzantine fortress at Koskina was built in the 11th century on a mountain peak overlooking the village of Koskina in the centre of Ikaria, about 30km from Evdilos.
You can get there along a dirt road near Koskina which forks from the main road from Agios Kirikos to Evdilos as it winds through a mountain pass.
Inside the fortress is a chapel to Agios Giorgios Dorganas.
The wooded hills above Evdilos and Armenistis, like most of the island, are dotted with hamlets and small villages that are well worth seeking out.
The tourist favourite, and the one most easily reached by a rough road, is Christons Rachon, described above, where there is a pleasant shaded square and splendid views over the surrounding countryside.
Other mountain villages well worth a visit are AKAMATRA, which lies to the south of Evdilos which, together with the villages of DAFNI, STELI, PETROPOULI, and KOSIKIA make for an interesting day out with drives or walks through lush forests to villages full of old houses, flowered gardens and quaint chapels.
Nearby at the village of ARETHOUSA is the picturesque and much photographed Theokepasti chapel which has been carved out of the rock.
North of Agios Kirikos is OXEA, one of the oldest villages on the island, with unequalled scenic views. Higher up at MAVRATON is the Monastery of Agios Nufrios, dated 1809, which has some fine icons and old cells once occupied by monks. Nearby is the pretty chapel of Agia Marina.
Woodland above Dafni
Hot mineral springs
One of the most valuable assets of Ikaria are the hot mineral springs that are found mainly around the spa town of Therma on the south coast of the island.
They are reputed to heal anything, from arthritis to female infertility, and from gout to rheumatism. They had been known since 2000 BC, and nowadays have modern facilities that combine healing baths with family holidays.
Although Therma is the main resort for organized hydrotherapy, there are several places along the islands's coastline where hot mineral springs flow into the sea and where it is possible for one to bathe.
The main minerals of the springs are saline radium and radonium and are said to be the most radioactive in Europe.
Therma hot springs
Ikaria is one of the middle islands of the northern Aegean and a large island, about 255 km2 with 160 km of coastline and a population of 8,300. The island is mountainous for the most part with forested slopes between barren, steep rocks. It is dominated by the Aetheras hill range, whose highest summit is 1,037m. Most villages are nestled in the plains near the coast with a few on the mountains. Many parts of the island are covered by small trees and large
Ikaria Greece - getting there
Online Flight Information - Athens Airways
Ikaria's airport (JIK) is on the northern tip of Ikaria island and takes domestic flights from Athens. There are flights on four days a week from Athens Airways and the flight time is about 45min.
Some visitors arrive to Ikaria from abroad by flying first to Samos International Airport (SMI) and then take the ferry from Samos to Ikaria. Aristarchos Airport (SMI) is about 3km outside Pythagorio and 10km from the capital in the south of Samos island. Services are generally good with taxis and buses available, although there is no dedicated airport shuttle bus.
Olympic Airways also has three flights daily (five in summer) from Athens to Samos. Flight time from Athens is about 45 minutes. The ferry between Samos (Vathi or Pythagorio) and Ikaria (Evdilos or Agios Kirikos) takes about 3.5 hrs.
Online Ferry Boat/Catamaran Schedule
There are daily ferry connections from Piraeus (Athens) to both ports at Evdilos and Agios Kirikos with journey times of about 8hrs. There are also ferry connections to Samos, Mykonos, Tinos, Syros, Naxos and Paros.
Also from Agios Kirikos there is a Flying Dolphin service three times a week to Patmos, Leros and Kos as well as a daily boat service to Fourni. There is a one a week ferry from Evdilos to Chios.
Ikarian water taxis called "venzinas" also connect Agios Kirikos with Therma throughout the day and three times a week visit beaches at Faros, Manganitis and Karkinagri. The water taxis can also be hired for day excursions and around the island trips.
Local transport on Ikaria is by bus, taxi, boat, or hired car/bike. During the summer season the scheduled daily bus service connects Agios Kirikos with Therma, Evdilos, Armenistis and Raches. Private buses can be hired from local travel agents and taxi stands are found in Agios Kirikos, Therma, Evdilos, Armenistis and at the airport at Faros.
Ikaria's bus service is not known for its efficiency so you might prefer to hire a car or motorbike to explore the island. Petrol stations can be found at Agios Kirikos, Ploumari, Miliopo, Evdilos, Avlaki and Christos Raches. Be warned that north south roads through the mountains can be nerve wracking drives with many hairpin bends and sheer cliff drops.
Ikaria Island Weather
Ikaria Weather Five Day Forecast
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UV: >3 Low; 3-5 Moderate; 5-8 High; <8 Very high | Rainy days 1mm+ | 1 inch=25.4 mm
The climate of Ikaria is typically Mediterranean, relatively mild with strong southerly winds in the short, wet winter, and cool northerly winds in the long, dry summer. The summer meltemi wind can bring rough seas especially on the north coast from late June to mid-August. In the mountains of Ikaria mist and cloud formations can keep the higher peaks humid even in the middle of summer. In winter the cloud cover can even bring snowfall.
Ikaria Island Facts
- Telephone code: 0030 2275
- Tourist police: 022222
- Health centre: 022236
- Port: 022207
- Cash points: Agios Kirikos, Evdilos
- Size: 255 km2
- Season: May (24°C) - Oct (18°C)
- Getting there: Domestic flight, Ferries from Piraeus
- Getting around: Car and bike hire, taxi, water taxi and daily island buses.
- Water: Drinkable but bottle preferred
- Special interest: Walking
- Island hopping: Good
Ikaria Websites Links
Island-Ikaria.com : The complete online guide to Ikaria. Hotels, Beaches, Sites, Transport, Multimedia & much more