The Greek island of Ikaria sits in the northern Aegean Sea close to the Turkish coast and only 19 kilometres from Samos. It doesn’t have the profile of a Santorini, Mykonos or a Crete. The advantage of this, for travellers who venture here, is that it doesn’t have the big (often too big) tourist numbers of its better-known brethren.
At around 35 kms long and 10 wide it is a middle ranking Greek island in terms of size (see the map at the end of this post). The name comes from the Greek myth of Icarus, who flew towards the sun on wings made of waxed feathers which melted. The myth states that Icarus fell to earth landing in the Aegean Sea and his father, Daedalus buried him on the island that now bears his name.
We spent a few very enjoyable days there in June 2017 with our friends Ron and Ellen, who were holidaying on the island. They had visited many times and were great guides during our visit. We knew nothing about Ikaria before we went, but discovered a wonderful destination full of great locations and experiences.
If you get a chance to visit, here are a few possibilities to put on your list.
The capital, Agios Kirikos, is on the southern side of the island, but the majority of tourists stay on the northern side (more on the north later). We stayed a few kilometres to the SW of Agios Kirikos at the small village of Xilosirtis.
With few tourists and a very pleasant, near empty beach, it was a top place to enjoy the sun and Mediterranean Sea.
The town is small and friendly and interesting to wander around.
You won’t starve in Xilosirtis. It has a good restaurant as well as a tavern in the hills above the town. A few kilometres down the coast in the small village of Livardi is Pergialidi Restaurant with its deck overlooking the sea and neighbouring Greek Orthodox church.
Magganitis and Seychelles, SW Ikaria
The Aetheras Range runs down the centre of Ikaria, with the highest point being over 1,000 metres. Consequently, roads are windy and tight and travel around the island is slow.
But the views are spectacular, so what’s the hurry?
Around 27 slow road kilometres SW of the capital is the small port town of Magganitis. Historically, this part of the coast was prone to pirate raids so a style of housing evolved that looked to camouflage dwellings as much as possible. Some are still evident today.
Just before arriving in Magganitis we came to the beach of Seychelles. This beautiful, white-sand beach was “created” in recent years when a landslide was triggered during the excavation of a road tunnel through the mountain.
It’s now a very popular beach.
The great spine of Aetheras mountains separates the northern and southern sides of the island. When traversing from Xilosirtis in the south to the north we stopped off at the Randi Forest, to see its 200 – 300 year old rare Aria oaks. It is one of the last remaining stands of such age in the Eastern Mediterranean and is protected.
We also checked out some local goats.
It was a hot day when we stopped by the mountain village of Akamatra for a cold drink and a bit of shade.
The largest village on the north side is Christos Rahon (300 inhabitants).
Being in a forest in the hills inland makes it a cooler spot to enjoy one of the numerous cafes and traditional architecture.
The North Coast
In the centre of the north coast is the town of Evdilos. It is the island’s second port along with the capital. With the bulk of Ikaria’s best beaches being on the north coast, Evdilos is a popular starting point for tourists and has much more of a tourism feel than other places on the island.
Heading west there are a number of good beaches, most of which are uncrowded.
On the coast to the west of Evdilos is Nas. There are a number of restaurants, a pretty, protected beach and the remains of the 2nd century BC Temple of Artemis Tauropolos.
At the eastern tip of the island, close to the airport, is the Drakano archaeological site with its 4th century BC watchtower and the remains of a citadel. Built in the times of Alexander the Great, the well restored tower cuts an impressive figure with the view of the neighbouring island of Fournoi looming behind it (see the cover shot at the beginning of this post).
From the car park at Drakano it’s a short walk to Agios Giorgis (Church of St. George).
And then on to the beach.
We’ve only touched on a small sample of possibilities for a visit to Ikaria. There are many beaches, small traditional villages, archaeological sites and much more. If you want more information about tourism to Ikaria click here.
Our time on Ikaria was far too short. We packed a lot into our visit and enjoyed it all. A big thanks to Ellen and Ron for looking after us and showing us an island that they are frequent visitors to and love to spend time on. Having been there we now understand the appeal.
Ken and Cally