At the crossroads of three seas, and set between mainland Greece and the island of Crete, Kythera’s unique identity has been sculpted by its key geographical location and its rich history, making it a hotspot of cultural and biological diversity.
Kythera Trails aims to highlight and safeguard the cultural and natural heritage of the island by developing and strengthening its network of walking trails. The overall goal of the programme is to create a model of sustainable tourism by developing the infrastructure, tools and connections to support local livelihoods while simultaneously conserving the island’s distinct heritage. The project is being implemented since 2017 through a partnership between MedINA, the Kytherian Foundation for Culture and Development (KIPA) that manages the trails network, the Municipality of Kythera and the Domestic Management Committee of Kythera and Antikythera.
So far, a network of 11 thematic trails totalling 100 km has been built. MedINA’s role has been pivotal in expanding and upgrading the existing network of trails while also fostering collaboration and innovation at the local level. Most notably, MedINA has created an advanced methodology for assigning a thematic character to the trails. By using tools from the INCREAte approach, the project team registered points of natural and cultural interest along the trails and correlated their presence in order to create integrated narratives for them and highlight interconnections in the landscape. At the same time, MedINA undertook ethnographic research and recorded the stories of the trails, which were once the primary transport system on the island prior to the widespread use of cars – as related by elderly members of the community. This wealth of information will be integrated into a mobile phone app and an online platform, serving both hikers and the general public. This action is supported by a CCLD project that is currently being implemented.
Furthermore, to support the trail network’s sustainability and encourage crucial community involvement and effective local stewardship, MedINA spearheaded a series of inclusive actions, including vocational training for young Kytherians as interpretive guides and the restoration of traditional micro-dams along the stream of Karavas.
Timeline of project milestones:
- July 2016 – MedINA organises community envisioning workshop on Kythera
- June 2017 – Environmental and Cultural Rapid Assessments of Kythera are released
- Sept 2017 – MoU is signed between MedINA, the Kythera Foundation for Culture and Development, the Municipality of Kythera and the Domestic Estate Management Committee of Kythera
- May 2018 – Interpret Europe Training Seminars for local guides are launched
- Oct 2018 – Environmental Rapid Assessment of Kythera is updated and published
- June 2019 – Paper published in scientific journal Heritage – ‘Reconnecting Nature and Culture: The INCREAte approach and its practical implementation on the island of Kythera’
- July 2019 – Trail network rebranded to Kythera Trails alongside a new logo
- Oct 2019 – Kythera Trails become first in Europe to be certified by ‘Green Flag Trails’
- Dec 2019 – Design, building and signposting of trail network completed (Phase A – 11 Trails, 100 km)
- Feb 2020 – Kythera becomes first small Greek island with via ferrata. The via ferrata is integrated into the trail network
- April 2020 – Study for the expansion of the trail network, ‘Phase B’, is completed
- May 2020 – Official launch of CLLD programme
- Sep 2020 – Reconstruction of the traditional micro-dams network along the M49 trail