Visitors interested in exploring Greece’s mountains now have properly trained official guides, all of which have followed months of training through vocational programs. This move is part of a drive to boost Greece’s chances of attracting year-round tourism as opposed to the vast majority of summer visitors who go to islands or seaside resorts.
Until recently, Greece’s higher reaches were accessible only to mountaineers, but the growth of mountain tourism in the past decade, and its future possibilities, has created a need for a more professional approach to what is becoming a year-round occupation.
Over the past few months, 80 young people have been training in a program set up by the Organization for Tourism Training and Vocational Guidance (an Institute for Vocational Training, IEK, which belongs to the Tourism Development Ministry) in the mountains around Nestorio in Kastoria, Kastania in Karditsa, Stavroupoli in Xanthi and Kalambaka in Trikala. They are the first to receive this kind of training in Greece.
The country’s tourism organization says that with the help of European Union programs, traditional settlements have been restored, guest homes have been built in quiet, isolated areas, and mountain refuges and forest villages have been made more accessible, all of which will guarantee jobs in the field of mountain tourism.
The students undergo theoretical but mainly practical training in mountain orientation, meteorology, climbing and trekking, canyoning, camping, rescue techniques and dealing with emergencies. Most of the trainees hail from Western Macedonia.
According to the Hellenic Tourism Organization, over 120,000 people visit Mt Olympus every year, 60 percent of them foreigners. Thessaly, Western Macedonia, Drama and Xanthi all offer possibilities for the development of mountain tourism.