Ikaria: 5 Lessons from the Greek Island Where Locals Don't Die

Old friends
Old friends | © uigers/Flickr
Ethel Dilouambaka

Ten hours by boat from Athens lies Ikaria, a verdant island in the southeast of the Aegean Sea. Dubbed the “paradise of longevity,” or “the island where people forget to die,” as the New York Times put it, Ikaria is home to a population that seems to defy death. With one in three people living to 90 years without major age-related issues, Ikaria is certainly an example to follow. Here are some lessons from the island of longevity.
Ikaria (or Icaria) has been identified along with four other regions as a “blue zone,” i.e. an area where people tend to live measurably longer lives. According to a study carried out by the University of Athens Medical School and published in Cardiology Research and Study, Ikaria counts more nonagenarians and centenarians than anywhere else. While people over 80 make about 5% of the population of Greece, this demographic reaches 13% in Ikaria, with an significant portion of nonagenarians.

Manganitis, Ikaria

To get to the bottom of things, Dan Buettner (National Geographic fellow, New York Times-bestselling author, and BlueZones.com founder) analyzed and researched what all these blue zones, including Ikaria, had in common and came up with a list of characteristics, called the power 9, that he observed in the blue zones:
Moderate, regular physical activity
Life purpose
Stress reduction
Moderate calories intake
Plant-based diet
Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine
Engagement in spirituality or religion
Engagement in family life
Engagement in social life

From these 9 commonalities, we have compiled a few tips to help improve health and, who knows, maybe even live to 90.

Spend time outdoors

A Walk on the Beach

Take the time to take your time

Perhaps the greatest secret we can learn from Ikarians is their relationship with time. They do not rush but enjoy every single moment – a concept of mindfulness that is ingrained deep within them. When they socialize with their friends around a cup of Greek coffee or local wine (in moderation), it is not for a matter of minutes but hours. Like anyone else in the world, they are not impermeable to stress, but they prefer not to focus on it and find ways to release it, whether it is through meditation or exercise.

95 year old smile…

Sleep

Ikarians know and understand the power of a good night sleep. Even if they tend to go to bed later, they sleep in the next day and try to nap as often as possible. Think naps are for lazy people? It’s time to reconsider this misconception – in fact, napping has been proven to reduce cardiovascular disease.

Take care of the land, and it will give back

Agriculture and, to a lesser extent, gardening is a major activity in Ikaria. Indeed, locals usually grow and consume their own produce, which also allows them to digest fewer pesticides. Families often have a small garden where they cultivate fruits and vegetables. Eating seasonally and locally is way of taking care of the environment with the added bonus of being mutually beneficial. Add to this an authentic Mediterranean diet – rich in vegetables and fruits, aromatic herbs (for cooking and in teas), honey, goat milk, with few carbs and meat (eaten occasionally) – and it’s clear why Ikarians live longer. Check out Chef Diane Kochilas’ cookbook on the subject for inspiration.

Amazing food made from the finest fresh, natural ingredients, at Popi’s, Ikaria

Really connect with peers

Ikarians are constantly socializing. Whether it is for lunch (which may take a few hours) or for a glass of wine, they love to spend time with each other and truly converse. Even the lonelier ones are encouraged to join and spend time at the panigyria, local festivals with a lot of dancing, music, and wine, attracting visitors from other islands.

Local panigyria in Ikaria
landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article