How to be a Sustainable Traveller in Greece

Over recent years people have become more interested in sustainable tourism. Many of us have already tried to reduce (as much as possible) our negative imprint on the environment during our stay in another country; and this is becoming more important than ever. 

As we all navigate through what will be a new way of travelling, Greek tourism and travel expert Maria Athanasopoulou shares her tips on how we can become more sustainable tourists during our next visit to Greece. 

By Maria Athanasopoulou

To be a sustainable tourist, you need to travel, stay, eat and have fun at places that implement sustainable practices. You also need to try to give back as much as possible to the local community you are visiting; as well as ensuring you respect the locals, their culture, and customs.

Let us not forget that when we travel, we always become guests. And guests should always respect their host.

Sustainable tourism is a philosophy and a way of life, which is not difficult to adopt. I believe it will not take us long to get used to this idea and it will hopefully become easier to see the positive aspect as we give back to our environment, to the people, and to the places we visit. 

Greece is a country where sustainable practices have been constantly evolving and in recent years many food and tourism companies have invested their time and money to sustainable tourism.

Here are some tips on what we, individuals can do to be responsible – ethical and sustainable – tourists in Greece.

1Pay attention to the way you move, while you are at your destination.

Insights Greece - How to be a Sustainable Traveller in Greece

 Opt to walk where possible, or cycle where you can instead of driving. Otherwise, let us not forget the means of public transport.

An example is your movement while vacationing on one of the Greek islands. Usually, the distances to the capitals but also to the villages of the Greek islands and the mainland, are not far.

So, you will have the opportunity to move on foot and get to know the place much better. One of my favourites is the promenade walk in the capital of Mykonos, from the new port to the windmills. Also, a walk in the old port of Chania, or a walk on the promenade of Thessaloniki is always a good idea! Wherever you are, you can walk to your destination and see many hidden sights as you go. 

2. Choose carefully where you stay

Many hotels and hostels in Greece have started to implement sustainable practices. Wherever you travel in Greece, you will have a choice regarding sustainable accommodation.

Even if you choose to stay in a big city like Athens or Thessaloniki, you will definitely find a hotel that applies energy-saving practices, uses local products for the food they serve, has local vendors, local staff, etc. All these are sustainable practices and it is important to financially support the businesses who are trying to implement them.

For example, in northern Greece, in beautiful Halkidiki, you will find Nine Muses Studios, next to one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, Kalamitsi. The accommodation is located in nature, while the owners support sustainable tourism in many ways. Serving breakfast using excellent local products, supporting Greek wine and Greek beer producers, making sure they are reducing food waste, recycling, etc.

You will find such accommodations with similar action everywhere in Greece and there is a great range of hotels that are on board, so you will definitely find one that suits your taste and budget.

3. Eat locally

Insights Greece - How to be a Sustainable Traveller in Greece

During your vacation, try to taste the authentic recipes of the region you visit. In Greece, wherever you travel, you will find restaurants that cook with fresh and organic local ingredients, and the dishes are of great variety and quality.  This way, you support the local producers, but also the owners of the restaurants that support traditional Greek gastronomy.

For example, in Kalamata, the restaurant “Ta Rolla”, has already started to implement many sustainable practices, such as using local authentic products in all their dishes, offering food that is leftover every day to groups of people who need it, etc. In “Rolla” you can choose what to eat from a wide variety of local recipes and drinks.

4. Respect the environment

Wherever you are in Greece, you will no doubt have a great time. While you enjoy your holidays, show your respect towards Greek nature and the Greek cities, with your daily behaviour. Avoid reckless use of natural energy sources, avoid using plastic, avoid using a car even for your short transfers, in general, try to burden the environment as little as possible.

5. Support the local communities

Buy gifts and items from small local shops. You will have better service, better prices and this way, you will financially support the local community of the place you visit. Shopping is a first-class opportunity to meet the locals, to chat with them, and through this communication you can discover the special identity of each place.

6. Become one with nature

No matter what destination you decide to visit in Greece, try spending a day in an area with activities that bring you close to nature; such as bird watching, swimming in a lake, hiking in nature, etc. There are gorges of exceptional beauty in Greece such as Samaria in Crete and Vikos in Epirus, places where one can indulge in bird watching such as Dadia in Thrace or Lake Kerkini. Look for places where you can go horseback riding, or get to know one of the mythical rivers of Greece such as Acheron in Epirus or Ladonas in the Peloponnese.

Greece is an ideal holiday destination for millions of people around the world. It has imposing monuments, beautiful nature and most of all, hospitable people. Visit Greece as often as you can, and show the country and its people your love!

Maria Athanasopoulou is the founder of the tourism marketing company Respond On Demand. She is also the founder of the non-profit urban company Top Tourism. She serves as the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the World Food Travel Association and she is also a Master Culinary Travel Professional. She serves as an ambassador of the World Gourmet Society in Greece and Cyprus, and she also serves as an ambassador of Green Destinations. She has given seminars for tourism professionals, as well as many speeches and presentations on tourism issues, in events in Greece and abroad. She is also a Sustainable Tourism marketing expert.

Cover image Nine Muses Studios 

Why You Shouldn’t Put Off Exploring Greece Alone

New York City-based blogger, travel agent, and certified meeting planner Sara decided she would book her first solo trip to Greece for her 30th birthday and says the experience she had been putting off for years, ultimately changed her life.

Sara recently spoke to IN+SIGHTS GREECE about her solo travel experience and why she believes Greece is the ideal destination to travel alone.

Why did you decide to make Greece the first place to visit alone?

I have been a lover of Greek history and mythology since I was a little girl. When I was thinking of what to do for my 30th birthday I knew I wanted it to be big and something I did for myself. Choosing Greece was a no brainer for me because of that.

Insights Greece - Why You Shouldn't Put Off Exploring Greece AloneDid you research whether Greece was a safe place to travel as a solo female?

Actually, no. Funny thing is I went in 2015 right during the big economic crisis Greece was facing. The more I overthink something, the more excuses I will make. So, instead, I did basic research, talked to some friends I knew who studied abroad in Greece, and then I just made my way over there.

What did you do to make sure you felt comfortable during your visit? 

From the little research, I did I knew that 1. The language barrier would be minimal as many people/guides do speak basic English. 2. The hotels I looked into were well-reviewed. 3. The tour company I worked with to go on excursions and such had a high reputation.

What spots did you see and how long did you stay?

I was there for about ten days and I visited Athens, Nafplion, Olympia, Mycenae, Delphi, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini, and Patmos.

Insights Greece - Why You Shouldn't Put Off Exploring Greece AloneWhat was your favourite ancient site?

Delphi was my favourite. I love stories about Pythia.

Out of all the places you explored, where would you revisit?

All of them but, I would have loved more time in Mykonos. It is absolutely beautiful.

Would you recommend Greece as a place for solo travellers?

1000% for anyone.

How did you find the locals? Were they helpful and welcoming?

Extremely helpful and friendly. I was never uneasy.

Was there a time when you felt alone or unsafe? 

Never, however, I do live in NYC so, I am used to lots of tourists and people. You just always have to trust your gut and be smart in the decisions you make.

Did you meet a lot of people along the way?

Yes, I have made a few lifelong friends whom I met on the tours I joined in on. It was great. 

If you could do it all again, would you do anything differently? 

Stay longer.

What did you love most about your time in Greece?

Walking among streets and sites that were older than anything here in the US. It was magical.

Do you have any tips for anyone planning on travelling to Greece alone?

Do some research on where you want to go and stay- make sure you are comfortable with the locations. Put a plan together – I wouldn’t just “wing it” as there is so much to do and see. I only suggest 2-3 days in Athens. It is not all about the islands – make sure you venture inland and visit Olympia, Delphi, Mycenae, and Nafplion.

Insights Greece - Why You Shouldn't Put Off Exploring Greece AloneTell us more about your Solo Travel Woman blog.

My father always inspired me to go after my dreams, no matter how crazy they may seem to others. He sadly passed away and that is when I decided to start Solo Travel Woman (STW). I wanted to inspire other women to travel without anything holding them back as he did with me. My goal is to help change the view on solo travel and inspire other women to travel the world without fear or other people holding them back. In May 2020, I expanded to include travel planning services so, I can help others experience the world I have fallen in love with. If you are open-minded, have a passion to explore the world, experience new cultures, and live the life you have always dreamed of without anything holding you back – you are in the right place.

*Images courtesy of STW