IKARIA (Greek: Ικαρία) is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, at about 19 km southwest of the island Samos. The Ikarians often call the island Nikaria (Νικαριά).
In recent years Ikaria got worldwide fame because of its healthy happy lifestyle and its many centenarians. Journalists and researchers from all over the world tried to discover its secret of longevity. Is it the Ikarian wine? Is it the modest lifestyle, close to nature? Who knows? Fact is that Ikarians exhibit a great pride in their island.
Last but not least: Ikaria is a wing shaped island, and according to legend, named after Icarus!
Click on the aeroplane for travel information.
In recent years Ikaria was often mentioned in the news as one of the few Blue Zones. Blue Zones are geographical areas in the world where people live a measurably longer, happier and healthier life. Ikaria was discovered as such by the team of the American researcher Dan Buettner. Newspaper headlines said: "Ikaria is an island where people forget to die." Buettner describes the Blue Zones in his book Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from people who lived the longest.
An island where people forget to die
“Ikaria has 10 times as many siblings over the age of 90 compared with any other place in Europe,” says Buettner, who performed two expeditions to Ikaria. The first expedition was to look at birth and death records. The second expedition was to find out what’s going on. Buettner discovered that Ikarians also have less cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression and dementia than other parts of Europe, and men outlive women.
Healthy diet and local wine
In addition to eating a healthy Mediterranean diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, healthy fats and fish and seafood), there are other key habits and values embraced by the Ikaria inhabitants (see below: the 9 keys to healthy long life). Ikarians, for example, grow their own vegetables, grains and grapes in their gardens. This is important, as locals and experts agree that the most important keys to Ikarian longevity are diet, exercise and local wine. And Buettner has seen those same habits in the other Blue Zones.
‘The local wine is very important,’ insists everyone on the island. Made from a mixture of red and white grapes, it does not contain any additives or sulphites, but has a very high alcohol content of 16 per cent and sometimes even 18 per cent. However, it’s usually drunk in small measures, and never without food.
The heart of joy: panigiria
All the blue zones are slightly austere environments where life has traditionally required hard work. But they also tend to be very social environments, and none more so than Ikaria. At the heart of Ikaria are the festivals, known as panigiria. Visit a panigiri and you’ll understand what Ikaria is all about.
9 ikarian keys for a healthy, happy and long life
- Move naturally: work around the house, walk, cycle
- Know your purpose: have a reason for waking up in the morning.
- Kick back: find ways to shed stress, whether it’s praying, napping or going to happy hour.
- Eat less: stop eating when you are 80% full.
- Eat less meat: beans are a cornerstone of most centenarians’ diets.
- Drink in moderation: only one to two glasses a day.
- Have faith: share your beliefs. Don't pretend.
- Power of love: put families first, including committing to a partner and keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby.
- Stay social: build a social network that supports healthy behaviours.