The two longest rivers of Greece, the Aliacmon and the Axios, along with the smaller Loudias form their delta, one of the most significant national parks and ecosystems of the country, lying a few kilometres from the city of Thessaloniki. In the springtime the endless rice fields are filled with water and seeds and you can see and photograph heron and flamingo colonies, where the rare winged visitors spend the winter in the hospitable delta habitat. From the bird-watching spot of Nea Agathoupolis visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the lagoon and watch the bird fauna of the district through the telescopic binoculars. Wander around the Kitros salt planes and the riparian forest of the Axios River; you might have the good fortune of spotting some of the wild horses still living in the area.
The National Park of Lake Kerkini with the Kroussia Mountain range to the west and Mt. Beles to the north, is an ideal destination for nature and physical activity lovers. You are a boat ride away from the Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelecanus crispus) and the purple herons (Ardea purpurea) nesting there.
You can also see the largest population of Greek buffalo enjoying the sun and playing in the water.
On the north edge of the lake there is a wonderful kaleidoscope of water lilies that can be viewed if you cycle or walk or go horseback riding around the lake. Take a break and taste the Lucullian meals at local villages followed by sweets made with buffalo milk.
The Peninsula of Halkidiki is famous for its beaches but it is also endowed with a beautiful and unexplored mountainous territory. Vegetation is lush in the mountain paths of Mt. Cholomon, the Itamos range and the waterfalls at Varvara. Discover the stone mansions in the traditional villages and the chapels hidden in the pine forests. Go horseback riding and ride along exciting 4x4 dirt tracks or take your bikes around mountain cycling routes. Don’t forget to visit Petralona cave, where traces of human inhabitants from 700,000 years ago have been discovered.
⇠Thessaloniki 46km ⇠ Polygyros 39km
In Western Halkidiki, is the reknown Cave of Petralona. This cave became famous, not only because of the size or the wealth of its stalactites, stalagmites and its very intricate corridors and halls, but mainly because of the human and other fossils -dating from the Pleistocene Age- found here and the secrets of human life and prehistory that it veils. The cave of Petralona served as a home for the first humans about 700.000 years ago. It has a total surface of around 2.500 acres and its corridors are almost 1.500 m long. The “Main Hall” is 104 m long, 12 m wide and 8 m high. The stalactites and stalagmites make an impression with their wealth, shapes and colourings.
The Petralona Cave in Halkidiki is situated about 1km to the East of the homonymous village, on the western cliffs of the ancient Kalavros Mountain (700 m height). It is a famous cave with important human and hominid remains. Here were discovered the first human remains of Greece. The number and the historical value of the remains are extraordinary. The cave’s internal temperature remains steady (circa 17 (+1) Celsius) all year long. On the right and left sides of the tunnel you can see displayed cases including stone and bone tools, as well as bones, jaws and teeth of different kinds of animals. The main volume of the findings is exhibited in the Anthropological Museum which has been constructed right next to the cave. Signs of fire from burned bones have been traced in the “Mediterranean hall”. There are also ashes dating back to 700.000 B.C. representing the most ancient fire that humans had lit on Earth.
Near the village of Petralona, at the base of Mount Katsika, one can find the entrance of the Cave of Petralona. It was accidentally discovered in 1959 by a villager. They named it “Red stones” (Kokkines Petres) because of the red earth which coloured the stalagmites and stalactites. It covers an area of 10.000 m2. “The cave is part of an extensive cavern system in calcareous Mesozoic deposits containing large quantities of fossil mammalian bones including horse, cave bear, lion and others” encyclopedia Britannica says.
In 1960 Dr. Aris Poulianos found a complete skull and part of the skeleton of an erect hominid. It belonged to a woman between 25-35 years old. The skull is dated as being 700.000 years old and the traces of fire found next to it, around 1.000.000 years old. It is considered one of the earliest human findings in Europe.
The cave provides a breathtaking spectacle of geology beauty. In the part named “cemetery of Giants”, 14 different types of animal-bones were found. The “Great Hall” has huge stalagmites in white coral-like. The “Hall of Roots” has fine roots above the cave having pierced the roof and formed a net.
There is a Museum near the cave which contains many of the archaeological findings of the cave. The authentic skull is in the paleontological collection of the Aristotelian Museum of Thessaloniki, but there is a replica inside the cave, where it was found. (More Info: H +30-373-71671)
The Aliakmonas Delta covers an area in excess of 40,000 sq. kms. When taken in conjunction with the mouths of the Galikos, Loudias and Axios rivers, and the lagoon of Alikes, the region creates one of the most important wetlands in Europe, of inestimable value to mankind and the environment. There is a vast and thriving range of wildlife to be found here. The fox, the jackal, the marten, the hare, the wildcat and even the wolf live alongside the many animals to be found on its banks.
However, undoubtedly the most important aspect of this wildlife is the profusion of birds of every imaginable variety and hue that are to be seen here. 215 different species of birds have been recorded either nesting or stopping off during their migration.
These include herons, cormorants, geese and other birds, some of which are in danger of extinction. 12 different members of the Duck family have been seen and other endangered species include the wild pelican and a member of the kingfisher family.
In addition to the bird life, at least 30 different types of fresh water fish have been noted, including the Rutilus Macedonicus, as well as frogs, water snakes and water turtles. Other life in the Delta includes bass and mullet as well as other fish straying in from the sea.
The mixture of fresh and salt water provides a favourable environment for the development of shellfish cultivation, in particular that of the Mussel. Approximately 90% of the mussels cultivated in Greece come from this area.
More than 500 varieties of plants, the Water Lily for example, grow here, bringing their colour and their scent with them. The terrain of the Delta has resulted in the formation of small, shallow lakes and sandbanks.
There is the usual rich variety of vegetation, which, in their turn, give rise to myriads of insects of every shape and size. Tall trees reaching skywards combine with the bushes and undergrowth to provide a home for the teeming bird life and shelter for the herons and other birds of prey.
The Marsh of Agathopouli completes the wetlands of the Delta. Formed by the silt deposited by the Aliakmonas River and easily accessible, this is one of the most interesting sections of the wetlands.
The marshland is home to all the birdlife that can be observed in the Delta. Here herons and other wading birds search for food in the water deposited by the river. Thousands of water birds, such as ducks, swans and geese, congregate here in the winter, and the muddy waters provide them with a fertile nesting ground.
There is a kiosk serving the wetlands of the Aliakmonas Delta and Alikes-Kitros at Nea Agathopouli. This serves as a centre for the work of conservation and protection, as well as making the area of the Axios Delta, Loudia, Aliakmonas, Galikos and Alikes Kitros known to the public. The main objective of the kiosk is to keep people informed of the sensitive nature of the area and its inestimable ecological value.
The objective of the kiosk is to help organise and control visitors to the marshland of Agathopouli and the surrounding regions of the Delta as far as Alikes Kitros.
OLYMPUS THE FIRST NATIONAL PARK
In 1938, Olympus, the highest Greek mountain, the residence of the twelve ancient gods, was the first area which was declared as a National Park. About 50 years ago a special regime was enforced to protect this unique part of our country.
The aim was the preservation of the natural environment; of the flora, fauna and natural landscapes, as well as of its cultural and other values. Scientific research had to be supported and people had to become aware of the environmental conditions. Furthermore tourism had to be developed in the wider area.
Specific laws prohibit any kind of exploitation in the east side of the mountain, about 10,000 acres, which constitutes the core of the National Park. The wider area around it was designated as “peripheral zone of the National Park” so that its management and exploitation won’t affect negatively the protection of the core.
Olympus is internationally known as for its important ecological characteristics and incomparable natural beauty as well as for its strong relationship with ancient Greek mythology. The importance of the National Park has been recognized not only in Greece and Europe but all over the world. In 1981 UNESCO declared “Olympus a Biosphere Reserve”. The European Community has included Olympus in the list of “The Most Important Bird areas of the European Community”.
Management Agency of Olympus National Park.
The Agency has its residence in Greece in Litochoro Pierias and encompasses the Protected Area of "Olympus National Park".
The aim of the management system that implements is to maintain the area’s biodiversity and the landscape’s physiognomy and to protect and support the natural habitats and the ecosystem as well.
The University Forest of Taxiarchis is found in the center of Halkidiki and concretely in the Southern and South-western slopes of Holomontas. The unique agriculture found on the Mountain of Holomontas, which can survive at these winter conditions -low temperature, is the agriculture of Christmas trees, which are planted by seed in its fields, (trees are not cut from the forest). After 15 years of growth, the trees are sold, during the Christmas period. There is even a modern unit of treatment of herbs and therapeutic plants, such as tea are collected, drained and sold.
Cave of Alistrati is found 50 km. S.E. of Serres, 25 km. S.W. of Drama and 65 km. N.W. of Kavala. You can go to Alistrati from Thessaloniki via Serres or Asprovalta and from Kavala via Drama
It is considered to be one of the biggest and most beautiful caves in all of Greece, and probably Europe as well.
A cave where nature wanted to show her grandeur.
John Keats wrote: "The poetry of the earth is never dead" In mountainous Pella this is true!
Around the area of Kaimaktsalan ski resort stunning wonders of nature are waiting to be discovered. Follow us on a trip through magic forests, steep gorges, beautiful wetlands and mountain lakes.
In close proximity to Kaimáktsalan ski resort, on the easternmost side of Vóras Mountain, the famous Black Forest is located. Its rich biodiversity of flora and fauna and its pristine undulating landscapes will certainly impress you. Here adventure addicts can take part in intense outdoor activities such as trekking and mountain biking. Experienced trekking guides will share with you experience and enjoyment through scenic mountain routes amidst dense fir and beech tree forests.
Pozar Thermal Baths, nestled among the steep slopes of Mt. Vóras, are surrounded by the magnificent Ramno Mpor Gorge. Take in views of the impressive mountainscape: precipice rocks, natural waterfalls, wild vegetation with high trees, and the famous gorge of the Baths make Pózar Baths a paradise on earth. Need an adrenaline rush? Hit the trails connecting the thermal baths with Mt. Vóras along the thermal river, go climbing or mountaineering, follow off-road trails, or run up the wooden staircase to discover the 16 prehistoric caves hidden in the gorge!
Visit the breathtaking wetland of Agras-Vrita-Nissi, only 6km away from the city of Edessa. The high conservation value of the wetland is attributed to the presence of rare birds. Endangered species, such as the ferruginous duck and little bittern, rest and feed at the area together with other birds like the swans, coots, little grebes and moorhens. Enjoy a romantic boat trip around the Ágras Lake, in the heart of the wetland, and observe the birds nestle in the lake.
The highlight of this mountain tour should be a visit to Vegoritida Lake, in the village of Ayios (Saint) Pandeleimonas on the western slope of Mt. Vóras. The lake is the second biggest (72,500 square metres surface area and about 80m depth), and one of the most beautiful lakes in Greece. It is also part of the NATURA 2000 network as an important habitat of over 160 bird and 11 fish species. While in the area, welcome the opportunity to participate in environmentally-friendly activities, such as rowing, canoeing and kayaking, kite surfing, wind surfing, bird watching, sailing and swimming! A tour around the villages of the lake (Árnissa, Peréa and Ayios Pandeleimonas) unveils beautiful landscapes offering you the opportunity to enjoy the famous local hospitality, and to taste delicious local specialties!
West of Strymonikos gulf, at a distance of few kilometers, is situated the lake Volvi the second biggest lake of Greece. Along with lake Koronia were once a part a united lake inside of the Mygdonia area, but today their physiognomy is totally different: not deep and with low oxygen level during the summer for lake Koronia, deep and with more oxygen for lake Volvi.
Numberless torrents and brooks are water supplying the lake maintaining the level of water. It’s surrounded by arable land, hills, narrow swampy zones and stubbles. The north side of the lake is deeper and rougher and indicates the remains of a forest. Two remarkable forests are located in the area: the forest of Rentina on the sides of river Rihios, known asMakedonika Tempi, and the forest of Apollonia, on the side of lake Volvi.
In the width area of the lake, it have been recorded 336 kinds of plants, 13 of them are consider to be extremely rear. Between the two lakes, Volvi and Koronia are two huge perennial plane trees, which offer a large number of nests for the birds and have been declared as natural monuments.
To the North West of Olympus lies the mythical mountain range of Pieria. It has its own particular beauty and geomorphic quality, and the harmony of its outline so impressed the Ancient Greeks that they chose it as the embodiment of art and culture in the form of the Pierian Muses.
Traditional villages with their own particular architectural features such as Skoteina (Morna), Milies, Ritini, Elatochori, Riakia and Kolindros extend along the slopes of the Mountain, giving visitors the opportunity for excursions to a land of unusual natural beauty.Magnificent vistas, rich in colours, stretch for miles in every direction. The mountains and the sea act as a backdrop to this stunning scenery, set in the verdant hinterland of the county of Pieria.
Pieria is famous for its rich flora, notably its deciduous forests as well as its abundance of rare wild flowers. Mammals, birds, reptiles and a variety of insects, notably butterflies, provide the fauna of the region. It is covered by the EU regulations 92/43/EOK and it comes within the remit of the European Ecological order NATURE 2000 for Pieria, Code GR 1250002.
Typical of the wealth of flora to be found on Pieria are the deciduous beech forests, and oak, chestnut, pine and fir. Plane trees, maple and osier create secluded groves alongside the banks of swift flowing streams. In addition to this, the wildlife to be found on neighbouring Olympus also graces this area. Pink anemones, wild carnation and strawberries, are among the rare species to be found here in their natural state.
The fauna of Pieria mainly consists of foxes, martens and ferrets, wolves, squirrels, wild boar, hare, small predatory birds, partridge, quail and other fowl. Reptiles make their home here, too. Snakes, lizards, tortoises, as well as crickets, cicadas, butterflies and other insects can be found. There is something magnificently inspirational in the sight of an eagle looking proudly at you as you round a corner, then watch it spread its wings and soar away disdainfully, rising on the current to the distant mountain peaks.
With its sandy beach, awarded the European "Blue Flag", this seaside village is close to the Neolithic settlement of Makrigialos.
This settlement dates back to 5,000 BC and is one of the largest to have been found in Europe.
The hilly nature of the area, with its fine views of the Thermaic Gulf, and the combination of sea and peaceful landscapes offer the visitor an idyllic environment.
Makrigialos is home to one of the most important mussel "farms" in Greece, producing the greatest quantity and highest quality of this delicacy to be found here.
Here you will find more attractive fish taverns bordering the sea offering traditional cooking with local specialities such as oysters and mussels. There is no shortage of Hotels and rooms to rent for the visitor.
Situated 22 kms from Katerini, the region's capital, Makrigialos is accessible from The National Motorway E75 (Junction: Nea Agathoupoli), the Old National Road from Thessaloniki to Katerini (Junction: Makrigialos) and from the recently completed coastal road which runs from Olympic Beach (Katerinoskala) to Nea Agathoupoli.
If you walk along the Bay of Methoni and Nea Agathoupoli you will come across an attractive beach of the same name which has been awarded the European "Blue Flag" for cleanliness. This area, with its charm and natural beauty promises you a holiday where you can relax and leave your worries behind you!
One of the most important wetlands in Europe is to be found adjacent to the Aliakmonas Delta. There is an information centre in Nea Agathoupoli where visitors can learn about the Marshlands of the Aliakmonas and the rest of the Delta as well as those of Alikes and Kitros.
There is a wide choice of hotels, rooms to rent and organised campsites available for your stay where you will receive a friendly welcome and can enjoy a stress free holiday.
Typical fish restaurants next to the beach have a good choice of fresh fish caught locally to tempt your palate. It is not by chance that the inhabitant's of Greece have the longest average lifespan in the world, and the reasons for this are not hard to find. One of them lies in the extensive consumption of fish, and you can find snapper, bass, oysters and octopus in these two villages as well as many other varieties of sea fare for you to feast on.
These villages are 26 kms from Katerini, the region's capital, and are easily accessible from The National Motorway E75 (Junction: Nea Agathoupoli), the Old National Road from Thessaloniki to Katerini (Junction: Methoni) and from the recently completed coastal road which runs from Olympic Beach (Katerinoskala) to Nea Agathoupoli.
The European Mountain Path E4, which starts in the Pyrenees and ends up in Greece at the White Mountains of Crete, crosses Mount Olympus and the mountains of Pieria.
In the Mountains of Pieria it crosses the peak "Flambouro", "The Plateau of Avdella", the villages of Ano and Mesea Milia, reaching Kato Milia.
As it continues its way towards Olympus it passes through the villages of Lofos, Vrondou, Karitsa and Dion before reaching Litochoro.
From Litochoro it passes through the magnificent "Enipeas Gorge" and the old monastery of Agios Dionisios. (4 hours). It then follows the route "Prionia" - shelter "Spilios Agapitos" - point "Scala" - peak "Skolio", ending this section of its route at the village of Kokkinoplos on the Thessalia side of the mountain.
From here it continues towards Southern Greece, reaching the Taygetos mountains in the Peloponnese and on to the "White Mountains" in Crete.
A revitalisation of the senses in the birthplace of Alexander the Great.
Imagine yourself in a pool amidst precipice rocks, natural waterfalls and wild vegetation. Feel the soothing warmth of the water (37⁰C) taking the strain off your body, and let your eyes wander around the verdant gorge of the water stream of Áyios Nikólaos (Saint Nicolas) locally known as Thermopótamos (= hot river). In the springtime, breath in the galore of natural aromas in a feast of green, where even the branches of the trees (mainly planes and willows) are all covered with covetous ivy. In the winter, relish the stimulating sensation of the 37 degrees in the outdoor pool, the stunning turquoise spot that stands out in the white and cold.
In the pregnant with history district of Pella, the capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia, the eternal beauty of Greek nature will embrace your desire for wellness and healthiness.
Home to your sensational holiday will be Loutráki, also known as Pózar, an area situated at 110 km from Thessaloniki and only 40 km from Edessa, the capital of Pella and one of the most beautiful cities of Greece thanks to the water streams that run through it and rush over the cliffs to form two waterfalls, with the higher and more spectacular one at 70 m.
At the foot of Kaimaktsalan Mountain, the thermal baths facilities of Pózar comprise 48 individual baths, 6 indoor pools, the outdoor pool (12x25m) hamams, jacuzzi and spa services. Recommended for rheumatic, dermatological, gynecological, and respiratory and circulatory system conditions, the hot springs of Pózar are beneficiary for everybody’s health and well-being not just while bathing in them, but also when drinking their water. Still, that’s just half as natural and healthy as you can go
Need an adrenaline rush?
• Hit the trails connecting the thermal baths with Vóras Kaimáktsalan Mt. along the thermal river, go climbing or mountaineering, or follow off-road trails.
• Run up the wooden staircase to discover the 16 prehistoric caves hidden in the gorge.
• Take a walk in the nearby Dark Forest, one of the most beautiful forests in Greece, which owes its name to the density of the trees that let no sun light reach the ground. Tradition has it that Alexander the Great had had timber cut here for the fearful weapon of the Macedonian army, the 6m long spear called “sárissa”.
• Bird watching is regularly on the agenda too. In spring, don’t be surprised even if you make out some pink in the distance: it will be flamingos!
• Last but not least, a sure thrill awaits the ski lovers at Kaimaktsalan ski resort, the most highly placed in Greece at 2.300 m.
Fine hotels and snug guesthouses, all affordable, will cater for your accommodation. If you plan a day visit, don’t miss out on a meal here: fish from the Vegorítida lake and game animals from the forest will honour your choice. But your acquaintance with the local taste will remain incomplete unless you take a sip of the famous local wine, “Ksinómavro”, a red wine of rich sour taste from the nearby town of Amínteo, and origin of the chic pink champagne of the area.
At the end of your trip you’ll need some key words to list your holiday under. Why don’t you try the contrasting yet absolutely challenging terms “relaxation” and “vitality”? That’s exactly what Pózar is all about!