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Ikaria, the land of deep blue and green!

The capital of the island, Agios Kirikos, is located on the southeast side of the island, while Evdilos, on the north side, is the second busiest place on Ikaria. The geographical features of the island, which is mostly mountainous, create contrasts in its morphology. You can find green hillsides covered with vegetation, strawberry trees, kermes oaks and pine forests along with grey, bald, steep rocks and splendid beaches. Where to go: The island is ideal for long walks in beautiful natural landscapes. Start your journey by visiting the gorge of Chalaris with its river. You will be fascinated by the old watermills along the way. Admire the old bridges at Chrisostomo. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the forest Randi. With its centuries old holm oaks, it is a natural monument, the most ancient in the Balkans, and is included in Natura 2000. [caption id="attachment_6266" align="aligncenter" width="803" caption="Chalari’s falls"][/caption] The tour of Raches takes you, through a pathway 25km long, to beautiful beaches, picturesque villages, sharp hillsides, lakes and small rivers. You can find rare bird species in the area of Ksilosirtis and the mountain range Athera. Walk around various important wetlands, such as the estuaries Voutside and Kerame, the mouth of the river Charakas and Mirsonas, the rivers Chalaris, Aris, Chilopotami, Karavostamo, the artificial lakes Vathes, Pezi and the reservoir at Agios Kirikos. A particular "natural" monument of the island are the monoliths in "Propezouloti". They were believed to be devotional symbols of prehistoric people who lived in the area. The columns, 1.5m high, stand in their original position or have fallen to the ground, facing in the same direction. [caption id="attachment_6267" align="aligncenter" width="920" caption="Seychelles beach"][/caption] If you prefer extreme sports, the hillsides of Pounta, Karkinagri and Magganitis are ideal for rock climbing.You can also enjoy a swim in the beautiful waters of the island. Faros, Mesachti, Armenistis, Seychelles, Therma and Kambos are some of the most popular beaches. What to see: Start your archaeological tour with Tavropolion (Nas) on the banks of the river Chalaris and the renowned temple of goddess Artemis. There, you can see a part of the temple's floor and foundations. At the same spot, once existed an ancient port. Today, you can still see its pier.  The ancient capital of the island, Oenoe, was located in the area of Kambos. It was surrounded by a wall, ruins of which still exist, along with an abandoned house of the Byzantine period. As you move along, you will reach Fanari, the ancient city of Drakano, where Dionysos was born. There, among the ruins of the ancient castle, stands the Tower of Drakano. It is a 10m circular building, of the Alexandrian period, 4th century B.C., used as one of the island's observatories. After an excavation completed in the first decade of the 21st century, it is now the only organised archaeological site that is open to visitors almost all year long. [caption id="attachment_6268" align="aligncenter" width="655" caption="Kathoura cheese"][/caption] Near the village Kosikia, you will find the Castle of Koskinas, dating back to the 10th century. Within the castle is the church of Agios Georgios Dorganas. On the hill of Agia Irini, ruins of a roman Conservatory were found. The important archaeological findings are housed in the archaeological museums of Kambos and Agios Kirikos. A neolithic settlement with ruins of houses was also found in the village of Glaredo. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the Geometric Tombs, filled with findings, north of the acropolis. If you want to visit the tomb of Icarus, who, as legend has it, fell onto the island, you need to reach the gorge of Ryakas, which empties into the sea. There, you will see caves, sharp cliffs and the islet "Ikaris", "Icarus' tomb". Visit the Archaeological Museum of Ikaria at Agios Kirikos, which is housed in the recently renovated old high school of the island, the Folklore Museum at Agios Kirikos and the archaeological collection of Kambos. You can also learn about the island's cultural tradition and arts at the Folklore Museums of Vrakades, Perdiki and Polikarpos. [caption id="attachment_6269" align="aligncenter" width="762" caption="Folklore Museum of Ag.Kirikos"][/caption] After touring the sites of the island, Ikaria's thermal springs, known from the ancient times for their healing effect, are the ideal way to relax. You can visit them almost all year round and they are considered to be among the most radium-bearing thermal springs in the world. At Agios Kirikos you will find the thermal springs of Asklipios (former name Moustafa) and those of Lefkada. At Therma, you can choose among the thermal springs of Apollona, Spilaio and Kratsa. What to eat: If all these tours made you hungry, discover the wonderful Ikarian tastes and flavours. However, what makes Ikaria so special is its people. Hospitable and smiling, they welcome visitors and introduce them to their particular way of living. The table is full of traditional delicacies. The well-cooked goat and the fresh cheese are exquisite. The glasses are filled with the aromatic Ikarian wine and things start to get lively! [caption id="attachment_6270" align="aligncenter" width="709" caption="Kathoura cheese"][/caption] Visit one of the numerous taverns of the island and find yourself in a gastronomic heaven, in the heart of the Aegean. Enjoy traditional tastes, fresh fish or meat and, of course, the multi-award-winning Ikarian wine, produced from the varieties "Fokiano" and "Begleri".You shouldn't leave the island without having tasted the goat cheese "kathoura", the delicious meat of wild goats and "kaissia" a variety of apricots. Savour the delicious local honey, the oil produced on the island, as well as the sweet preserves, especially the rose petal. Finish your meal with one of the various herbal teas, made from herbs collected by locals. Thanks to this diet, but most importantly thanks to the "miraculous" Ikarian water, which is rich in minerals, and the relaxing lifestyle, the Ikarians are among the people that live longer all over Europe! Along with Sardinia and Okinawa, Ikaria is one of the world's "blue zones", where people live measurably longer lives. A destination full of surprises all year round... This is Ikaria. A myth in the Aegean! article by www.explore-ikaria.gr

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