Livadi, Messakti, Nas and Seychelles are among the most beautiful and crystal beaches on the island. Many beaches on Ikaria are frequented by naturists and free campers, while all around the island there are secluded coves for extreme privacy. A drive in the inland of the island will lead you to traditional villages and places of natural beauty. The gorge of Halari is a nice place for trekking and in fact at the end of the gorge, there is the naturist beach of Nas with the romantic sunset. Sightseeing is very few and includes some ancient ruins, small museums and lovely chapels.
Myth of Icarus
According to ancient Greek mythology, Ikaria owes its name to Ikaros, the son of Daedalus who was the architect hired by Minos (King of Crete) to built the famous Labyrinth where the Minautor was held. Since Daedalus and Ikaros were the only ones who knew how to escape from the Labyrinth, Minos forbade them to leave Crete, to avoid the spreading of the Labyrinth's plans. Daedalus created wax wings for him and his son in order to fly away from the island. Ikaros, ignoring the advices of his father, fled too close to the sun, because he believed that he could be as strong as the gods and fly as high as them. His extreme pride made him careless and he got too close to the sun, his wings melted and he felt into the deep sea surrounding Ikaria, which was then named after him.
Archaeological evidence show that the history of Ikaria starts in the 7th millennium BC, when it was first inabited. In the 6th century BC, Ikaria was a dependant of Samos. Since antiquity, the island was known for its spa springs. After the Persian War, Ikaria joined the Delian League and started flourishing to the point where temples such as the Temple of Artemis at Nas, were being built. This wealth declined after the Peloponnesian Wars, a period during which the inhabitants of the island suffered enormously from the numerous pirate raids.
Things started improving around the end of the 4th century BC, when the island became a member of the Second Athenian League. Ikaria came under the control of the Romans around 230 BC and was incorporated into the Roman province of Asia, along with Samos.
In the 3rd century AD, Ikaria fell under the control of the Byzantine Empire. A couple of Byzantine castles and an odeon survive today from that era. But, by the end of the 12th century, the Byzantine Empire cut back its naval defence of the Aegean and the islands, among which Ikaria, a continuous pirate target, and the population moved inland, avoiding the coasts. In fact, they built Koskina Castle for their protection.
After the fall of Byzantium in 1204, Ikaria came under the rule of the Latin State in Constantinople. During the 14th century, the island became a part of the Genovese Aegean Empire, after the fall of Chios to the Genoese. Then it passed under the rule of the Knights of Saint John who had taken over the island of Rhodes and ruled over Ikaria until 1521, when the island was conquered by the Turks. The inhabitants of Ikaria fought fiercely their oppressors.
From Ottoman occupation till today
They killed the first Turkish tax collector, participated in the Greek War of Independence in 1821 and managed to break away from the Ottoman Empire in 1827. Nevertheless, the London Protocol, signed in 1830, stated that the North-Eastern Aegean Islands, including Ikaria, should remain under Turkish occupation. On the 17th of July, the inhabitants rebelled against the Turkish officials who were forced to leave. It was the day of the Ikarian Independence, but the Balkan Wars blocked the way and the island was unable to join the rest of the newly built Greek State until five months later.
Finally, in November 4th 1912, Ikaria became officially liberated by the Greek Army and joined the rest of the free Greece. The inhabitants of Ikaria were dissatisfied with the Greek government which did not invest in its development. They therefore cultivated self-sufficiency and received a lot of help from expats Ikarians to the USA and Australia. Till 1973 and the fall of the Greek Military Regime, Ikaria was used as an exile land for political prisoners and mostly communists.
Museums - Archeological
Ikaria, renowned since antiquity, is often referred at the epics of Homer. The island has traces from the neolithic years and later on from the Byzantine years and the Romans. The island played a major role through the period of the Greek history.
In the heart of Agios Kyrikos, the capital of Ikaria, you will find an Archaeological Museum with a rich collection of vessels, coins, amphoraes and other items from the Classical period. An equally interesting collection can be viewed in the village of Kambos with findings from the excavations in the island. From there you can drive yourself to the village of Perdiki and see the Folklore Museum that depicts the agricultural life of Ikaria through hundreds of exhibits from the 17th century.
Kambos, Livadi, Messakti, Nas, Seychelles, Armenistis beach, Fles, Karavostamo, Kerame, Kiparisi, Miliopo, Prioni, Evdilos beach
Religious Monasteries and Churches
Ikaria is an ideal destination for religious tourism as it displays significant churches and beautiful surviving monasteries. During the antiquity and the Byzantine period the island experienced an era of prosperity and economical development that is vividly present to this day.
One of the most important religious sites in Ikaria located in the capital is the Metropolitan church of Agios Kyrikos. The church is dedicated to Agios Dimitrios. In the village of Kambos lies the 11th century Byzantine church of Agia Irini built over the ruins of an ancient basilica. Also worth seeing is the Monastery of Evagelistria, located west of Agios Kirikos, in the middle of a verdant area full of pine tree forests. It dates back from 17th century and hosts some beautiful frescoes.
In the village of Pigi, around a green oasis lies the Monastery of Panagia Theoktisti, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is well-decorated with fantastic frescoes and figures of Saints. The exact date of the monastery's foundation is unknown but according to an inscription it was built in 17th century. In 1982 the monastery was abandoned by the last two nuns who lived there and today it accommodates tourists. Part of the monastery is the small chapel of Theoskepasti, built under a gigantic rock.
Other churches in the wider region of Ikaria are the church of Zoodochos Pigis and the Monastery of the Annunciation of Mavrianos. The complex consists of five buildings and 10 cells for the visitors. It was founded in the 18th century and the last two nuns abandoned the monastery in 1960. Close to Kambos village stands the oldest surviving Byzantine church of Agia Irini. It is built in 13th century on the site of a 4th century basilica.