Restoring the cultural and natural heritage of Kythera and Antikythera
The Kytherian Foundation for Culture and Development (KIPA) implements an exemplary and innovative programme for sustainable tourism development, based on the restoration of the old traditional trails of Kythera, where one can connect with the nature and culture of our islands. The official trails network, ‘Kythera Trails’, consists of 11 thematic routes, with a total length of 100 km.
The partnership of KIPA with the Municipality of Kythera & Antikythera, the Domestic Estate Management Committee of Kythera & Antikythera, and the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (MedINA), has expanded and deepened the objectives of the programme.
The trails not only strengthen the local economy and community, but also protect and promote the cultural and natural heritage of Kythera and Antikythera. Along the hiking trails, points of interest (POIs) and traditional landscapes are valued and highlighted, thereby enhancing the identity of our islands. Thus, the touristic profile of Kythera is diversified and upgraded while simultaneously highlighting the special characteristics and comparative advantages of our land.
This way, Kythera is dynamically promoted in one of the fastest-growing sectors of tourism – adventure tourism. This form of tourism is more effective, as the hiker/visitor stays longer in the destination and spends more money per capita than the average tourist. Also, a much higher percentage of visitor expenditures (65%) remains in the local economy, in contrast to mass tourism (14%). These visitors choose authentic travel experiences. They are interested in unspoiled places. They appreciate the cultural and natural landscapes and prefer local agricultural and traditional products. In short, they fit in the identity of Kythera and Antikythera.
The main goal of the programme is to prolong the tourist season to Spring and Autumn (shoulder seasons), as well as diffuse tourism and its benefits to all parts of the island and not only the tourist hotspots. Equally important, however, for all inhabitants of Kythera, is that the trails not only help us to get to know our place better but also improve our physical and mental health. For this purpose, we are working together with the local travel agency Pyrgos House to organize the “Winter Sunday Walks”. So far, 80+ walks have been organized.
Kythera Trails showcase a series of innovations such as the upgraded circular design and the pioneering signposting system, a result of the continuous cooperation with the Social Co-operative Enterprise ‘Paths of Greece’. At the same time, a knowledge base has been developed, with MedINA’s initiative, based on scientific field study and ethnographic research, with regards to the trails and the natural and cultural heritage POIs along them. This will become an ark of local knowledge for the next generations.
Kythera Trails was the first trails network in Greece with a dedicated brand and website, as well as the first to use QR codes.
Innovations carried on with three trails becoming the first in Europe to be certified as ‘Green Flag Trails’. Moreover, a via ferrata was integrated in the trails network, thus becoming the first of its kind on a small Greek island. Kythera Trails seeks to build a sustainable business ecosystem, supporting local activities and the economy. For instance, it promotes the Hikers Friendly Hotels certification for accommodations and has organized training workshops for tour guides in collaboration with Interpret Europe.
Kythera Trails has nourished an international network of collaborations. In addition to being an active member of the World Trails Network and a founding member of the Mediterranean Hub, it has twinned Chora’s Trail M1 with a section of San’in Kaigan Geopark Trail and Mylopotamos Trail M41 with a section of the Bruce Trail in Canada. The team of Kythera Trails has participated in all major national and international congresses and fora. Some of the targeted marketing activities include the participation in international exhibitions (such as Destinations Nature in Paris), the website, brochures, social media, magazine articles.
There is also some notable success such as being featured in the show “Des Racines Et Des Ailes” of national French television channel France 3.