Boost Your Longevity in Ikaria, Greece

November 16, 2017



Have you ever heard of Ikaria? Could you place it on a map? I couldn’t before a recent visit.

This wonderful little island, situated in the Aegean Sea close to Samos, is known as ‘the island of longevity’ due to its rare Blue Zone status (where the inhabitants largely live free of chronic disease and often reach the ripe old age of 100).

Experts say there are rational explanations behind this astonishing life expectancy. From eating a fresh Mediterranean diet and drinking natural wine, to looking after your neighbours and treating everyone equally, there’s certainly something we Brits can learn about the Ikarian lifestyle to boost our own wellbeing. Here are a few tips from Ikaria:

Tip #1: Stop time-watching

Ikarians do not wear watches. Their pace of life is slow, particularly for the villagers in the northern region. Known as ‘highlanders’, these folk work as beekeepers and farmers and have a low sense of urgency as they have a different sense of time. There is a misconception that Ikarians are ‘lazy’ due to their late starts and paced movements, but a lack of power in the 1970s meant the locals found it more convenient to open shops and trade later in the day. This unusual habit remains to this day – meaning the best time to shop in Ikaria (especially in the ‘vampire town’ of Christos Raches) is late evening!

Ikaria Greece

Perhaps it’s time we slowed down and stopped clock-watching every minute of every day. We’d definitely feel more relaxed and less anxious!

Tip #2: Treat everyone as your equal

There are no social classes on Ikaria. The islanders’ top values are simplicity, trust and respect, and it is almost forbidden to show off success or wealth within the community. Instead, these humble Greeks dress plainly and ensure every individual is welcome on the island – whether local or tourist.

There are over 100 festivals held each year on Ikaria. Because of the Ikarian sense of equality, no events are held exclusively for islanders, nor are any put on especially for tourists. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun. Prices are not inflated at different times of year either.

A sense of community and inclusion is important for health. Look after your nearest and dearest, and respect your neighbours.

Tip #3: Eat local and eat seasonal

We’ve all heard about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet, but Ikarians take it to a whole new level by only eating what they can produce themselves, meaning their diet is strictly organic and seasonal. There is zero junk food on the island, there are no preservatives in the wine and meat is only eaten at special occasions, often when the whole village can eat together. It’s a sustainable and ecological way of supporting a community.

Ikaria, Greece

The nutrition Ikarians gain from their diet of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, local wine, honey and herbs is strengthened by the chemical composition of the soil on the island, which fortifies the produce grown there.

Everyone can benefit from a seasonal, locally-sourced diet, and the basic principles of the Mediterranean diet are easily found on the internet. Get Googling!

Tip #4: Stay active and get outside

From 325 km walking trails (celebrated during a big walking holiday in September each year) to surfing beaches and from a yoga retreat (known as ‘The Egg’) to sandy football pitches, there are plentiful opportunities to stay active outdoors on Ikaria. A dose of Vitamin D from excursions in the sun also boosts the immune system and energy levels; another reason to get outside on a day to day basis.

30 minutes of exercise daily is recommended in the UK for heart health and lower blood pressure. Why not take a break from your desk and enjoy a lunchtime walk in the fresh air?

Tip #5: Experience the Ikarian lifestyle for yourself

Plan a visit to Ikaria to experience this wholesome way of life for yourself. Visit www.sunvil.co.uk for island-hopping itineraries which feature this wonderful Blue Zone island.

By: Charlotte Osborn