Charter tours have not yet overrun the resources of Ikaria. Small, undeveloped, and enchanting, Ikaria island has only about 10,000 inhabitants. It lazily begins to attend to tourism, more or less, in mid-June.
The island can be reached only by sea, and with a few exceptions accommodations are modest. The roads are rough and the landscape wild. Transportation is difficult and expensive. In fact, hoteliers complain that they dare not large hotels because there is always some doubt about whether the guest will be able to get here. There are no remarkable archaeological sites or great Byzantine monuments.
But the island is worth any effort it takes. The wild landscape is breathtakingly beautiful. On closer inspection it is not exactly wild: Thousands of years of hand-scarring care have gone into building the stone terraces that save the hillsides from erosion. The tiny villages are open, spread out along the hills.
Mountain springs offer pure water and hot, radiant springs provide therapeutic baths, while the seawater is almost as clear as the air. Steep mountainsides are clothed in silver olives, dark cypresses, pine and apple trees. A wait for your food at the local fish taverna doesn't mean poor service, but that the catch is only just being unloaded from the boat.
Ikaria was probably first occupied by Pelasgians and Carians from Asia Minor. Icarius, king of Caria, may have given the island its name, but most favor another story, the legend of Daedalus and Ikaros.
After Ikaros's wax-held wings gave way on his escape with his father from Crete, and Ikaros fell into the sea near Paros, the grieving Daedalus buried him on the nearest island, naming it Ikaria. After the Trojan war, Ionians settled in. The Persian king Darius held Ikaria, but after his son's defeat in 479 B.C. it paid tribute to Athens.
The capital and port, Ayios Kirikos, on the south coast the eastern tip, is called simply Ayios, which is an ordinary town, but friendly. Right at the dock, which is decorated with a large metal sculpture representing Ikaros falling between gigantic wings, is a clean little umbrella-shaped caffe, a perfect spot to have a snack or drink if you are waiting for a boat.
The main road runs from Ayios along the north coast, and, potholes notwithstanding, the islanders are very glad to have it. The other roads are unpaved and often horrendous. On the good road the bus is able to make 20 miles per hour. In fact, the only practical vehicle for this land is a jeep. The roads are too steep and unreliable and the winds too strong, and sudden for Ikaria to be safe for two-wheelers, and it's no place for unreliable brakes.
From Ayios the road north climbs amazingly quickly around Mount Mavrato, though not quite to its entire height of 3,400 feet. Ten minutes from the port you are driving at 2,000 feet and looking down at the bay and the neighboring resort of Therma, on a branch road just a few miles northeast of town. For years the hot baths of Therma -whose radioactivity was once proudly advertised , have been attracting the rheumatic and arthritic.One spring is in a cave, with a very hot bath sunk into tiles and steam bath as well; another occupies a pavilion in the square.
The town beach and small marina are nearby, and both a bus and a caique run every half hour throughout the day between Ayios Kirikos and Therma.
Almost every building in Therma has some rooms to rent, and many of the hotels have elevators.
At the northeastern tip of the island is a little for which a nearby village was named. The route passes the clearest of water and a coast of sand or fine pebble beaches among the rocks, accessible by boat and by the new unpaved road leading to what may one day be an airport.
Ferries from Piraeus to Samos, which stops at Ayios Kirikos, run at least daily summer, three to six times a week in winter. A caique to Fourni meets the ferry every other day. Some boats stop at Evdilos if there is enough traffic. Local boats run back and forth to Fourni, Patmos, and Samos, unpredictably.
Local buses are few. They run weekdays only, from Ayios south to Chrysostomos; north to Perdiki, Monokambi, Ploumari, and Mileopo; northwest via Mavrato, Mavrikato, and Ploumari to Karavostamo, Evdilos, and sometimes Armenistis.
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