Meandering along the Nestos River, you’ll struggle to believe there’s a more serene and beautiful place in Greece. Vivid green forests tumble down the hillside to the water’s edge and around you is a landscape of rich wildlife – not just a Natura 2000-protected biotope but also a Ramsar Convention Wetland of National Importance.
Canoeing or kayaking along the river is one of the most rewarding experiences for a family or group of friends with a shared love of being outdoors. Nestos is amongst the five largest rivers in Greece, with 130km of its total 243km length traversing Macedonia and Thrace, passing through the Rodopi mountain range. As it reaches the Thracian Sea, it forms a 550,000-hectare delta with lakes and freshwater pools.
Easily reached midway between two of the most intriguing cities in Greece, Kavala and Xanthi, it’s a must for any outdoor activities enthusiast in the area.
Wherever you are on the river, there is something primal about the setting. In mythology, Nestos (or Nessus) was the son of Oceanus, born at the very beginning of time along with 12,456 rivers and 3,000 nymphs. And everywhere you turn on the river’s gently flowing waterway, nature feels as pure as the day it first appeared. Willows, plane and cedar trees and other plant life such as orchids and reeds form an ideal habitat for 300 bird species (herons, eagles and vultures among them), 11 amphibian species and 21 reptile species, as well as fish and other water life.
There are many stretches of the river perfect for gentle exploring (the Parapotamio Forest and Stena Nestou are favourites), and banks that are ideal for a rest and bite to eat or even a cooling swim in the summer. There are boating options on Lake Platanovrisis and also sections where the canyon narrows to create frothing water for rafting at certain times of the year.
Meanwhile, the Nestos Delta, which includes the Kosynthos River to the north, has plenty of lagoons and lakes to explore, amongst them lakes Vistonida and Ismarida that form a National Park.