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A ship that sank more than 2,000 years ago is one of the intriguing features in Europe’s largest marine park that protects the eco-island of Alonissos and the Northern Sporades area of the Aegean Sea.

An ancient shipwreck has become an underwater museum in a huge ecological haven that protects hundreds of animals and plants as well as archaeological sites and historical buildings in the Northern Sporades.

Seven islands and a large portion of the Aegean Sea are in the National Maritime Park of Alonissos and Northern Sporades, the first reserve of its kind in Greece and the largest in Europe.

The best way to experience this unusual area is by boat. Daily excursions, with guides, run from the port of Patiitiri, the capital town of the eco-island of Alonissos, which is the only inhabited island in the park. The guides know about strict restrictions imposed on access and activities on some of the islands.

Back in the 1970s efforts began to establish a safe area for the threatened Mediterranean monk seal.  It took more than 20 years before the national park became official.  The monk seal was once common throughout the Mediterranean. It was even pictured on Ancient Greek coins. Now there are only a few hundred left and this park is one of only two areas where they breed. 

A rescue centre for injured and orphaned baby seals is based in Alonissos’s small port of Steni Vala. An adopt-a-monk-seal fundraising scheme can be found online.

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