Thursday, April 9, 2015

It's Festival Time on Ikaria

It's spring, and that means it's getting warmer in the Greek Islands, and it also means that it's festival time on many of them.  But, there's one island that boasts more elderly people than most places on Earth.  Many of the residents there have spent their lives living and working elsewhere and then returned when they retired.  I once was told that if you are older than 103, you can no longer receive a loan at the bank.  Imagine that.  Bill Weir did and he spent some time over there wondering what it was about this tiny island that makes people forget how old they really are and live to ages that most of us only imagine.  They still have all the things that we picture on a Greek island, like pretty white villages, and ruins, and lots of tourists spend time there.  There's just something a little different about Ikaria.

You can charter a yacht to sail around the islands or just around Ikaria for a day.  You can get to the island by smaller plane or the ferry.  It's not like getting to Pitcairn Island.  This place is reachable and beautiful.  It's relaxed, which is one of the reasons I believe these people live so long.  I liked the idea of renting a boat for the day and getting some great views of the coast of Ikaria.  It's got great rocky shores and tons of beautiful beaches.  It also has all of those little cove towns that spread up the cliffs and hills making bright white landscapes that you only seem to see around the Mediterranean Sea.  It's a great way to take in the view.

You will find beautiful resort hotels in nearly every town and village on Ikaria.  There's nothing quite like sitting by a pool with an amazing view of the Mediterranean Sea from the top of a rocky cliff.  It's a great way to get away and forget that at home you're still wearing winter boots.  The one thing that you always get in the Greek Islands is the atmosphere, and it's alive and well on Ikaria.  You will feel a little bit like you stepped back in time and are part of the jet set that made the Mediterranean one of the must see places of the world.

Speaking of stepping back in time, we all know that one of the reasons that people come to Greece is to see ruins.  You will not be disappointed on Ikaria.  They have several sites including the Castle of Koskina, Drakano Fortress, the Temple of Artemis, and the Roman Baths at Therma.  There are a lot of sites to go and visit, and some of them are still in pretty good shape.  If you own a camera though, this is for you.

Then there are the beaches.  We all know how interested I am in these places, but Ikaria has a lot of them for those of you who are into the beach.  There is one that I like, however, and that is Seychelles Beach.  This rocky beach not only has a view, but it also has a lot of rocky areas to explore and a cave.  In the area of this beach there are also tunnels along the roads where you drive.  It's a very rocky, scenic area, and the beach just gives you a place to stop and enjoy the scenery.

So, why did I make this an Adventure for Anyone?  Well, for one thing, it has festivals this time of year.  Panagiria are the celebrations of the Feast Days.  In May there are four of them;  Agias Irinis, Agios Isidoros, St. Constantine & Helen, and Agiwn Pantwn.  Sometimes they also have Agiou Pnevmatos in May, but it also comes sometimes in June.  Check the information on the web to see which villages have celebrations for which feast day, but you have to go to one of these festivals.  They are amazing.  We've all heard tales about how Greek folks party, and that's somewhat true.  They love to get together with family and friends and cook, eat, visit, laugh, dance, and yes drink.  If you do go to one of the Panagiria, you will be expected to join in.  I promise it will be fun though.  You'll find yourself celebrating well into the night and sometimes to dawn, and it will be something that you will remember forever.  That's why you should come to Ikaria.  To meet the locals and see the wonderful lifestyle that they have.  Some of these people live off the land at their houses and rarely even use money.  It's a world that has nearly ceased to exist on our globe.

While on the island you will also want to visit Therma, which does not host any of the May Panagiria, but they do have hot springs, and we all know how much I love those.  These have been visited since the times of the Gods when the ruins were not yet ruins, and Odysseus was sailing the seas, and they are still a delight.  The spas at Therma are some of the most popular spots for tourists on the island.  If you have some aches and pains, this is the spot for you.

You will see things on Ikaria that you don't see on most Greek Islands.  You will meet people that have lived longer than you ever imagined and you will see them in fairly large numbers.  You will find a good number of people that speak English running around too, because some of the elderly here used to live and work in America.  They only retired back to Ikaria.  With it's unusual rock houses that date back to before Christ was born, Ikaria is an amazing place with amazing people.  It's beautiful and wild and scenic and fun.  It's one of those places that just keep you coming back.  Ask it's amazing elderly population that returned here after lifetimes lived elsewhere.  Take some time to relax, and make your way to Ikaria, an amazing little Greek Island.

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