Responsible tourism in the Peloponnese

Greece is of one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. After difficult times during the 2007-8 financial crisis, the tourist industry is back on top and the country is drawing in more tourists than ever before. While this is great news for the economy, it doesn’t come without its challenges, most visibly overtourism, with popular islands such as Mykonos and Santorini absolutely swamped in the summer.

By visiting less popular mainland destinations such as the Peloponnese you’re not only taking pressure off the islands and bringing in much-needed revenue, you’re getting a more ‘authentic’ experience, particularly if you head away from the coast, into the rural countryside and the small, isolated villages that dot its hills.

People & culture

The advantage of visiting somewhere like the Peloponnese is the chance to experience local life away from the hordes of cruise ship passengers or fly-and-flop tourists. The people of the Peloponnese are for the most part welcoming and sociable, so it’s not difficult to connect with them, whether you’re chatting to a taverna owner in a mountainside village, visiting a monastery in the hills or buying a rug from a local weaver.
What you can do
Choose an operator that works with local guides and prioritises visiting small-scale, family-run businesses, eating local produce and staying in locally-owned hotels and guesthouses.
Konstantinos Polyzois from our supplier Emelia History Travel:
“On our tours, we visit family restaurants run by locals, we choose family wineries and we visit farms (honey and olive oil farms) run by families who do a very laborious job, with minimal means and a lot of expense, trying to keep their small business alive.
We help them get ahead by rewarding them, by communicating and making known to our visitors their difficult struggle. Our company considers all these wonderful people and their work, as the most important authentic experiences in Greece!”

Wildlife & environment

Overtourism

The resurgence of the tourism industry doesn’t necessarily mean all good news for Greece. The spectre of overtourism is a growing concern. In 2018 Greece received 33 million foreign visitors, an increase of over 5 million since 2017. That level of growth puts immense levels of pressure on small island communities, fragile ecosystems and ancient sites, and infrastructure is overwhelmed during peak travel months, particularly in the most popular places such as Santorini and Mykonos.
Visiting a lesser-known mainland destination such as the Peloponnese will help to spread the income from tourism, while also reducing demand on overstretched resources.
What can you do?
Avoid the peak summer months of July and August. It’s ridiculously hot, and while you won’t be battling as many crowds as on some of the islands, this is the busiest time at the region’s ancient sites and beaches. May, September and October are glorious in the Peloponnese, promising warm sunny weather that’s perfect for sightseeing as well as hiking and biking.
Konstantinos Polyzois from our vacation company Emelia History Travel:
“As far as the archaeological sites are concerned, the best months to go are April, the beginning of May, October and November. In Greece it is not too cold yet and visitors can combine the archaeological sites with other attractions. If visitors wish to participate in the real Greek life and authentic Greek culture, they must visit Greece during these months. These months of quality tourism are aimed at travelers, not tourists. This is currently the only solution to the problem of mass tourism in our homeland.”

Responsible Tourism Tips

Wildfires are a major problem in the Peloponnese during the tinder-dry warmer months. They can be devastating and the after-effects can last for years, for example, the region is still scarred by some of the worst wildfires in Greek history back in 2007. Don’t light fires in the wild or discard glass bottles which could concentrate sunlight and start a blaze. If you see glass lying in scrub pick it up and dispose of it elsewhere. If you come across a fire, call for help immediately from the fire brigade and locals. Do not try and fight it yourself. Do all you can to support rural communities and traditions. Along with the rest of rural Greece, the Peloponnese has suffered for years – even more with recent austerity – due to migration to cities because of a lack of local opportunities. Community-based tourism can play a key role in providing money and opportunities to help locals – especially young people – believe they and their communities have a future where they are, which in turn helps to preserve local traditions. Don't buy natural sponges from shops. They will almost certainly have been collected irresponsibly, with devastating results for the marine ecosystems. The same applies to any coral products. Greece still has a long way to go when it comes to recycling, so don’t buy water in plastic bottles. Bring a reusable water bottle which you can refill with the local tap water – it’s safe to drink.
Konstantinos Polyzois from our hoiday company Emelia History Travel:
“Summers in Greece are very hot and dry. When the temperature is extremely high and is combined with strong ‘meltemi’ winds, our country has the very serious problem of the high risk of forest fires. Greece’s Civil Protection authority regularly bans access and activity in national parks, forests and vulnerable areas and travelers must obey these warnings and do the best they can to preserve our physical environment.

They must not light fires or barbecues in the woods or in high-risk areas or discard lit cigarettes or leave rubbish in the forest or in park areas.”
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: dinosmichail] [People and culture: Jason M Ramos] [Overtourism: piet theisohn]
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