volunteer hiking holidays

Organised on an annual basis since 2017, this activity intends to bring to the island visitors outside the peak season.

Ikaria – like many other islands in Greece – is mostly known as a summer destination, where you can enjoy the beaches and the now famous panigyria. But, something that is very often forgotten, is the fact that Ikaria is above all a massive mountain, stretching out for more than 60 km in the Eastern Aegean. Its mountainous terrain reaches an altitude of 1000 m and for thousands of years people have been traversing these myriad mountain paths of Ikaria. In former times, when Ikarians lived in the mountains and not at the seaside, these paths (also called “monopatia”) made up a transportation web that connected Ikaria’s scattered villages with the people’s farming and commercial activities in the mountains and at the sea. In total, the hiking network on Ikaria covers several hundred kilometres.

Over the last decades, as not only new modes of transport and mobilisation, like cars and streets, became more popular, but also the beaches on Ikaria of Ikaria became the no 1 destination, the net of paths was abandoned and in some places even forgotten.

Hiking Paths on Ikaria
Participants came from Ikaria and other regions in Greece but also from further afield: Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, France, Austria, Switzerland, for instance.

Today, though, more and more local associations are recalling the tradition of walking on the island and they are re-opening and restoring the old hiking paths. Contrary to general perceptions, this work has not been initiated by the government or the local administration and therefore financed with public money, but it is based on the efforts of the villages, local associations, volunteers and individual hikers, who are eager to preserve the culture of walking on their island and to revive the old and abandoned paths. This means that the maintenance and expansion of the paths is moving ahead very slowly.

“Hiking helps in many ways to the showcasing and preserving of the special natural environment.”

The Ikarian Hiking Club “OPSIkarias” is one of the front-runners in the area of Raches to maintain and mark the ‘monopatia’.  But also many other local associations all over the island are joining in and little by little the results become visible: paths are maintained and properly marked (red and white dots, red wooden signs) and “Friends of Ikaria” is supporting these activities by donating money from our events to these local associations.

Over the last years it is nice to see, that more and more hiking activities are developing on Ikaria: tourists are arriving explicitly for hiking holidays, more Ikarians – especially younger people – are working as tour guides and this income may enable them to stay on Ikaria the whole year long. In addition to it, not only more hiking guides and maps are finding their way to the shops, but also more online tools, like google maps, are uploaded. As a result of all these activities the tourism season is expanding, bringing different people to the island. Observing this, it can be stated that hiking helps in many ways to the showcasing and preserving of the special natural environment of this green.

“So far we could not only attract people from Brussels, where our association is located, but also people around the globe.”

The idea of organising the “Volunteer Hiking Holidays on Ikaria” is not only born on the background, that many members of our association love hiking on Ikaria, but it was also initiated by the willingness to support local activities on Ikaria and to work directly with those associations, who are making an effort to maintain the nature, the tradition and the beauty of the island. And: this activity is also aiming at attracting those people, who are interested in the Ikarian nature, history and culture.

Hiking Paths on Ikaria
Under the guidance of the Ikarian Hiking Club “OPSIkarias” volunteers are helping to maintain the hiking paths.

Since 2017 we are launching now on a yearly basis an “open call”. So far we could not only attract “people from Brussels”, where our association is located, but also people around the globe (Australia, Canada, Europe). During one week – in general the week before Greek Easter – our base is a different village on Ikaria. We are hosted for little money in local houses and every day we are working on the paths. Since 2018 we are working under the guidance of “OPSIkarias” on the  “Transikarian Trail”, which is connecting the far East of Ikaria – Drakano – with the far West – Kavos Papa. Every year we move on to another mountain village, getting to know to different parts of the island – their nature, their people, their stories, their beauties. While doing so, “Friends of Ikaria” is connecting with different associations on Ikaria and this enables us, to become more familiar with the situation on the island so that we can focus our activities and projects on the real needs of Ikaria.

We are looking forward to continue this work. And we are happy to share a part of the income of our activities with those associations on Ikaria, who are not only dedicated to maintain the unique nature of the island, but also to ensure a sustainable tourism on Ikaria.