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From alluring Thessaloniki and enchanted forests, to golden beaches and the glory of Mount Athos

Macedonia is a collection of diverse landscapes. 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. The numerous destinations  make up a mosaic of images, aromas and surprises: Serres, Drama, Kavala, Edessa, Kozani, Veria, Katerini and others provide  a seemingly endless range of experiences. To the west, the landscape becomes calm and tranquil. 

You’ll be inspired by the grand mansions and churches of Kastoria. Feel a sense of serenity in the mountainous region of Vitsi and take time to reflect at the lakes of Prespa. In the evocative landscape of Grevena, nature rewards you with a unique feeling of tranquility. Experience the remarkable culture of eastern Macedonia by embracing the customs and traditions of the locals. Here you’ll enjoy 365 days of diverse activities from water sports to skiing, trekking and bird watching. Whether you come for an extended winter, summer holiday or a short weekend getaway with friends and family, Macedonia is one of those destinations  you’ll never forget.

One 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 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. 

Explore more than 15 arched stone bridges in Grevena, most notable among them, Portitsa and Aziz Aga. In Kastoria, there are magnificent stone-built houses of the villages of Pentalogos and Siatista, the works of the famed Zoupaniotes builders. And, last but not least, there are the beautifully restored mansions of Nymfaio, amongst which you’ll find the imposing Nikeio School.

Notable religious landmarks and  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  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.

In Ouranopolis, the last stop before the monasteries, you’ll find the impressive Prosforiou Tower and the Zygos Monastery – a particular treasure, because here, archaeologists have been able to piece together the life of ancient monks in Mt Athos. Elsewhere, there’s the famous pilgrimage site of Panagia Soumela, founded by Pontiac refugees and location of the icon of the Virgin Mary, the work of  Luke the Evangelist said to have been transported  to the Holy Church in Vermio by angels. Finally, travel to Kastoria where you’ll find 61 Byzantine churches and a prehistoric lakeside village in Dispilio.

Something for everyone
With beaches, lakes, rivers, canyons, dense forests and snowy mountains, Macedonia 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 of its kind  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.

There is also a resort on Falakro (Volakas, St Athanasios, in Drama), the Lailias Ski Centre, Vigla Pisoderi and Elatohori, by the sea. For trekking, head to the Prespa lakes, in the region of Valia Kalda - Arkoudorema - Flega, and waterfalls in the virgin forest of Fraktos, the Enippeas River at Litochoro. Walk or bike through the magical forest of Kotza Orman (Drama). End up at the top of the mythical Mount Olympus. The highest peak is Mytikas, at an altitude of 2,917m. Observe rare birds such as flamingos in Prespa and Lake Kerkini. For rafting-kayaking, go to the Nestos and Aliakmonas. For canoeing, test your mettle  in the lakes of Florina and Prespa. And for a spa experience, head to Pozar – hot springs in the middle of the lush, snowy landscape.

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  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.

Macedonia: Standout experiences, destinations and attractions
1. Thessaloniki:
Delicious food, vibrant bars and excellent shopping attract visitors from all over. Take an enchanting stroll  from the port to the White Tower. Continue to Aristotelous Square and visit the Rotunda and the Old City.

2. 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 masterly composition of colours and natural beauty.

3. Traditional settlements: Visit Nymfaio and stay at one of the lovely lodging options and meet the bears that live in the Arcturos reserve , 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Pindos National Park: In an isolated mountainous region between the borders of Grevena and Ioannina lies this unique ecosystem that is home to many rare plants and animals.

7. Mount Olympus: The tallest mountain in Greece and its first national park is a destination in Macedonia that stands out for its astounding natural beauty – and, of course, the challenge of climbing to 2,918m.

8. Mount Athos: Deservedly a Unesco World Heritage Site, and an icon of Eastern Orthodoxy, Mt Athos is a truly eye-opening cultural and religious experience.

I LOVE HALKIDIKI by Stavroula Kleidaria

"It combines lush vegetation with a lattice work of beaches, it has the type of sea that even the most popular resorts would envy and options for all tastes and budgets."

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Macedonian Tempi: Hidden diamonds

"The forest roads and trails which accompany the Rihios offer scenes which are like old friends to me now; the impression they made on me as a child has never left."

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Dochiariou Monastery, Mount Athos


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