Ikaria (North Aegean)


Just a few miles southwest of Samos, lies Ikaria, an alternative vacation spot that mainly attracts locals. Its name is derived by Icarus, who according to legend, fell on the sea nearby after his famous flight. The island’s history however extends even further, back to around 7000BC when it was populated by the Pelasgians. After being colonized by Greeks, Ikaria became part of the sea empire of Polycrates and remained predominantly under Greek rule until the early 16th century. Since then, its tumultuous history included Hospitalier influence, Ottoman rule, WWII occupation, acting as an exile destination for communists during the Civil War, as well as a brief 5 month period in the early 20th century when it declared itself as an independent state!

In modern times, Ikaria has been heavily relying in domestic tourism, with locals choosing the island due its secluded blue-green beaches and laid back rhythm. Time moves slowly in Ikaria and rumor has it that the word ‘stress’ is unknown to locals. Perhaps that is the secret behind the island’s prestigious honor of being one of the five ‘blue zones’ in the world. In such places the population regularly lives to an advanced age and in Icaria’s case, one in three make it well into their 90s, due to a combination of healthy diet, lifestyle, and genetics. But perhaps just a visit there is enough to bless you with a long a happy life…who knows?

The best time to visit is in late spring – the sea has warmed up to feasible swimming temperatures and locals outnumber tourists – and early autumn, when most of the tourists have departed and the sea is at its warmest. The view of the petrified forest in the autumn is a site to see.

Ikaria is quite far from the mainland so the sea transport system is not advisable if your starting point is Athens.  By ferry it would take about 6.5 hours to get there.

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cyclades north aegean aegean Islands