Nas is as far west as we can come on the main road from Evdilos. If we continue down the west part of the island on the dirt road toward Karkinagri, we will no longer be covered under our rental car agreement.
Nas, beloved by Ikarians, is believed to be the very first settlement on the island, and was an important port for ships seeking harbor on the way to Asia Minor.
The word “Nas” is thought to be derived from the Greek work for temple, “Naos,” or a modification of the ancient name”Ma,” used for the goddess Artemis throughout Asia Minor.
According to historical records, the temple’s statue of Artemis, which was originally housed in the temple, was hidden in the nearby river. The giant columns of the temple are visible underwater if snorkeling off the coast.
In order to access the trailhead, which is difficult to find and obscured on the side of the road, we start from the main road through Nas and continue toward Karkinagri. Just past Nas, the road curves and there is a small overpass that crosses over the canyon. We park at this point, next to the small pool pictured above, and locate a red marker for the trail on the east side of the overpass, climbing along the side of the hill.
The trail, which climbs along the steep slope of the Chalaris Canyon, promises to shred shoes and weaken knees, and is not recommended for those who are scared of heights.
In 2005, a native Ikarian advocated for the development of hiking paths throughout this area, in an effort not only to bring awareness to the natural beauty of the gorge, but also to promote future protection of Chalaris Canyon in the face of environmental concerns such as overgrazing.
A network of trails was subsequently etched into the landscape here – a labor of love on the part of local volunteers from groups such as SCI Hellas volunteers and the Citizens’ Movement of Raches.
Tragically, in the fall of 2010, torrential rainstorms caused a massive landslide on the overgrazed, fragile slopes of Lower Chalaris Canyon, which leveled the earth and destroyed most of the trees, waterfalls, caves and pools along the river. A huge amount of debris was strewn throughout the canyon – mostly broken plastic irrigation tubing – and required a massive clean-up during the following spring.
The Upper Chalaris Canyon is preserved in its previous state, and is considered to be an even more challenging hike that allows access to a waterfall and pool network within the Raches area. However, the only entrance to the trail that we could locate, near Profitas Elias just past Christos Raches, does not appear to be upkept, and is inaccessible from the road.
The inner western section of Ikaria was historically very isolated. Up until several decades ago, the trails that were created by locals over hundreds of years served mainly Ikarians themselves. They were intended for pedestrians and animals who were transporting various goods from one village to another.
Since 1995, an eco-tourism effort has been underway, with the support of local organizations, to maintain and extend this network of trails so that all visitors may enjoy the rugged beauty of the island’s interior.
The trail markers for the Round of Raches are clearly marked, with various colors and shapes denoting which trails to follow. This happens to be the trail that is marked with a yellow-bordered red dot, which means that at some point, this trail will split into a red-marked trail and a separate yellow-marked trail.
The hike from Nas to Raches and back takes about five-six hours.
In summer, Armenistis is the most popular village in Ikaria, due to its proximity to the more desirable sandy beaches as well as the hiking trails of Raches. In winter, it is a ghost town.