According to National Geographic Travel, the Greek island of Alonissos is one of the top travel destinations for 2021. The idyllic island was specifically chosen as the leading voice in travel and exploration aims to highlight sustainable and climate-friendly tourism.
Alonissos is an island in the northern Sporades, an archipelago situated in the Aegean sea off the coast of eastern Greece, near Volos. The island is easily accessible by high-speed ferries that depart from the port at the nearby city.
The many sun-soaked beaches, traditional villages, and ancient sites make Alonissos a perfect destination for families, nature lovers, and those fascinated by Greece’s history.
Chora, the town, is situated atop a tall hill that overlooks the Aegean Sea and the island’s many areas of stunning natural beauty. Chora once was the capital of the island before it faced destruction from an earthquake in 1965.
After the disastrous quake destroyed many buildings in the town, many of the residents of Alonissos moved down to the seaside village of Patitiri, full of colorful houses and traditional fishing boats, which is now the capital and main port of the island.
Although there are villas, holiday rentals, and hotels around the island, the majority of them are found in Patitiri and the island’s old town of Chora.
Patitiri is home to the Alonissos Museum, where the history of the island is recorded through rooms full of authentic objects that outline the daily life of its residents throughout the years, such as a housewife and a sandal maker.
Local folkloric customs, traditional dress, and crafts are highlighted in the museum’s exhibits, providing visitors a peek into the local history and traditions of the unique island.
Known for its breathtaking landscapes, where lush, green forests extend to touch the shores of crystalline, blue-green waters, Alonissos is also home to one of the largest populations of the critically-endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus Monachus).
The Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal, MOm, tasked with the researching and helping to protect the precious seal population, has its headquarters oalong the Patitiri waterfront.
According to recent studies, biologists believe that there are only 700 Mediterranean monk seals left. Animal lovers can support MOm’s mission by adopting a seal or by purchasing merchandise, with the profits going to research and protection efforts.
In order to preserve the rapidly decreasing population of this majestic seal, the National Marine Park of Alonnisos and the Northern Sporades, the largest marine protected area in Europe, was created in 1992.
Located near the protected waters of Alonissos is the famed underwater archaeological site at Peristera, a tiny islet just off the main island, featuring a preserved shipwreck that has been called “the Parthenon of shipwrecks.”
The site has thankfully remained perfectly preserved since its discovery by a fisherman in 1985, primarily due to the Marine Park’s protected status.
A large merchant ship from 425 BC, possibly originating from Athens, capsized as it was carrying a shipment of wine in amphorae from the city of Mendi, located in Chalkidiki, which was known for its wine in antiquity.
Amazingly, visiting divers can still make out the contours of the massive ship, thought to be one of the most important ancient wrecks currently known, through the thousands of amphorae that cover the sea floor at the site.
If visitors want to learn to dive in order to explore the site of Peristera or the protected waters of Alonissos, there are many dive centers that offer courses from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), even at the beginner level.
Access to the site is not limited to those who know how to scuba dive, however, as visitors are able to explore the shipwreck in the sea’s depths through virtual reality in the island’s main town.
The natural beauty and cultural heritage of the island have remained pristine and preserved, and although it has so much to offer, Alonissos is relatively unknown outside of Greece, especially compared to islands such as Santorini or Mykonos. This makes it perfect for travelers who are looking for a traditional, low-key experience during their holiday in Greece.