No matter which direction you walk from Magganitis, you will eventually reach a small church. This hike starts a short distance past Apostolis Restaurant, beginning with a staircase leading up from the easternmost houses of the village.
Alongside pine and olives, oak stands dominate the landscape here. In ancient times, the word for “oak” in Greek – “dris” – was also the word for ‘tree.’
Kermes oak varieties are much more tolerant of drought conditions than Holm oaks, and will take over areas where Holm oaks struggle to grow. They can easily thrive on sea cliffs and windy environments such as the area around Magganitis, but only at lower elevations, and not too far inland.
Ikaria remains remote, rugged, and undeveloped, with very little effort put toward tourist infrastructure. With this comes several frustrations, but also the very large reward of Ikaria’s largely untouched wilds – a walker’s paradise. Especially in the winter, it is possible to wander all day and see very few people and almost nothing man-made.
This little church lies in an area so isolated that a crime could occur in broad daylight and there wouldn’t be a single witness.
It may seem perplexing to outsiders why the Greeks have gone to such an effort to construct so many little churches in inaccessible places.
Throughout Greece, some of these churches are built on sites where miracles are thought to have occurred. But especially on islands, where people depended on the dangerous sea for their living, many churches were built in dedication to revered teachers or saints whom villagers believed would offer protection for their families.
This little church, Profitis Ilias, is dedicated to the prophet Elijah. According to Greek folklore, Profitis Ilias, who suffered much in his seafaring life, eventually left his quiet fishing village in order to find a place where people knew nothing of the sea or ships, and where he could do good beyond his known reality. He carried an oar with him for days as he traveled inland, seeking a place where his oar was not recognized as an oar, but instead as a simple stick. And he asked people as he traveled “Do you know what this is?” to which people kept answering “An oar.” Finally he came to a place far from the sea, high up on a mountaintop, where the oar was not recognized, and there he settled and built a church.
For this reason, chapels dedicated to Profitis Ilias are often built on the sides or tops of mountains, inland and away from the sea.
Near the church, ruins of stone shelters are scattered over the hillside. They are all in various stages of dilapidation.