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Alonissos lifts gold beach award

- by Karen Mills

Alonissos island lifts gold beach award.

The Greek holiday island of Alonissos has picked up a gold award for the quality of its beaches and for its eco-tourist facilities. The gold medal was awarded to the islands of both Alonissos and Samothraki by the Quality Coast Association under the auspices of the European Coastal & Marine Union (EUCC).

Awards are handed out each year to the greenest, cleanest and most sustainable coastal destinations in Europe. In an assessment of the world's most beautiful, clean and pleasant beaches they ranked Samothraki 7th and Alonissos 17th from more than 800 beaches in 30 countries.

The Greek island of Alonissos is one of the Sporades group, off Greece's east coast, that includes the popular holiday destination of Skiathos as well as the islands of Skopelos and Skyros.

The Marine Park of Alonissos and Northern Sporades was established in 1992 to protect endangered species, notably the Mediterranean monk seal monachus monachus.

The area is an important habitat for many species of fish, birds, reptiles and Alonissos is increasingly valued by nature lovers, and by walkers who come from far and wide to walk the many woodland trails that cross the pine carpeted island.

Locals have done much to clear, mark and signpost the interior walking trails of Alonissos. For example, the walk from the old hillside Chora to the port at Patitiri is now signposted, surfaced and lines with street lights.

Alonissos also has several good beaches, mainly stone and shingle, and its surrounding waters are considered to be some of the cleanest in the entire Mediterranean.

QualityCoast aims to create a worldwide network of coastal communities that promote natural, cultural and social values as well as maintaining high quality tourism. Experts use 110 indicators to assess the standards of beaches and coastal communities.

Awards to the top beaches range from bronze, silver, gold and, since 2007, 29 coastal communities from 10 European countries have received the QualityCoast Award.

Azores beach in Portugal ranked 1st on the list, followed by the Cretan beach of Ierapetra and the Gozo & Comino beach in Malta.

It has been shown that holiday visitors are increasingly interested in sustainability issues when choosing their holiday destination and tourism experts believe tourism eco-labels will be common feature of travel brochures and websites.

Whilst the Blue Flag scheme awards honours to individual beaches and marinas, QualityCoast is concentrating on sustainability of ecological projects in the whole area of coastal destination including towns, villages and islands.

Alonissos is especially attractive to those looking for a quiet get-away and a traditional Greek island holiday.