The island of Icarus

Icaria

Beautiful, calm and traditional, another jewel in the Eastern Aegean, the island of Icaria attracts more and more the tourist interest. Tied to the myth of Icarus, with natural beauty, wonderful beaches, picturesque harbors and traditional villages, Icaria is further known for its hot springs, the traditional dance that has its name and the famous since antiquity black-red wine.

Location

The island of Icaria is in the Eastern Aegean Sea, southwest of the island of Samos and west of the group of the small islands Fournoi. It covers an area of 255 sq km, having a length of 40 km, 12Km width and 8.400 inhabitants.
Its shape is elongated from west-southwest to east-northeast. The west part is wider and it is crossed throughout its length by a mountainous formation. The mountain Atheras dominates the southwest side and its highest peak, Fardi or Kapsalino Kastro, is at 1307 m. In ancient times the mountain was called Pramnos and was known by Homer, who mentioned the famous wine of Icaria named pramneios wine.
The coastline has a length of 102 km. On the north side the slopes descend smoothly to the coast, while on the southwest side the shores are rocky and steep. The most hot springs are on the south side, in the capital Aghios Kirykos and the neighboring settlement of Therma.

Getting there

We go to Icaria by ferry from Piraeus or by plane from Athens and Thessaloniki. Ikaria is also connected with a local ferry with Samos and Fournoi.
Flights depart from Athens and from Thessaloniki every day, but check it before your depart. The airport of Icaria is at 12 km from Aghios Kirykos and 35 km from Evdelos.

We can move on the island by bus or taxi. We may also rent a car or motorcycle in Aghios Kirykos, Evdilos, Gialiskari and Armenistis.
A bus line connects frequently Aghios Kirykos with the neighboring settlement of Therma. Other bus lines connect the settlements in the southern and northern side of the island as follows:
- Evdilos-Karavostamo-Miliopo-Plomari-Monokambi-Perdiki-Aghios Kirykos.
- Raches-Armenistis-Gialiskari-Avlaki-Kambos-Evdilos-Aghios Kirykos.
- Plagia-Chrysostomo-Xylosyrtis-Gladero-Christos-Aghios Kirykos.
- Aghios Kirykos-Koundoumas-Panagia-Agios Panteleimonas-Christos-Gladero-Lefkada-Aghios Kirykos.
From Aghios Kirykos we can go by small boat to Therma and Faros to the northeast, as well on the other side, southwest, in the small ports Manganitis, Trapalo and Karkinagri.

Accomodation

The hot spots of the island are the ports of Aghios Kirykos on the south coast and Evdilos on the north coast. Around these settlements are the most developed tourist areas.
Options for accommodation and recreation there are mainly:
- In the area of Aghios Kirykos and further south (Lefkada, Manganitis, Chrysostomo).
- North, very close to Aghios Kirykos, in the settlement Therma, center of spas.
- At the eastern edge of the island in the region of Faros.
- On the north coast, especially west of Evdilos (Avlaki, Gialiskari, Armenistis, Nas).

The island took its name from Icarus. According to the legend, he was drowned in its sea area when, flying with wings glued with wax, made by his father Daedalus to escape from Minoann Crete, he ignored his advice and approached the sun. The wings melted and Icarus fell into the sea, named Icarian Sea. The island had also other names in ancient times, mainly from its oblong shape, as Makris and Dolychi.

In the middle of the 8th century BC colonists from Miletus in Asia Minor settled on the north coast, in the current region of Kambos, which was called Oinoi for its wine. In antiquity, besides this city, there were also the cities of Drakano at the eastern edge of the island and Thermae on the southeast coast. On the northwest coast, in the settlement Nas, was a famous sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Artemis.
At the end of the 6th century BC, Icaria was under the tyrant Polycrates of the island of Samos. Later it was conquered by the Persians, and when it was liberated in 479 BC, at the end of the Persian Wars, the cities Oinoi and Thermae became members of the Athenian League. In the Hellenistic era was conquered by Ptolemy the 1st of Egypt, Demetrius the Conqueror and Antiochus, king of Pergamum, and since 133 BC was under the Roman rule.

During the Byzantine era Oinoi was still the main settlement called Dolychi. In those years the island was occasionally used as a place of exile for senior officials. In 1191 it was granted by Emperor Isaacius the 2nd Angelus to the Venetians as a gift and in 1247 was conquered by the emperor of Nicaea Ioannis Vatatzes. A little later fell into the hands of the Genoese of the island of Chios. Since the mid-16th century was under the Turks.
The inhabitants of Icaria revolted along with the other Greeks in 1821. The island was included in the free state of Greece in 1828, but in 1830 returned to Turkey with the London Protocol. It rebelled on July 17, 1912 and on July 23 was declared free independent state, while on November 4 was united with Greece. Since 1936, during the dictatorship of Metaxas, as well during the civil war from 1945 to 1949 was used again as a place of exile for political prisoners.

As the boat from Piraeus approaches from the west and passes cape Papas, the southwestern edge of the island, the steep coast appear with wild natural beauty. Going northeast, the shores become smoother in several places.

Aghios Kirykos is the the capital and port. Aghios as is called by the locals, is built on a hillside at an altitude of 144 m, having two-storey houses with balconies full of flowers. The Archaeological Museum is housed in a two-storey neoclassical renovated building belonged to the Old High School, built in 1925 with donations of expatriates of the island in America. The exhibition includes vases, coins, stone and bronze tools and amphorae found on the seabed. There is also a Folklore Museum.

Next to the main port is a marina for yachts, as well piers for fishing boats and small boats, and near a small rocky beach. Nice beaches are along the coast to the northeast and southwest of Aghios Kirykos, while north, in the interior, are built picturesque mountainous rural villages with nice views, like Kountoumas and Tsourado.

South coast

At a short distance south of Aghios Kirykos is the settlement Lefkada, known for the hot springs and the nice beach. Nearby are the beaches Kotsambi, Skepsi (Thought, so named by the name of a nearby sculpture), Tsoukalas and Syrtiko a small sheltered bay. Further south is the settlement Xylosyrtis, with the roofs of the houses made of dry stone, built amphitheatrically in green surroundings. It is known for its beach and the source “Athanato Nero” (“Immortal Water”) with healing qualities for kidney diseases. Near is the monastery of the Annunciation, built in the 17th century.
West of Xylosyrtis is Chrysostomo, a village also in green surroundings with a nice beach. In the sea stands out the Rock of Icarus, which according to mythology is the point where Icarus fell. After Chrysostomo, in the lush slope is built the village Plaghia is (Slope). On the coast is the beach Exo Plaghia (Outside Slope).

Further south is the small port Manganitis, where we can go with the small boat coming from Agios Kirykos. Nice fishing village, among imposing cliffs; near the harbor with fishing boats is the beach Ghialos; also the beach Fyrodi. The most famous nearby beach is Seychelles.

Next is the small coastal village Trapalo, where we can also go by the same boat, which continues up to Karkinagri, a little further south, a picturesque fishing village with a harbor, a beach and small coves around. There we can also go by road from Raches, the western mountainous region of the island.

At the southwestern edge of Icaria at Cape Papas, rises the Lighthouse of Cape Papas, declared a Culture Heritage monument. We go on foot, taking first the road from Karkinagri to Evdilos and then a dirt road leading to the trail towards the lighthouse.

The lighthouse was built in 1886-1890 by the French Company of Lighthouses and along with the building of particular interest is its first mechanism, a fine example of the lighting systems of lighthouses in the late 19th century. It lit for the first time on May 20, 1890, was included in the Greek lighthouses network on April 9, 1915. During World War II became an outpost of the Italians and was severely damaged and stopped operating. It worked again in 1945, in 1980 was changed to electric beacon and in 2000 was fully automatic. The tower height is 11 meters and the focal height 75 meters; 32 stone and 21 metal steps lead to the top and it is visible from 25 miles.

Close to Aghios Kirykos, at two kilometers to the northeast, after the small cove and beach Prioni, is the settlement Therma, the spa town of the island, with tourist facilities and a sandy beach next to the small harbor.
Therma have the most of the hot springs of Icaria, which are known since antiquity, as evidenced by the remains of ancient baths east of the current settlement, very close, at the site of the ancient city Thermae. There are also ruins of the ancient citadel.

Along the coast towards the northeast, on the road to Faros, we find one after the other the small beaches Nealia, Nyfi, Anefanti, Glyfadi and Kerame with the chapel of Panagia, trees and cool water.
In the settlement Perdiki the main road turns to the west towards the north coast, while another road leads to the airport and the region of Faros to the northeast. Just outside Perdiki is the Castle of Kefala, as is called the rock on which is built, or Castle of Lefa, as the locals call it.

The settlement Faros or Fanari is located near the airport, on the northeastern edge of the island, in an area with vineyards and a large beach. Near are the beaches Atsipades, Iero and Aghios Georgios.
In this region was the ancient city Drakano, as evidenced by the ruins of fortifications. On a hill at the eastern cape of Icaria is the Tower of Drakano, a round building of the 3rd century BC.

North coast

The road from Agios Kirykos towards the north shore passes by the eastern slopes of the mountain Atheras and then turns westward along the coastline. On the slopes are nice villages, as Monokambi, Ploumari and Miliopo where, at an altitude of 300 m, on the mountain Gerakas, are remnants of Palaeokastro, old settlement and castle. Further south, at the village Mavrato, a path leads to the Castle Kapslino at an altitude of 800 m.

Approaching the coast we reach the settlement Karavostamo with its houses up to the sea, the church of All Saints and the beach Aris (Mars), as is called a torrent that reaches up there.

To the west is located Evdilos, the other port of the island, with a marina for small boats, built amphitheatrically with narrow alleys, stairs and flowers. It is the center of the northern region and offers accommodation facilities and recreation at the nearby nice beaches.
It is also the starting point for tours to the interior, on the green slopes of Atheras, in the settlements of the region Messaria, as is Frantato with nice view, and further south the villages Akamatra, Daphne, Steli, Petropouli and Kossikia. Higher, after Kossikia, is the Byzantine castle of Nicaria of the 10th century. Inside the castle is the church of Aghios Georgios of Dorgana. In the center of the island another nice village, Arethusa, is the passage for hikers crossing the paths of mountainous Icaria.

Close to Evdilos are the beaches Kerame and Kyparissi and to the west, at a short distance the coastal village Kambos. Close to Kambos are the remains of the wall of the ancient city Oinoi, which continued to exist during the Byzantine era with the name Dolychi. In the Archaeological Museum of Cambos we can see sculptures, tomb inscriptions, vases, figurines, coins and Neolithic tools. In the area is the church of Aghia Irini of the 11th century and near Cambos, in the village Pigi, the monastery of Theoktisti.

West of Evdilos is the seaside village Avlaki with traditional houses and nice beach. To the west are the most known resorts of the island, Gialiskari, with a small harbor full of fishing boats, and Armenistis, in a picturesque bay. Wonderful are the sandy beaches Messakti and Livadi.
Close by is the pinewood of Armenistis and to the northwest Nas, in a nice green environment ideal for camping. The gorge of the river Halaris ends in a beautiful bay, where it was the ancient port, as evidenced by some parts of the waterfront, as well the famous sanctuary dedicated to Tauropolos Artemis, of which some remains still exist. To the south, on the west coast, is the monastery of Mavrianos.

From the north coast we go to the southwest side of Icaria, the plateau Raches, one of the most beautiful areas of the mountain Atheras. Center is the picturesque traditional village Christos and scattered around the villages Prophet Elias, Aghios Polycarpos, Kastanies, Karydies, Kouniadi, Nanouras, Vrakades, Langada, Pezi.

Natural beauty, forests of pine and chestnut trees, and vineyards that give the wonderful dry black wine of Ikaria. Following Christos in a green area with wonderful view is the monastery of Panagia of Mounte of the 13th century with frescoes and old icons. At an altitude of 900 m is stretched the forest of Ranti in an area of 16 sq km with rare species of Mediterranean vegetation. South of the village Pezi, not far, is the fishing villade Karkinagri at the southwestern edge of the island.

The Thermal Baths

Icaria is one of the most important medical tourism destinations in Greece. The hot springs of the island, each one with different content of radium, have therapeutic properties for many diseases and are a magnet for those who want to combine holidays with treatment.
The hot springs of Icaria were known since ancient times, as evidenced by the remains of the baths in the ancient city Thermae, near the current settlement Therma. Baths were also constructed during the Byzantine era for the members of the imperial family and high officials.

The hot springs are located mainly on the southeast coast around Aghios Kirykos.
Aghios Kirykos: Mustafa-Litza (Asclepius), Kato Loumakia, Kleftolimano.
Therma: Cave, Pamphili, Kratsa, Apollo, Artemis, Pathero, Apollon Hotel, Chalasmena.
Lefkada-Xylosyrtis: Chlio-Thermo, Thermo.
Xylosyrtis: Athanato Nero (Immortal Water).
Aghia Kyriaki-Armyrida.
The most important are five springs at Therma (Cave, Pamphili, Kratsa, Apollo and Artemis), the hot spring Mustafa-Litza in Agios Kirikos and the hot springs in Lefkada, about 2 km west of Aghios Kirykos. The hot spring of Agia Kyriaki is on the northeast coast.

The hot springs of Icaria belong to the superheated radioactive near the sea, from which they gush. Their temperature is from 31 to 58 degrees Celsius and their content of radon varies depending on the geological water path.
The hot springs Cave in Therma and Thermo in Lefkada are weak radioactive, the hot springs Pamphili in Therma, Chlio-Thermo in Lefkada and Aghia Kyriaki are moderate radioactive and the hot springs Mustafa-Litza in Aghios Kirykos and Kratsa, Apollo and Artemis in Therma are powerful radioactive.
The waters are considered suitable for the treatment of many diseases such as rheumatism, arthritis, neuropathies, gynecological disorders, disorders of the endocrine glands, circulatory system disorders, respiratory system disorders and skin diseases.

South coast, southwest of Aghios Kirykos: Aghios Kirykos, Lefkada, Skepsi, Tsoukala, Xylosyrtis, Exo Plaghia, Manganitis (Fyrodi, Gialos) Trapalo, Karkinagri.
South coast, northeast of Agios Kiriykos: Prioni, Therma, Nealia, Nyfi, Anefandi, Kerame, Glyfadi.
East coast: Faros, Atsipades, Iero, Aghios Georgios.
North coast: Kioni, Avgolymi, Fytema, Aris (Karavostamo), Kerame, Kyparissi, Kambos, Avlaki, Gialiskari, Messakti, Livadi, Armenistis, Nas.

Activities

Fishing, wind surfing, sailing, diving.
Hiking, cycling, mountain bike, climbing.

Festivities

Well known is the traditional Icariotikos dance, danced of course in the local festivals of Icaria, which are organized with the voluntary participation of residents of each village. The residents cook boiled or roast goat and other dishes and they make the service. Main instrument of the orchestra is the violin.
The day of June 17th, anniversary of the liberation of the island in 1912, is celebrated especially in Aghios Kirykos and Evdilos. On the same day, celebration of Aghia Marina, a big festival takes place in the village Arethousa.
Other feasts:
May 5, Aghia Irini, Kambos // June, the Holy Spirit, Kastanies // Ascension, Armenistis
June 24, Aghios Ioannis, Christos // June 29, Saints Peter and Paul, Steli // June 30, Holy Apostles, Pezi
July 1, Aghioi Anargyroi, Therma, Karavostamo // July 7, Aghia Kyriaki, Fles (Evdilos)
July 15, Aghios Kirykos, Exo Plagia // July 17, Aghia Marina, Aghios Kirykos, Arethousa, Katafygi // July 20, Prophet Elias, Kossikia, Pigi and in other villages
July 26, Aghia Paraskevi, Faros, Xylosyrtis, Karkinagri, Karavostamo // July 27, Aghios Panteleimonas, Agios Kirykos
August 6, Transfiguration, Christos, Kalamos // August 15, Panagia, Aghios Kirykos, Perdiki, Akamatra, Gialiskari, Christos.

Local cuisine

Fish, seafood, local goat meat stuffed with rice and herbs, soufiko (mixture of vegetables), zucchini-balls, tomato-balls, chickpea-balls, greens pies, pies with kathoura (local cheese).

Local products

Dry black-red wine (high alcohol content), other wines, goat meat, kathoura (local white goat cheese), kolokasi (sweet potato), olive oil, honey, spoon sweets.

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