Set adrift in the northeastern Aegean, Ikaria unfolds as one of Greece’s larger island treasures, boasting an expansive coastline. It’s whispered that the island derives its name from Icarus, Daedalus’s son, who, according to legend, tumbled into the Icarian Sea when his wax wings melted.
The island’s terrain largely unfurls as a mountainous canvas, crisscrossed by the Athera range (or Pramnos). Amidst these heights nestle many of its villages, which are surrounded by lush vegetation that paints Ikaria a shade of green. But what really captures the heart? Those untouched beaches of wild beauty and the legendary festivals that draw visitors from every corner of the globe.
In recent times, Ikaria has emerged as a must-visit among the eastern Aegean jewels. There’s a maritime link from Piraeus, connecting to its two ports, Agios Kirykos and Evdilos. And if you’re in a rush, the island also sports an airport.
Whether you’re a solo explorer, traveling with your squad, or venturing with family, Ikaria promises a niche for everyone. Just pick the perfect stay spot. And to give you a head start, I’ve crafted a list of the island’s best regions to cozy up in.
A personal gem? My bestie and I took refuge in Artemis Studio-Nas (⭐ 9.3) in Nas. It offers modest, yet thoughtfully designed rooms. Each room has its outdoor sitting nook, and there’s this quasi-terrace offering tantalizing views of the river and the Nas beach. Plus, the ground floor houses a restaurant that serves some mouth-watering breakfast and meals. A tiny hiccup? Nightlife in Christos might make the drive back a tad challenging. But waking up to that serene view? Absolutely priceless!
1. Agios Kirikos, best place to stay in Ikaria for families
Nestled on the island’s southeastern shores, the capital of Ikaria is cradled in the lap of the Atheras mountain range. With its foundation set some 300 years back, Agios Kirikos surprises visitors with intriguing ancient ruins hidden amidst its winding streets. Personally, I find its amphitheater-like structure and traditional architectural finesse breathtaking, especially those quaint alleyways!
Picture this: Taking a leisurely stroll along the harbor, where classic taverns and coffee joints vie for your attention. Essential tourist amenities? They’ve got you covered. Beach aficionados, take note: Agios Kirikos Beach is a must-visit. And while you’re at it, don’t miss Prio Beach, Therma Lefkados, and Lefkada Beach.
Landmark hunting? Start with the Metropolitan Cathedral, then head to the Ikarian monument by the harbor. The Church of St. Nicholas and the petite Church of the Assumption are serenely beautiful. Oh, and if history tickles your fancy, the Archaeological Museum is a treasure trove.
If family-centered tranquility is what you seek, especially with a port of arrival and departure like Agios Kirikos, then look no further. Plenty of cozy stays await in this prime island settlement.
Best Hotels in Agios Kirikos
2. Evdilos, best place to stay in Ikaria first time
A stone’s throw from Agios Kirikos is Evdilos – Ikaria’s second port, perched along its northern shores. It’s not just any port, but one brimming with character, drawing travelers with its central positioning.
Painted boats and ships bob in its traditional harbor, overlooked by a picturesque square adorned with cafes, little taverns, and shops. Night owls, Evdilos won’t disappoint; the town buzzes until the early morning hours.
And beaches? They’re truly something! Dive into Kerameio, Fytema, and Fles. If you’re feeling adventurous, the striking Mileopo Beach is just a half-hour away. Just be prepared for a ravine-crossing adventure to get there.
For those looking to primarily explore the island’s north without the daily twisty drive from Agios Kirikos, Evdilos is a godsend. And rest assured, you’ll find a plethora of comfortable accommodations to suit your fancy.
Best Hotels in Evdilos
3. Christos Raches, best place to stay in Ikaria for nightlife
Nestled in Ikaria, the village of Christos – affectionately called Christos Raches due to its association with the former Raches municipality – is a captivating blend of tradition and festivity. A stroll through this hillside gem, set amidst lush forests at a lofty altitude of 400 meters, will soon reveal its enchantment. By dusk, the village pulses with life, with local shops following the island’s laid-back rhythm, opening their doors in the afternoon and inviting nocturnal adventurers until the wee hours.
If there’s one spot in Ikaria that’s a magnet for evening revelers, it’s Christos. A gathering spot for folks from nearby areas like Armenistis, Na, Mesakti, and Gialiskari, this is the place to dance and celebrate until dawn. Its central cobblestone square is a hub of activity: locals and visitors alike, sharing meze in cozy cafés, sipping drinks at vibrant bars, and making memories. One can’t miss the buzz at ‘Sknipa’, famed for its electrifying parties and artist performances.
Each August 6th, Christos hosts a grand fiesta, celebrating Jesus Christ. An event where islanders unite, dancing the traditional Ikariotiko until sunrise. Should nightfall adventures be your calling, and if you’re keen on staying a step away from some stunning beaches, Christos is a dream destination. And once the sun sets, relax safely in the village – no driving needed.
Best Hotels in Christos Raches
4. Armenistis, best place to stay in Ikaria near beaches
Gracefully seated on the northwestern tip of Ikaria, overlooking the Stréfoni cape, lies the coastal village of Armenistis. A mere 44km from Agios Kirikos and 12km from Evdilos, this village is more than just a geographic landmark; it’s the heartbeat of Ikarian tourism.
Every nook and cranny of Armenistis exudes vibrancy, from its beachside tavernas serving mouthwatering dishes, to quaint souvenir shops, and an array of lodgings to fit any traveler’s needs.
Its strategic location is a traveler’s dream: doorstep access to the most sought-after beaches, and an atmosphere that captures Ikaria’s essence.
Mesakti beach stands out with its trendy beach bars and is a surfer’s paradise; the Ikaria Surf School’s presence is a testament to that.
Nearby, Livadi beach once echoed the carefree spirit of free campers, a scene now reminiscent of past days. Don’t miss out on Gialiskari with its tranquil beach and harbor, and the serene Na beach.
Considering a stay? Armenistis is ideal for those yearning to bask in Ikaria’s best beaches and buzzing beach bars. Plus, the nightlights of Christos are a short 15-minute drive away, promising nights to remember.
Best Hotels in Armenistis
5. Nas - Kato Raches, into the wild beauty
Nestled in the northern embrace of Ikaria, just west of Armenistis, lies Nas. A beach framed by a rugged landscape, it’s close neighbors with Raches and Christos. But, what makes it truly irresistible to me? The remnants of the ancient Temple of Artemis Tavropolos. Historical vibes, anyone?
The real allure? Nas Beach. It’s this slice of paradise with coarse sands, pebbles, and a river flowing from the Halari Gorge. But a fair warning: while the beauty is inviting, the waters can be icy cold and often turbulent. Plus, the descent down cobbled steps adds a little adventure to the mix.
Now, for nature buffs (count me in!), venturing deeper into Halari Gorge is a must. It oscillates between an almost moon-like terrain and dense green patches. The gorge, a protected Natura 2000 site, boasts unique flora and fauna. And you know what’s endearing? The campers scattered inside the gorge and the free-spirited nudists at the beach.
And when the sun sets, the taverns perched above Nas offer rooms with views that, I promise, will leave you rejuvenated. Personally, I’d argue that staying here is the island’s best treat – day or night. And hey, if you’re around in mid-August, the nearby village of Lagkada hosts a festivity you won’t want to miss.
Best Hotels in Nas - Kato Raches
6. Therma, Ikaria’s wellness retreat
South Ikaria, barely 2 kilometers from Agios Kirykos, unveils Therma – a coastal haven. With a quaint harbor, sandy beach and the fragrance of tavernas in the air, it’s both scenic and aromatic.
But, here’s the gem: therapeutic springs. These springs, tracing back to antiquity, are a well-known secret in Ikaria. Of the five, Spilaio, Apollon, and Kratsa are still operational. Each bath offers temperatures ranging from 45 to 52.8°C, and their waters’ radioactivity varies from 65 to 557 Mache. Open from May to November, it’s said that they hold therapeutic magic.
Ideal for the mature traveler or those seeking health solutions, Therma is Ikaria’s spa destination. And being so close to the capital, it ensures you’re never too far from modern conveniences. Come for the baths, stay for the ambiance!
Best Hotels in Therma
7. Fanari, quit place to stay near Ikaria's airport
Ah, Fanari, or should I say, ‘Faros’? Nestled on Ikaria’s eastern shores, this tranquil village is a mere 5km hop from the airport and a scenic 13km drive to Agios Kirykos. Ever wonder where it got its poetic name?
Look to the remnants of an ancient lighthouse, now dubbed the ‘Drakanos Tower‘.
When summer stretches across Ikaria, Fanari hums with visitors seeking that perfect blend of relaxation and tranquillity. Here, sprawling sandy shores sprinkled with pebbles lie under the cool embrace of shady trees.
As you stroll, perhaps with sand between your toes, you’ll spot quaint eateries and charming guesthouses beckoning you in. And here’s a tip from me: for a serene retreat on Ikarian shores, close to all essential amenities, Fanari is your place.
Best Hotels in Fanari
8. Magganitis, best place to stay near the famous beach Seychelles
If Fanari is a gentle embrace, then Magganitis is Ikaria’s wild passionate kiss. Often hailed as one of Ikaria’s prettiest fishing villages, it lies teasingly distant from Evdilos (18km) and Agios Kirykos (27km).
Sure, the journey there might ask for a keen eye and careful steering, but oh, the reward! Verdant landscapes unfold around a village that boasts some of the most captivating beaches of Ikaria. You’ve got the picturesque Gialos beach by the quaint harbor and the beckoning waters of Fyrodi.
And then, like a siren’s call, there’s Seychelles Beach. White sands, azure waters, dramatic cliffs, and hidden caves – this beach could very well rival any tropical paradise. Reach it by navigating a rocky path or rent a boat for a mini-adventure.
And when the moon is at its brightest, find your way to “Sto Gialo kanei…furtouna” cafe-bar. Trust me, their moonlit parties are legendary. While staying in Magganitis might test your wanderlust due to its remote charm, it’s undeniably worth a night or two.
In my book, Ikaria’s allure lies in these hidden treasures, each with its unique tale and tempo.
Best Hotels in Magganitis
How to get to Ikaria
- by ferry
So you’ve got your heart set on Ikaria? Let me steer you right. One classic way to drift into this dreamy island is aboard a ferry from the bustling ports of Greece. Most island-hoppers hop on from Piraeus. And the journey? It’s a mixed bag – anywhere from 6.5 to a relaxed 10.5 hours. Why the difference? Well, sometimes you get a breezy detour via Mykonos or occasionally Syros.
Then, there’s a lesser-known, but delightful, route from Kavala. It’s a bit of a scenic tour, taking you through Lemnos, Lesvos, Chios, and Samos.
Here’s a sailor’s secret: Check your docking point! Ikaria plays a two-port symphony – Agios Kirykos and Evdilos. And my go-to compass for ferry schedules and tickets? It’s got to be ferryhopper.
- by airplane
Not the seafaring type? No worries. Ikaria spreads its wings with its own airport, catching direct flights from Athens. If long boat rides aren’t your style, this is your best bet. And if you’re itching to check flight availability for Ikaria, you know where to look. Safe travels!