From Aghios Kirykos to Evdilos
and Koskinas Castle
(For distances, Aghios Kirykos = 0.0km)
The road north from Aghios Kirykos climbs tortuously through a number of almost contiguous villages. The valley through which it winds was once both more watered with springs and more forested with trees—at several point ruined watermills can be seen, some still in relatively good state of preservation; of the tree cover which until recently clad these slopes, the solitary white Monument to the Victims of the Forest Fires of 1993 on the open scree to the west of Kountoumas is the most poignant reminder. (The monument is reached by a long winding track and a final flight of steps, off from the main road.) The landscape to the east of the road is gentler, and intensively cultivated—the older houses and farmsteads recognisable by their silver-grey, schist-tile roofs. From Mavrato (7.5km) a path leads steeply west towards the summit of the ridge (45 minutes) to the remains of Kapsalinokastro, a 15th century fortress, wedged in the rocks on the ridge with ample views of the surrounding waters to north, east and south. At 10.1km, after the scattered, agricultural centres of Mavrikato and Oxea with their wide panoramic sites, a road drops sharply off to the left to Kataphygi on the slopes below. The villages in this area have many stone houses dating from the last two hundred years: the church and adjacent school house are both fine buildings from the same period. Due south a hill rises to a summit of 470m: this was the site of the Archaic settlement of Kataphydion, which was used through and beyond Classical times as the acropolis for Therma, on the coast below. It is hard to make much sense of the lay-out of the site, since all that remain are quantities of collapsed masonry along the summit; some remnants of the lower courses of the citadel walls are discernible, however, on the edge of the south escarpment of the hill.
A kilometre beyond the Kataphygi turning, the main Aghios Kirykos–Evdilos road reaches its summit (11km from Aghios Kirykos) beside a wind farm, from where there are commanding views of the islands of Fourni and Samos .
A detour to the north
The attractive and traditional village of Perdiki, lies below and to the north of here, 2km down the branch road to the right: it has many fine, stone houses, and a small Folk lore Museum, densely packed with examples of earthen ware and ceramic pottery, woodwork, tools and implements, both agricultural and domestic. The unpaved road out of the village’s eastern extremity skirts (after 1.5km) the castle of Kefalas, passes the abandoned settlement of Aghios Savvas, and, before dropping to sea level at the air port, descends the hill of Propezoulopi, where a number of prehistoric menhirs can still be seen in the adjacent fields. Turning left to the shore, just before the airport, will bring you to the bay of Aghia Kyriaki, where there are hot springs rising in the small enclosure below the over hang of rock to the left. From the western end of Perdiki, a paved road leads down (4.7km) to the coast at Kioni, where there are the remains of an Early Christian church of Aghios Giorgios.
The main island route turns sharply west after the junction from which the detour began, into a very different landscape of deeply folded ravines—wilder, more deserted and densely covered with heather, fern and low arbutus. The first signs of habitation are at Monokambi (16.5km), a tiny and formerly very isolated settlement in a dense break of vegetation—olive, pine, chestnut, cy press and ilex—completely hidden from sight from the sea below. Visible from the road to the north of the village, and dwarfed by a ridge of slanting schist rock, is the tiny, rock-cut chapel of Aghia Sophia (access by path and steps from north end of village). These hidden villages have many early 18th century churches, with traditional schist tile roofs, which are whitewashed outside and mostly un decorated inside. After Ploumari (18.5km) the road skirts a wide gorge. At 21km, before the road turns sharp west and back into the next ravine, a stone path leads from the roadside up on to the ridge above, beside the rudimentary and ancient church of Aghia Ioulitta and Aghios Kirykos. Saints Julitta and Kirykos, from Iconium in Asia Minor (modern Konya), were mother and infant son: Kirykos was killed in Tarsus, during the persecutions of Diocletian, at the age of three, and his mother was later beheaded in 296. The building is hard to date because its roof has been rebuilt and an incongruous column added to support it; but the simple flagstone floor and roughly assembled walls may be of considerable antiquity. There are remains of fortifications, cisterns and habitations on the spur of Gerakas above and to the north—and magnificent views in all directions. Just beyond, in the next ra vine, below the tiny settlement of Miliopo (22 km) are the interesting remains of the Early Christian basilica of the Taxiarchis. This is perhaps the island’s earliest surviving place of Christian worship.
From Miliopo, through the area of Karavostamo (29.5km), and down to the coast at Evdilos (36.5km), the road weaves repeatedly inland and then back towards the sea, as it skirts ravine after ravine, slowly descending through a terrain that becomes less inimical and ever more cultivated. The settlements are mostly modern: their predecessors, from the period of the ‘aphaineia’ or ‘disappearances’ (see History above), are all higher up in land so as to be protected from coastal piracy. One such village (4km south from the junction at Kyparisi Bay) is Arethousa: separated from Evdilos by only a few kilo metres, but by as many decades in time, it still maintains some of the characteristics of rural life which have been lost elsewhere in Greece. It is a loose group of scattered villages—Pera Arethousa, the remotest of them, is now no more than a collection of abandoned stone dwells. Life centres around the vines, the cultivating of fruits (especially apricots and plums) and the production of cheeses. Even kafeneia are few and far between: but in them can often be found intense and old-style local wines—together with some equally intense and old-style political commentaries and a sense of dress and decor that has remained unchanged for a lifetime.
At the central point of the north coast, Evdilos (36.5km), meaning ‘clear’ or ‘visible’, is the capital of the north of the island—a peaceful, attractive and unaffected port on the route from Piraeus to Samos , with an old quarter on the hill to the west directly above the harbour. In Antiquity Evdilos, whose name was Histoi, may have functioned as a subsidiary commercial port to the main, Classical settlement on the north coast, Oenoe (modern Kambos), 2.5km to its west.
The deep, fertile, protected valley which cuts across the island to the south of Evdilos was the island’s principal granary and source of wealth. It therefore needed protection, and this was provided throughout the Middle Ages by the impressively sited *castle of Koskinas, which was at the centre of a network of further outlying castles (Kapsalinokastro, Gerakas and Kefalas below Perdiki, which have been mentioned above). (The castle is 8.5km due south of Evdilos, to the east of the road which connects it with Plaghia on the south coast. Five kilometres from Evdilos, at Akamatra, an unmetalled road leads off towards the castle. Alternatively, an equally dramatic approach can be made from the south from the Plaghia road, where 800m after the summit of the ridge, an unmetalled road leads 3.5km to the castle which soon appears on its conical peak above the wide granite landscape. The rusting iron tower for winching up materials during restoration works on the site is visible from afar.) The castle, whose walls are in relatively good state of preservation, perches precariously at an altitude of over 700m, and is entered by a small, low gate in the enceinte. The bases of two watch-towers (to NW and SE) are clearly visible. The construction is originally Byzantine, dating from the 11th or 12th century, and must have been adopted and partially modified with the arrival of the Genoese overlords in the 14th century, who probably then rebuilt the large church of Aghios Giorgios Dorganas (‘St. George of the Shining Spear’) which dominates the summit. The austere, un-rendered stone interior of the church contains a number of ancient spolia: a granite column in its templon screen, and a finely fluted drum which supports the altar. Also clearly visible here, incorporated into the body of the south and west walls, and the corners of the sanctuary, are a number of immured clay pots: this was an ancient Byzantine habit which enhanced the acoustics of a building for chanted liturgy. Although the views over the island from here are vast, the peak of Kefalas just to the north inconveniently hides Chios from view, and to the south east, Naxos is similarly hidden. However visibility is good from here to the other castles on Ikaria—amongst which are those better situated for chain-signalling through the islands. The purpose of this castle must therefore have been more for surveillance and protection of the rich agricultural valleys and inhabited areas of the interior. The land may seem barren today, but the immaculate and extensive network of walls, bridges and stone paths in the gorge below at Kosikia to the west of the castle is testimony to the formerly dense cultivation in this valley.
Ikaria Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island group
From Aghios Kirykos to Evdilos and Koskinas castle – general information.