Last updated on July 2nd, 2024 at 02:23 pm

Several destinations in Greece are plagued with overtourism while the rest fear that a similar fate awaits them soon and this is why responsible travel in Greece is so important right now.

In this article, we’ll briefly explain what sustainable tourism is and why it matters, alongside sharing easy tips to achieve responsible travel in Greece.

What Is Responsible Travel

In a nutshell, travelling responsibly means making ethical decisions from the planning stage to the actual trip, making sure your travels have a positive impact on the destinations you’re visiting.

Your travel decisions should always align with the well-being of the local population, wildlife and environment of the places you’re visiting. Moreover, you should do your best to support local economies and family-run businesses and choose authentic experiences led by local guides and run by responsible tour operators, activities that help preserve the local culture and traditions.

You can read more about sustainable travel in our comprehensive guide to being more responsible travellers.

The outdoor seating of a local cafè on a square in Amorgos Chora. The chairs are wooden with maroon fabric. Two big pine trees create shade at the square.
Amorgos, one of our favourite lesser-known islands in Greece

Why It Matters To Travel Responsibly To Greece

The negative effects of mass tourism are evident worldwide. Greece couldn’t be an exception. Although our home country’s main industry is tourism, this can’t erase the fact that overtourism is changing locals’ lives for the worse, despite the benefits of tourism.

What’s important to remember is that all destinations – including Greece – are, first and foremost, real places for local people to live and thrive in. Travellers should of course be well-catered for but they should always come second. Unfortunately, in Greece, this was never the case.

Greece has been a popular tourist destination for decades. The Greek authorities have traditionally built infrastructure to attract more and more tourists, sacrificing the needs of locals and turning a blind eye to the environmental destruction caused in the process for the sake of the tourism industry and the private sector interests it served.

In recent years, this is slowly changing as sustainable tourism practices are being implemented. Yet, there’s as much as the Greek government can do to promote responsible tourism and sustainable development in the tourism sector takes time.

We, as travellers, can help change things for the better here and now. Adopting a sustainable travel mindset isn’t difficult. Here are some tips to help you embrace responsible travel in Greece.

This image shows many people on the beach watching the sunset at Little Venice.
Mykonos never ceases to be busy

How To Achieve Responsible Travel in Greece: 10 Easy Tips

1. Travel As Slowly As You Can

This is easier said than done, right? Not everyone can work remotely, enjoying slow travel in the process. However, slow travel is more a matter of mentality than actual time. Even if you have a 9-5 job, it’s best to save your days off and plan a longer vacation in Greece that will allow you enough time to avoid domestic flights, thus reducing your carbon footprint.

After landing in Athens, there’s no need to take another flight within Greece. You can take a ferry to the Greek Islands. For mainland Greece, you can either use the public KTEL bus if you plan to visit a major city and stay there or rent a car and explore on your own.

Unfortunately, the railway network in Greece is almost non-existent. That’s why we’re not recommending train travel in Greece, even though it would be the most environmentally efficient option with the least carbon emissions.

Moreover, when travelling slowly, you’re not pressured by time. Therefore, in large cities, you can use public transport or walk. In rural areas or on the islands, walking – or even hiking – is one of the most delightful ways to get around. Have a look at our guide to the best car-free islands in Greece for inspiration.

During the ferry's departure, a dad with his little dautghter watch from the deck the ferries that are docked at Piraeus Port.
Travelling by ferry in Greece is an immersive experience in its own right

2. Opt For Lesser-Known Destinations

Apart from the world-renowned Greek Islands or the famous ancient sites, like the Acropolis in Athens, Greece has a lot more to offer. A country graced with magnificent scenery and exceptional weather, Greece awaits to surprise you with its hidden gems.

From vibrant cities in the North like Thessaloniki, Ioannina or Xanthi to the wonders you’ll stumble upon during a road trip across the Peloponnese to off-the-beaten-path Greek Islands, such as Serifos or Amorgos, Greece’s least-known destinations will fascinate you.

By choosing to visit lesser-known destinations in Greece, you don’t contribute to the country’s overtourism but help the local communities that need it the most instead.

Panoramic view of Serifos Chora. The houses are white with small blue doors and windows.
The magic of Serifos Island

3. Visit Greece in The Off Season

But what about that trip to Santorini you’ve always been dreaming of? By all means, you should take it. However, when planning a trip to Greece, if you consider adding mainstream destinations to your itinerary, like Santorini, Mykonos or Athens, you’ll be better off visiting Greece in the off-season.

By doing so, not only do you support the economies of these destinations when they need you the most, but you also benefit from quality travel experiences, unmarred by the crowds of tourists and excessive heat the peak season brings.

For instance, here’s how we spent 4 days in Santorini in late October.

View of Ammoudi Bay and Oia.
Santorini in late October is still a sight for sore eyes

4. Choose Your Accommodation Wisely

When deciding on accommodation, there are a couple of things to keep in mind if you want to travel responsibly to Greece. First of all, you should avoid international chain hotels and all-inclusive resorts. The former are usually run by multinational conglomerates. The latter leave no space for guests to support local economies by eating or drinking out.

Moreover, you should avoid using Airbnb. In the last decades, there has been an enormous housing crisis in Greece, especially in major cities. Airbnb has its fair share of responsibility for the current situation. Landlords keep turning their properties into holiday rentals and locals struggle to find a permanent place to stay that’s both decent and not insanely overpriced.

You can read more in our article about the negative effects of Airbnb.

When booking your accommodation, try to choose family-run boutique hotels. If possible, opt for special accommodations, like a medieval room within the walls of Monemvasia Castle or a cave hotel in Santorini.

These unique hotels not only add to your overall travel experience but also help showcase the rich history and preserve the cultural heritage of Greece by restoring historical buildings of great cultural significance that would otherwise be demolished or left to decay.

Panoramic view of Monemvasia from Ano Poli.
The castle town of Monemvasia is a fairy tale come true

5. Eat Locally Sourced Veggie Food

Greece is a country blessed with wonderful weather and fertile land that renders top-quality fresh products. When eating out or shopping for groceries in Greece, stick to locally sourced products. Not only because they’re delicious, but also because you support the local economy this way.

Moreover, try to reduce or quit eating meat altogether as the meat industry has the largest environmental impact. After all, Greece is one of the best countries to savour mouthwatering plant-based food, doused in superb extra virgin olive oil. This guide to the best vegetarian dishes in Greece is sure to make you crave veggie food once you read it.

Speaking of food in Greece, please try to be mindful of food waste. We know it’s tempting to order everything on the menu in Greece. But you can start small and order more food as you go. If there’s still food on the table when you’re full, it’s never frowned upon to ask for a doggy bag.

A plate with giant beans with tomato sauce and parsley.
Oven-baked Gigantes (giant beans) is a veggie staple of Greek cuisine

6. Buy Local Products

Apart from sampling all those delicious products during your trip to Greece, you can also take some home with you as souvenirs. From Greek wine to local herbs to olives, the sky’s the limit.

Add to these several other souvenirs, such as tablecloths, beauty products or handmade ceramics and you have a wide array of Greek souvenirs to choose from. Just try to make sure that everything you buy is actually made in Greece.

A bottle of Mega Spileo wine. The wine is white and the bottle has a green and black label.
Greek wine is a great gift idea

7. Don’t Visit Greece on a Cruise

Visiting Greece on a cruise is the exact opposite of responsible travel in Greece. Cruise tourism is often criticised and for good reason. Cruises largely contribute to overtourism, without benefiting the destinations they’re stopping over at in any way.

Local businesses have nothing to gain from cruise ship passengers who flock to already crowded destinations for just a couple of hours. The environment – mainly the Aegean Sea and the Ionian Sea – suffers detrimental effects because of cruises, too.

Santorini is probably the most striking example of the negative effects of cruise tourism in Greece. For this reason, we wrote a sustainable guide to Santorini with 15 travel tips against mass tourism.

A massive cruise ship in Santorini's caldera. If you're interested in responsible travel in Greece, don't visit on a cruise.
Cruise ship tourism is the exact opposite of sustainable tourism

8. Refrain From Riding Animals For Fun or Transport

Speaking of Santorini, it’s time to touch upon the issue of animal abuse. Several destinations in Greece, such as Santorini or the small island of Hydra, use donkeys for tourism purposes, offering donkey rides either as a leisure activity or a means of transport.

However, riding a donkey should never be considered a fun activity – or one of the reasons to visit Santorini for that matter. These animals are almost always heartbreakingly mistreated, forced to carry weight under the scorching sun.

No matter what the local donkey drivers tell you, there’s always another way to get from A to B, probably walking. If you can’t handle uphill walking, do your research before visiting any destination to ensure that your accommodation or the places of interest you want to explore can easily be reached on foot.

Similarly, refrain from visiting zoos, aquariums or similar establishments in Greece. It’s unethical to pay a ticket to see animals in captivity when it’s so easy to genuinely interact with all these cute cats of Greece at every turn.

Tourists on donkeys climbing the uphill stairway to Thirassia's main village. Abusing animals for profit is the exact opposite of responsible travel in Greece.
Apart from Santorini, donkeys are also (ab)used on nearby Thirassia Island

9. Be Mindful of Water

Maybe it’s hard to believe, but not only remote locations, secluded villages and tiny islands suffer from water shortages. Even the fanciest Greek Islands do, especially in the high-season summer months when visitor numbers increase dramatically.

Therefore, when spending your holidays in Greece, try to keep water conservation in mind when showering or washing your clothes as water is a valuable commodity. Wasting it can lead to water cuts for several hours per day, negatively affecting the lives of locals and visitors alike.

Since we’re on the subject of water, bring your thermal bottle as it’s safe to drink tap water in many places throughout Greece. But be careful. Always ask at your accommodation if tap water is safe to drink before you try it.

Panoramic view of the artificial Ladon Lake. The lake has fjords and green waters.
The artificial Ladon Lake in the Peloponnese

10. Don’t Go Wild Camping

Wild camping might not be an issue in other European countries but in Greece, it is. Therefore, if you want to support responsible travel in Greece, don’t be tempted even if you see others do it. Wild camping is damaging natural landscapes, like beautiful beaches or thick forests (that also face the risk of wildfires), even if campers are careful with how they dispose of their waste.

For nature lovers, if you want to experience a stay without any walls standing between you and the natural beauty of Greece, the country is dotted with organised camping sites with proper facilities that don’t harm the environment as much as wild camping.

Chalikiada Beach in Agistri packed with tents and wild campers.
Chalikiada Beach on Agistri Island receives more wild campers than it can handle

We hope that reading this article gave you an idea of how important it is to support responsible travel in Greece, but also how easy it is to travel to Greece in a sustainable way. The authorities should tackle issues, like the environmental challenges of contemporary travel, or implement sustainable initiatives.

Yet, a few simple steps on the travellers’ end can make a huge difference in the locals’ lives. This way everyone – residents and guests alike – can enjoy the magic of Greece, but also ensure that future generations can relish it for many more decades to come.

IMAGES: Katerina

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