With its pristine natural beauty, authentic traditional art and wholesome Mediterranean cuisine Greece is the perfect destination for sustainably-minded travellers. By taking simple steps to be a green tourist, you can support the local economy and preserve the country’s natural wonders.
For example, Hydra is a car-free island, keeping pollution levels to a minimum and safeguarding its pristine environment. And Alonissos has become famous for its well-preserved Peristera shipwreck, earning the island a gold award at the 1st Greek Travel Awards in 2021.
1. Travel by Ferry
Greek islands are ideal destinations for sustainable travel. The diverse landscapes, authentic traditional art, and laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle make Greece a great choice for tourists who want to embrace the eco-friendly philosophy of traveling, eating, and purchasing like a local.
The gradual rise in popularity of the island nation over the decades has made the state and tourism industry more conscious of its impact on the environment, resulting in an impressive network of protected wetlands and ecologically sensitive areas. The islands have also started a push towards sustainability, with many initiatives to boost energy self-sufficiency, eliminate plastic waste, and encourage the local economy.
In Naxos, for instance, a network of bicycle paths have been created and the town’s restaurants are made entirely from ingredients grown or raised on the island, including organic meat and vegetables. The town ranked in Lonely Planet’s 2021 Best in Travel list for sustainable travel, as well as being a top destination for gastronomy.
Ferries connecting the Greek islands are a great option for travelers wanting to visit several different locations without having to rent a car. They offer a range of amenities, from cafes and restaurants to snack bars and seated meals. Keep in mind that food prices are inflated on ferries, so you may want to bring your own snacks or water. The ferries can get delayed on windy days, so be sure to arrive at the port early.
2. Stay at an Eco-Resort
When planning your eco-tourism holiday in Greece, there are a variety of options available to you. There are many resorts that offer laid-back luxury in premium bungalows, and they are often situated on a beach or close to other attractions like historical sites. These resorts are perfect for those who want to experience all the beauty that Greece has to offer without negatively impacting the environment.
There are also a number of hotels that specialize in sustainability, and these have made it their mission to promote responsible travel to Greece. They are constantly striving to improve their environmental performance, and they provide a variety of activities that allow guests to enjoy their stay in an eco-friendly way.
One such hotel is the Koukoumi Eco Resort, which offers a luxurious blend of sustainability and comfort. Guests can unwind in their own private paradise, and they can also explore the beautiful island of Serifos.
The resort is powered by renewable energy, and it uses a range of sustainable practices such as solar water heating. Guests can also enjoy organic, locally-grown food and eco-friendly cleaning products. The hotel also has a variety of on-site activities, including yoga classes and cycling tours.
3. Eat Local
The three pillars of sun, sea and sand that have defined Greece’s tourism strategy for decades are now complemented by a fourth: sustainability. Many Greek destinations have implemented environmentally friendly policies that reduce energy consumption and the ecological footprint of locals and travelers alike.
One example is the small island of Tilos, a top destination for eco-tourism in the Dodecanese that has become a leader in reducing the use of plastic straws. The municipality, along with local businesses, has replaced disposable straws with reusable ones made of biodegradable or compostable materials. This effort to curb plastic pollution is a great way to make your island getaway more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Other initiatives have focused on improving access to renewable energy. The southeastern Aegean island of Kos, for instance, has become a car-free destination by installing bicycle rental points and encouraging visitors to explore the pristine beaches and castles by bike. A vehicle-free vacation is also a more sustainable way to explore a place, as it keeps air pollution levels at minimum.
These initiatives are a positive sign, but more is needed to balance the benefits of tourism with the negative impacts on natural resources. Core environmental NGOs should be at the forefront of raising awareness and advocating for policy reforms that address this issue.
4. Stay at a Farm
Many Greek islands are reinventing themselves as eco-tourism destinations. Some have even achieved energy self-sufficiency and are working towards eliminating single-use plastics. Kos, for instance, has set a high standard with its flat terrain and network of bicycle paths. The island is home to a spectacular ancient theatre and a wealth of delicious local produce including Rapsani wine, olives, oranges and figs as well as the famous louzes, sausages made from pork rib meat matured in red wine.
Visiting a farm is one of the most authentic ways to experience Greece and a great opportunity to participate in its traditional activities. Guests can help out with the harvest using age-old methods, transfer the olives to a press and see how the oil is extracted. They can also pick their own vegetables, berries or mushrooms and try their hand at cheese-making or bee-keeping.
Staying at a farm is also a good way to avoid the summer crowds and discover lesser-known areas of a given island. For example, staying on Naxos will allow you to take a walking tour of the old town in the morning or evening (avoiding the peak heat) and explore Corfu’s most popular beaches without adding to the already-heavy crowds.
Be sure to avoid any farms that carry out abusive practices against animals. Sadly, many donkeys on the Greek islands are used against their will to carry heavy loads on steep, dusty trails. Some of them are forced to wear metal shoes and deprived of food or water during their work.