Outdoor adventure in East Macedonia and Thrace
As we launch our Green Traveller's Guide to East Macedonia and Thrace, Sarah Baxter selects a range of outdoor adventure activities in this beautiful part of northern Greece.
Kayaking, Nestos Gorge
The River Nestos runs 230km from Bulgaria’s Rila Mountains into the Aegean Sea. But en route it must squeeze through the high-sided crags of the Nestos Gorge, a dramatic, wildlife-rich landscape best experienced by kayak. Local adventure operator Riverland, based in the village of Toxotes, offers a leisurely day-trip through the rocky defile that’s suitable for beginners. This 22km paddle runs from the characterful little town of Stavroupoli to Galani (near Toxotes); along the route there are plenty of opportunities for spotting wildlife – the region is a refuge for fauna and flora – as well as relaxing on river isles, enjoying a picnic lunch and jumping in for cooling dips. Those shorter on time could opt for 90-minute trip at the end of the Nestos Narrows, a short-but-sweet paddle passing rock caves and sandy shores, and navigating lush channels thick with dragonflies.
Birdwatching & boating, Evros Delta
There’s no better way to experience the serenity and biodiversity of the protected Evros Delta wetlands than on a boat trip with Christos Paschalakis. He’s been running Delta Evros Explorer here, at the easternmost reaches of Greece, for many years and knows exactly how to navigate the area’s shifting channels as well as when and where to find its most charismatic species – from Dalmatian pelicans, cormorants and herons to huge white-tailed eagles and hundred-strong flocks of blushing flamingos. His safe, modern, shallow-hulled vessels are open-sided for good viewing but have roof canopies for shelter from the sun and rain. Professional tour guides can be enlisted to come on board to help point out the astonishing array of flora and fauna, while specialist fishing and photography trips can also be arranged. delta-evros.gr
Photos: Richard Hammond
Mud-bathing, Krinides, near Kavala
There are no complicated treatments or high price tags at the Krinides Health & Wellness Centre. The ‘spa’ here has been tens of thousands of years in the making, using only the natural thermal springs and therapeutic clay to cure all manner of ailments – they are said to treat everything from skin diseases to gynaecological disorders and rheumatism. The modern stone-built bathhouses sit in peaceful landscaped parkland close to Ancient Philippi. Visitors must strip (disposable underwear can be provided), shower and then enter the mud pools; there’s one for men and one for women. It’s advised to stay submerged for around 25 minutes to let the mud work its magic before washing it off with the thermal water. There’s also a bar-tavern on site, if you fancy a post-wallow drink. The mud baths are open June to mid-October. Entrance costs just €6.
Hiking, Nestos-Rodopi Trail
Humans have been walking through the Rhodope mountains for centuries. More recently, some of those old paths have been renovated, waymarked and combined to form the Nestos-Rodopi Trail. Created as part of the Greek Paths of Culture Project, and designated a Leading Quality Trail of Europe by the European Ramblers Association, the trail comprises six sections totalling 70km, beginning in the heart of Xanthi and finishing in the village of Erymanthos. It includes a spur along the Nestos Gorge, utilising the trail cut into the cliffs in the 19th-century by workers building the railway; at the time of writing, the railway is out of action, though its 30 tunnels can still be seen. Beyond the gorge, the trail winds northwards via picturesque Stavroupoli, the ruins of Kalo Nero, Livaditis waterfall, pine and oak forest and handsome arched stone bridges.
City walking tours, Kavala
Kavala is a fascinating city. Learn more about its ancient history, 19th-century tobacco boom and modern-day fortunes on a walk around with multi-lingual guide Marianna Christoforou, who also leads tours to nearby sites. touristguides-ngreece.gr/en/meli-en/hristoforou-marianna
Sailing , Avdera
Set off across the sparkling Aegean with Avdiros Sailing. Its fleet of quality sailing boats is based at the historic port of Avdera, in easy reach of the North Aegean islands such as Thassos and Samothrace. Join a day cruise or rent a boat with or without a skipper. avdiros-sailing.gr
Sea kayaking, Thassos
Head offshore with Thassos Kayak Club for day and half-day guided paddles around the island. There are options around the coast; one of the best routes is from Skala Marion to Tryipiti (four hours), via sandy bays, white-pebble beaches, high rocks and sea caves.
Nestos Adventure Park, Galani
At their hub at Galani, on the banks of the Nestos, Riverland runs a range of adventure activities, including archery lessons, two 200m-long zip-wires and climbing on a six-metre-high outdoor wall. Kit is high standard. Perfect for kids. riverland.gr
Another option for idling through the Nestos Gorge is to travel by canoe. Based in Stavroupoli, Nero Alternative Route uses dugouts to navigate a 20km stretch of the river, led by professional guides. Ideal for families and slow-paced exploring. nestosrodopi.gr
4WD touring, Ahlada Plateau
Riverland’s 4WD tours give a great overview of the region. Trips leave from Toxotes and wind up the mountain road overlooking the plain of Xanthi to reach the wild Ahlada plateau; highlights include views into the Nestos Gorge, exploring the ruins of abandoned hillside villages and spotting herds of wild horses. riverland.gr
The google map below shows the location and details of all the places to stay, local food and drink, nearby attractions and activities in our Green Traveller's Guide to East Macedonia and Thrace
Green = Places to stay Blue = Local food & drink Yellow = Attractions Purple = Activities