Ikaria, the Island of Longevity
The people of Ikaria had long known that their little Mediterranean island was unique, but they didn’t know why. Despite their meagre diets and lack of modern medicine, they had one thing in abundance – a long life expectancy.
An old tale told on Ikaria tells of an alchemist who arrived by boat centuries ago. He spoke of an ancient power he sought at the heart of the island and began an epic quest to seek out its secrets and unlock its power.
Little did the locals know, but his search would uncover something remarkable – a unique combination of lifestyle choices that would help the people of Ikaria reach remarkable heights of wellness and longevity.
Today, scientists have been able to replicate what makes Ikaria so unique – from enjoying meals with friends and family in a relaxed atmosphere to engaging in physical activity every day – all things that promote well-being and healthful living.
When people travel here from around the world with dreams of living longer lives, they often find more than just extended years on earth – they find a community that is truly alive, vibrant and joyful.
What Makes Ikaria So Unique
Once you set foot in Ikaria, you’ll feel like a world away from the mainland! Time seems to slow down on this island, and nobody takes life too seriously. The island’s laid-back atmosphere is one of the main reasons Ikaria is so popular. But not the only one!
Located in the far east of the Mediterranean, to the southwest of the Greek island of Samos, Ikaria is a worldwide famous island, mainly due to the longevity of its inhabitants and the Ikarian diet. It is the perfect place to recharge, away from the hectic everyday routine where tourism reflects a unique balance between nature, freedom, time & development.
Its natural beauty is a standout, too, as the wild beauty of Ikaria, Greece, is breathtaking. Rocky mountains, dramatic gorges, hiking trails, mesmerizing beaches, and rural villages set the scene of a dreamy retreat destination, especially for nature lovers! According to tradition, the island derives its name from Icarus, the son of Daedalus in Greek mythology, who was believed to have fallen into the sea nearby after the sun burnt his wings when flying.
This unique island is the ultimate destination for travellers desiring peaceful, breathtaking landscapes. Mountain tops swoop and dive into a blue sea below while traditional villages dot the rocky shoreline boundaries of pristine beaches with turquoise water that sparkles in the Mediterranean sun. Explore mysterious treasures hidden within lush greenery and experience authentic local festivals surrounded by warm-hearted locals who will make you feel at home!
Ikaria is an idyllic and breathtaking island, the perfect place to go if you want to relax away from your day-to-day anxieties. Here it seems that having a good time and enjoying life are mandatory – with people talking, laughing, dancing and drinking everywhere! You can witness their wonderful smiles burning brightly as they carefreely enjoy this blissful yet peaceful atmosphere where the sense of time appears non-existent. The locals embrace living each moment by letting off stress; come see why Ikarians have been envied worldwide for centuries!
The feel of authentic old world Greece, away from the crowds
Ikaria is also one of only five worldwide Blue Zones – regions of extraordinary longevity & health. The island offers something for everyone: remote & cosmopolitan beaches, a choice of accommodations, the famous Ikarian “Panagiria” (celebrations with music, dancing, food & Ikarian wine), archeological & religious sites of interest, wineries, language, art & cooking classes, fun outdoor activities and more…
A Blue Zone island
A Blue Zone is defined as a place where the environment is conducive to old age and in Ikaria it was found that residents are several times more likely to reach the age of 90+ compared to normal.
Blue Zone is a concept used to identify a demographic and/or geographic area where people live measurably longer lives. As described in Dan Buettner’s book, “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from people who lived the longest.” Buettner identifies longevity hotspots in Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California, and offers an explanation, based on empirical data and first-hand observations, as to why these populations live healthier and longer lives.
Ikaria is a location where people live long and healthy lives because they engage in natural movement, have the right outlook on life, eat correctly, and have a solid sense of community and belonging. It’s undoubtedly true that Ikarians are proud of the balance in their lives: nature, freedom, time and development are all put into perspective. Despite the allure of profits associated with mass tourism, the people of Ikaria have long resisted development. Fiercely maintaining local traditions, their way of life is fulfilling and rewards them with outstanding health benefits. Buettner says that there are nine keys to longevity and health:
Natural movement | Having a purpose in life
Not working too hard, slowing down | Not eating too much
Eating lots of vegetables, but not too much meat | Having the occasional glass of good red wine
Belonging to a community or having a good social network | Sharing personal beliefs or spirituality
Making family a priority
Highly therapeutic radio-energized springs, churches built with unusual architecture, ancient forests and sacred temples await you.
The Ancient Temple of Artemis Tavropolion
The ruins of the Temple of Artemis, built in the 6th century BC, can be seen in the archaeological site of Nas, on the northwestern spot of Ikaria. Goddess Artemis was worshipped there from the Classical till the Roman times. The temple dates back to the 6th century BC, and it is said that the Ikarians built it in honour of the mother goddess Artemis, who was the patroness of seafarers and the protector of hunters and wild animals.
Tavropolio was the shrine of Artemis, who, among other names, was also called Tavropolos, goddess of the bull or Tavrovolos. The temple of Tavropolio must have been a late Minoan structure, as the goddess was worshipped in the late Minoan period. The “Xsoanan,” a carved wooden cult image of the goddess which is said to have been discovered in favour of the heavens, proves that the shrine was one of the most ancient temples dedicated to the goddess Artemis.
According to historians, Tavropolio was probably not only the temple of the goddess Artemis but also a settlement, one of the four ancient settlements on Ikaria. However, no evidence has come to light to prove it. Today at the place of worship where magnificent religious rights were once performed, only ruins survive, parts of the floor and columns of the ancient temple. The whole area is studded with remnants of worn-away marble. The remains of an old lime kiln reveal that in the early 19 century, the structures of Tavropolio were melted down to obtain building materials for the erection of churches.
The temple dates back to the 6th century BC, and it is said that the Ikarians built it in honour of the mother goddess Artemis, who was the patroness of seafarers and the protector of hunters and wild animals.
Nas is an idyllic secluded beach and a favourite for explorers and those looking for adventure. It is situated at the union of the Chalares River and the Aegean Sea and was the site of one of Ikaria’s earliest settlements.
The Extraordinary Randi Forest or ‘Gaia’
When one thinks of Ikaria, one thinks of pebble beaches, craggy mountainsides, and meandering roads. Tucked away, however, in the middle of the island lies a rare gem; the old, rare, and protected Randi Forest that visitors can hike to.
Located just west of the Sierra Atheras mountain range, this forest represented a type of ancient forest native to the Mediterranean region. It covered a large portion of Greece, Italy, southern France, and parts of coastal Spain. It is rare for a forest of this size and age to be found intact in the eastern Mediterranean. Historically, Ikaria, as with many of the Greek Islands, was heavily forested. Today, most of the island is barren, with short shrubbery and rocks scattering across the landscape. With the beautiful exception, of course, of the Randi Forest.
Estimated to be over 200 years old, it features trees dating back over 300 years, making it one of the oldest remaining forests throughout the eastern Mediterranean. It’s the home of a rare, protected type of Oak tree (Quercus ilex), believed to have evolved around five million years ago.
Other species of trees found within the forest include Arbutus and Fyllyrea trees, as well as a variety of bushes, such as yew, heather and cistus. Several animals call the forest home as well, such as the rock badger, marten (Martes fiona), the hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor) and different types of rodents.
Randi Forest is also a beautiful place for meditation. It gives you a chance to clear your mind of everything, feeling an almost instant release of physical and mental stress and tension.
The Randi Forest or ‘Gaia’ is populated with the rare trees, and offers breathtaking views of the landscape and the seas below
The Old Forest, or the “Randi Forest,” is the most ancient in the Balkans. It is home to the rare Quercus Ilex (Holm Oak), which evolved during the Miocene Epoch 5 million years ago.