Thomson Holidays

Thermal springs of Ikaria

One of the most valuable assets of Ikaria are the hot mineral springs that are found mainly around the spa town of Therma on the south coast of the island.

They are reputed to heal anything, from arthritis to female infertility and from gout to rheumatism. The springs have been in use since 2000 BC, and nowadays they have modern facilities that combine healing baths with Ikaria family holidays.

Although Therma is the main resort for organized hydrotherapy, there are several hotels and guest houses along the islands's coastline where hot mineral springs flow into the sea and where it is possible for visitors to bathe as well as three active spas at the Cave, Apollon and Krastas springs.

The main minerals of the springs are saline radium and radonium and are said to be the most radioactive thermal springs in Europe.

Drakanos Watchtower

The Drakanos Watchtower is one of the best preserved examples of a military watchtowers from the Hellenistic period. The 44ft high tower was built in the 4th century BC to watch sea traffic in the channel between Ikaria and Samos.

It's located in the eastern half of Ikaria along a dirt road out of Faros and, being a watchtower, obviously has extensive views out to sea. It takes about 15 minutes from where the metalled road peters out.

In 1827 the Greek Navy used it for target practice and a large part of the watchtower was damaged. Nearby is the chapel to Agios Giorgios and below the church is the remote sandy cove of the same name.

Koskina Fortress

The Byzantine fortress at Koskina was built in the 11th century on a mountain peak overlooking the village of Koskina in the centre of Ikaria, about 30 kilometres from Evdilos.

You can get there along a dirt road near Koskina which forks off the main road from Agios Kirikos to Evdilos as it winds up a mountain pass.

Inside the fortress is a chapel to Agios Giorgios Dorganas.

Mountain villages of Ikaria

The wooded hills above Evdilos and Armenistis, like most of Ikaria island, are dotted with hamlets and small villages many of which are well worth seeking out.

The tourist favourite, and the one most easily reached road, is Christos Rachon, described above, where there is a pleasant shaded square and splendid views over the surrounding countryside.

The more village elderly locals speak an ancient dialect while everyone appears to keep odd hours, rising just before noon and shopping at midnight. The design of many older pirate-proof houses is also unique to Rahes, with their very low doors and lack of windows or chimneys.

Other mountain villages well worth a visit are Akamatra, which lies to the south of Evdilos which, together with the villages of Dafni, Steli, Petrapouli, and Kosikia make for an interesting day out with drives or walks through lush forests to villages full of old houses, flowered gardens and quaint chapels.

Nearby, at the village of Arethousa, is the picturesque and much photographed Theokepasti chapel which has been carved out of the solid rock.

North of Agios Kirikos is Oxia, one of the oldest villages on the island, with unequalled scenic views. Higher up at Mavraton is the Monastery of Agios Nufrios, dated 1809, which has some fine icons and old cells once occupied by monks. Nearby is the pretty chapel of Agia Marina.