A DESTINATION OF A THOUSAND LANDSCAPES
Northern Greece is a collection of diverse landscapes. Macedonia, Thrace and Epirus the three perfectures. As the nature changes from region to region, so do the people, culture and traditions. The city of Thessaloniki is surrounded by beautiful scenery. To the east lies Halkidiki, a seaside paradise made up of heavenly beaches, unspoilt wilderness and the solitary world of Mount Athos. Further east is Thrace on the crossroad between east and west. Virgin forests and genuine people, exotic tastes and wild beauty, world-class bird sanctuaries, ancient sites and Anatolian influences. To the west arise mountain peaks, gorges, rare plants and animals, lakes, rivers and indented sandy beaches complement the ancient ruins of Dodoni and dozens of mediaeval castles, monasteries, arched bridges and stone-built traditional villages.
An extensive coastline, a thousand and one beaches
Discover beaches where the mountains meet the sea. Trek to the peaks of Mount Olympus or bask in the sun and enjoy a swim in the crystal waters of the Aegean at Platamonas, Leptokarya or Litochoro. Travel further north, where ‘Queen’ Halkidiki awaits you with 550km of golden coastline, crystal-clear waters and trees so close to the water they kiss the waves. Discover the green waters of Sithonia and escape to the beaches of Kavourotripes, Karidi, Sarti, and to the exotic island of Ammouliani. Discover your passion for windsurfing, dance till the sun goes down at beach parties or just sit back and relax with a refreshing cocktail-in-hand in one of the most beautiful destinations in Greece.
History and civilisation in the land of Alexander the Great
Discover the long and noble history of Thessaloniki. From the White Tower to the Yedi Kule and the Upper Town, you’ll be introduced to the lifeblood of a city through its sights and museums. And don’t forget the yearly International Film Festival. The whole history of northern Greece lies at your feet: Visit important archaeological sites throughout Macedonia, chief among them the Royal Tombs of Vergina, the Ancient Stageira of Halkidiki (birthplace of Aristotle), the archaeological site of Dion in Pieria, Pella (the ancient capital of Macedonia) and ancient Aiani, in Kozani, a treasure from the Bronze Age.
Notable religious landmarks and majesty of the world-renowned Mt Athos
Standing gracefully in the centre of Thessaloniki is the church of Agia Sofia, while throughout the city you’ll find important Byzantine and Muslim landmarks. And, of course, on the Halkidiki peninsula can be found the one and only Mt Athos, a beacon for Eastern Orthodoxy. Renowned for the architecture of its monasteries, and within a setting of natural beauty, you can experience the world of abstinence and purity of a monk’s life – if you’re a man, that is – and explore the monasteries’ cultural treasures, among them libraries and museums.
Something for everyone
With beaches, lakes, rivers, canyons, dense forests and snowy mountains, Northern Greece caters to everyone’s needs. Whether your passion is skiing, hiking or rafting you’ll find it here. Begin in Vasilitsa (Grevena) at the top of the Pindos mountain range where you’ll ski, snowboard or sled through the fir trees during your winter holidays. The next ski centre, Seli, was the first such centre in Greece. Go to Kaimaktsalan (Pella) and visit the highest snow bar in Greece at an altitude of more than 2,000m. In 3-5 Pigadia, the ski season grows longer each year.
A taste of Macedonia
The influence of Asia Minor is evident in Macedonian cuisine. Look for delicious mezedes (appetisers) and other delicacies, such as tiganies (fried meat), hunkar begendi (lamb and aubergine), and giabrakia (cabbage leaves stuffed with pork). In Thessaloniki, try the famous patsas soup (made from tripe), indulge your sugary cravings with with some bougatsa (decadent custard pastry), revani (sweet cake soaked in syrup) and other sweets made with buffalo butter. Macedonian pies with handmade phyllo dough are exceptional. Saffron, produced in Kozani, is a rare product characteristic of the region, so be sure to take some home. Other popular local products include Florina peppers, potatoes from Kato Nevrokopi, and the wild mushrooms of Drama and Grevena – a flavourful culinary journey! Macedonia is home to dozens of wineries. The most distinguished vineyards are in Halkidiki Epanomi, Naoussa (famous for a red grape varietal called xinomavro), Amyntaio and Drama.
TOP DESTINATIONS OF MACEDONIA
- Thessaloniki: Delicious food, vibrant bars and excellent shopping attract visitors from all over. Be enchanted by strolling from the port to the White Tower. Continue to Aristotelous Square and visit the Rotunda and the Old City.
- Lakes: At an altitude of 850m lies Lake Prespa. Admire the breathtaking view and observe the pelicans and rare birds in their natural habitat. In Kerkini, look out onto a majestic landscape, and in Heimaditida and Zazari become one of the lucky few to discover a composition of colours and natural beauty.
- Traditional settlements: Visit Nymfaio and stay at one of the lovely lodging options and meet the bears that live in the Arcturos environmental protection centre, the only one of its kind in Greece. Wander around the traditional village of Arnaias in central Halkidiki and explore the beautiful settlement of Aphitos in Kassandra.
- Caves: Awaken your adventurous spirit in Halkidiki’s Petralona, where a human skull at least 250,000 years old was discovered. The Alistratis cave near Serres and the Angitis cave near Drama are also worth a visit.
- Other cities: Discover the marvels of Macedonia by visiting these cities waiting to welcome you with their history and their beauty: Kastoria, with its gounaradika (legendary fur manufacturers) and the aristocratic lake; Florina, with its stately mansions; Edessa, with the cascading waterfalls; and the old city of Kavala, with its unique hotel-monument, the Imaret. Naoussa with the unbelievable nature
- Pindos National Park: In an isolated mountainous region between the boarders of Grevena and Ioannina lies this unique ecosystem that is home to many rare plants and animals.
- Mount Olympus: The tallest mountain in Greece and the first national park is a destination in Macedonia that stands out for its outstanding natural beauty – and, of course, the challenge of climbing to 2,918m.
- Mount Athos: Deservedly a Unesco World Heritage Site, and an icon of Eastern Orthodoxy, Mt Athos is cultural and religious feast for the senses.
TOP DESTINATIONS OF THRACE
- Komotini: Make a point of walking through the bazaar of Komotini – half-Anatolian, half-Western – and the narrow lanes behind Orpheus Street, where old trades are still practised.
- Xanthi: The old town of Xanthi. Aristocratic tobacco mansions, a pretty riverside and a Muslim quarter with labyrinthine streets and typical Balkan architecture.
- Alexandroupoli: The lighthouse, Alexandroupoli’s emblem, welcomes visitors from Asia to their first city in Europe.
- The Evros Delta: 200,000 sq m of incomparable value, home to 316 of the 420 bird species found in Greece.
- Agios Nikolaos – Porto Lagos: A lovely church set on an islet in the middle of the lake.
- >Lake Vistonida: More than 300 species of birds live in this unique ecosystem.
- Didymoteicho: It may be small but it has significant sights: Visit the twin Byzantine walls and its enormous mosque, the oldest on European soil.
- The Pomak Villages: In this special corner of Thrace, the unsurpassed wild, natural beauty borders with Bulgaria. Fifty isolated settlements with their own identity, many of them close to Xanthi.
- Haidous Forest: The Haidous forest in the Rhodope Mountains, an earthly paradise with beeches 30m high threatening the sky.
TOP DESTINATIONS OF EPIRUS
- Zagorohoria: Stone structures in a beautiful and rugged mountain setting make this area a must-see. Visit Mikro and Megalo Papingo, Aristi and Monodendri are the best known.
- Vikos-Aoos National Park: The rare natural phenomena here will present you with unforgettable experiences as you walk the Vikos Gorge and the Aoos Canyon and contemplate the sheer heights of Mt Tymfi.
- Drakolimnes: Left over from the Ice Age, the Dragon Lakes are two kilometres above sea level. You’ll find the largest ones at Smolikas and at Gamila.
- Konitsa Bridge: The Aoos and Voidomatis rivers meet at this famous bridge.
- North of Konitsa: From the Mastorohoria (Pyrsogianni) to Sarantaporos, Bourazani and the Molyvoskepasti nunnery
- Metsovo: This most famous Vlach village, at an altitude of 1,160m, framed by the impressive mountain scenery of the Pindos mountains, is a living museum of traditional handicrafts, dairy products and wine.
- Ioannina: One of the prettiest cities in Greece. Here you’ll find Lake Pamvotis with its famous Island covered in Byzantine monasteries. The vibrant city has dozens of sights, many places to eat and drink, good hotels, an attractive old town and is a delight to visit in any season.
- Syrrako & Kalarrytes: Two beautiful old stone villages face each other like mirror images – destinations of exceptional beauty in Epirus.
- Tzoumerka Waterfall: Two liquid giants fall from 125m. Simply stunning.
- Preveza: Take a stroll on the lively esplanade of this port-town in Epirus , at the mouth of the Amvracian Gulf.