I must say that the breakfast here at the Oinoi Hotel is absolutely superb! My lovely host Filipos and Mariana make almost everything themselves. The bread – white and brown are freshly baked from the oven and come with a wide selection of homemade preserves such as lemon, orange, fig, apricot (described to me as not sweet but baked in the sun) and more. There is also cherry tomatoes, olives, cheeses and ham and the piece de resistance – the homemade cake. This is served from a counter and taken to the lovely shaded garden to eat. I couldn’t manage the cake but Filipos wraps up a slice for me to take with me.
I tell him that I am going into Agios Kyrikos to found out about an excursion that may be running. I’d messaged Dolihi Tours on Facebook the previous night and they had told me there is a Greek language excursion on Monday. That will suit me fine! I also wanted to find out about the bus service across the island to see if there were further opportunities to explore. According to the ‘Tintyweb’, there was a daily bus service to the north of the island and a returning bus in the evening – if that was the case I would do that today. Filipos is unsure about the bus service but he writes down his mobile number for me and tells me if I get stuck or need help, just to call him.
I caught the little white bus that connects Therma and Agios Kyrikos (ticket 1.30€) and headed straight for the office of Dolihi Tours which is next to Alpha Bank.
Mr Alexis asks me to sit down and he tells me that yes there is a tour around the island on Monday and it will be 25€. It will all be in the Greek language but I tell him it doesn’t matter.
He tells me that the bus will pick me up from Therma at 8.20 and I need to look for – well at first I wasn’t sure what he was trying to tell me. He makes the shape of a curvaceous woman with his hands. Is he describing the tour guide I need to look for. A buxom woman from what I can see. The expression on my face must have warranted further explanation and then he tells me there is the “woman statue” by the beach. Ah now it all makes sense!
Whilst I’m there I ask him about the bus service to the north of the island. He looks at me directly and with an emphatic sweep of his hands he says “The bus is Shit!” He says there is a bus that leaves at one o’clock but it doesn’t return. It seems that the bus leaves the north of the island early in the morning to bring locals to town and maybe school children to school and then it returns. Great if you are staying on the north of the island but not on the south. Anyway, I have the excursion to look forward to and from there if there is anything else that I’d like to see I’d have to hatch a plan.
Whilst I’m in Agios Kyrikos I decide to explore the streets above the port – also going on the hunt for unusual door knockers to add to my photo collection.
The town is set amphitheatrically above the port – and you know what that means? Steps. Yes lots of steps. However, there is also a winding path that will take you up at a gentler pace. Ikaria is an island of slate and you will it incorporated into the architecture and the paving. There are some lovely old Neo Classical houses that have a lot of character and yes I found one door knocker – but no more.
I make it to the Metropolitan Church of Agios Kyrikos and this is where I sit in the church yard to eat Filippo’s cake and rehydrate. I plough on up past the Archaeological Museum of Ikaria which unfortunately is shut, and beyond to another little village. I could carry on climbing but the heat is getting too much. I decide to make my way to Lefkadas Beach a little further around the coast. I do pass two small stone beaches that have very little shade. I also pass a rather odd statue kind of thing that I named ‘Constipated woman having a bad day’.
Lefkadas Beach doesn’t appear to be as close as I’d hoped so I stop at a small taverna for a cold drink before returning back to Agios Kyrikos.
There haven’t been any organised beaches on either of the islands I’ve visited so far. Don’t get me wrong – I really love a natural beach but my bones just don’t like lying on pebble beaches (or sand) for any great amount of time. I go in search of a shop that sells beach chairs that I can take with me for the rest of the trip. After traipsing around a couple of shops I finally find a toy shop of all places that has just one left so I purchase this along with a parasol. How the heck I’m going to carry this around with me for the next 5 weeks I’ll never know. Well yes I will in 5 days when I leave for Fourni!
Back on the little white bus to Therma I go, where I collapse on the beach for the rest of the day.
Almost. I do return to the hotel to shower and change to go back out for dinner. Tonight I eat at Paralia – obvs right on the beach again. I choose chicken souvlaki and a Greek salad. Now chicken souvlaki is a simple dish but not one that is always cooked well. I can honestly say that this is some of the best chicken souvlaki I’ve ever eaten – so soft and tender!
Here I watch the sunset. This is the time when Therma really comes into its own. Families come down to swim and walk and eat dinner. It’s busy, yet peaceful.
I’m up early for breakfast today as I plan to have a very rare beach day. It’s Sunday – there will be a lot of families heading for the beach so I aim to get their early. After another superb breakfast from Mr Fillipos I head down to the beach to bag my spot. (Ooooh I feel all German!).
Nine o’clock in the morning is the perfect time to be on the beach. It is warm enough to swim and there’s hardly anyone else here. Later that morning I decide to go to the Spiliao Spa. Now we’re not talking Champney’s here. It’s basically a cave where the hot springs below are pumped into two baths – one operating at a higher temperature than the other.
I’m not quite sure what to expect but the grumpy attendant pushes leaflets in front of me which makes me still none the wiser. I tell him that yes I will do it (it – whatever that may be) and he takes 4.50€ and tells me to leave my things in the locker and to firstly take a shower. After the shower he takes me through into the inner cave where I opt for the cooler one – but it’s still pretty hot. As I step in he flicks a switch and the water begins to pump into the pool. I just about manage to stay the maximum 20 minutes allowed. I’m not sure what to expect in terms of wellness and whether one treatment alone will show any effects for anything. At the very least if it takes the itching out of my mosquito bites I’ll be happy!
With my towel wrapped around me I then go to the thermal hot spring which is free for anyone to access. This is in the sea cave at the end of the beach and next to the Spiliao Spa.
There are a couple of stone steps that lead into the water which then turn into a couple of large rocks which feel furry and slippery underfoot. There is no elegant way to get in or out of it! Against the cold sea water there are waves of hot water coming from below – a strange sensation but not an unpleasant one.
I head back to my spot on the beach where I spend the rest of the day – breaking only to go for lunch at Taverna Meltemi – just some skordalia and sausages with a ¼ of white wine.
I must say that at first I thought I may have made a mistake staying in Therma purely because of the limited transport links to other parts of the island. However, I love the feel of this little village. Every day a group of Yiayia’s will go to the thermal waters and return to their hotel or home with towels wrapped around their heads in the style of Mother Theresa. At first sight I thought that there was a nun’s convention in town but it seems you must wrap yourself up after going to the spa.
Therma is surrounded by cliffs on three sides and again the houses are set amphitheatrically (try saying that after a few!) up the hillside – maybe at least one of the reasons why the Ikarians live into their hundreds – their heart gets good training from an early age!
It feels local and intimate – even with people coming from other parts of the island to visit it. An elderly Greek lady came to the beach in the afternoon and asked me if she could leave her bag under my umbrella whilst she went for a swim which of course I said yes to. In return she saw me struggling to put sun lotion on my back and before I knew it the bottle was whipped out of my hand and I was duly lathered in lotion. I think the fact that there is a real mixture of ages here adds to the laid back atmosphere and is a place where anyone can come and ‘fit’.