Patra - Winner 2017
Winner in the Cultural Tourism category
Patra, located in western Greece, has important architectural, cultural and religious sites. A visitor can travel through time visiting the Roman Odeon constructed in 2 A.D., the Fortress of Rio (1499 A.D), but also the modern era Rio- Antirion Bridge.
The area has seen civilisation since pre-history up to renaissance times and beyond. In 1571 the area of Achaia was the location of the battle of Lepanto, the largest naval battle in history at the time. It is also where the Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire started in 1821.
It is a challenge to showcase western Greece's cultural identity, especially for Patra/Achaia with their rich and varied cultural sites. Additionally, an area builds its identity in the course of time. Through which, citizens can see the significance of the resources and symbolism of their region. Patra and its citizens aim to develop the offers for tourists while respecting the environment through sustainable development practices.
For nature lovers, the Natura Network has sites such as the Chelmos mountain, the Cave of Lakes and Vouraikos Canyon/ Odontotos (Cog) railway.
What makes Patra special?
By its very nature, Western Greece is a compilation of different experiences. Individually and collectively they have an inspiring effect on visitors, enticing them to discover unique destinations.
This is all encapsulated by the 'Western Greece Collection. Inspirations' communication platform. Here, each destination and experience is just that... inspiration.
Patra is a well-known destination domestically. Now, it is also an emerging destination for foreign visitors with cultural interests and a propensity for discovery. At the same time, the Saint Andreas Church, considered the biggest Orthodox Church in Balkans, attracts thousands of visitors every year. Lovers of ancient history will enjoy the Castle of Patra (6th AD), while the Archaeological Museum of Patra offers a trip from pre-history through the end of Roman times.
Patra is an elegant city trip destination. It's a place full of cultural and religious riches, where visitors can travel back in time. Admire human greatness by sightseeing, religious pilgrimages and cultural events. The city also offers many outdoor activities, such as the Dimeon Wall, the ancient Egira, the Holocaust Museum at Kalavrita, the Holy Monastery of Mega Spileon, and Panagia Tripiti at Egion.
Western Greece and Patra have abundant cultural resources, making it a great destination all year round.
- the longest suspension bridge in the world, the Rio- Antirion Bridge that united Achaia with Aitoloakarnania in 2004
- the well preserved Roman Odeon of Patras that hosts theatrical plays during the summer time
- Tsivlou lake with turquoise waters located at an altitude of 800 metres, surrounded by a magical fir forest
- the Holy Monastery of Girokomeion, one of Greece's oldest monasteries, founded around the 10th century A.D., when Monasticism first appeared in mainland Greece
Marathon - Winner 2013
Winner in the Accessible Tourism category
Marathon is a truly unique destination, and a city reverberating with historic symbolism like a Grecian Eden.
On the east coast of Attica, Marathon offers gorgeous sightseeing, splendid beaches, and unique monuments which attract travellers of diverse origin, providing them with the traditional Greek hospitality.
The area also boasts a coastline of 25 miles, comprising popular, as well as quieter beaches, with isolated sandy areas and unspoiled, crystal-clear waters. The protected and safe gulf is suitable for swimming and several water-related activities (snorkeling, windsurfing, et cetera) for nine months a year.
This sunny destination is welcoming to all visitors, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age, with countless opportunities for exploring.
The vast majority of sites within the municipality, like archaeological sites, museums, Marathon Dam, organised beaches, and areas of outstanding natural beauty, are accessible to many with special access needs. Many hotels also provide easy access for people with disabilities through ramps and elevators, specially equipped spaces and hygiene facilities.
Accessible paths and trails are provided for people with mobility problems and visual impairments. These paths take in large parts of the municipality's coastline and the National Park of Schinias.
This park has also a multi-language audio guide system, many labelled paths and an observatory with a panoramic view of the areas, all of which are suitable for wheelchair passage.
In addition, the park's tour programme is specially designed for families with children in order to give them an enjoyable tour which also introduces the idea of environmental protection.
- Walk in the valley where Miltiades and the Athenian heroes shielded the future of Europe.
- Run in the footsteps of the first marathon runner messenger conveying the message of victory to the Athenians.
- Follow the path the first marathon runners ran in the modern history of Olympic Games.
- Experience today’s relaxing way of local life by the sea with a glass of wine, enjoying local flavours.
Delphi - Winner 2011
Winner in the Tourism and Regeneration of Physical Sites category
According to legend, when Zeus sent out two eagles from the ends of the universe to find the 'omphalos', the centre of the world, they met in Delphi.
The Delphi region at the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus is an enchanting destination in the heart of Greece. It is a place of harmony and serenity, where the sea meets a jagged coastline, capes, islets and mountains.
It is a place of great contrasts, with snowy white mountain peaks which run down to beaches and crystal clear waters.
The municipality of Delphi unites several regions: Amfissa, Delphi, Desfina, Galaxidi, Itea, Gravia, Parnassos and Kallieon. Each region tells a different story and offers an array of tourist attractions.
Regeneration and revival
The regeneration plan of Harmaina began in the 1990s as a part of a wider plan to showcase the amphitheatric city of Amfissa as a major tourism thematic park.
Under this initiative, numerous restoration projects took place, including the reconstruction of some old leather tanneries, the antique water supply system and the reconstruction and lighting of the alleyways.
Today, few tanneries still operate and Harmaina is a tranquil neighbourhood which exudes a special charm and warmth.
- Visit the olive grove of Amfissa, a green and grey sea of over 1.5 million olive trees.
- Visit the Archaeological Site of Delphi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and admire the Temple of Apollo, the Stadium and the theatre (6th – 4th century BC).
- Visit the Nautical Historical Museum of Galaxidi, with its gallery of authentic paintings of sailing vessels and famous nautical stamp collection.
- Climb Mount Giona (2.508 m), the highest mountain in central Greece and cross its famous ravine and summits for an exciting adventure
Serres - Winner 2010
Winner in the Aquatic Tourism category
Stretching from the Strymonikos Bay to the Bulgarian border, the Prefecture of Serres is Greece’s treasured possession.
The destination combines the beauty of nature, cultural tradition and the peaceful life of the province in a way like no other.
Surrounded by mountains and known as the flattest area in Greece, the region owes the fertility and beauty of its inland areas to the old waters of the river Strymonas. Northwest of the flat area lies the artificial lake Kerkini, constructed to dam the Strymon River and harness its energy.
The region of Serres offers the opportunity to discover the hospitality, the local cultural heritage, and the historical monuments in a thoroughly authentic way.
Touring the local villages is among the top experiences. See the traditional fire dancing in Agia Eleni, or visit Alistrati and Amfipoli to see magnificent caves and impressive canyons as well as archeological remains of ancient cities.
What make Serres special?
Serres has been inhabited since ancient times.
According to mythology, Serres was the favourite place of Dionysus, the Thracian god of wine.
Serres was first mentioned in the 5th century BC and, later, in Byzantine chronicles.
- the Cave of Alistrati, considered to be the largest and most beautiful cave in Europe
- the Vironia Aquarium, the only one in northern Greece and displaying more than 30 fish species from the lake Kerkini
- the fortress Metaxa along the Greek-Bulgarian border in the Belasitsa Mountain (also known as 'Fortress Rupel').
Lesvos - Winner 2009
Winner in the Tourism and Protected Areas category
An island best known for its beaches, Lesvos is home to some of the most spectacular natural attractions in the world.
On the western part of the island, visitors flock to the Lesvos Petrified Forest. It's an area that was formed over 20 million years ago, and to this day there are vast concentrations of fossilised tree-trunks and plant remnants trapped in volcanic rocks.
Resting at the foot of Mt Olympus is the Gulf of Kalloni, a magnificent refuge area that draws birdwatchers from around the globe. It is a region consisting of wetlands and salt flats on the coast, surrounded by large pine forests.
Getting to the remarkable sites on the island is easy and fun. Charted yachts are available for the more marine-inclined, while horseback and hiking trails are available for outdoor enthusiasts.
What makes Lesvos special?
With a history that dates backs to Neolithic times, Lesvos has a flare for the spectacular. The Mytilini Castle, one of the largest in the Mediterranean, overlooks the city and boasts a maze of underground tunnels in the hillside it rests upon.
Another 'must-see' is the Kremasti Bridge. It's an architectural masterpiece built of stone around the 14th century AD, and is still used by locals today.
Greece is a country that has been home to many different religions throughout time, and Lesvos is no different. The ruins of the 5th-century Church of St Andrew rests in Eressos, while the Turkish-built Yeni Mosque is in Skala.
The local municipalities in Lesvos are very much aware of the unique history they are a part of. Scattered across the island are constant reminders of ancient civilisations. Rest areas, mandatory paths and vista points have been built to care for and preserve these places of historical and natural importance.
Environmental and eco-friendly programs have also been implemented to ensure continued sustainability into the 21st century.
What to look for in...
- spring: Horseback-riders venturing up mountain sides
- summer: Sunbathers relaxing on pristine beaches
- autumn: Migrating birds touching down on the salt flats
- winter: Religious celebrations in ancient places of worship
Highlights of Lesvos
- Take in the scents of local cooking enhanced by olive oil.
- Watch the sun set over Mt Olympus.
- Take a long stroll on the beach.
Grevena - 2008 Winner
Winner in the Tourism and Local Intangible Heritage category
The prefecture of Grevena lies in the south-western part of Western Macedonia.
It is a mountainous area with a rich and diverse nature: forests (Valia Calda, Valia Kirna), rivers (Aliakmon, Venetikos) valleys and flora and fauna abound.
Nature intertwines with culture and history, making Grevena an attractive destination for tourists.
What makes Grevena special?
Grevena has a rich cultural and historical heritage with museums (a paleontological museum and archaeological sites), important religious monuments (churches, monasteries) and the most impressive stoned bridges in all Macedonia.
The most noteworthy are declared as listed monuments by the 11th Ephorate of Byzantine Monuments.
The region promotes geotourism and has alpine and tourist trails. Mushrooms are an important part of local gastronomy and history.
As a mountainous region, Grevena offers a diverse range of recreational activities: hiking and trekking, horse riding, mountain climbing and river sports (kayaking and white-water rafting).
Most of the activities are related to snow and take place in winter. Grevena has one of the best ski resorts (Vasilitsa) in the area, and is the only one with black-pine trees surrounding the ski trails.
The Pindos mountain range forms a natural park with protected areas and reserves, including the Pindos Nature Park.
Treasures such as the Tsourgiakas cave highlight the natural peculiarities of the region.
Systematic paleontological research and excavations take place in the broader area of Grevena where many mammalian fossils have been found.
Stone bridges – remnants of the Ottoman Empire
Grevena has many historical bridges, from the times of Ottoman domination. There are 13 stone bridges over the Venetikos River, some of which are considered to be the most important bridges in Greece.
Valia Kalda (meaning 'warm valley') is one of the most important natural reserves in Greece. It is located in Pindos and is well worth a visit.
The Arkoudorema stream dominates this wild landscape and its waters offer shelter to otters and two kinds of trout.
Crevices, high peaks and cliffs alternate in a wild setting which overlooks the small lakes of Flegga. The Orliakas gorge and the Tsourgiakas cave are two uncommon limestone formations which give shelter to many birds.
The village of Deskati has a traditional style, with many churches and monasteries that are worth visiting.
The village of Trikomo, on the eastern slopes of the Pindos mountains, is famous for its many vineyards, its strong Tsipouro (traditional spirit) and its ample fine wine.
Other villages worth visiting are Krania, with deep shaded forests, Vlachochoria which lies lost inside the forests, pastures and fresh waters, and Samarina.
Lavdas, Panorama and Polineri can be found by following the forest road from Abdella, which also gives a magnificent view of Orliakas and Vasilitsa.
Carnival celebrations – revisiting the past
During carnival celebrations lots of customs and traditional events take place in the region, attracting many visitors. The themes for the festivals are drawn from the experiences of locals, their social life, and the history of the area.
Locals and visitors are entertained on a cultural route that includes photographs, music and songs – all of which offer a true sense of a genuine Grevena feast.
The region organises a themed street festival called Anakatosaria which is comprised of traditional dance and song.
Every year, Deskati celebrates Easter Pasxalogiorta.
Inhabitants revive the local custom of Andromana of saying goodbye to this great Orthodox feast, by organising a traditional festival that attracts many visitors.
The youngest people perform the unique Andromana local dance. Standing on each other’s shoulders, the dancers form three rows consisting of six, five and three persons respectively.
Local cuisine includes exquisite dishes made from mushrooms, meats, cheeses and organic products.
Home-made products like marmalades, sweets and candies, and local spirits like Tsipouro are famous throughout the region.
One way of presenting and promoting Grevena’s specific products, especially local and organic products, is the mushroom feast organised in the summer.
A mushroom society has also been set up and informs the public about the mushrooms in the area and how to cook them.
Florina - 2007 Winner
Winner in the Best Emerging Rural Destinations of Excellence
The region of Florina is located in Northern Greece in West Macedonia, and covers a surface area of 1924 km2.
Geographically, it consists of mountainous and semi-mountainous areas and lowlands.
The compact mountainous area of the northern-northwest section consists of the mountains of Varnoutas, Vernon and Voras. These contain the ski centre and European Alpine routes where the peaks flow into the fertile valleys and the six lakes of Prespes.
The region has over 50,000 inhabitants in 8 municipalities (Aetos, Amynteo, Klines, Melitis, Perasma, Prespes, Filota and Florina) and 4 communities (Variko, Kristalopigi, Lechovo and Nymfeo).
In the past 3 years, the region has implemented initiatives to promote local tourism, through greater appreciation and preservation of the rural environment and cultural heritage.
Such activities have been highlighted though a coherent strategic plan together with promotional activities. Tourism management in Florina has been implemented according to the principles of sustainable tourist development, and aims to establish a balance between society, culture and the environment.
Florina is the destination which fulfilled all the criteria of the competition, such as traditional establishments, rich natural and cultural attributes, a wide range of local products, rich popular art, many local customs, local cuisine, many events organised in the spirit of agro-tourism and many activities organised in the countryside.
Amongst its assets it was appreciated that Florina:
- is an emerging tourist destination actively promoting rural tourism
- has implemented innovative actions
- has a survey on a strategic plan of development of rural tourism
- The whole prefecture has signed up to
- a 'local contract of quality', (e.g. the use of plastic chairs is not permitted in hotels and rented rooms, hotels and restaurants must use local produce for the preparation of meals etc) ,
- a 'local network of tradition and folklore'
- promotes tourism with promotional material in many different European languages and actively participates in international tourist fairs
- organises annual seminars on the development of improved rural tourism procedures
- has a very rich cultural and historic heritage and many popular art exhibitions
- has many well preserved local customs and that events such as local feasts are organised on a regular basis
- has several cultural parks
- promotes a wide variety of local products (dishes, wines) and enhances local entrepreneurship and fosters female business partnerships and networks
- participates in programs concerning the development of rural tourism
- has a renowned national park (Prespes)
- has international alpine routes
- has its own ski centre
- has 6 lakes (some of them on the borders of northern Greece)
- has the ability to organise adventures in nature, sports and rural activities for tourists
- has a nature reserve (for the protection of wildlife such as bears and wolves)
- has traditional settlements and villages with excellent infrastructure
- participates in many international projects (e.g. promotion of wine and bean products, nest project on the development of a standard for sustainable development in Interreg projects, participates in LEADER Programs and some areas are part of the EU network NATURA 2000)
- is a member of the 'Eurovillages' programme
- is connected to a rural tourism site.