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Region A - Central and Eastern Macedonia and Thrace

From Thessaloniki to Halkidiki and from Kavala to Thassos and Alexandroupolis

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Coasts lined with wonderful, easily accessible beaches but also mountains for those who seek the lure of high peaks; lakes, but also rivers, gentle reminders of the earth's fertility; small towns and major cities but also endless stretches of green fields and dense forests: all these are part of the attractive picture presented by Macedonia and Thrace, a region full of history and tradition.

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City sights

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The city stands at the back of the closed bay with which it shares its name and which leads into the Thermaic Gulf. Day and night, it welcomes the visitor, offering hotels for every pocketbook, excellent cuisine and a wide variety of entertainment opportunities.

To get an idea of the city, a walk along its waterfront is a must. Heading east from the port, you come to the White Tower, the city's symbol. This cylindrical structure, 32m. high, was erected in 1430 by the Venetians and constituted a part of their coastal fortification system. A tourist attraction in its own right, its interest is doubled by the Exhibition of thessaloniki's Art and History housed within.

Seeing the White Tower will undoubtedly spur you on to the other monuments in the city. Start with the Arch of Galerius, erected in honour of that emperor; the church of St. George, better known as the Rotontda, built in the early 3rd century during Galerius' reign; St. Dimitrios, the largest church in Greece, dedicated to the city's defender and patron; if you have time, there are many more Byzantine churches as well.

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Kassandra and Sithonia

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There are two of the prongs of the Halkidiki peninsula, which has become so popular in recent years, because of its extraordinary beauty. Rarely has the combination of green pie forest, sparkling blue water and golden sand been blended in such a beguiling fashion as on the coasts of Kassandra, Sithonia, and Athos, the monastic state, and most beautiful of all, but off limits to women and not visitable without official permission.

As you proceed along the shores of the Thermaic Gulf, you come to small resorts, which are growing constantly. But don't miss the chance to explore the interior as well, to take a look at Petralona and its famous cave, which on its discovery in 1960 yielded up some Paleolithic finds of exceptional significance - bones and teeth of bears, lions, and other animals over 600.000 years old, pieces of human skeletons, stone tools, and most exciting of all to scientists a Neanderthal skull. The finds are no longer present but the cave itself is a marvel of huge halls and stunning stalactites and stalagmites.

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From Halkidiki to Kavala

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Before you set out for Polygyros, don't forget to buy some of Halkidiki's famous thyme - scented honey. A small pretty town, Polygyros is the capital of Halkidiki prefecture; it boasts a wonderful market ehere you might want to pick up some of the district's lovely handwoden fabrics. You can also get here by the main road direct from Thessaloniki, and we'll join this road north of Polygyros on our way east.

After Arnaia lies Stayira, where the great philosopher Aristotle was born and where are ancient mines and medieval buildings to poke around. Next comes Stratoni, at the entrance to the Gulf of Ierissos. From here, we'll head south first to take a look at the ruins of ancient Akanthos at  Ierissos and then move on to Nea Roda, where Xerxes cut a canal in 480 BC so that his invasion fleet would not have to round the Athos promontory. Next comes Tripiti with the wooded islet of Amoliani opposite, its pretty beaches linked to the mainland by a little ferryboat. Once we've reached here, we might as well proceed a futher south to Ouranoupolis, an unspoilt town that's been named a landmark, where we can enjoy its beach and visit its Byzantine tower.

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Thrace and Thassos

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We head back to Kavalla in order to continue our trip eastwards. We pass Nea Karvali and its beaches, and a bit beyond Gravouna, we can turn right for Chrysoupolis to see the wonderful forest on the banks of the river Nestos. Why not drive as far as its delta, one of the most important wetlands in Europe. The road from Chrysoupolis also leads to Keramoti, its picturesque fishing village and port, the closest departure point for the island of Thassos.

Leaving our tour of Thassos for later, however, we continue along the road for Xanthi, Komotini and Alexandroupolis to see a litle of Thrace. After Xanthi, we take the road for the coast which brings us to Lake Vistonia and the lovely bay of Porto Lagos, considered by some to be one of the prettiest places in Greece. On the trip of land that separates the lake from the bay, Porto Lagos and its opposite number Fanari to the east are epitomes of picturesque deaside hamlets.Pressing onwards along the main road, we will see the sea again when we reach Evros prefecture at Makri.

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