Olive Harvest

November is olive harvesting time in Greece.
These stairs lead up into the olive groves above Magganitis.
The stairs end abruptly after about 30 feet, and then we must make our way up a steep hill through prickly dry brush and boulders until we reach the olive grove.
There are different names for each area of Magganitis. This area above the village where we are harvesting olives today is called “Katsalika.” Many of these olive trees will not be picked by anyone, as the owners of them have long since died and their families moved away.
Pruning Olives
Olive trees can live several hundred years, and remain productive if pruned properly.
Olive Harvest
Picking olives is not easy in this region, as the ground is not flat. Nets must be laid over boulders, terraced walls, drop-offs, and spiky plants which tear holes in the nets.
Several different implements are used to pick the olives. One of the standard tools is called a “ktenaki,” (meaning comb in Greek), and comes in various lengths.

Olive Harvest

Olive Harvest Tool
This more modern tool is hooked up to a car battery and spins around quickly to remove the olives at the tops of the trees. It is more efficient, but more prone to malfunction.
Olive Harvest
Though slower, olives can be picked by hand when sparse or not hanging over the nets.

The Greeks also pick olives in this way just before harvesting the bulk of the olives for oil. Better quality olives are selected one by one from the trees and will be preserved for the year.

Olive Harvest
Once the olives are collected from each tree, they must be sorted and debris removed. Most importantly, if olives come off still attached to stems and leaves, they must be removed. At the oil press, if the olives are still attached to debris, they will be discarded, and oil yield goes down.
12 Kilo Olive Tin
The olives are then emptied into one of these 12-kilo containers. Two of these containers get emptied into a sack, and each 24-kilo sack of olives must eventually be carried off the mountain, along with all the equipment.
Full olive sacks plus equipment.
On the third day of harvesting olives, Mikalis prepares Greek coffee before we go up the mountain.
Michalis plays violin
Time for some morning music with our coffee. Mikalis and both his grown children are all talented musicians and play traditional music from Greece and the Eastern Aegean region.
Matthew enjoying a traditional Greek breakfast of sweet biscuits and coffee.
Mikalis and Achilles
Mikalis visits Achilles, the family horse.

This horse barn, small shed, and garden area are in the lower region of Magganitis known as “Paleohora.” Mikalis owns about fifty olive trees here, in addition to the ones on the hill.

Achilles and Panagiotis
Panagiotis, Mikalis’s son, with Achilles. Panagiotis also runs the Cafe Pantepoleio.

Hiking Behind Magganitis

These goats live at the last residence in Magganitis before the trail up into the mountains starts.
Goats Eating
Later in the day, the goats are munching on freshly cut branches of olive tree.
Forest Trail
Steep forest trail
Purple Flowers
These tiny purple flowers have sprouted everywhere.
Purple Flowers on Rock
No exceptions!
Old Oak
This very old oak has the same idea.
Mushrooms are starting to appear in the woods.




Kissing Boulders
Rock Formation
Granite rock formations


Small Flower
Forest flower
Strawberry Tree
Arbutus Unedo, “Strawberry Tree.”

This shrub is called “Koumaria” by the Greeks. It is an evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean, and is one of many wild edible foods available in Ikaria. The fruit is ripe when red, and has a sweet soft interior, with slightly tart seeds covering the outside.

Mountain Hut
Old stone huts like this can be found scattered throughout Ikaria’s interior.

Mountain Hut

From the 16th through the 19th centuries, Ikaria was plagued by pirates. As a result, the island’s residents did not inhabit the shores, but instead built many dispersed dwellings in the interior of the island.

Mountain Hut

Stone Constructions

Hut Inside
A scattering of belongings still remain inside the huts: dishes, artwork, incense, bed frames, and old chests.

Hut Inside

Old Oven
The remains of an old outdoor oven attached to one of the stone huts.
Old Oven
This oven is inside a building that is separate from the main house.
A cross made out of silverware, attached to the outside of one of the stone huts.
Old Cistern
It is common to find stone terracing and old cisterns strewn about near the dwellings.
View while hiking
Ikaria’s landscape is extremely diverse.
Hannah Hiking
This is a lush forest of pine and strawberry trees.


Nearing the top
The rocky top of the ridge becomes visible as the vegetation thins out.

The ridge of the mountain Atheras separates the North and South of Ikaria. Magganitis is on the very steep southern slope of this ridge.

Rock lizard
Turkish rock lizard (Lacerta oertzeni). These lizards come out in droves to sun themselves on the rocks.
Lizard and beetle
This lizard, which has lost its tail, is in the process of hunting its next meal.
Lizard catches beetle

Magganitis Village

Center of Town
Much of Magganitis is on a steep hill.
Afternoon Walk
Heading into town on an afternoon walk.
This school is no longer in use.

There are too few children in Magganitis to justify school funding, so instead, the government subsidizes a taxi service to shuttle all four of them to school in Evdilos, a town on the northern part of the island. The back building is used by the town doctor, who is only available several days a week.

Magganitis House
Magganitis House
Water Faucet
These water faucets, built into stone walls, can be seen facing the street outside some homes. This one is outside the home of the famed violinist John Rossos.
Patio Garden
Many patios are filled with potted plants of various sorts, including geraniums, peppers, figs and citrus.
Orange Tree
The oranges are almost fully ripe now.
Pomegranate tree.
Magganitis Looking West
Looking out over the Western edge of Magganitis.
Pantepoleio, town cafe and grocery
Cafe Pantepoleio. The town cafe, grocery, music venue, and post office, all in one.

During winter, this is the business that is open most frequently in Magganitis. Most days it is open from 11am to 3pm, and then opens again at 7pm for the evening. People come by during the day mainly for groceries and coffee. In the evening it becomes a lively meeting place for the town’s residents, and the room can be filled with over twenty people at a time, all drinking and exchanging conversation. The social fabric is healthy, and all people, including the elders, are well-integrated and cared for.

Pantepoleio Wall
A decorated wall in Pantepoleio
Church in Magganitis
The church in Magganitis, next door to Cafe Pantepoleio.

Each village’s main church is dedicated to a particular saint of the Greek Orthodox religion. The church in Magganitis is Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas). There are over one-hundred churches on Ikaria, and not enough priests for all of them. A priest comes to Magganitis to run a church service every other week.

Saint Nicholas, patron Saint of Greece, protector of sailors and seamen.

Saints play such an important role in Greek life that a person’s nameday is much more important than their actual birthday. (If someone is named after a Saint, there is a large celebration on their “nameday”). If they are not named after a Saint, they celebrate their nameday on “All Saints Day.”

Magganitis White House
White has always been a practical color for houses in Greece, as it reflects heat well during intense sun.
Blue Window
Blue everywhere!

Magganitis House

Blue was a common color for many years because people had an ingredient on hand to use with their whitewash that tinted materials blue. In the 60s and 70s, in an effort to promote unity and tourism, the Greek government made it law that all buildings had to be painted with blue paint. This is no longer the case, but nonetheless, blue remains a prominent color, especially on the islands.

Wooden Door
Painted Wooden Door
Magganitis View
View looking Southeast over Magganitis, toward the island of Patmos.

It is said that on a very clear day, Turkey is even visible from the coast of Ikaria.

First Days

Ikaria Sunrise
Sunrise over the Aegean Sea.
This is our first daylight view of Ikaria.

Our rental is locked and dark when we arrive in the village at 1am in the morning, and a brother and sister named Lambros and Athina eventually come to retrieve us and give us a room for the night. This view is from their patio.

Lambros and Athina Patio
This is Lambros and Athina’s patio.

There are trees throughout Magganitis that are pruned in this fashion. They have a sparse growing habit, and pruning them like this forces them to grow back more densely in the spring and provide better shade in the hot summer months.

Image of Alek Studios
Our home for the next several months

We are renting a downstairs room in this building. Because there are almost no tourists here during the winter, we have the patio to ourselves. Even many of the Greeks who live here now go to Athens or elsewhere to work or spend winter with their families. Ikaria is undergoing a transition from a place people permanently live to a place people use for summer vacation.

Alek Studios Patio
The patio outside our room
Tiny House
Just below our patio is a very small house, with a separate toilet in the shed to the right. It is vacant, but may get rented out in the summer when tourism increases.
Orange Cats at Alek Studios
These cats visit us every morning
None of the cats in Magganitis appear to be spayed or neutered.
Big Jar of Honey
Two kilos of Greek honey. Most of my daily calories come from here.
Yes Fairy
Shopping is always more entertaining when traveling!

Pasta Butt

The Greeks are serious about feta.
Feta Planter
And the containers get recycled.
Wild Samphire
Gathering wild edible samphire, which grows on rocks near the sea.
Cactus Fruit
Prickly Pear
Cutting Cactus
The locals show us how to cut and eat prickly pear fruit
The port at Magganitis. Most of the boats have been taken back up into town for the winter.



Fishing is important here in Magganitis, and a large portion of the village’s men have sailing and fishing experience. Up until 1985, Magganitis was only connected to other towns by sea.

The shoreline east of Magganitis