The island of Ikaria takes its name from the mythological figure of Icarus, the man who flew too close to the sun. According to the legend, Icarus was the son of Dedalus, the Athenian craftsman who designed the Minotaur’s Labyrinth in Knossos, Crete. The terrifying king Minos of Crete, the same who ordered the construction of the labyrinth to isolate the monstrous Minotaur, imprisoned Dedalus himself in those walls when he realized his loyal craftsman gave the clew to Ariadne, to help save Theseus from the clutches of the beast. But Dedalus did not lose heart, and using his inventiveness, he fabricated two pairs of beeswax wings to escape the island together with his son Icarus. Unfortunately, his plan didn’t go as he expected, because the young Icarus maybe for naivety, maybe for giddiness started to fly too high and too close to the sun, watching his wings melting down drop after drop. Dedalus warned him to follow his flight path, and not try to fly too close to the sun or to the sea, but for Icarus, it was too late. The guy fell into the water and drowned, punished for his sin of presumption by Helios, the sun, to which he dared to compare himself. The poor Dedalus, named the nearest land Icaria, in memory of his son, and still today the water around the island is known as the Icarian Sea.

Somehow the moral of this legend can be connected to the predominant philosophy of the island, where the sin of presumption seems to be banned as well as the spirit of competition that generates this negative attitude. Another reason that defines Icaria’s fame is the locals’ longevity. According to a small-scale observational study, conducted by the School of Medicine of the Athens University on a sample of 1,400 permanent inhabitants of the island, 1 out of 3 Ikarians lives far into their 90s. It’s not just the longevity itself to surprise, but also the impressive observations on the quality of life among this population. Ikaria presents a much lower cancer and heart disease rate, here people suffer significantly less depression and dementia, maintain a sex life into old age, and remain physically active deep into their 90s. These characteristics have earned Ikaria a nomination as one of the Blue Zones that the writer Dan Buettner talks about, together with Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy),  the Nicoya peninsula (Costa Rica), and Loma Linda (California), in his book “The Blue Zones”. 

In Ikaria, you will find your own way to slow down and reset your inner compass. The island offers a variety of outdoor activities such as surfing at the Ikaria Surf School, diving, snorkeling, trekking, mindfulness courses and yoga retreats. The North side of Ikaria is perfect for whoever associates vacations with something slightly different from full relaxation. The area around Evdilos and Armenistis, in particular, is full of free campers and surfers devoted to this place because of its favorable sea conditions for practicing water sports. Paralia Nas and Mesakti are definitely the definition of a summer paradise for wave hunters. 

Visitors are also attracted by the vibes set during the Ikaria Music Festival and the traditional “Panigiri” that keeps gathering hundreds of people, heavily dancing in delirious circles on the notes of the classic baglamadaki until dawn. Mens sana in corpore sano“, the old expression meaning “healthy mind in a healthy body” is a thing in Ikaria. Keeping this daily practice the Ikarians spread the secret of a well-balanced life. Taking a bath in the hot mineral springs is part of the well-being treatment you will be able to enjoy on the island. The most famous spot where it’s possible to enjoy this natural treat is the little port of Therma. Here the hot currents create a healthy environment under the shadow of a little cave. Another perfect spot for this experience is in the proximity of the so-called Lefkada beach. It’s a very reserved place not shown in detail on the map. Here the temperature of the water reaches even 40 degrees so it is suggested to dive for a maximum duration of 15-20 minutes.

One of the most peculiar places I discovered in Ikaria was this little shelter on the street that connects Armenistis with Evdilos. It’s a grocery store selling exclusively zero-kilometer products, directly harvested from the garden in the back. It works like a self-managed space at the service of the community, you can consult the pricelist and grab what you need. I found it a small-scale utopic example of a society where people trust each other as members of the same human family. 

“The cities don’t need walls, nor triremes, nor yards, to be happy, they don’t need a large population or greatness, they need virtue” – Plato, Alcibiades.

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