Alonnisos Marine Park - The Best from Greece

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Catagories: National Parks, Protected Areas
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The National Marine Park of Alonnisos Northern Sporades was the first designated Marine Park in the country and is currently the largest marine protected area in Europe (approximately 2.260 Km2 ). Besides the sea area, the Park includes Alonnisos, six smaller islands (Peristera, Kyra Panagia, Gioura, Psathura, Piperi and Skantzoura), as well as 22 uninhabited islets and rocky outcrops.

After a long period of population decline due to emigration, the population has shown stabilisation in recent decades with a small steady increase, now reaching 3.000 inhabitants during the winter period. The main occupations are fishing, raising livestock and agriculture. The tourism industry has flourished in recent years. The declaration of the area as a National Park is expected to contribute to the area’s mild and sustainable development by creating new opportunities for employment in parallel with support of traditional occupations.

The area is of scientific, educational and culture interest, as a result of discoveries of both archaeological and historical monuments on the island, dating from the prehistoric, classical and Byzantine periods (caves, shipwrecks, old monasteries and churches). In areas where approaching is permitted, visitors can partake in swimming, snorkelling, observation of the sea bed and wildlife, amateur photography and filming, visit to cultural monuments, walking etc. There are special restrictions regarding amateur fishing.

How vistors should behave

The all increasing human interventions of this century have destabilised the equilibrium of the planet to a dangerous degree. Therefore, since we are aware of the destruction we are causing, it is up to us to act, to control, reduce it and adopt a friendlier attitude.
The value of our acquaintance with the Park, as with every natural region, is manifold. It provides opportunities for recreational, instructional and scientific activities and, in addition, has a deeper cultural and educational significance. Through observation of the richness of a thriving ecosystem, the visitor experiences the harmony of nature, which is today under pressure.

Most visitors come to Alonnisos to enjoy the sea, the island, its nature and the hospitality of the local people. When you visit the Marine Park, you should doubly respect nature and take care to behave responsibly not only with respect to every form of life but also towards all parts of the ecosystem, according to the specific regulations governing the Park.

For detailed information the visitor should contact the Management Body Office of the National Marine Park of Alonnisos Northern Sporades in Patitiri, since this is the Authority responsible for giving entry permits and authorisation for any special activities within the Park. Into the Management Body Office runs a Public Information Centre.

Anyone visiting the Park with a pleasure boat should always use VHF Channel 12, in order to be able to communicate with the Port Police and Park Authorities for information and instructions. Patrol vessels (Port Police and Park Authority) play an important role in enforcing legislation and informing people of the regulations which are in force in the area, and are very likely to come alongside your vessel while you are inside the area of the Marine Park.

Anyone sighting a wounded or dead seal, dolphin, bird etc, should immediately inform the Park or the Port Police Authorities. The same action should be taken in the case of observed pollution or breaches of legislation. If you witness a suspected breach of the regulations you are advised not to approach any suspicious people or request information from them, just report the incident to the Authorities.
It is obvious that cutting or damaging plants and interfering in anyway with the seals or other animals in the Park is strictly forbidden. Viewing animals from a safe distance is fine; touching, feeding, or cornering them is not.

All rubbish should be placed in the rubbish bins and if necessary kept until a suitable place is found to throw them away. Even if you see a local person littering, set an example and dispose of your garbage appropriately. Keep in mind that some kinds of waste, such as bottles or plastic bags, can be lethal traps for small animals.

Due to the great danger of fire, especially in summer period, it is strictly forbidden to light fires. Free camping is not allowed throughout the Marine Park.

Peace and quiet are essential conditions for watching animals in their natural habitat. Every attempt should be made to avoid creating noise, especially by those using speed boats. Shouting and noise will also disturb people living in the area and other visitors.
It is crucial to the conservation of the habitats and ecosystem that make up the Marine Park, that the regulations and restrictions governing its use be enforced. It is essential that visitors do not see this enforcement in a negative light but rather as an effort to protect this extremely important and sensitive ecosystem, capable of enriching the lives of all of us. 

More information

The National Marine Park of Alonnisos Northern Sporades ranges over a wide sea area covering around 2.260 Km2, located at the northwest of the Aegean Sea, north of Evia and east of Pelion.
The park forms a unique combination of terrestrial and aquatic Mediterranean habitats. Hundreds of flora species as well as numerous animal and plant species are of significant scientific interest. Furthermore, the ruins, ageing back to various historical periods, increase the archaeological and historical significance of the area.

Alonnisos is a beautiful, peaceful island with many natural beauties. The island hosts the only Marine Park in Greece that specifically aims to protect the endangered monk seal Monachus monachus .
The island’s name is traced back to the first years of Greece’s liberation from the Ottoman Empire. In the ancient years, the island was called Ikos, while the Greeks probably called "Alonnisos" the neighbouring northern island, Kyra-Panagia.

The history of the island goes back to the Paleolithic Age, when it supposedly formed a single piece of land along with the rest of the Sporades islands and Thessaly. Tools and petrified bones from the Middle Stone Age have been found at Kokkinokastro on Alonnisos. These are possibly the oldest findings indicating human settlement in the Aegean. Signs of a New Stone Age settlement have been discovered in the bay of Agios Petros on the island of Kyra Panagia.

Tradition has it that, during the 16th century B.C., the Minoan Rule period in the Aegean Sea, the Cretes under the leadership of the mythic hero Stafylos built settlements in Peparithos (the contemporary Skopelos) and in Ikos. It was then that the cultivation of olives and vineyards in the island began. In the coming years, the Minoan colony acquired a Mycenaean character. The Mycenaean city is located today at Kokkinokastro, on the east side of the island.

At the end of the Mycenaean era, Achilles’ father, Pileas, came to the island and lived there until his last days; according to tradition he was buried on the island.
In 476 B.C., the island acceded to the Athenian Alliance. During the classic period, Ikos had two cities (in the 5th century, Skylax, the geographer, refers to the island as "Dipolis" - "two-cities"). The one was situated at Kokkinokastro, where ruins of the wall still stand, and the other one at the location where the contemporary Chorio or Old Alonnisos is built.

During that period, the island was famous for its vineyards and its exquisite wine, which was exported inside amphorae, whose handle bore the inscription IKION. The geographical location of the island was at that time very important, a fact attested by the plethora of ancient shipwrecks found in the area.

In 190 B.C., the Roman fleet occupied the island. Henceforth, no further information is found on the history of Ikos. When the Latin crusaders seized Constantinople in 1204, Alonnisos and its neighbouring islands came under the occupation of West-European knights. From then on, Skopelos and Alonnisos formed a feud of alternate conquerors.

Following the occupation of Constantinople by the Turks, in 1453, the islands came under the Venetian possession until 1538, when the Turkish armada, under the leadership of Hairedin Barbarossa, imposed Turkish rule. During the Greek Revolution of 1821 and the first years of the Hellenic Nation’s liberation, many Greeks from all over Greece found refuge on the island and along with its natives formed the composition of the contemporary population of Alonnisos. 

The Chora of Alonnisos, which used to be the island’s capital, suffered total disaster from a big earthquake. The inhabitants of the island lived in tents for about two years, and then most of them settled in Patitiri, today’s capital of the island.

How to get here

Get to the ports of Volos or Ag. Konstantinos by intercity bus from Athens. From there, by ferryboat (about 4.5 hours) or hydrofoil (about 2.5 hours) to Alonnisos via Skiathos and Skopelos. The island is also directly connected by ferryboat with Thessalonica during the summer season.
The nearest airport is on Skiathos island, with regular flight connections throughout the year. Skiathos is regularly connected with Alonnisos.
In Alonnisos you will reach Patitiri port, from where boats depart to all the beaches of the island as well as the rest of the islands of the Marine Park, where access is permitted.

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