The south coast, west of Aghios Kirykos
Two kilometres south of Aghios Kirykos and 200m before a right turn to Glaredo, a tiny blue and white sign, reading ‘Hot mineral springs’, points down to the shore. The steep descent brings you to Therma Lefkados, where three very hot springs (c. 56–58Β°C), rich in iron and sulphur, rise be low the rocks on the shore and mix to a pleasant temperature with the sea-water in a large pool roughly defined in the sea by a ring of boulders. The relatively high sulphur content makes these waters therapeutically indicated for dermatological conditions in particular. A further 1.5 km west along the coast road, the late 18th century monastery of Lefkados Evangelismos stands above the road on the landward side. The catholicon is a finely proportioned compact structure: the apsidal cruciform plan, is surmounted first by a low, square crossing, and finally by an octagonal drum and shallow roof, constructed in traditional materials—creating a satisfying organic whole, both inside and out. The small complex is built on the site of a spring which originally fed a couple of watermills below. The remains of one is beside the road, and another on the cliff edge above the shore, clearly visible for its graceful arch which supports the water course and chute.
A little more than a kilometre beyond, just before entering the village of Xylosyrtis, a signed road leads down to the springs of ‘Athanato Nero’ (‘immortal water’), which rise at the shore—an excellent (cold) mineral water, with a light, metallic taste, very popular with locals who come here to collect it for use at table. Xylosyrtis itself (4.5km from Aghios Kirykos) is a delightful village of fertile gardens above a long shingle beach, stretching all the way to the handsome stone-built church of Aghia Paraskevi at its western end.
In this area, the coastal strip varies between screes of barren rock, steep fertile valleys and patches of maquis; at Xylosyrtis, is the first outbreak of the huge, rounded, grey, granite boulders which characterise the landscape to the west of here at many points. At this point you are below the highest summit (1037m) of the massive ridge of Mount Atheras—the Pramnos of Antiquity.
At the western end of the village is a junction from which a road leads sharply back up the mountain to Kamba—a *detour which is rewarding to make. The road is steep and climbs relentlessly, but affords marvellous views across the water towards Patmos and Astypalaia, with Donousa, Amorgos, and Naxos all visible on a clear day. The landscape is granitic, but there is occasional wa ter giving rise to frequent outbreaks of green.
After 2km of climbing, the village of Kechritis comes into view on the right—an abandoned settlement, now ruined, of low stone houses which were deliberately de signed to be almost indistinguishable from the rocky land scape. Above is the church of Aghios Ioannis, perched on a natural ledge where the rock itself constitutes the north wall of the narthex: inside is an iconostasis in local vernacular style. The road terminates at Kamba, a further kilometre and a half beyond, beetling at a height of almost 700m above the shoreline below; above, the final rock wall of the summit rises a further 350m. There is a peaceful immensity to the view and the setting: the air is always clear and sharp. The simple, windowless, 18th century church of the Panaghia, constructed in un-rendered stone, al though restored in 1965, still conserves its original roof of large schist slabs. Beyond it stretches a network of stone walled fields bursting with vines. The special climate, alti tude, humidity, soil and water on this almost alpine ledge favour the cultivation of a rich and excellent wine grape. In Antiquity Ikaria was always renowned for its Pramnian Wine—an intense and very dark wine whose qualities must have required the grape to mature and reduce slowly in the colder autumnal temperatures of such an altitude. The vines here stand in a long line of descent from their prized, Pramnian ancestors.
Back on the principal coast road, the villages that follow to the west of Xylosyrtis—Chrysostomos (8km), Valanidia (9km), Vroni (10km), Plaghia (14km)—are dotted with schist-tiled stone houses, and immersed in a land scape of olives, cypresses, pomegranates, figs and occasional monumental Aleppo pines. A number of freshwater springs rise in this area and fill the narrow gorges that run down to the shore. As the road rises, ruined walls, farmsteads and disused threshing circles can be seen below on the rise above the shore. From Vroni, a small trapezoid-shaped rock is visible in the bay just off-shore: this is the rock of Nikaris—so named, because it traditionally marks the place where Icarus fell into the sea and drowned on his airborne escape from Crete.
Beyond Plaghia the land becomes more arid and opens into a wide natural amphitheatre of cliffs. At 18.5km the road branches, with the main road (a dramatic and beautiful alternative route) continuing up over the summit in the direction of Evdilos. The left branch drops down steeply towards the coast, passes through a 500m tunnel, recently blasted through the cliffs, and on to Manganitis (25km), in an isolated and astonishing landscape of vast granite boulders—round, egg-shaped, or variedly sculptural in form. Houses lurk next to boulders larger than themselves, gardens skirt around others that appear to have been dropped into them, and the whole area is filled out with abundant Aleppo pines. Today, Manganitis is largely a quiet, recreational spot with a couple of good mezedopoleia, and an attractive and tiny harbour. The road ends here and a track continues a further 2km to the isolated church of Aghios Nektarios, perched between 800m of granite cliff and the sea.
Ikaria Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island group
Aghios Kirykos and the South coast – West of Aghios Kirykos.