Δευτέρα, 29 Σεπτεμβρίου 2008

Greece’s Best Kept Secret

“Fusion” is the word which comes to mind when exploring the Greek Island of Lesvos. For over 450 years the Island was under Turkish occupation and as such when returned to Greek possession a unique culture and identity remained. One which is distinct within all of Greece and a worth while experience for any traveller.

With such awe inspiring sights as the Acropolis, The Oracle of Delphi and Mount Olympus it is not surprising that the average tourist to Greece will not step off the mainland during their visit. And who could blame them, for decades Greece has offered ‘conventional’ tourists exactly what they desired: historical monuments, rich culture, beautiful beaches and the perfect climate. In fact, Greece is one of the world’s top tourist destinations with 14 million visitors in 2001 contributing an estimated 7 billion or 8% of the country’s GDP.
However, today tourism is evolving and so is the tourist. Perhaps due to the ease of travel in this day and age, these ‘new’ tourists desire something beyond the norm. Today, tourists are hoping to find memorable experiences, other cultures and local identities, authentic and genuine products and intellectual learning activities - all of which can be found on the Greek island of Lesvos in the village of Sigri.
Called by locals as, “Greece’s best kept secret”, the small fishing village of Sigri, located on the Eastern island of Lesvos, represents a chance for tourists to experience the true Greek ‘philoxenia’ or hospitality in its fullest. This village, of no more than 300 residents, combines much of what the mainland has to offer but on a smaller, more personal, scale.
The culture is equally rich as centuries of Turkish influence mixes with conventional Greek architecture, cuisine and an undeniably unique Mediterranean lifestyle. There are surely very few places left in Greece which have such a strong sense of community and cooperation as Sigri. As for beautiful beaches, Sigri can boast the best of both worlds as there are several family friendly sandy beaches steps from the centre of town; yet, also kilometre-long stretches of literally deserted beaches which is a dramatic difference from the crowed sands of Athens or Eressos.
If historical monuments are what you’re after try the million years old Petrified Forests which have recently been converted into a UNESCO Geopark and protected area for their rich palaentological, geological, and environmental significance. Complementing this is the Natural History Museum, the only one on the Island of Lesvos, which has some of Greece’s most significant and interesting archaeological finds.
Furthermore Sigri is attempting to develop with sustainable tourism in mind whereby socio-cultural, environmental and economic sustainability are maintained to ensure the authenticity, genuinity, values, culture and lifestyle of the local area, which is essentially why tourists visit in the first place, are maintained, if not enhanced, for future generations. This management is at the heart of any sustainable tourism practice and attempts to learn from the mistakes of conventional tourist development where the quality of the above traits have been eroded through the desire for economic development beyond the capacity of the local area.
Seeing that the Greek National Tourist Organisation is intending to expand the industry to include up-market structures catering to integrated and specialised resort areas, luxury hotels, golf courses and theme parks; Sigri may represent one of Greece’s true natural areas and remain as one of Greece’s best kept secrets.

Justin Pariag

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