Five places, in particular, are known as Blue Zones—named for the blue circles researchers drew to identify the first one on a map—and they’re home to some of the oldest and healthiest people in the world. Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones and The Blue Zones Solution.
Ikaria Island one of five blue zones
A fierce sense of island pride keeps Ikarians invested in their community. That, combined with late bedtimes offset by daily naps and strict adherence to the Mediterranean diet—eating lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, potatoes, and olive oil—propels 1 in 3 Ikarians to live into their 90s, often free of dementia and chronic disease.
A largely plant-based diet, daily physical activity, and familial closeness have given this Blue Zone the highest concentration of male centenarians in the world. (Sheepherders, who tend to walk at least five miles a day, and men with daughters, who may get especially tender care as they age, live even longer than most in this area.) It also doesn’t hurt that the M26 marker, a genetic variant linked to extreme longevity, has been passed down through generations in this secluded community.
Many Blue Zones emphasize family and community, but bonding reaches its peak in this Japanese culture. Okinawans are supported by their moai, a small but tight-knit social circle meant to be there through all of life’s ups and downs, which provides social support strong enough to dull mental stressors and reinforce shared healthy behaviors. The result? A culture that boasts the longest-living women in the world, with many surpassing 100.
Nicoya, Costa Rica
Most Blue Zone residents avoid processed food, but Nicoyans take it to another level. The Costa Rican people traditionally get the majority of their caloric intake from beans, squash, and corn, plus tropical fruits. This plant-forward, nutrient-dense diet— and plenty of time outdoors—makes for strong, well-nourished bodies. Meanwhile, a plan de Vida, or guiding life purpose, helps Nicoyans stay mentally and spiritually fulfilling to age 90 and beyond.
Loma Linda, Calif., U.S.A.
The U.S.’s only Blue Zone is a haven for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a Protestant denomination. A shared set of principles, emphasis on community and adherence to the Sabbath—a day of rest, reflection and recharging— help Loma Linda Adventists live 10 years longer than their fellow Americans. Many avoid meat and eat plenty of plants, whole grains, and nuts.
How to get to Ikaria
Ikaria’s airport is located on the southeast of the island. 10km from the capital Agios Kirikos. If you arrive by ferry to Evdilos port is just over 50km north of the airport, and a further 10km (Total 6okm) from Armenistis resort area.
Ikaria Airport (JIK) connects with direct flights from Athens, 40 minutes flight. Heraklion, Crete, and Thessaloniki.
During the low season, Hellenic Seaways and Blue Star ferries connect Ikaria’s two ports Evdilos and/or Agios Kirikos from Athens-Piraeus via Syros, Mykonos, Ikaria Evdilos, Ikaria Agios Kirikos, Fourni, Samos Karlovassi and Vathi, Chios, Mytilini.
In the summer season ferries run daily from Athens-Piraeus to Ikaria, depending on the weather and number of visiting ports, “sailing” time between 6-8 hours. Also in the summer season fast ferries, high-speed Catamarans with Dodekanisos Seaways with a good connection to other Dodecanese Islands like Samos, Fourni, Patmos, Lipsi, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos, and Rhodes.
Another possibility is between Ikaria and Turkey (Kusadasi-Ephesus) via nearby Samos on the daily ferries operating from April 1 to October 31 between Samos(Vathi or Pythagorion) and Kusadasi(Ephesus).