The Greek island of Ikaria, a tiny rock island 50km west of Turkey, has been on my bucket list for years and is one of the best places to visit in Greece. I first heard about it on a TV documentary in Australia about ‘Blue Zones’, of which Ikaria is 1 of only 5 in the world. A similar documentary screened in the US, which consequently saw Australians and Americans flock to the island in search of the ‘Fountain Of Youth’.
Various scientific studies imply that people on the island live significantly longer than people anywhere else on Earth. This is said to be attributed to a balance of a stress-free lifestyle, regular exercise (the island is very hilly!). Adequate exposure to sunlight and a classic, well-balanced Mediterranean diet. A diet that is solely organic, full of superfoods and without the preservatives or chemicals so commonly found in foods produced in the Western parts of the world.
For those reasons, it should come at no surprise that the top must-dos on this island are all based around the premise of a youthful, active and organic lifestyle. Here are the key steps to unlocking the ‘Fountain of Youth’ on Ikaria.
The beaches here are quite different to your usual Greek island oasis. Since the island is surrounded by towering cliffs, the beaches are more like coves with deep-swelling water. Taking a dip and looking back towards the cloud-tipped mountains is a marvellous sight! There are also thermal hot springs that are known for their radioactive and therapeutic healing waters.
Climb up towards a mountain top for a leisurely stroll or a hike between the different local villages, where life is slow-paced and incredibly peaceful.
Eat and eat some more! All of the food here is grown locally and organically. The food served on your table won’t be any closer to the farm where it comes from.
The house red offered in restaurants here is pure, homemade and without preservatives, usually served chilled and with a light, fruity flavour. The local population is ageing, but that hasn’t stopped them from sipping red wine and coffee long into the night across the various bars and restaurants. Join them and say ‘Yamas’!
Speaking of locals, they age extremely well and are known for their longevity. When they aren’t sipping on the local red, you’ll likely find them strolling around the village, picking fruit or working in their gardens. Talk to the locals as much as you can. There is a wealth of knowledge, culture and life insight to gain from these people and how they live a fulfilling, long life.
…at a ‘Panagiria’. Be sure to go along to this traditional Ikarian feast day if you are lucky enough to be on the island while one is on. Expect lots of singing, dancing, eating and drinking well into the early hours to celebrate various saint holidays. They fall on various dates between April and October each year, with most held in August. One of the most lively ‘Panagirias’ is held in the village of ‘Christos Raches’.
No matter which school of thought you belong to, one thing about Ikaria that’s certainly undeniable is the energy surrounding the island. Maybe it’s the hype that movies and documentaries build up, the fantasy of a real-life ‘Fountain of Youth‘ or perhaps it’s the aura of ancient Greek Gods welcoming visitors. Whatever the reason, it hits you when you arrive and begins to drive you along the clifftops, peeking over clouds to marvel at the sparkling Aegean Sea down below. While it’s hard to explain, those who’ve been there can attest to the magic of this place.
Writer: Jemma Sadrugu
Photographer: Jemma Sadrugu