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 >  North Aegean  >  Lesvos  >  Lesvos forest heritage bid

Lesvos forest in line for world heritage award

- by Jeremy Guest

Award-winning ancient site of petrified trees on Lesvos may gain UNESCO world heritage status.

The remarkable petrified forest of Lesvos, a popular tourist destination, the largest such site in Europe and of international scientific significance, could be in for a world ranking heritage award.

The unique and ancient forest site has been submitted as a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside other Greek sites such as the Acropolis in Athens and the sacred island of Delos, near Mykonos.

The director of the award-winning Lesvos Petrified Forest Museum, Professor Nikos Zouros, has met UNESCO officials to spell out the unique qualities of the site located on the south-west of Lesvos near the resort of Sigri.

Also at the meeting was Lesvos island mayor Dimitris Vounatsos, there to underline the major economic and tourism benefits for the island if the Petrified Forest gains status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These hillsides of south-west Lesvos were densely forested when Mount Ordymnos erupted around 20 million years and buried the trees under many feet of volcanic ash.

What remains today are petrified trees with some specimens in a remarkable for the state of preservation with fruits, leaves, branches clearly seen, often with a polished agate sheen that shows off their ancient beauty to great effect.

A museum was set up in 1994 to study, research and promote the park which became a founding member of the European Geopark Network in 2,000 and the following year the museum was awarded a Eurosite Management Award for its work, helping the site to get included in the Global Geopark Network in 2004.

The best specimens of petrified trees are displayed in and around the museum but ancient stumps can be found all over the surrounding hillsides and valleys, especially along the road between the popular Lesvos holiday resort of Eressos and the west coast port of Sigri.

Winning status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site would give a major boost to Lesvos as a tourist holiday destination. The island is already well known as the producer of exceptional olive oil and ouzo.

The island is also famous for its natural hot springs and bath houses which are currently being promoted in the growing health tourism market.