Two trails set within very different yet equally stunning natural landscapes – mountainous Arcadia in Southern Greece and the Cycladic island of Andros – were recently put on the continent’s hiking map after receiving a stamp of approval from the European Ramblers Association (ERA), an organization guiding some three million hikers in 38 countries. Lis Nielsen, the ERA’s Danish president and a hiking aficionado, awarded the 75km-long Menalon Trail in Arcadia and the 100km of pathways in Andros with the special quality certificate of “Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe,” a prestigious award launched in 2013. Both trails benefitted immensely from individual initiatives over the years, which took into account the natural surroundings and the rural architecture to render them safe, accessible and a joy for everyone to walk through.
“Andros has a rich landscape that deserves to be revelled in by its visitors, and above all, its residents.”
These efforts facilitated a more intimate knowledge of the landscape and included the clearing, restructuring and the improvement of the two trails that have existed since the surrounding areas were first inhabited. People like Yiannis and Andreas in Melanon and Olga, Giorgos and Alexandros on Andros are considered pioneers of these individual initiatives. Many like them followed, dedicating their time and adding their own touch, reopening forgotten and abandoned routes. Aside from individuals, support came from elsewhere as well; the Menalon Trail was incorporated into the “Cultural Paths” program of Elliniki Etairia, the society for environment and cultural heritage, while both projects received significant financial (and other) support from private sponsors, local associations, institutions and even organizations abroad. While awarding Andros the quality trails certificate last October, Nielsen told locals that “Andros has a rich landscape that deserves to be revelled in by its visitors, and above all, its residents. Help your children get to know the place where they live, love it and enjoy the luxury that comes from nature’s absolute serenity.”
The “Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe” certificate was created to pinpoint the paths in Europe that meet the ERA’s strict criteria for safety, cleanliness, accessibility, natural surroundings, and more. Although merely three years old, the certification has already achieved a high level status among European hikers, which means that the two Greek paths will need to be consistently maintained through ongoing efforts. This will prove rewarding not only to those who have dedicated time and effort into making the paths what they are today, but also to the growing number of hikers nationwide, who can now enjoy these destinations as much as visitors from around the continent.