Ecotourism and Agrotourism in Crete
Ecotourism is environmentally responsible tourism, supporting nature, cultural heritage and contributing to the local community, Travellers should be encouraged to minimise their impact on the eco system and support green practices.
Agrotourism - or agritourism - is an expansion of ecotourism in which visitors are encouraged to partake in farming and agricultural activities.
Ecotourism in Crete
The beautiful and diverse island of Crete has much to offer in the way of nature, flora and fauna, archaeological treasures, history, customs and traditions. The old ways of life still prevail in the mountain villages, with Cretans working and living off their land and livestock in many areas.
Although mass tourism and development have made a great (negative) impact on the island's environment (many areas along the North coast in particular, have become over developed), the heart of Crete remains and holidays in the ‘real’ Crete are popular amongst the environmentally aware. Renting a village house or farm helps to support the local community and encourages the preservation of architectural heritage through the renovation of old buildings.
Crete has much to offer in sustainable tourism through her nature and cultural heritage such as:
- Gorges, mountains - hiking
- Flora and fauna – the protection of Crete's abundant wild flowers, and species such as the kri kri (wild mountain goat), the caretta caretta sea turtle and the bearded vulture.
- The local cuisine. Many village tavernas serve only home grown organic vegetables, cheeses and hand reared meat
- Visits to local co-operatives, including olive oil factories, folklore museums, craft workshops, wine producers.
Preserving Local Resources
Water and electricity resources are stretched to their limit on the island during the peak tourism months of July and August.
Environmentally aware visitors should limit, and not waste, their water consumption. The vast majority of rental properties on the island have air conditioning and visitors should be encouraged to use them efficiently and minimally (close all doors and windows when in use. Never leave the air con on when going out). In the case of solar hot water heating, showers should be taken later in the day when the sun has heated the hot water.
Recycling Flytipping (the illegal dumping of waste) has historically been a large problem in Crete - unwanted household furniture and appliances among other things, would routinely be dumped in the countryside or down a hillside. Fortunately the local municipalities have more recently taken measures to address this problem and provide a heavy waste collection service to citizens. This, along with the education of the younger generations, has helped with the clean up of the countryside.
The local municipalities also encourages the recycling of paper, cans and bottles.There are recycling bins in many locations in all municipalities, but often not in smaller villages. Batteries can also be recycled at electrical and mobile phone shops in the towns.
Agrotourism in Crete
Agritourism activities in Crete, in which visitors can participate include:
- Orange picking (January to March )
- Picking and treading the grapes for wine making (September),
- The making of raki - also called tsikoudia -the local firewater. Distilled from the must of the
grapes ( October, November)
- Olive picking (November to February - depending on local weather conditions and the area)
Base your stay off the beaten track in a renovated house in one of the many mountain villages, or rent a charming cottage by the sea.
Pure Crete provides holidays in houses and villas in Crete, in Cretan villages at the foothills of the White Mountains in western Crete. Some have been restored from dereliction by Pure Crete in co-operation with local families using traditional building methods. Your stay contributes to the livelihood of the local community and supports the local culture.
They offer walking holidays with botanical experts, list local festivals on their website and have an autumn environmental week when you get to see olive presses in action and grapes being gathered for local wine.
The Milia Settlement is a restored stone built settlement in the mountains of western Crete. The owners farm the land around the guest houses and all edible fruit and vegetables end up in the kitchen of the taverna, while their remnants and other plants feed the animals, who in turn provide milk and cheese, meat, leather, wool and manure. Solar energy provides electric power, along with candles for lighting.