Our visit to the island of Ikaria has been a bit of a roller coaster of emotions for me. The island is not a major tourist destination. Hence it is not easy to figure out how to do things or how things work. And this frustrates me. However the island’s beauty and especially its people make up for it. So within a day I’d go from not understanding how to get to the beach (which ended up being easy. We just had a receptionist who wasn’t very helpful) to having a great time with locals drinking wine.
So here’s what we did. We arrived by plane at the opposite end of the island from where we were staying. So we had to take a bus across the island. I knew it was going to be a long ride but I didn’t expect it to be 2.5 hours! It was crazy. This big bus winding it’s way through tiny streets where two cars could either barely pass or not at all and going up and down the cliff’s edge. However it had great views and showed us most of the island.
We were dropped off with bags in hand and headed to our hotel, Cavos Bay. The grounds of our hotel were beautiful. We arrived late and just relaxed by the pool. Heavenly.
Our room which openend onto the pool area
Stairs to our room
The rocks below our hotel which you could walk to and hang out on
Our next day we spent relaxing on the beach. Can life getting any better?
Our view on the beach
That night we ate at Pashalia Taverna. Actually we ate there the night before too. The food was so good and the service from the father and son who run the place was so great, that we had to go back. Both nights they gave us free ouzo and fruit, and they even helped us hire a cab for the day (I’ll explain later why). They went above and beyond and they helped make our stay a good one. This is one example of how great the people are on this island.
Anna and my mom enjoying their ouzo
The reason we hired a cab for the day was that one of the things Ikaria is famous for are panygiri. These are local festivals which involve eating, drinking and dancing all night – literally. Most panygiri start around 10 – 11 at night and finish around 9 in the morning! There were several going on while we were there. So we decided to check out two of them and hire a taxi to take us around (There isn’t a bus and we can’t drive standard).
We started off in Stavlos at a panygiri that starts during the afternoon. We arrived around 4. It was a small little square covered with trees and there were tables and chairs full of people. We found an open table, luckily, and just sat there for a while trying to figure out how everything worked, what we’re supposed to do, and what we wanted to do. At first we felt a little out of place but luckily the nicest Greek people sat down next to us. They spoke English and explained everything to us.
Panygiri in Stavlos at the beginning of the night
Our new friends: Vangelis, Christos, and Gordana
So we got comfortable, ate some delicious goat, drank wine, and chatted with our new friends. Eventually the dancing started. More and more people kept arriving and the dance floor was getting fuller and fuller. It was crazy how many people, young and old, would dance in this tiny square. It was traditional Greek dancing and music. Everyone dances in a circle doing these fancy steps. It’s neat to watch because the whole crowd flows as one. We each danced a little with our friends. Quite an experience!
Dancing at the beginning of the night. My pictures taken at night didn’t turn out – sorry. Just imagine it packed full of people.
Me eating the most tender goat ever
Us enjoying the night
We were having so much fun we didn’t want to leave. But our friends had to go and we decided it would be good to check out the next panygiri. So we hopped in our cab and headed to Christos Raches. This is one of the biggest panygiri. Stavlos had around 150 people while Raches gets around 3000 people. It starts later around 11 – 12pm. It was nuts! Again we were lucky to get a seat because we arrived early. And again we were by such nice people. On one side of us were some people who didn’t speak English. But they were so nice, giving us wine to drink and offering some goat! Then a big family sat on the other side. They spoke English and also kept offering us wine. The people here are so nice. We didn’t have to buy any drinks! Well eventually this place got busy and everyone was dancing. I mean everyone!
The panygiri in Christos Raches. Crazy, eh?
We left the panygiri around 2 am. I guess we’re not as hard core as the Ikarians which are also known for their longevity. Well I know why, they dance all night to songs that are 20 minutes long each. I’d be in good shape if I did that too!
Our last day on the island was pretty chill because we had to catch the ferry. So we decided to go to the next town for lunch. On our way back to our town we decided to hitchhike. It’s a common thing to do on this island and is super safe. The nicest people picked us up (of course) and we had a pleasant ride back. Can you believe I got my mom to hitchhike?!
Well that was our Ikarian adventure: confusing and fun, and full of nice people and new experiences.