Nature lovers will discover another dimension of Ikaria via its intricate network of paths, leading hikers from coast to coast, through forests and from one mountain top to another. Due to the fact that several of the island's paths are unmarked, hiking solo is highly discouraged, and trekkers should better yet, hike with someone familiar with the trails. This can also be done with the island's hiking association, which frequently organises excursions. Equally as important is making the right preparation, such as wearing proper footwear and attire, keeping in mind that weather can change quickly on the island. Bringing adequate food and water is also considered a 'must', due to the remoteness of many of Ikaria's paths.
Tour of Raches
Undoubtedly Ikaria's most popular trail, this circuit takes hikers on a grand tour of the region of Raches. Starting along the central road just outside Armenistis, (just behind the 'Pleiades' club) this path covers a distance of 25klm. The route is extremely well marked, with shapes of small red footprints showing hikers the way. The path was created and continues to be maintained by the Raches Resident Council, who have also made an exceptional map of the trail and wider Raches area. The map can be purchased throughout several press agents on the island. The trail itself is considered easy, and intersects many other trails along the way.
Mavrato – Pounta
5 hours hiking this trail which cuts through the island from east to west and reaches its highest peaks, is the ultimate way to experience the real Ikaria. The route only briefly follows an official path, beginning along the trail marked “Mavrato-Kapsalino Castle”. Once reaching the stone shelter, a sign indicating directions can be seen. Here, walkers will leave the trail and continue westward, walking up the incline towards the cliff's edge and continuing along it. After a short while, you'll arrive at the island's highest point (1040 m.) known as “Ephano” or “Fardi”, where magnificent views over the entire island will unfold before here. This is a great place to take a breather, and of course, a couple of photographs! Continuing westward, we soon pass the summit of Tsolia. From here, the path becomes rougher, and at the first large boulder, we move to the left. The path soon becomes extremely narrow—1.5 metres wide at its tightest spot, passing between large boulders on the right and sheer drops to the left. Here, extreme caution must be exercised, as we move over the large rock jutting out in front of us. Soon, the path widens and we continue our ascent until arriving exactly underneath Tsolia peak. From here we pass the large pile of black rocks from the right. The path begins to widen again, and after a half an hour, we arrive in the area of Dokimi, the finishing point of the paths from Arethousa and Chrysostomos. As always, we continue along the cliff's edge, enjoying breathtaking views along the way. As we encounter large stone obstacles we move around the right wit hcare, while attempting not to lose contact with the cliff's edge. Soon we arrive to the Peak of Pountas (905 m.), where we can also see Mt. Kephala and the Castle of Koskina sitting atop it. From here we begin our descent until arriving at a dirt road. We cross it and wind up at the chapel of Agios Dimitrios along the central road from Kosoika and Evdilo. Under fair weather conditions, this route generally takes approximately six hours to complete.
Arethousa – Dokimi – Chrysostomos
This scenic path offers amazing views and a balanced mix of uphill and downhill walking. On the paved road starting from the church of Arethousa, we continue uphill towards the highest houses in the village. On our left, we will eventually see a sign indicating the start of the path towards the direction of Chrysostomos. After a short initial uphill walk, the path becomes a dirt road, which we follow for nearly thirty metres until we come to a fork in the road. Here we take a right and our route becomes a wide path again, with its sides outlined by large rocks. We continue to zig-zag our way uphill until reaching another dirt road. Here, walkers will need to exercise great caution. After following the road for 200 m., we'll see a stack of rocks that mark the beginning of a new path with a large red sign. The path is now easy to distinguish. Venturing a little higher, we'll reach the first rock formations, which warrant a climb and offer sublime views. The stream of Arethousa and its waterfalls can be seen below, as well as the craggy cliffs of Mt. Tsolias lying straight across our position. Turning back to the path which will continue in a southwestern direction, we walk for a half an hour until we exit the small grove of trees and continue along the path before reaching a makeshift “oasis”-complete with benches and a water fountain. After taking a rest and continuing on the now-wide path, we'll eventually cross the dirt road again and arrive at a stone wall which outlines the cliff's edge. Here, the vies are magnificent and reward hikers for their effort. At this point, you can see the entire southeast Aegean, including the Fournoi Islands, and weather permitting, even the distant isles of Patmos and Leipsous. Passing through the stone wall's door, we head south downhill towards the village of Chysostomos.
Mavrato – Kapsalino Castle – Karavostamo
This well-known path is in excellent condition and begins in the centre of the village Mavrato. From the town's church, we turn left at the intersection and eventually arrive at the cemetery. Here, the stone pathway begins its way uphill through the forest for approximately twenty minutes. Our path then continues along the barren hillside. Following the route westward, hikers will reach the Kapsalino Castle along the mountain's ridge after twenty minutes of walking. From here, you can understand why the location was chosen as a lookout point, though today only fragments of the structure remain. Continuing along the north side of the mountain, we'll pass a stone shelter. From this point, hikers can choose to abandon the path and climb towards the peak of the mountain, Ikaria's highest point. If you decide not to, the path leads to the col of Mavros Louros and on towards a dense forest, eventually leading towards the country road connecting Evdilos to Agios Kyrikos, just a kilometre from the path's endpoint in the village of Karavostamo.
Nas – Raches – 2 hours
As one of the island's most beautiful and unique routes, the path leading hikers from the seaside village of Nas to the mountainous region of Raches, never fails to impress. The path runs through the Gorge of Halari, alongside its eponymous river, the largest found on the island. The path begins from the road heading from Nas to Karkinagri, and after too metres, the river appears before us. Here, we'll see a sign marking the beginning of the trail, which is indicated by small red markings. Entering into the ravine, we continue along the river's side, reaching the first set of pine trees. Walkers should be careful to stay in the right direction due to pine needles covering the markers. Moving northward above the river, the route continues back south and becomes more discernible from this point. After about an hour, we reach a crossing with a wooden sign, pointing in the direction of the village of Agios Dimitrios, Raches. However, our route continues right, as we head towards the bridge of Loupastras about a 30-minute walk from this point. As the path becomes more and more downhill, we pass through large, burnt areas before reaching the river again. Shortly after, we arrive at the impressive stone bridge of Halari, where you can still see the remains of an old watermill. There is no trail marking for the rest of the path's duration towards the villages of Proesperas. Our route takes us back to the uphill path which leads to another intersection. Taking a right here, the path leads on th Christos raches, while continuing straight, takes us to the village of Agios Dimitrios.
Pounta – Ammoudia (3.5 hours)
Continuing from where the Chrysostomos-Pounta trail ends, hikers venture on west, heading up the side of a ravine which lies across the church of Agios Dimitrios. Green markings and stone stacks indicate the beginning of the path. This route moves continuously westward and crosses to the right of the mountainside, where it eventually enters the Ranti Forest. This impressive natural landmark has rightfully been included under the protection of the Natura 2000 program, and offers hikers the unique opportunity to experience one of the rarest and most beautiful forests throughout the country. It's density is so great that some of its sections are impenetrable.
On leaving the forest, we head downhill towards the col of Stavri with its small forest. Soon, we reach an important crossing: to the left lies the path towards the village of Manganitis, to the right, the path leading to Messaria, and straight, on towards Ammoudia, which is the path we follow. Heading up the ridge, we eventually reach the top of Papoutsokrifti and from here, we can see the village of Magganiti as well as the entire southwestern section of Ikaria. If the weather is clear, even Naxos is visible in the distance. From here we continue westward, descending towards the plateau in front of us. The trail then ascends towards Megalofo. From this point, the landscape changes into a rocky one and we'll continue to walk slowly downhill between boulders towards the village of Ammoudi.
Pounta – Stavri – Magganitis 2.5 hours
From the Pounta – Ammoudia trail, we begin this route at the juncture of Stavri. Here, we follow the path to the left heading south, and continue downhill towards the steep mountainside. Here the trail has been cut into the rock and is hard to make out at some points. As the path zig zags downward, care needs to be taken, as rock slides have made it challenging to navigate the trail. Fortunately, the path eventually becomes easily discernible again, and we soon come across an impressive stone stairway just above the chapel of Profitis Ilias, arriving at a dividing wall which protects local crops from goats. Passing through the gate, we continue downhill towards the village. After passing a couple of small streams and a final gate, we arrive at a paved road which leads to the centre of the village.
Pounta – Chrysostomos – 3.5 hours
Historically made as a way to connect the western part of the island with its capital, this trail is one of the island's most beautiful. The path's starting point can be found at the chapel of Agios Dimitrios (indicated by a large sign) along the road from Evdilo towards Magganitis. Here, we head east, as we traverse the rocky mountainside. After a while, we reach the slope of Pounta, where there is a spring with drinkable water. Continuing in the same direction, the old dirt road morphs into a narrow path, and after a few minutes, we arrive at the “cut” of Pountas, the highest and most beautiful point on the island, offering impressive views across the sea. From here, the route continues along a well maintained path, which leads to a fork after fifteen minutes. The path on the right leads to the village of Plagia. We take the path on the left towards Chrysostomos. After passing the remnants of a deserted village, the stone-paved path gradually descends until reaching the village of Vardarades. It's a small village full of gardens and with few residents. Here we can drink from a fountain before leaving the village and its main road. Turning left, we continue along the old path. At the small stream, we cross a makeshift stone bridge and arrive just above the hamlet of Tsapataton, where the path becomes a dirt road that continues for 1.5klm., before ending at the paved road, just outside of the village of Chrysostomos.
Raches – Ammoudia – Magganitis (3 hours)
This route begins from the main square of Christos Raches and follows the characteristic red 'footprints' until the 9th marker. Here we turn left at the sign indicating Ammoudia and Magganitis. Continuing to follow the red footprints, we pass farmhouses and cross the dirt road, heading up the mountainside and following the stonewall which leads into the forest. Walking along the mountainside just below the trees, we soon arrive at a stream next to the last houses of Karidies. At this point, care needs to be taken as to not lose the path. We cross the stream and ascend the hillside, following parallel to the stream, making sure not to lose track of the red trail markings. After another 300 metres, we'll cross the stream again, continuing southward along the well-maintained path on the other side. We'll pass a small dirt road and within fifteen minutes, we'll arrive at the main road leading towards Ammoudia, which we follow for another two kilometres. Once we arrive at more red trail markings, we turn left. The landscape becomes more rocky as we traverse the mountainside southward. After passing two streams and a stone shelter, we arrive at the plateau of Ammoudia. This is an important intersection; we will continue straight along the path, heading south, and after a while, we'll arrive at the steep cliff sides of the southern part of the island. The trail becomes quite steep here, and care needs to be taken, especially in the rain or fog. The path turns eastward and gradually loses height as we arrive to a well where we can stock up on water. Here we can see the sea and the village of Magganitis. After about 45 minutes, we'll arrive at the stone wall which borders the wider area of Magganitis. Here, we must be careful not to lose the path. As we pass through the gate, we enter a pine forest and follow the path for 100 metres downhill before turning left and traversing the pine-filled mountainside. The characteristic red markings direct us towards an old house. After passing to right of a large rock, we'll have a clear view of the village as we descend down the stone paved path that leads into the village of Magganitis.