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Remote Greek isle leads charge in alternative tourism campaign

An idyllic marriage of mountain and sea is to be celebrated on Kalymnos<.> when the Dodecanese<.> island hosts a global…

An idyllic marriage of mountain and sea is to be celebrated on Kalymnos<.> when the Dodecanese<.> island hosts a global rock climbing convention this week where Greece`s potential as a unique destination for rock climbers will be explored.

Leading rock climbers from 11 countries, including the US, South Africa, Germany, Austria, France and Slovenia, will attend the Kalymnos 2000 International Rock Climbing Meeting which has been organised by the Kalymnos municipality, the Hellenic Alpine Club and fellow European organisations.

In announcing the event, Kalymnos Mayor Dimitris Diakomichalis pointed out this would be the first time such a meeting is held in Greece, which, internationally, is known more for its impressive beaches than its vast wealth in mountainous regions.

He presented Kalymnos as the perfect example of a destination which could contribute to the government`s ongoing efforts to promote alternative forms of tourism such as rock climbing, water sports and spa resorts so as to both lengthen the tourist season and ensure the long-term viability of the industry.

This island has great prospects, that`s why climbers are interested. We want to embrace both the amateur and professional rock climber as well as the simple tourist who likes to climb or just walk through mountains, Diakomichalis said.

Kalymnos has probably the driest climate in the eastern Aegean and rainfall is lower than that of northern European countries, making it suitable for rock climbing, particularly during the months of February through June, October and November.

If this proves successful on Kalymnos, where the municipality has invested some of its own funds, then I hope to see other islands follow suit.

Diakomichalis said he appreciated the especial affection shown by Hellenic Tourism Organisation (EOT) chairman Yiannis Stefanidis for Kalymnos, noting that he hoped the tourism authority would express this in practical terms through both financial and moral support – for all islands – in the near future.

Epaminondas Nikas, president of the Hellenic Alpine Club – which was founded 25 years ago and has 3,000 members in Greece and abroad, said his organisation was not just targeting professional climbers in its promotion combining the country`s ruggedness with its stunning coastlines but all those who love mountains and the sea.

A family could come to Greece, and its members choose whether to go walking in the mountains or enjoy the seaside, he said. This is possible in the area of Varasova in Messolongi, central Greece, where the mountain drops into the sea.

Providing some indication of the dimensions of the global market which Greece could home in on, Nikas said in Austria alone there were 80,000 registered climbers. He said rock climbing expeditions had assisted in the touristic development of the villages Mikro and Megalo Papigo, in the northwestern Greek region of Epirus. Such development contributes to local economies as climbers, for instance, are encouraged to stay in the villages, Nikas noted.

In August the Hellenic Alpine Club`s popular monthly publication, Korfes, which is in its 25th year, featured a special on rock climbing on the Greek islands while the organisation`s website, whose content is translated into English and German, is visited by hundreds of climbers from around the world interested in discovering new and exciting rockfaces and mountains to conquer. It was actually a group of Italian rock climbers who kickstarted Kalymnos` venture into this relatively new tourism product, which should receive a boost when the remote isle`s airport is completed in 2002, as planned.

Nikas praised EOT`s endeavours to attract tourists year-round through advertising and promotional campaigns, among other means, which reveal the diversity of Greece`s landscape and the limitless holiday options available – ranging from adventure travel to gastronomy-based trips and culture-based tourism.

For the past two years EOT has been promoting adventure travel while the secretariat of the new generation has organised various programmes such as `The Child and the Mountain` scheme to encourage youth to get involved in such sports, Nikas told the Athens News. Though other associations have been set up since, our club was the first to introduce adventure sports in Greece – in 1985 with kayaking in Larissa, central Greece.

Meanwhile, prefectural and local authorities on the mainland and the islands, such as Kalymnos, regularly participate in tourism trade fairs and exhibitions.

Nikas further stated that Kalymnos authorities were following the correct procedure in that they are consulting technical experts in the field of rock climbing in the establishment of pathways, but that is not the case in other parts of the country, where he said such works – and other infrastructure projects like roads – were being undertaken haphazardly with negative consequences for the environment.

Greece has so much natural beauty – which is unknown even to me – but they are being destroyed. We have to save what we can, he stressed.

The northeastern Aegean island of Samothrace, for example, has amazing archaeological artefacts, incredible rivers but these areas have turned into havens for drug addicts.

Greece has lost significant numbers of potential visitors to neighbouring countries due to bureaucracy which has delayed the development of the alternative tourism sector, Nikas added.

We must establish high-quality tourism and this does not require much funding, he said.

The rock climbing meeting, news of which has appeared in 10 international magazines, runs from October 2 to 8. For further information log on to the Hellenic Alpine Club`s website at

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