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Tourism

Not Under the Influence: Greece’s Other Islands, Destinations

November 20, 2022

ATHENS – If you think Santorini is the ultimate Greek experience and perfect island spot – it just might be – then you haven’t seen Halki or Tilos or explored fishing villages along the Peloponnese where the tourists don’t go.

But Greece thinks you should.

In an effort to cut down on overtourism that has already essentially ruined Santorini, the visitor-gouging island of Mykonos and overwhelmed the island of Corfu, the Tourism Ministry is urging tourists to try other islands just as charming but not overrun and see lesser-known mainland spots too.

In a feature, Euronews Travel gave recommendations on what to see for those who have been under the influence of influencers using social media sites like Instagram to drive people to the same places and be part of a horde.

There’s lots to be said about standing on the cliffside of Santorini and watching the sun set, if you can see it over the people standing in front of you, but the sun sets on all the Greek islands and mainland and it’s just as beautiful there.

While influencers – who make money directing people to destinations wanting them – are pushing tourists to Greece to the same few favored places, the lucky few are experiencing the real Greek experience where the others aren’t.

Greece has been criticized for overtourism in a bid to bring people back during the waning COVID-19 pandemic and they’re returning in what looks to be record numbers and the ministry wants them to call all year, not just in the summer.

There are so many of them in the same places that the infrastructure can’t handle the pressure and Greeks, especially on the islands who wanted them after the emptiness of Coronavirus lockdowns now worry there’s just too many.

“We are not only talking about preserving natural resources or protecting the environment. For us, sustainability is also something else,” Dimitris Fragakis, Secretary-General of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) told the news site about the problem.

“It’s about how local communities get involved with tourism, because we want people to be close to tourism, not against tourism. There are some bad cases here in Europe of countries facing overtourism, where the locals are kicked out from their houses or their neighborhoods. We don’t want that,” he said.

The strategy is to persuade people go go elsewhere and expand the destinations that will be a lure for them, even during the autumn and winter – yes, Greece has snow and even places to ski.

“Greece is not just sun and beach, and it’s not only the islands. The beaches are also beautiful in northern Greece, and western Greece. Nobody knows these kinds of places. So we want to promote them. We want to show the people that you can go to a lot of places in order to have a quality vacation,” added Fragakis.

“There’s plenty of beauty to be found in Greece, no matter where you are in the country,” the news travel site said, pointing to one example, the small village of Gialova, in the southwest of the Peloponnese peninsula.

It was called “a perfect spot to live the Greek dream of sun, beach, nature and gorgeous food while keeping away from the crowds. The village is a walking distance from the Gialova lagoon and nature reserve and it’s close to the ancient archaeological site of Pylos, a Mycenaean-era palace. Close by, there’s also the beach of Voïdokoilia, one of the most beautiful in the country.”

Then there’s the island of Ikaria in the Aegean, one of the world’s five Blue Zone destinations where people live past 100, the others being Okinawa in Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, California.

On Ikaria, besides enjoying natural, unprocessed food and not worrying about the time because the local’s don’t – one of the reasons they live so long – you can have sandy beaches without someone at your elbow.

Leros island in the Dodecanese, the site said, is “a paradise for those looking to chill by the beach or get sweaty climbing their rocky mountains,” noting that others in the chain with unspoiled beaches and unforgettable sea food.

Halki, off Rhodes, has only a few vehicles and they’re electric and there are accommodations where you can open your door, take three steps off a sidewalk and plunge into a deep sea.

Halki is the first of several small islands in the Aegean Sea that the Greek government intends to make completely independent from the national grid and run entirely on renewable energy sources under the GR-eco national project.

Tilos, with its 500 inhabitants, became the first 100 per cent “green island”’ of Greece and Mediterranean in 2019, when the island, powered by renewable energy alone, declared itself completely self-sufficient, the report said.

But you can see for yourself.

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