A recent familiarization tour of the region of Western Macedonia and specifically to the prefectures of Kozani, Florina, Kastoria and Grevena, brought journalists and travel agents closer to the advantages that makes this a worthwhile all-year-round destination.
The general secretary of the region, Andreas Leoudis, organized the promotion campaign with an aim to strengthen Western Macedonia’s image and show the region’s alternative forms of tourism.
“Western Macedonia boasts 65 percent of the country’s surface water and offers a rich cultural heritage and an authentic natural environment,” Mr. Leoudis said.
“The region has two national parks, eleven NATURA areas of rich natural beauty, three ski centers, eight lakes, canyons and rivers.”
The general secretary informed journalists that the region sports interesting geological formations, two international hiking paths that start from Central Europe (routes E4 and E6), traditional homes and a large number of archaeological sites and Byzantine monuments. The tour began with the Kozani prefecture, located 120 kilometers south-west of Thessaloniki.
The prefect of Kozani, Yiorgos Dakis, said that the combination of significant areas of natural beauty with the prefecture’s rich historical and cultural heritage could contribute vastly to the tourism development of Kozani.
According to Mr. Dakis, Kozani has tourism potential mainly in mountain-winter tourism, archaeological-cultural tourism; and rural tourism-eco tourism and industrial tourism.
During the tour, the visitors found that most towns of the Western Macedonia region aim to maintain their originality and history, as is the case of Nymfeo, 53 kilometers from Florina.
The main sights of the town, according to the president of the community, Yiorgos Boutaris—besides the traditional architecture and cobbled stone roads—are the bear refuge Arktouros and the Nikeio school photo exhibition of the 1800’s.
According to Mr. Boutaris, Nymfeo has already gained European distinction as in 2000 the community was honored by the European Union with the “European Renaissance Village Award 2000” and the town represented Greece at the meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation in Syracuse, Sicily (2004) and in Seville, Spain (2005).
In October 2007 the Florina prefecture was honoured with the “European Destinations of Excellence” (EDEN) award as one of the ten best emerging rural destinations at the European Annual Tourism Forum.
The chairman of the Florina chamber, Aris Aristeidou, told guests that the chamber recently established a tourism department and among the main efforts is the promotion of Florina’s local business products in Greece and abroad.
On their visit to Grevena, the guests found that the Western Macedonian region won yet another distinction. This September the Grevena prefecture was honored at the EDEN awards as one of the 20 localities with the title “best local intangible heritage destination in Europe.”
In addition, the mayor of the Theodorou Ziaka town of Grevena, Christos Petrou, announced two innovations planned to contribute to the prefecture’s tourism economy.
The first is a star observatory under construction on Mount Orliakas (at an altitude of 1400-1600 meters) and is considered by experts as one of the best sites for that purpose in Southeast Europe.
The second innovation involves the creation of a palaeontology center to display findings of pre-historic animals that date millions of years ago.
Among the findings are 5-meter long tusks -the largest found in the world- of a prehistoric mastodon discovered in Milia, Grevena. Both innovations should be ready in the next three to four years.
According to the general secretary, Mr. Leoudis, such innovations, along with the immense amount of surface water of Western Macedonia and the development of environmentally friendly new forms of energy and thematic forms of tourism can give the region the image of an enticing alternative tourism destination.