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ecoDestinations - Greece
Greece is an amazing ecotourism destination with over 300 Blue Flag labeled beaches, ancient ruins, traditional architecture, and gorgeous vineyards. For outdoor enthusiasts there’s a range of activities to enjoy such as windsurfing, scuba diving, hiking, and mountaineering.
With a 16,000 km coastline, over 10,000 islands, and high mountain ranges, Greece is one of the most biodiverse countries in Europe. Approximately 22% of its plants and 25% of its animals are endemic. The Mediterranean Monk Seal is one of the most endangered species on the planet, yet Greece is home to almost half of the world’s population.
Indigenous and Traditional Peoples:
While the majority of Greece’s peoples are of Greek heritage, there are several groups of minorities and traditional peoples, such as the Vlachs and the Sarakatsani. The Vlachs are an ethnic group that are from what is now southern Albania, northern Greece, southwestern Bulgaria, and the Republic of Macedonia. Throughout history the Vlachs have supported different geo-political groups from the Greeks to the Romans, and they even once formed the autonomous “Principality of Pindus” during World War II. There have been contentions about their historical, cultural, and geographical identities, which has led to some hostility against the use of their native language, Aromanian.
The Sarakatsani are a nomadic shepherd group that cross throughout northern Greek, Bulgaria, Turkey, Albania, and Yugoslavia during the different seasons. They are often confused as Vlachs; however, the Sarakatsani speak Greek, wherever they may live.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
Acropolis: Located on a rocky outcrop that overlooks the city of Athens, the Acropolis is an iconic monument and symbol of ancient Greek civilization. Its history is extensive, having been looted and burned by the Persians, converted into churches by the Byzantines and then into a mosque by the Turks, and finally pillaged by the English. Since 1975, an internationally acclaimed restoration and conservation program has taken place, using innovative techniques that aim to stabilize and prolong the life of the ruins.
Aigai: The first capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia, the city of Aigai was discovered in the 19th century. The most important remains include the monumental palace, beautifully decorated with mosaics and painted stuccoes, and the burial ground with more than 300 tombs. In one the tombs, a body found in a solid gold casket weighting 11 kg has been identified as Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. The museum there is a must see.
Corfu: Located in a strategic position at the entrance of the Adriatic Sea, the town had three forts designed to defend the maritime trading interests of Venice against the Ottoman Empire. Wander the ancient streets and enjoy whitewashed houses, Byzantine churches, and the remains of Venetian fortresses and Greek temples.
Delos: According to Greek mythology, Apollo was born on this island and brought pilgrims from all over Greece, establishing Delos as a wealthy trading port. The most important archaeological structures include the Sanctuary of Apollo and the Terrace of Lions.
Meteora: Meaning “Suspended in the air” in Greek, Meteora consists of twenty-four monasteries built atop almost inaccessible sandstone peaks. Dating back to the 11th century, it was a place for monks to retreat, meditate, and prayer. Pilgrims were once hoisted up alongside the 373 m (408 yards) cliff next to the Varlaam monastery. Today, there are four monasteries that still house religious communities. The surrounding area includes a beautiful river valley and forested hills.
Mystras: Called the “Wonder of Morea”, the castle was built atop a 620 m hill overlooking Sparta. A walk amongst the medieval Byzantine ruins will uncover beautiful churches covered with dramatic frescoes, ancient walls, and libraries. The site and view is a photographer’s paradise.
Rhodes: An outstanding example of architecture, Rhodes is located within a wall 4 km long. It is divided into the high town to the north and the lower town to the south. Rhodes was built by the Knights Hospitallers, which was the strongest military order after the dissolution of the Knights Templar. Fortifications were said to be impregnable; however it subsequently came under Turkish and Italian rule.
Alonnisos Marine Park: The first marine park in the country, the parks includes the island of Alonnisos, six smaller islands, and 22 uninhabited islets and rocky outcrops. The park is home to many important species including red coral, Eleonora’s falcon, Audoin’s gull, cormorants, rock nuthatch, bottlenose dolphins, and sperm whales. The most famous creature in the park is the Mediterrean monk of which Greece holds at least 2/3 of the total remaining population. Over the last 20 years, the monk seal has become extinct in more than 10 different countries. Be sure to check out the monk seal initiative, MOM, which takes care of sick seals and abandoned pups, and has a permanent exhibit. The area is also well known for its colorful boutiques, traditional architecture, taverns, and vineyards.
Olympus: Also a UNESCO World Hertiage Site, Olympus is Greek’s highest mountain. It’s tallest peak, Mytikas, reaches 2,918 m (9,573 ft) and was believed to be the meeting place of the gods. In addition to numerous temples, there are ruins of the sports structures erected for the Olympic Games. Due to the high elevation, over 1,700 plants are found on Mt. Olympus, representing 25% of Greece’s flora. There are more than a hundred bird species as well, including rare and endangered woodpeckers and golden eagles. The park is also renown for its diversity of butterflies.
Pindus: Also known as Valia Kalda, the Pindus Mountain range extends from Greece, Macedonia, and Albania. Characterized by steep peaks and deep canyons, the forests are composed of conifers and mixed broadleaf species. The region’s rate of floral endemism can exceed 35%; however, socio-economic and political instability has contributed to pressures on the park’s biodiversity.
Vikos-Aoös: Pristine rivers, flowering meadows, steep mountain ranges, deep gorgeous, and large springs characterize Vikos-Aoös. Almost one-third of Greece’s flora live here, as well as native fish, foxes, chamois, rare hawks, otters, and bears. During the summer, seminomadic Vlach and Sarakatsani shepherds still take their flocks to graze upon the mountains.
Zakynthos Marine Park: One of the most important nesting areas in the Medittanean for loggerhead turtles, Zakynthos is where 2,700 out of a total population of 4,500 come to lay their eggs. Other wildlife abounds, including wild swans, iguanas, soft water snakes, porcupines, and dolphins. For outdoor enthusiasts, there’s plenty of hiking paths through olive groves, hillsides and vineyards that overlook beaches and small villages. The area is also popular amongst windsurfers and sailors.
Halkidiki: Located in Northern Greece, many of Halkidiki’s beaches are designated with the Blug Flag Label as some of the world’s most eco-friendly. Amazing activities including trekking through Mount Itamos, rock climbing, sailing around hidden coasts, and sampling products fresh from the farm. Scuba diving here is great, with opportunities to see sponges, octopuses, corals, and even the shipwreck of Mytilini.
P.A.P. Corp, is an environmental-friendly managed hotel company, and an active member of national and international eco-friendly organizations for the last 30 years. The group owns 3 Hotels in Halkidiki, Alexander the Great Beach Hotel on the first peninsula, Agionissi Resort on Halkidiki’s only island Amoliani, and Xenia Ouranoupolis which is on the mainland, next to the borders of Mount Athos. In Thessaloniki, right in the center of the city, lies the hotel Astoria.
Ministry of Tourism
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