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Only Virgin Forest in Greece Seeks UNESCO World Heritage Status

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The forest of Frakto has trees that can live up to 500 years. Credit: AMNA

The forest of Frakto in the Prefecture of Drama in northern Greece is the only virgin forest in Greece and one of the most important in Europe.

The forest below the highest peak of central Rhodope at an altitude of 1.953m is 5.892 acres big and divided into two sections (5.020 and 872 acres, respectively). It has been declared a “Natural Monument.”

Greek officials now say that efforts are underway to include it in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Sky-high trees, lush vegetation with a great variety of evergreen and deciduous broad-leafed forestry species in all shades of green, as well as a combination of geological and water formation, comprise a complete forest landscape—a unique natural wonder.

“It is essentially a living laboratory of nature…where the lack of human presence in most of the virgin forest of Fraktos Paranesti, gives a special added value and justifies its name as a Virgin Forest,” Dr. Elsa Konstantinidou, director of forests of the prefecture of Drama, told the Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA).

“In this forest,” she says, “because man has not entered for centuries, the trees literally die standing up as they age and then decompose in the ground, giving way to a new life cycle and providing food and shelter to animals and plants.”

The forest hosts endemic and rare species of flora and fauna “in perfect harmony with centuries-old trees of impressive dimensions,” Konstantinidou added.

Trees in Frakto forest in Greece can live up to 500 years

The trees at Frakto forest can live up to 500 years and grow to impressive sizes. For example, there are pine trees that are 59m high and 1,20m in diameter. Steep slopes and small streams help the formation of waterfalls.

Its flora presents unique biodiversity due to the isolation and heterogeneity of ecological conditions. Rare and endemic species of flora are found here, such as the lily of the Rhodope (Liliumrhodhopeum), the sordanella of the Rhodope (Sordanellarhodopaea), and rare orchids.

Particularly rich is the fauna—bears, deer, wildcats, and rare birds of prey—of the virgin ecosystem, especially at the rocky inaccessible slopes.

A Visitor Center provides more information about the flora and the animals in the forest and a permanently installed telescope allows visitors to admire the waterfalls.

Despite the long distance from the urban centers and the difficulties of access, the forest welcomes, according to data from the Drama Forest Service, 1,500 to 2,000 visitors per year from around the world.

To visit the forest, one needs to obtain a 24-hour visitor’s pass from the local Department of Forestry.


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