Apart from the capital of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, there are many beautiful cities and sights to see in Macedonia, some of the most importent are listed here.
Kastoria built on the banks of Lake Orestiada, with its narrow streets pulsating with life, its old wooden houses and mansions, and its fur factories and workshops. its particularly beautiful in the spring and fall.
Florina. a pretty town, spread out on the slopes of a hill covered with wild chestnut trees, is a good starting point for a visit to the wildlife sanctuary at Prespa.
Mikri and Megali Prespa lakes. Situated at analtitude of 850 metres. these two lakes are separated by a narrow strip of land The banks of Mikri(Small) Prespa are thick with reeds, an ideal cover for the numerous species of birds that nest there every year.
In the middle of the lake floats the islet of Agios Ahilios with ancient and Byzantine remains. Its rocky coast contains caves with shrines and religious paintings.
On the coast of Megali (Great) Prespa, which varies between being steep and rocky and serene and lush, there is a picturesque little village called Psarades, looking as though it belonged on an Aegean island. Here and on Agios Germanos, where there is a Byzantine church dedicated to that saint, you will find tavernas serving fish caught in the lakes.
Using Grevena, a small town built on the banks of two small rivers, as a base, you can visit the exquisite Greveniot Pindos mountains, its villages of Deskati, Zakas, Kipourio, Samarina and the gorge and caves on Mt. Orliaka. But the district is undeveloped, for nature lovers only.
Kozani. Situated 15 kilometres above the banks of the Aliakmon river at an altitude of 710 metres, Kozani is the capital of the homonymous prefecture. During the Turkish occupation it developed into an important commercial centre. Today, unfortunately, few traces are left of its old appearance.
Siatista, another town that prospered under the Turks, lies 28 kilometres southwest of Kozani. Several stately homes from that period with interior decoration, carved wooden ceilings, stained glass windows and large fireplaces, are still standing today. Siatista is another centre of the fur industry.
Velvendos, 30 kilometres southeast of Kozani, is a market town that was founded and thrived during the Turkish occupation. Its traditional houses are built in a wooded area dense with plane trees, peach trees, poplars and cob nut trees near the Aliakmon river.
Edessa , one of the most beautiful towns in Macedonia, is renowned for its cataracts and its cherries. Formerly named Vodena, it is bedecked with trees and flower gardens.
Arnissa , 27 km. west of Edessa, sits on the banks of Lake Vegoritis, where you will find sandy beaches and clear water for a swim and little tavernas for a snack.
Veria , is a primarily agricultural town set in the foothills of Mt. Vermion. The capital of Imathia prefecture, it was founded around the late 5th or early 4th century BC. Under Diocletian it became one of the capitals of Macedonia, evolving into an important centre during the Byzantine era.
Panagia Soumela constructed by refugees from the Black Sea. In the winter, the village is frequently cut off by heavy snowfalls.
Kato Vermio. 26 km. west of Veria at an altitude of 1,400 metres, is only one κilometre away from the Seli ski centre.
Further to the southeast lies the region of Pieria. whose capital is Katerini , an area known for its delightful mountains and splendid beaches The beaches of Katerini (Paralia). Leptoκa, a Makrigialos and Skotina are lined with trees a sparkling water. Their facilities are amp equipped to welcome travellers. Further south is_ Platamonas with its enormous beach and its 13th century Frankish castle overlooking the sea. Those interested in mountain climbing will set out from Litohoro, 24 km. south of Katerini, to conquer legendary Mt. Olympos.
Vergina. Diggings over the years unearthed three very important tombs, believed to be royal. The most important one, is believed to be that of Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great; this tends to confirm the hypothesis that Verging is the ancient Aigai, the first capital of Macedonia. The frescoes on the walls of the finds are a valuable contribution to art. Among the richest finds are two solid gold urns, golden wreaths, silver vessels, etc. These finds are in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.
Dion. A sacred location for the ancient Macedonians at the foot of Mt. Olympos. Two theatres, the temples of the gods, the remains of the ancient city, and a stadium stretch out in an area full of greenery.
Pella. It was founded in the 4th century B.C. to become the capital of the Macedonian state. The city was laid out in the familiar Hippodameian” pattern of regular, rectangular building blocks with impressive broad streets and a first class water supply network.
Halkidiki. Three peninsulas – Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos – make up Halkidiki. one of the loveliest and most popular districts n Macedonia.
Crystalline waters, pines reacning down to where the waves break, golden sand, remote little harbours, unexpected islets (Amoliani), olive groves, verdant valleys and forests of beech, chestnut and pine (Holomoni. P cturesque villages with houses festooned with vines and flowerpots, little towns (Poligiros: luxury hotel complexes, smaller hotels and campsites. tavernas serving the catch of the day and the monastic state of Mt. Athos. All this and more are to be found in Halkidiki.
Kilkis, is located in an area richly endowed by nature (Lake Doirani, Axios river), but because it lacks tourist facilities it attracts only those who enjoy the outdoor life.
yοu can go fishing in the Axios river or take a swim at Mouries on the beach of Lake Doirani. At Goumenissa, 44 km. from Kilkis, you can see the monastery of the Panagia, whose church gates from the 11th century.
Seres, is a pretty, lively town with wide streets and open squares. Founded in the 12th century BC by the Paiones, it was given the name of ‘Siris the Paionic” by Herodotus. The modern districts blend harmoniously with the older neighbourhoods. In the northern section on a pine-covered hill stand the remnants of the ancient acropolis and a Byzantine castle, witnesses of its age-old history. Here, too, is the Byzantine church of Agios Nikolaos.
The enormous forest of Lai-Lia, a marvellous place for excursions, lies 25 kilometres from Seres. Plane and beech trees, cedars and a spring of incomparable water are among its assets. The latter is used in the preparation of the area’s tasty loukoumia (akanes). From here the road leads to the ski slopes of Lai-Lia, where winter games are held.
Drama , capital of the prefecture of the same name, sits at the foot of Mt. Falakro, which the locals have dubbed the “mountain of flowers”. A very scenic mountain, it possesses ski slopes for winter sports fans and four well-equipped refuges.
The town, drenched in greenery and flowers and blessed with abundant water, stands detached from the valley filled with tobacco fields that spreads out at its feet.
Seventy kilometres from Drama lies the splendid forest of Elatia, consisting of pine, beech, oak and a very rare tree in Greece, the red fir, whose height may reach as much as 50 metres.
Philippi. The town was built after the victory of Octavius over the assassins of Julius Caesar in 42 B.C. Among the ruins are the city’s Agora (Forum), the theatre (4th c. B.C.), the fortified citadel belonging to the Byzantine era, the remains of two early Christian basilicas, etc.
Kavala , is a modern, commercial city that has managed to preserve intact many features of its old appearance. Its spacious squares and contemporary buildings blend graciously with the od traditional houses, the overhanging balconies, gardens and flagstoned lanes.
It is equipped with up-to-date tourist facilities, nightclubs and tavernas for a comfortable and pleasant stay.
Of particular charm is the port, teeming with countless fishing caiques, and the Byzantine castle (16th c.) which overlooks the city. Other sights worth seeing are the old city walls, the church of the Panagia (16th c.) and the arched aqueduct (also 16th c.), not to mention the lovely beaches for sun – and sea worshippers.The island of Thassos , lies only 17 kilometres southwest of Kavala.
Central and Eastern Macedonia
Potidea, Olinthos, Stagira – the birthplace of Aristotle – Amfipolis. Each town has its own history and its own ancestral glory.
Kassandra, Sithonia, Athos. The three fingers of the Halkidiki peninsula. Golden sands and pine trees growing right down to the sea. Fishing villages and old churches.
Mount Athos, the holy mountain of Orthodoxy. Forests; here and there dotted with the white of a humble skete. Monastery churches and cells, chapels and cloisters. Archways and fresco-covered walls. Treasures from imperial chrysobuls. Peace and eternity. Oaks, chestnuts, willows, olives, cypresses, plane trees, orange trees, mimosas, jujube trees. Beaches and enchanted coves.
Later on, you come to other towns and villages and again there’s the sea rimmed with lovely beaches. Then rolling plains and high mountains, lakes and turbulent rivers.
Lake Doiranis (Kilkis), shining emerald green on the mountainside.
Langadas, land of the firewalkers. They prepare themselves for days before with chants and wild music. Clutching the icon of Sts. Constantine and Helen, the Firewalkers fling themselves barefoot onto the glowing coals. They have flung themselves thus for centuries to bring us close to the Bacchae and their frenzied dances.
Next comes Kavala. The fortress on high keeps watch on the city below. Narrow lanes. Neighbourhoods with an Anatolian charm. Green grocers peddling their fruits and vegetables from a barrow.
The harbour with caiques lined up at the mole. Fishing boats, nets, baskets with hooks and lines. Sandy beaches, pebbly beaches. Deliciously tempting diaphanous water. Seaside settlements and picturesque fishing hamlets. A glass of ouzo and grilled sardines.
Partridge at mount Pangeo. and duck at Nestos river.
Seres with its ancient acropolis and Byzantine citadel. Churches and mosaic-filled monasteries.
Still lakes (Kerkini). Caves adorned with stalactites (Alistrati), wells whose praises have been sung a thousand times over iGerakinai. Mountains linked with legends.Plane trees, oaks, cedars and sparkling brooks. Here tradition has left its mark from village to village.
Women’s rule (for one day!) at Μonoklissia. fire-walking again at Agia Eleni. Dionysian revels at Gazoro.
Memories, remembrances, revivals.
And here’s another taverns for a bite of fish or game washed down with some vintage ‘tsipouro” – good to the last drop. Then ask for an “akane” a typical Macedonian sweet.
Drama. Plain and mountain. Alpine refuges and ski slopes. Glorious forests. Squadrons of birds. Fertile soil and endless tobacco fields. Caves with enormous coloured stalactites !Marai.
Rivers murmuring softly. Burbling waters.
A bewitching scene. Hospitable people with warm smiles. Kindness and consideration. Courtyard gates open wide.
Thassos. Calm sea and wooded mountains. Myths and Dionysiac passions. Tne Sanctuary of Dionysus and Pan. An ancient theatre.
White houses with tiled roofs. Quaint alleyways. Shops, cafes, tavernas. Macedonian stately homes. Remote coves and wheat-coloured sands. A child is skimming stones ir.to the sea.
Off to one side someone is beating an octopus he’s just caught.
From the nearby taverns you can taste savoury fish and fragrant local wine. Tnassos wine is said to bring on Dionysian intoxication.
4,000 Years of Greek History and Civilization lies in Macedonia. In the cave of Petralona in Halkidiki traces of the first people to inhabit Greece were discovered. With their only tool a stone they lived there for tens of thousands of years.
Then in the Neolithic era life took on a different shape. People lived and died within mud-brick houses they erected with branches and reeds. They founded settlements and cultivated the earth. In their hands clay became a material for making utensils and even works of art.
The small clay idols from Nea Nikomidia (6000 BC) and the clay heads from Drama (4000 BC) indicate the extent of their sensitivity and efforts to express themselves.
By about 2300 BC new groups of people were appearing in Macedonia. In their footprints we can read the fate of the Greeks. Gradually they began to master the use of metals, first bronze, then iron. The iron weapons, bronze jewellery and decorative objects found in the tombs of the cemetery at Verging reflect the level of civilization prevailing at the time.
During the Archaic period colonisation of the shores of Macedonia made for closer contacts with the rest of the Hellenic world.
Pottery from Corinth and Athens travelled to Macedonia along with the elements of Ionian architecture.
In classical times the impact of southern Greece became more and more fertile and creative. The king of Macedonia took part in the Olympic Games. The palace at Pella welcomed philosophers, poets, painters and musicians. Aristotle opened the way to European thought.
Artistic efforts influenced by Ionian creations began to take on individual forms in the hands of local artists.
Cities were built according to perfected plans. Painters left inspired works on the walls on the palaces and royal tombs. Craftsmen worked in gold with great sensitivity. This art spread to the far reaches of the east and was assimilated by the local populations together with the memory of Alexander the great.
Christianity arrived early in Macedonia, brought by St. Paul who travelled and taught in its cities. Thessaloniki became the second city of Byzantium.
Brilliant works, secular and religious, were built throughout Macedonia. In the beginning early Christian basilicas were erected; later, all types of ecclesiastical architecture were represented.
As examples, we have in Kastoria dozens of churches representing archangels, saints and more recent martyrs, in Veria the church of Christ with its multi-coloured compositions and, finally, the monastic state of Mt. Athos.
And Thessaloniki, with its fifty-seven churches and forty monasteries and their dependencies,with mosaic-floored basilicas and painted angels trumpeting to the heavens, has its own great store of wealth.
It abounds in testimonies to Byzantine architecture and painting. During the Turkish occupation of Macedonia, everything ground to a halt until the hour when the Greeks took some measure of the area’s economy into their own hands (18th c.). The art of this period is founded in the inspiration of the people, of which fine examples may be seen in the carved wooden doors, pottery, costumes, gold and silver jewellery and in Macedonian mansions and churches. In Macedonia the relationships of the inhabitants with Byzantium and antiquity are readily discernible.
MUSEUMS IN MACEDONIA
Amtipolis: Museum and archaeological site, Tel: 2322032474.
Dion: Archaeological site, Tel: 2351053206.
Edessa: Archaeological site, Longos, Tel: 238152261.
Florina: Museum, Tel: 2385028206.
Kavala: Kavala Museum, Tel: 2510222335, 224717, Folk Art Museum, Tel: 2510227820
Kastoria: Collection of Byzantine icons (Ag. Spyridon church), Tel: 2467026649.
Kilkis: Museum, Tel: 2341022477.
Kozani: Archaeological collection, Tel: 246126210
Naoussa: Archaeological site, Lefkadia, Tel: 2332041121.
Olinthos: Archaeological site, Tel: 2373021862.
Peila: Archaeological site and museum, Tel: 238231160, 31278.
Philippi: Archaeological site, Tel: 2510516470. Museum, Tel: 2510516251.
Poligiros: Museum, Tel: 2396031300.
Seres: Museum, Tel: 2321022257.
Thassos: Museum, Tel: 2593022180.
MAP OF MACEDONIA