From death to life

In 2000, Nymphaio was bestowed the European Union award for the most remarkable renaissance of a village. This beautiful traditional settlement in the prefecture of Florina, built at 1,346 meters in a place of outstanding natural beauty with dense forests and panoramic views, had been virtually abandoned by the end of the 1980s. The houses were going to rack and ruin, grass was growing in the streets and there were just 45 elderly people left. A new era for Nymphaio began when it was declared a conservation area by the state. «The only way to have preserved and highlighted the village’s bright cultural heritage and its unspoiled natural surroundings was through low-impact tourism,» the president of the Nymphaio community, Nikos Mertzos, told Kathimerini. The infrastructure was laid down and today Nymphaio is the model for many other villages. Nymphaio now has 12 hostels, which are virtually full throughout the year, a Thessaloniki University conference center, a large library, a museum of silver and goldsmithery and history, a stone amphitheater and much else besides. Naturally, the development of the area is indissolubly linked to the natural environment, to which the presence of Arcturos, the society for the conservation of the brown bear, has made its distinct contribution. At Nymphaio, tourists can visit the brown bear sanctuary and the wild animal and outdoor recreation park, which has deer and many other rare species of fauna in 180 hectares of forest.