Thrace to Thessaly

An ancient land covered by virgin forests and fascinating wildlife, Thrace & Thessaly are blessed with ancient castles, ruined towers, bridges dating back to the Middle Ages and villages built harmoniously with the stunning environment and nature blending perfectly with the orphic mysteries of antiquity that still survives the passage of time. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Experience the ancient UNESCO sites of Thrace & Thessaly

Stay in refined and exemplary boutique accommodations

Experience the charm of locals through its wine and gastronomy

ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVE KAVALA

We arrive into Kavala Alexander the Great Airport where we begin our discovery of Kavala, one of the most beautiful coastal cities in Greece founded in the late 7th Century by settlers from Thassos, to take advantage of rich gold and silver mines, which were exploited by Phillip II of Macedonia. Kavala flourished under the Roman and Byzantine Empires as a crossroad between Thessaloniki and Constantinople. Enjoy a walking tour where we wander through ancient cobblestone streets in the Old Town, admiring the incredible feats of the Kavala Aqueduct, constructed in the 16th Century at the height of the Ottoman Empire where it not only was designed as a water supply system for the Thracian peninsula but also acts as a defensive wall against invaders. Thereafter, continue to the medieval fortress of Kavala Castle surrounded by four towers and the highest point of the city - the central tower from which you can see amazing views of the city and the Aegean Sea. 

 

Finally, we transfer to our fairy-tale hotel, the Imaret, an intimate luxurious hospitality property, located within the historical monument. Built in 1817, it is an unexpected oasis of tranquility and superior service. The monument is a rare example in Europe, a masterpiece of late Ottoman architecture. 

Overnight: Imaret, Kavala

Meals: NIL

DAY 2: KAVALA (EXCURSION TO PHILIPPI & THE WINERIES OF DRAMA)

Today, we start the morning with a short drive and visit to the ancient Archaeological site of Philippi, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Renamed by Philip II of Macedon in 356 BC, marvel at the ruins of the once-great city that was part of the "Via Egnatia". We explore this ancient wonder in depth visiting highlights such as the 4th Century BC Ancient Theatre of Philippi - one of the largest in Greece, the ancient agora, forum, remnants of churches before we visit the Archaelogical Museum of Philippi to discover the ancient treasures found at the historic site. 

Thereafter, a short drive away takes us into the mesmerizing winelands of Drama, home to some of the finest terroir and grape varieties in Greece that has produced revered wines for the ancient Thracian path. On a dynamic wine visit arrangement, we enjoy a visit to some incredible wine estates to sample the astonishing wines of Thrace. 

Overnight: Imaret

Meals: Breakfast 

DAY 3: KAVALA / CHALKIDIKI

We leave Kavala today for a drive to the ancient Archaeological site of Amphipolis, purposefully built by the Athenians in 437 BC to control the mines of Thrace, but passed to the Spartans during the first phase of the Peloponnesian War.  After that Amphipolis remained under the influence of the Spartans. A last attempt  recovery of the Athenians in 358 BC failed and the next year was occupied by Philip, father of Alexander the Great and became part of the Kingdom of Macedon. Amphipolis was also the place where Alexander the Great would prepare for his campaigns leading to his invasion of Asia. Enjoy an insightful visit around the grounds and ruins that still remains today while marveling at the unique Lion of Amphipolis monument, tombs and burial mounds in this storied city. 

Later, we continue along the Strymonian Gulf of the Aegean Sea into the Chalkidiki Peninsula, unique for its trident-shaped geography, blessed with stunning beaches and home to incredible historic destinations. We stop to visit the village of Stagira, the ancient birthplace of Aristotle, one of the greatest philosophers in history and the tutor of Alexander the Great. While learning about the storied fables of Stagira, admire the ancient ruins, fortification, ancient agora, sanctuary that used to be all part of the flourishing city during the days of Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great. Finally, we arrive at the Avaton Luxury Villas Resort, a Relais & Chateaux property we spend the next 2 nights. 

Overnight: Avaton Luxury Villas Resort, Chalkidiki

Meals: Breakfast

DAY 4: CHALKIDIKI (BOAT EXCURSION TO MOUNT ATHOS & OURANOUPOLI)

We set off this morning on a private yacht for an excursion to the sacred Mount Athos, a UNESCO World Heritage site and spiritual capital of the Orthodox Christian world, consisting of 20 monasteries and approximately 2,000 monks - home to the oldest surviving monastic community in the world where the way of life for the monks is practically unchanged since the first monks arrived in the ninth century. Most of the monks live within the walls of their chosen monastery, but others choose to live in complete isolation, away from any distractions. Since women are not allowed within 500 metres of the shore, and even female animals are prohibited from walking on Mount Athos. This is because the Virgin Mary is said to have visited the peninsula and prayed to have it as her own. The best way to witness the stunning monasteries and amazing coastal nature is by the sea where we can enjoy insightful stories about the monks' celibacy and monastic life while tucking into your picnic on your yacht. 

We then return back on land to visit the Byzantine village of Ouranoupoli, adorned with a pleasant fishing village atmosphere and stunning medieval buildings such as the Prosforios Tower and the Frangocastro before returning back to the Avaton Luxury Villas Resort. 

Visit Mount Athos on Land:

Applicable only for male visitors over 18 years of age where Diamonitirion permits are only issued daily for 10 non-orthodox visitors. Application for permits are reserved 6 months in advance and are not guaranteed - subject to availability. 

Overnight: Avaton Luxury Villas Resort, Chalkidiki

Meals: Breakfast & Picnic Lunch

DAY 5: CHALKIDIKI / THESSALONIKI

Our adventures in the Chalkidiki continues today as we leave the Avaton Luxury Villas Resort for a pleasant drive and stop at the ancient archaeological site of Olynthus, once the most important city in the Chalkidiki pre-Hellenistic times before it was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC. Continue next to the stunning formations of the Petralona Cave with numerous stalactites and stalagmites, spacious cave chambers and corridors that amazes travelers with its natural history as well as pre-civilization settlement of early humans. 

We then depart the Chalkidiki Peninsula to arrive in Thessaloniki - second-largest city in Greece at the crossroads of many ancient civilizations and cultures. We begin our tour around the White Tower, the Galerius Arch, the Rotunda monument, the charming Old Town and the ancient city walls. On a walking tour, you will also discover the Agios Demetrius Byzantine Church which is the most important church of Thessaloniki for religious, historical and artistic reasons renowned for its underground ancient crypt that was discovered after the fire of 1917. Finally, we will arrive in The Excelsior Hotel where we spend the night. 

Overnight: The Excelsior Hotel, Thessaloniki

Meals: Breakfast

DAY 6: THESSALONIKI / PELLA / VERGINA / KALAMBAKA

Leaving Thessaloniki today, we continue our Thracian journey to ancient Archaelogical site of Pella - historical birthplace of Alexander the Great where we peer into the rich history of the Macedonian state capital, a bustling metropolis of the Classical period. A number of excavations of the site reveal the ancient city’s majestic grandeur. Visit the monumental palatial complex that occupies the northernmost hill of the city, and covers an area of 60.000 square meters and wander around the city’s commercial and manufacturing centre, the ancient agora, which was in fact the biggest of the ancient world. Be impressed by the outstanding mosaic floors that used to decorate the city's grand mansions depicting scenes of epic battles at the New Archaeological Museum of Pella

Continue thereafter to Vergina, a dedicated UNESCO World Heritage site and ancient capital of the Macedonian Kingdom, where nowadays is home to one of the most beautiful museums of Greece, the Royal Tomb of Philip II of Macedon - father of Alexander the Great. 

From here, we continue south officially leaving the Thracian territories into the province of Thessaly as we enter into the town of Kalambaka, surrounded by the majestic cliffs of Meteora. Arrive at the Divani Meteora Hotel where we spend the next 2 nights. 

Overnight: Divani Meteora Hotel, Kalambaka

Meals: Breakfast

DAY 7: KALAMBAKA (THE MONASTERIES OF METEORA)

A day of epic proportions as we discover the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Monasteries of Meteora, originally settled by monks who lived in caves within the rocks during the 11th Century. But as the times became more unsure during an age of Turkish occupation, they climbed higher and higher up the rock face until they were living on the inaccessible peaks where they were able to build by bringing material and people up with ladders and baskets and build the first monasteries. Today is a full day to discover at your disposal and style (hiking or an addition of an aerial perspective from the skies) the monasteries:

Agia Triada (Holy Trinity): Founded by the monk Dometius in the 15th century and was the monastery used for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. It is decorated with wall paintings from the 18th century by the brothers Antonios and Nikolaos. To get to the monastery you walk up 140 steps cut into the rock, past the church of Saint John the Baptis with its wall paintings from 1682. (CLOSED ON Thursdays)

Varlaam Monastery: Founded in 1517 by Theophanis and Nektarios Apsaradas from Ioanina though the first to establish a monastery here was an ascetic anchorite named Varlaam. The monastery houses an important collection of relics, intricately carved wooden crosses, icons, embroidered epitaphoi and many other ecliastical treasures. It also contains frescos by the well-known post Byzantine iconographer Frangos Katelanos. (CLOSED ON Fridays) 

Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas: Built in the 16th Century by Dionysious, the Metropolitan of Larissa and named after an old Patron. The Katholikon is decorated in wall paintings by the renowned Cretan Iconographer Theophanis Bathas-Strelitzas. (OPEN EVERYDAY)

Roussanou Monastery: Founded in 1545 by Joasaph and Maximos, two brothers from Epirus who built it on the ruins of an even older church. In 1988 the monastery was converted to a convent To get to this monastery you cross a small bridge from another peak. The church contains outstanding wall paintings, wood iconstasis, panel icons and icon stands. (CLOSED ON Wednesdays)

Megalo Meteoro (Metamorphisis): The first church of the Transfiguration is the best known of the Monasteries and is built upon the highest rock. Founded by Athanasios the Meteorite, one of the most well-known figures in Orthodox monasticism, work was begun before 1382 and later completed by the Monk Joasaph. Because the Serbian Emporor Symeon Uros gave the monastry all his wealth and became a monk it became the richest and most powerful of all the monasteries and contains some of the most beautiful wall paintings and post Byzantine Mural art that can be found in Greece as well as a museum collection in the refectory. The katholikon has a twelve sided dome 24 meters in height with a striking series of frescos by Theophanis which depect the persecution of Christians by the Romans in somewhat gruesome detail. (CLOSED ON Tuesdays and Wednesdays)

Agios Stefanos: The only convent in Meteora and has an unimpeded view of the plain towards Kalambaka. It is not known when the old church was built but the present katholikon dedicated to Saint Haralambos was built in 1798. The saint's skull which was given to the nuns as a gift from Prince Vladislav of Wallachia is kept here. The church of Saint Stefanos has a timber roof and wall paintings by the priest Ioannis from Stagoi painted in 1545. (OPEN EVERYDAY)

Overnight: Divani Meteora Hotel, Kalambaka

Meals: Breakfast

DAY 8: DEPARTURE KALAMBAKA

Options abound as we have the possibilities to head for the hinterlands of the Epirus region into the stone villages of Zagoria, the mesmerizing villages of Mount Pelion in the Thessaly region, the intoxicating islands of Skiathos and Skopelos or return to Athens via the astonishing UNESCO World Heritage sites of Delphi and the Hosios Loukas in Distomo. 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

The Imaret was originally built by Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt in 1817, as a theological college for Imams. Converted into a 21st Century luxury hotel and blending with the rustic past, the Imaret sets the tone and ambiance for a delightful stay to enjoy the grandeur and heritage of Kavala. 

Imaret, Kavala

Avaton Luxury Hotel & Villas, a proud member of Relais & Châteaux, is a stylish and contemporary beachfront escape overlooking the sparkling turquoise waters of Athos Peninsula in Chalkidiki consisting of an exclusive collection of 36 luxury rooms, suites and villas. Most of them have private pools with in-built sunbeds. 

Avaton Luxury Villas Resort, Chalkidiki

Welcome to The Excelsior Hotel, a space where tradition from yesteryear meets modern day luxuries. Situated in the heart of Thessaloniki centre, where monuments and sights are yours to explore, we invite you to experience Thessaloniki in a unique way through our outstanding hospitality, unbeatable atmosphere, luxurious accommodation and culinary delights.

The Excelsior Hotel, Thessaloniki

Divani Meteora Hotel, Kalambaka

As one of the Divani Collection luxury hotels in Greece, Divani Meteora Hotel offers guests the opportunity to enjoy traditional Greek hospitality in a contemporary setting. The fully renovated hotel in Meteora is surrounded by immense natural beauty, the religious rocks of Meteora, encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to come and escape. The hotel offers a stunning locale from which, one can experience one of the natural wonders of the world, practically in front of their room window.

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