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Dive! Dive! Greece's Tourism Push Goes for Underwater Look

Ευρωκίνηση

(Photo by Eurokinissi, File)

Hoping to lure visitors year-round and with attractions other than sun, sand, sea and islands, Greece has opened its first underwater museum to divers – accompanied a guide.

They can look, but not touch, required to stay at least two meters (6.56 feet) away from objects in sunken ships, but the lure of the experience driving people under Greece's historic waters, said Phys.org, citing Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"This is a combination of diving and archaeological diving. It's diving into history," Hans-Juergen Fercher, a 48-year-old psychiatrist said after pulling himself onto the deck of the Triton dive boat.

"It makes it special and unique,” he said, coming up from his fourth dive where mounds of 2,500-year-old wine pots mark the site of an ancient shipwreck and the underwater museum spot.

The museum is under the waves at Peristera, a rocky outcrop off the island of Alonissos, which opened in 2020 but largely unused until the easing of COVID-19 health restrictions allowed it.

Divers like Fercher and Danish wine-cellar maker, Lisette Fredelund, pay 95 euros ($11.92) a dive, about 50 percent more than the cost of a regular recreational scuba outing, for the guided tour of the site that had been open only for professional archaeologists.

"It was just amazing," said Fredelund. "I was just, while we were down there, trying to imagine what it had been like being on a vessel transporting wine,” during the ancient times, the ship from the 5th Century B.C.

More wrecks have been discovered in the area,  the middle of the country's largest marine reserve, holding out the prospect that more such museums will open, the report added.

Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis told AFP that Greece has made diving part of its focus to attract visitors since legislation passed in 2020.

"This is a type of tourism that attracts people all year round, a special audience that pays generously to dive," he said, adding that 10 new diving parks are ready to be licensed under the process provided for by the legislation.

About 300 people have paid to visit the wreck since the museum opened, according to Alonissos Mayor Petros Vafinis, an avid scuba diver, who joined a group of them for a look under the seas himself.

"My expectations were really high from the briefing, and it fulfilled everything," said George Giasemidis, a Greek tourist of the dive that can be technically difficult, limiting it to only experienced divers.

 who visited the area specifically to see the wreck.

More than 4,000 two-handled amphorae are anchored in the sand, their positions marking out the outline of the wooden vessel, the remains of which have been washed away over time.

"We want to propose another kind of tourism to the people who come. I don't want intensive tourism we can find anywhere else," Vafinis said.

With four other wrecks discovered nearby, the goal is that they will in turn become accessible and bring more to Alonissos, already a popular little gem in the northern Sporades.

"It goes to put Alonissos on the world diving map, to have like an underwater safari of ancient wrecks," Kostas Efstathiou, co-owner of the Triton diving center told the news site.