Introducing Northern Greece
With its astonishing wealth of natural attractions, and a unique blend of histories and cultures, Northern Greece is arguably the country’s most fascinating region, yet one that remains relatively undiscovered. Its major metropolis, Thessaloniki, offers outstanding eateries, nightlife and shopping, while towns like Xanthi and Komotini in Thrace, Kastoria and Edessa in Macedonia, and Ioannina and Metsovo in Epiros offer an enthralling mix of traditional architecture, historical sites and welcoming locals.
The waters of Northern Greece are equally enticing, ranging from Halkidiki’s hidden Aegean beaches to the tranquil Prespa Lakes and Evros Delta marshes, all home to rare bird populations. Other waterways, such as the Nestorio River in western Macedonia and the Ardas in eastern Thrace, host rockin’ summer festivals. The stylish Mediterranean resort of Parga, on the aquamarine Ionian Sea, has great sandy beaches and nightlife.
Although a location of very ancient civilisations, Northern Greece is one of the modern country’s ‘younger’ parts. It was up for grabs during the turbulent decades leading to the Balkan Wars (1912–13) and through WWI, as regional entities and outside powers vied for control. This mixed legacy can be experienced in ways culinary and cultural alike. Indeed, getting off the beaten track in Greece’s Balkan north brings many unexpected rewards for the curious traveller.
The biggest and most diverse region in Greece, Macedonia (mah-keh-do-nee-ah) also boasts the country’s second city, stylish Thessaloniki. It’s a place with both natural beauty and a deep history, and the two are often intertwined. Mt Olympus, Greece’s highest peak (2918m), is both the fabled refuge of the ancient Greek gods and an excellent hiking destination, while the isolated monasteries of Mt Athos, deep amid wilderness on the third finger of the Halkidiki Peninsula, have constituted the beating heart of Byzantine spirituality for over a millennium.
Despite being on the mainland, Macedonia also draws big crowds in summer to its beaches on Halkidiki’s first two fingers (Kassandra and Sithonia), though you can still find some idyllic, unvisited stretches of sand there too. Beyond Florina, far up in the northwest of Macedonia, brown bears amble through forested mountains that descend to placid Prespes, aquaeous home to colourful pelicans and magnificent medieval churches. Other inimitable attractions are the palm-lined port town of Kavala, crowned by a castle; the ancient Macedonian capital of Pella; and Vergina, where the Macedonian kings were buried.
Northern Greece destination guides
Ionian Islands Bike & Boat
Discover by bike and boat the Ionian islands including Ithaca, Cephalonia and Corfu
Zagoria, the Secret Villages
Explore the Zagoria Villages in the Pindos Mountains of Greece