Macedonia (Greece) - Ancient History and Wonderful Beaches
Made one of the most important empires by Alexander the Great, countless cultural sights bear witness to the region's chequered history today. The peninsula of Chalkidiki is particularly popular because of its wonderful beaches, crystal clear water and the wide range of water sports.
Geography - The greatest region in Greece
Macedonia is a geographical region in the north of Greece. It comprises the political regions of West Macedonia, Central Macedonia, East Macedonia and Thrace as well as the autonomous community of Athos. The capital as well as the region's economic and cultural centre is Thessaloniki. With an area of 34,178 km², Macedonia is the greatest region in Greece and has a population of 2,485,375 people. It borders on Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria in the north, on the Greek region of Epirus in the west and on Thessaly in the south. In the east, the river Nestos constitutes the border to the geographical region of Thrace. In addition, you see the Aegean Sea in the south with the Thessalian Gulf in front of the peninsula of Chalkidiki. The climate is rather continental in the north towards the Balkans and mainly Mediterranean towards the coastal areas. In comparison to the other Greek regions, the winters in Macedonia are relatively cold and rich in precipitation. Spring and summer, however, are very warm with over 2,000 hours of sunshine per year and low precipitation.
Nature - Diverse natural beauty
Macedonia is characterised by its natural diversity. It is full of thick forests with bears, gorges, caves, wonderful waterfalls and vast, juicy green, fertile plains. The highest peak in the region and the whole of the country is Mount Olympus (2,918 m). Another important mountain range is Mount Athos in the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain on Chalkidiki. Significant rivers are the Axios (76 km), the Haliacmon (322 km) and the Nestos (130 km). Important lakes are Lake Volvi (70.3 km²) and Lake Koroneia (42.8 km²).
Culture - The legacy of Alexander the Great
The ancient kingdom of Macedonia became a great power under the reign of Philip II (359-336 BC). Under his son, Alexander the Great, it reached the height of its power and territorial expansion. Today, the region does not have any official emblems but the inhabitants use the golden Vergina Sun in blue as a symbol. The folk song "Famous Macedonia" is considered the region's unofficial anthem. In the east of Macedonia, you find the beautiful seaport city of Kavala, which is the third biggest city in the region. It has direct ferry connections to Thasos and Limnos. History enthusiasts definitely get their money's worth in Macedonia. There are numerous excavation sites. Travellers can, for example, marvel at the grave furnishings of Philip II, whose grave has not been plundered. Tourist highlights are the White Tower and the town walls of Thessaloniki, the Church of Agios Dimitrios, Aristotle Square and a great number of museums and exhibitions. Examples are the State Museum of Contemporary Art, the Archaeological Museum and the Jewish Museum. On the third "finger" of the peninsula of Chalkidiki, you find the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain Athos in the mountain range of the same name (Mount Athos). It accommodates many beautiful monasteries. However, only men are allowed to enter Athos.
Experience - Enjoying Greek hospitality and dishes
Macedonia's cuisine is very traditional. The region's inhabitants grow a lot of fruit and vegetables such as watermelon and honeydew, peppers, eggplants, courgettes and olives. They use a lot of pork but also poultry and goat meat. A typical dish is bougatsa, a cream-filled puff pastry, which the city of Thessaloniki is famous for. Culture enthusiasts are advised to go on a trip to the world of the Greek Orthodox Church to gain an insight into the people's traditions and customs. There are churches everywhere, most of which are very big and richly decorated. Travellers who enjoy going shopping best visit Thessaloniki. It is equipped with several greater shopping centres like the Mediterranean Cosmos in the south of the city. Regarding nightlife, holidaymakers have to decide between different kinds of entertainment. In the rural regions, nightlife mainly takes place in the taverns, where travellers can enjoy typical Greek music, have a glass of ouzo or wine and experience Greek hospitality at first hand. Thessaloniki is filled with modern nightlife like other big European cities. It caters for all tastes, whether you like taverns, Greek restaurants or modern discos. The nightlife in the bathing resorts is particularly geared towards tourists. Worth mentioning is the nationally famous nightlife in Kallithea on Chalkidiki.
Activities - Bathing and a wide range of water sports
The region of Macedonia is particularly suited for holidays at the seaside. It has extraordinarily many and beautiful beaches. The most beautiful examples can be found in Sithonia, the so-called second "finger" of the peninsula. The Thessalian Gulf offers excellent conditions for going diving and other water sports like kayaking, scuba diving and canyoning. Travellers who enjoy going hiking should visit Pieria because it is equipped with unique hiking trails and even several huts in which you can stay overnight. One of the most famous hiking trails is the one which crosses Mount Olympus. However, it is only suited for experienced hikers because it is very challenging. Horse lovers also get their money's worth in Macedonia, for example in the Horse Park in Leptokaria. Travellers who prefer spending their time in the city should explore Thessaloniki on foot. Doing that, they will discover treasures like hidden markets.
Macedonia can easily be reached by plane via the international airport in Thessaloniki (SKG). You can take the train or car from Athens to Thessaloniki but it is advisable to fly to Athens first. The most important foreign language which is taught at school in the region is English. Therefore, travellers get along by using it.
Macedonia is particularly suited for culture enthusiasts, active holidaymakers and families. It is characterised by numerous sights and idyllic beaches. In addition, it offers a colourful nightlife.