The South Coast

A road winds along Ikaria’s steep southern coast.
South Coast
The coastline is dotted with tiny villages. The smallest village has only one family left living in it.
Olive press Chrissostomo
We pass the olive press in Chrissostomo.
White horse
When driving through Ikaria, you are likely to come across more livestock than people.
North Shore Goat
Caught in the act!
Goat
Admiring the view.
Plagia
The village of Plagia, which means ‘slope’ in Greek.
Xylosirtis
Xylosirtis, known as “The Village of Apricots.”

Just outside the village, there is a renowned freshwater spring called “Athanatou Nero” or “Water of Immortality,” which flows out from amongst granite rocks. The water is drinkable and said to have therapeutic properties.

In the 19th century, the area around Xylosirtis was filled with cypress trees. They were eventually felled in order to build masts for sailboats.

Near Lefkada
Coastline near Lefkada.
Lefkada
Lefkada, which is just west of Agios Kirykos, has some natural hot springs on the shore of the sea.
Lefkada Springs
The single sign, in English, pointing down to the beach.
Lefkada Beach Trail
A rough but short trail down to the shoreline, which is composed solely of large rocks.
Matthew at Lefkada
Matthew staring off into the distance, at the island of Fournoi.

When you’re on a remote island for several months, a clear view of neighboring islands makes for an exciting day.

Lefkada Hot Springs

There is no charge to visit these hot springs. In true Greek fashion, there are also no safety signs. If you want to go scald all the skin off your body, you are free to do so without any interference from anyone at all. If you do go for a soak, the trick is to find a spot that is a good mix of cooler sea water and heated water from the springs.

This hot spring at Lefkada belongs to a cluster of radon-rich sodium-chloride hot springs on Ikaria’s southeast coast. Ikaria’s geothermal springs rank amongst the most radioactive in the world. At Therma, just east of Agios Kirykos, there are organized spa facilities utilizing five of the known springs. These hot springs have been treasured for therapeutic purposes since the 4th century B.C. Remnants of the ancient spas such as marble bathtubs and aqueducts still exist, though most of ancient Thermae was probably destroyed by an earthquake in 205 B.C.

Hawk
A hawk soars above the rocky cliffs of Ikaria.

Not only is much of Ikaria protected under the EU Natura 2000 program, it is also classified as an Important Bird Area. The island’s habitat is ideal for several kinds of raptor and also serves as a critical migratory passage and breeding area for many other types of birds, including rare and endangered species.

Faros Village
The village of Faros – also called Fanari (meaning “lantern” in Greek) – at the far eastern end of the island.

We are in the village of Faros looking for the road to Drakano Tower. The island becomes so narrow at its eastern tip, that from a hill here in Faros looking north,¬†we can easily see Ikaria’s small airport.

Faros Beach
The beach in the village of Faros.
Sea Turtle Sign
A sign on the beach at Faros, notifying visitors that the coastline is a protected area for Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta Caretta), which have a low reproductive rate, laying only a few eggs every few years.
Sign to Drakano
Finally we locate the sign to Drakano Tower.
Drakano Road
This rough road curves along the very eastern tip of Ikaria.
East Tip Ikaria
There are no signs of any other people, aside from a small boat stationed off the coast down below.
Drakano Tower
This round tower is all that is left of the ancient settlement of Drakano.

Drakano Tower, constructed in 330 B.C. during the reign of Alexander the Great, was an important military outpost due to its location at the eastern tip of Ikaria and its proximity to the island of Samos (seen in the photograph above). Ships sailing between Ikaria and Samos could be easily monitored from this vantage point, which affords a view of the Aegean Sea in almost every direction.

Drakano Tower
When the road gets too rough, we park the rental car and walk the rest of the way.
A small church, Agios Giorgios, lies a short distance down the hill from Drakano Tower.

According to legend, the area around Drakano was the birthplace of Dionysos – god of wine, madness, and ecstasy. It is believed that a cave at the nearby beach of Iero was used by ancients as a temple of worship for the god. But watch out for the Satyrs and Mainades who still roam these areas looking for unsuspecting tourists to lure into a drunken orgy.

Drakano Tower
The tower is gated off when we arrive, but there are supposedly specific hours (not accurate on the website!) during which the tower is opened for public access.

In 1827, Drakano Tower was damaged when the Greek navy used it for target practice. The tower has since been restored, and is currently one of the best-preserved watchtowers of the Hellenistic Age.