taste the rhythm of a less hurried life
© Photos by Edward Webb

Ikaria is a Greek Aegean island in the far east of the Mediterranean. The island, also spelled Icaria, is named after Icarus, the son of Daedalus, the young man in Greek mythology who fled from Crete, flew too close to the sun by means of wax wings and fell into the sea close to Ikaria.

For centuries it was known as a health destination because of natural hot springs on the island. More recently it has been identified as one of five so-called "blue zones" by the author Dan Buettner and National Geographic, where residents enjoy great longevity. The island is, indeed, home to some of the world's happiest and longest-living people. However, Ikaria's greatest charm is that it is an unselfconscious sort of place, as Andrew Anthony aptly commented in his article on Ikaria, for The Guardian.

Ikaria is different. Ikarians are far from wealthy, they are not interested about getting rich and making more money; though they seem to be happy and contented, possibly because life in Ikaria is largely unaffected by the westernized way of living.

Ikarian life has stayed in an era where front doors are left unlocked and strangers are warmly welcomed, where crime is virtually non-existent and community spirit is strong.

Their lifestyle is based on a strong tradition of solidarity among their society and an active social life where all age groups participate. Local communities organize everything and everyone is invited to join in, this is especially the case with weddings and the famous panigyria, the 24-hours festivals.

Above all, Ikarian’s are known for their relaxed and laid back attitude to life. There’s no such thing as time constraints or deadlines, Ikarian life moves to a different rhythm, a slow and steady beat permeates every aspect of life - that’s what gives the island it’s unique character and soul.

© Photos by Edward Webb

In more recent years the Ikarian diet and lifestyle has become famous for the health benefits it brings. According to a report from the medical school of the university of Athens, almost the entire Ikarian population is free of chronic disease and dementia, with sexual activity until their late 80s. A daily routine that includes taking naps, drinking herbal teas, gathering with friends and family, exercising by walking and tending to gardens have all influenced this.

Their diet is local, seasonal and natural.  Local favorites include: honey, particularly heather honey or anama as known locally, "horta", the generic name for a selection of wild greens picked from the hillsides and prepared into salads, boiled and dressed with olive oil and lemon or pickled in wine vinegar, wild herbs prepared as an infusion or added in cooking, "manites", a local variation of the mushrooms, roots such as "volvi" an edible sort of bulb or "kolokasi" the greek name for taro the edible root vegetable with the starchy corm, goat's meat, a must factor for local feasts, goat cheese called "kathoura" and goat milk. And of course lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and pulses. Many Ikarians also make their own wine and drink a glass every day.

Great food and relaxed living has brought with it not only amazing health benefits but longevity too. In the case of Ikaria it’s particularly charming because Ikarians never intentionally set out to extend their lives consciously by exercise or diet. Longevity is just a by-product of their way of living, respecting one and other and the world about them.

© Photos by Edward Webb

The "best Greek island for nature lovers" as CNN named Ikaria in its article. The island boasts 270km2 of mountainous land with an astonishing geographic variation. There are rivers, lakes, high oak forests, cedars and pine, a unique scenery with monoliths on the west part of the island, a remarkable network of mountain paths known as "monopatia" and of course beautiful beaches with pristine waters.

The flora of the island is striking. Some of the most beautiful wild natural herbs, plants and flowers are grown here. Rock samphire, sage, wild thyme, fennel, mint and St John's wort are among them. There is also a notable variety of endemic species including oregano, "paeonia icarica" and "galanthus ikariae", the ikarian versions of peonies and snowdrop flowers.


© Photos by Edward Webb

Ersi Electra Xenaki was born in Berlin in 1974, raised in Athens, studied architecture in London, lived in Dresden and Budapest and spent almost all her childhood summers holidaying in Ikaria where her father comes from. She is a dedicated foodie, mother of 3 children and loves to travel around the globe. At present she spends her time between Athens and Ikaria and she hopes ICARIA PURE will introduce people to a different outlook on enjoying food and life inspired by the attitude of this extraordinary island and its people.