The environmental and cultural wealth of Sifnos can be seen everywhere on the island, a fact that is showcased by its designation, via a 1976 ministerial decree, as a landscape of particular natural beauty.
Moreover, due to its rare natural beauty, an important area of Sifnos, covering 20 square kilometres approximately, which stretches from the Profitis Ilias (Prophet Elias) mountain, where the eponymous monastery of the Prophet Elias can be found, and ends on the western shores of the island, was integrated into the European Network of Natural Protected Areas “Natura 2000”, thus becoming an area of broader interest, under European Law.
The Natura area of Sifnos, with an average altitude of 150 meters, is home to 19 rare, primarily indigenous species of plants and animals, and there has been a recorded presence of 39 bird species.
The land within the area sees an immense wealth of various types of cedar, pistacia, aromatic herbs and wild olive trees and there are various water sources here that are important to the island. In the marine part of the protected area, there’s rich vegetation, and the landscape is characterized by an impressive succession of small inlets and rocky coasts.
Natural beauty apart, the Natura area is a characteristic example of the harmonious coexistence of nature and man.
Human creations, intricately bound to the environment, can be found scattered throughout the area:
- Hundreds of meters of dry stone walls, the work of many people throughout the ages, which play an important role in limiting ground erosion, keeping precious soil in place and defining the limits of ownership.
- All-white monasteries and churches, such as the monasteries of the Prophet Elias, of the Virgin Mary of Toso Nero, of Saint John of Mavro Chorio, and of the Taxiarch of Skafi.
- Historic monuments, such as the citadel of Agios Andreas (Saint Andrew) and the towers (dating from the 6th to the 3rd century B.C.), of particular archaeological and cultural interest.
The integration of this area under European Law is not in any way an impediment to the development of the island. On the contrary, it makes its protection a necessity, leaving a lot of margin for its sustainable management, which shall contribute to its further development.
The development of ecological farming, livestock farming and apiculture in the vegetation-rich Natura area can guarantee quality products of exceptional flavour for the local market, providing new foundations for the development of the economy of Sifnos.
At the same time, visitors can discover, by simply walking along the paths, rare natural beauty, enjoy the aromas emanating from thyme, sage, and other herbs, but also get acquainted with and actively participate in the authenticity of the traditional fair, which has been kept unchanged in the monasteries and rural churches of the area, due to their inaccessibility to road traffic.