On the island of Ikaria in the North Aegean, scattered lights from houses can be seen behind the mountains and jagged peaks. It raises this question: Why would people want to live away from the ground level near the sea and make their lives more difficult for themselves?

The island’s reputation for producing the famed Pramnian wine, together with olives and honey, spread across ancient Greece thanks to the sea. However, the sea also attracted pirates, drawn by the island’s valuable goods and wealth. In response to their fear of invasion, Ikaria’s residents devised an innovative plan: move their homes into the mountains to give the impression that the island was deserted. The islanders would hide their culture among the rocky summits of Ikaria’s Aetheras range for the following 300 years. The early years, also known as the “piratiki epochi” (pirate era), were appropriately called the “century of obscurity.”

The upland refuge known as Lagkada still holds a special place in the hearts of islanders. But for now, all that’s left of it is a cluster of stone houses—pretty much a deserted village. An Ikarian winemaker said, “There is still at least one man living there permanently. […] Most of us see him only when we go to Lagkada’s panigýri (festival). The rest of the year, he must be surrounded by ghosts.”