The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly in Madrid named the traditional Greek village of Soufli as one of the best tourism villages of 2021.
Soufli, located in the Evros region, is notable for the silk industry that flourished there in the 19th century. It stands on the eastern slopes of the twin-peaked mountain of Prophet Elias, one of the easternmost spurs of the Rhodope Mountains.
It is situated in the center of the Evros regional unit, 65 km (40 miles) north of Alexandroupoli and 50 km southwest of Orestiada. The village center is only 500 meters from the Evros River.
The UNWTO’s “Best Tourism Villages” initiative was founded on the mission of bolstering tourism for rural villages with unique histories and landscapes. A total of 44 villages from 32 different countries were selected for recognition from the organization in 2021. An independent advisory board working with UNWTO assessed villages in nine categories:
Cultural and Natural Resources
Promotion and Conservation of Cultural Resources
Tourism Potential and Development and Value Chain Integration
Governance and Prioritization of Tourism
Infrastructure and Connectivity
Health, Safety and Security
The 44 selected villages qualified by scoring 80 or more points out of 100.
“Tourism can be a driver of social cohesion and inclusion by promoting a fairer distribution of benefits throughout the territory and empowering local communities,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “This initiative recognizes those villages committed to making tourism a strong driver of their development and wellbeing.”
The full list of Best Tourism Villages according to the UNWTO for 2021 are:
Bekhovo, Russian Federation
Castelo Rodrigo, Portugal
Cuetzalan del Progreso, Mexico
Batu Puteh , Malaysia
Le Morne, Mauritius
Misfat Al Abriyeen, Oman
Mokra Gora, Serbia
Nkotsi Village, Rwanda
Old Grand Port, Mauritius
Pano Lefkara, Cyprus
Puerto Williams, Chile
Rijal Alma’a, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Testo Alto, Brazil
Saas Fee, Switzerland
San Cosme y Damián, Paraguay
San Ginesio, Italy
Sidi Kaouki, Morocco
The Purple Island, Republic of Korea
Ungok Village, Republic of Korea
The Silk Museum in Soufli
Soufli is world famous for its production of silk. Silk production in Soufli has a long history dating back to the Byzantium age. The families of Soufli which were involved with the silk industry could not even imagine that this “noble” raw material would be widely available one day.
Soufli is the only city in Greece and Europe to be involved with the silkworm rearing and processing of thread taken from the cocoon. Silk produced in Soufli is of high quality, often considered even better than the Chinese. This fact, combined with the European monopoly it had in its production, gives a great perspective on the region of Soufli.
The Silk Museum presents the different phases of sericulture, or silk farming, and silk manufacturing in detail and focuses on how the town of Soufli, in Evros, became a major silk-producing center in the late 19th through to the mid-20th century.
At the museum, visitors will learn about all the details from each phase composing the cycle of sericulture and discover the stages of silk manufacturing through authentic exhibits, supported by audiovisual material.