First Greek hiking trail meeting kicks off in Peloponnese

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VYTINA, Greece, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- In the heart of the Peloponnese, in mountainous Arcadia, the first Greek hiking trail meeting took place on Saturday with dozens of participants presenting examples of certified paths across Greece and sharing their experience in order these pathways to become key driver for growth.

As tourism industry represents a significant pillar to Greece's economy, local communities try to explore alternative models to lengthen the tourist season and even become a 365-day tourism destination by investing in activities like hiking.

Hiking trails are linked to the long history, the culture and the biodiversity of a place. Despite the fact that they were forgotten for a long time, the increasing number of hike travelers especially from Europe has brought them back to the surface.

A model example of cooperation between hundreds of volunteers, state agencies and private initiatives is the Menalon Trail which organized the meeting of the Greek trails in the village of Vytina in Arcadia, about 150 km southeast of Athens.

The Menalon Trail, a social cooperative enterprise, is the first certified trail in Greece by the European Ramblers Association (ERA) and was built with the support of the region of Peloponnese and the Municipality of Gortynia.

Seventy-five kilometers long, the Menalon Trail is a mountain hiking path that runs through Gortynia, in Arcadia, with a diverse landscape of rugged mountains, canyons, and verdant valleys.

The trail crosses a lovely natural and cultural landscape in a land with a 3000 year of history through archaeological sites and monuments from the Byzantine period and traditional villages with architectural identity.

It passes through picturesque villages, such as Stemnitsa, Elati, and Dimitsana, and includes eight sections varying in difficulty level and length.

According to Yiannis Lagos, the founder of the Menalon Trail, the path opens the entire region as a tourist destination promoting local products and crafts of industries such as silverware, wood carving, honey and agricultural products.

At the same time, it can make a fundamental contribution to extending the tourist season.

Many Greek islands have rediscovered, mapped and signposted old routes as well. In Andros island at the northern tip of the Cyclades archipelago, volunteers undertook the initiative to clean old trails and invest on sustainable tourism.

The Andros Route which is a 100 kilometers route offers an enchanting exploration from north to southeast of the island. According to Olga Karagianni, they have seen an increase in tourists during spring and autumn season and packages for longer period.

Fivos Tsaravopoulos, the founder of "Paths of Greece", an initiative for the development of a hiking trails network, explained that in the island of Kythera in 5 years' time an investment of 50,000 euros (58,100 U.S. dollars) has brought back approximately a total of 1.5 million euros (1.74 million dollars) as a revenue.

For boosting tourist destinations, like hiking trails, the majority of the participants suggested to adopt a bottom up policy instead of the opposite one and depend on State funding. Volunteers and locals contribute to the conservation and promotion of the hiking trails, while they find alternative ways of funding their activities. Enditem

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