Geopark voted best in Europe
Karen Mills: September 2011
Lesvos geopark voted the best in Europe.
A 20 million-year-old forest on Lesvos holiday island has been declared the top European Geopark for 2011-2014.
The Petrified Forest of Lesvos is considered an ideal example of how to run a geopark, according to the European Geopark Network (GNN).
The Petrified Forest of Lesbos was formed from the fossilized remains of plants and is found in the far west of Lesbos island.
Geopark experts toured the Lesvos island forest earlier this year to evaluate standards of maintenance, infrastructure and services.
The decision to class the forest as the top European geopark was ratified by UNESCO during at a meeting of the 10th European Geoparks Conference held Norway.
Almost 300 scientists and GNN officials from more than 30 countries attended the conference.
Greece has four official Geoparks, the Petrified Forest of Lesvos, the Natural Park Psiloritis, in Crete, the Helms-Park Vouraikos in the Peloponnese, and the Vikos-Aoos park in Epirus.
The Petrified Forest of Lesvos was the first to be included in the European Geoparks Network in 2000.
Since 2004 the petrified forest has been part of UNESCO's World Geoparks Network, bringing it worldwide recognition and making it a popular tourist destination for visitors to the Greek islands.
The forest, formed from fossilized remains of trees, and is enclosed by the villages of Eressos, Antissa and Sigri on Lesvos.
The Lesvos forest is managed by the Lesvos Natural History Museum which has a permanent exhibition of the fossil remains of more than 40 different species.
In previous reviews, in 2004 and 2007, the Lesvos Petrified Forest won the highest rating among European geoparks and is considered the world's leading geopark.