Can you even claim to have been to Greece if you haven’t posted a perfectly posed photo of yourself in front of Santorini’s white and blue houses and the deep blue sea?
While the Greek island in the southern Aegean has become a hugely popular tourist destination and a must-see for influencers in recent years, the country’s tourism officials say there is so much more to discover Greece Beyond Santorini – Plus you can avoid the crowds while being a more sustainable tourist.
Greece has long been committed to promoting sustainability tourism in its territory and addressing the environmental impact of modern travel. But for the country, sustainability means more than just preserving its world-famous landscapes.
“For us, it’s not just about conserving natural resources or protecting the environment. Sustainability is also something else for us,” says Dimitris Fragakis, Secretary General of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO).
“It’s about how local communities engage with tourism because we want people to be close to tourism, not against tourism.
“Here in Europe there are some bad cases of countries facing overtourism where the locals are thrown out of their homes or neighborhoods. We don’t want that.”
Greeces strategy to avoid overtourism is to expand the destinations that people want to visit across the country and encourage tourists to explore Greece not only in summer but also in winter.
“Greece isn’t just sun and sand, and it’s not just the islands. The beaches in Northern Greece and Western Greece are also beautiful. Nobody knows these kind of places. That’s why we want to encourage them. We want to show people that you can go to many places to have a quality holiday.”
Where should I go to avoid influencers?
There is so much beauty to be discovered in Greece no matter where you are in the country.
The small village of Gialova in the southwest of the Peloponnese peninsula is a perfect place to live the Greek dream of sun, sand, nature and amazing food while staying away from the crowds. The village is within walking distance from the Gialova Lagoon and the nature reserve and is close to the ancient archaeological site of Pylos, a Mycenaean palace. Also nearby is Voïdokoilia beach, one of the most beautiful in the country.
You can get there from the city of Kalamata, an hour’s drive from the island and less than three hours’ drive from Athens.
While Santorini, Mykonos and Corfu are very much on tourists’ radar, there are also Greek islands that stay off the beaten track.
The tiny island of Ikaria in the Aegean is largely overlooked by tourists, which means all you have to do is share its peaceful sandy beaches with the locals (and we’re talking just 8,500 people, who lead the island’s traditional Greek way of life). You can get there by taking a ferry from the port of Piraeus in Athens.
The Leros Islands in the Dodecanese of eastern Greece are a paradise for those looking to lounge on the beach or work up a sweat scaling their rocky mountains. Each island is uniquely different from the other, from the rolling green hills of Leros to the neoclassical houses of Lakki, but all offer beautiful, pristine beaches and delicious seafood. You can reach Leros by ferry from Athens.
What is the greenest place in Greece?
If you are concerned about the environmental impact of your vacation, you should explore Halki and Tilos. Greece‘s most environmentally friendly islands.
The small island of Tilos, with its 500 inhabitants, became the first 100% “green island” of Greece and the entire Mediterranean in 2019, when the island, powered only by renewable energy, declared itself fully self-sufficient.
Just a two hour ferry ride away RhodesTilos is all about slow tourism, sun, sand and sustainability.
Another sustainable choice is Halki. Initiated by GreeceHalki, who became Prime Minister on November 5, is the first of several small islands in the Aegean that the Greek government wants to become fully independent from the national electricity grid and run entirely on renewable energy sources as part of the national GR-eco project.
The island has a power station that powers solar-powered phone chargers nationwide, and all vehicles on the island are electric.
Halki, a popular day trip destination from Rhodes, is worth a longer stay to learn more about living more sustainably.