A stone arch bridge in Konitsa typical of those found in the Pindos Mountains
A stone arch bridge in Konitsa typical of those found in the Pindos Mountains

RoverTreks is on Big Blend Radio talking about Greece, your security in cyberspace, and world travel. Please check out the links at the end of this story if you'd like to hear the show.

Greece

Speaking of Greece, here's a sneak preview of our upcoming pieces here and in print and online media. They stem from our recent 2-month excursion all across Macedonia — the real Macedonia — Greece — spanning the northern border where the country meets Bulgaria and Albania.

Halkidiki

Halkidiki, Greece
Halkidiki, Greece

Smart travelers are beginning to figure out destinations in Northern Greece are the new in places to visit. They flock to the three finger peninsulas of Halkidiki just south and due east of Thessaloniki, to contemplate life in the lap of luxury on the Aegean Sea.  They find it in the blue flag beaches at the Ammon Zeus Hotel near Kallithea or the Eagles Palace Hotel and Resort near Ouranoupolis not far from the centuries-old monastic retreats at Mount Athos.

The Blue Flag Beach At The Ammon Zeus Hotel
The Blue Flag Beach At The Ammon Zeus Hotel, Kallithea, Greece
A view of the pool and the Aegean at the Eagles Palace Hotel
A view of the pool and the Aegean at the Eagles Palace Hotel, Skala, Greece

Kavala

Travelers who visit the ancient UNESCO World Heritage site at Phillippi walk down Hellenistic era roads of gargantuan granite blocks. As they explore the past with an eye toward the east, they'll find ancient empires and modern history collide to their delight at Kavala.

Here, you can see the old aqueduct Karmares, explore a Roman fort, visit an Ottoman-era Imaret, and eat at To Araliki, (The Peanut), the best tavern in the city serving authentic Greek dishes with Rebetika playing in the background, just like it was in this country 50 years ago. You can do this all in a day. And you can stay at the Airhotel Galaxy Hotel at the port in downtown Kavala and walk to all of these sights easily.

Partial View of the harbor at Kavala, Greece as shot from the rooftop restaurant at the Airotel Galaxy Hotel
Partial View of the harbor at Kavala, Greece as shot from the rooftop restaurant at the Airotel Galaxy Hotel

Drama

Visitors also seek and savor the best wines in the world near Drama thanks to the innovations of a new generation of nine provincial winegrowers who concoct their wonders not far from the ancestral palace of King Phillip II, the father of Alexander the Great. The Chateau Nico Lazaridis Winery near Drama represents a best in class production operation of wines and is a must visit experience for the connoisseur. Greece is now home to about 700 winegrowers, all of whom produce fine wines with distinctive tastes and the variants one would expect from such diverse soils across this mainland and island culture. If you visit, make sure you stay at the Hydrama Grand Hotel in Drama. It's an old tobacco warehouse converted into the most upscale, contemporary hotel in all of Greece.

Federico Lazaridis, The Niko Lazaridis Winery, Doxato, Greece
Federico Lazaridis, The Niko Lazaridis Winery, Doxato, Greece

Serres

Travel anywhere around Greece and you’ll encounter Greek Orthodox churches and religious retreats with references to the Apostle Paul and Saint John just about everywhere. Northern Greece is no different.

At Serres, you’ll see signs for ιερον ησυχαστηριον τιμιου προδρομου ακριτοχωριου (the sanctuary of the honorary precursor), a common name for any one of several religious retreats by the same name in the region. It’s confusing. But sometimes a quest to find answers for one topic will lead to an opportunity with delightful outcomes.

On our way to Lake Kerkini we stopped at this glorious monastery to resolve our confusion. This led to a delightful talk with Sister Jacovi for more than an hour about a wide variety of subjects including history, culture, languages, and education. She even offered to take us to a nearby village so we could see the water buffalo native to only this area. We had to decline to stay on our travel schedule.

Monastery near Lake Kerkini, Greece
The monastery Kritoxori in Sidirocastro, near Lake Kerkini, Greece

We miss Sister Jacovi and hope to get a chance to return and finish our visit with her!

Sister Yacovi and the author
Sister Yacovi and the author

Thessaloniki

Not all who visit seek to relax, sightsee or partake culinary delights. Visitors from countries allied against the Axis powers during World Wars I and II come to discover the last known places where family friends, relatives, and townsmen, stood in defiance toe to toe with the Greeks, in the face of tyranny, in the defense of freedom and liberty, along the borders of Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey, to thwart Bolshevik communism, Fascist expansionism, and Muslim incursions to the western world  — attacks with roots in civilizations that date from antiquity.  They are buried here by the thousands — tens of thousands — in Thessaloniki, Doirani, and dozens of small villages like Skra that dot the countryside along the Northern border of Greece spanning Turkey in the East to Corfu on the Dalmatian coast in the West.

The Military Cemetary, Thessaloniki, Greece
The Military Cemetary, Thessaloniki, Greece

There is so much culture and history to absorb in Thessaloniki that one could spend a lifetime to do so. Everywhere you walk, you're likely to step on or over artifacts from the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empire periods. To be sure, a tour of this city could be exhausting for a short trip of a week or two.

If you visit, give yourself a break with a stay at the 5-star Hotel Nikopolis about 8.2 km from town. It's close enough for you to go in town in minutes. But far enough away to allow you to relax from the intensity of the city. The Nikopolis offers a true 5-star experience with world-class restaurants, a 400+ person conferencing capability, a 1,700-meter swimming pool, and world-class service.

If you register for a stay, be sure to stop by and say hello to the charming and personable Galatea Kotidou Kaliakatsou. Yes, she's the boss, and those of you from the America's will be happy to know she lived in Atlanta, Georgia once upon a time and is a capable host with a breadth of world knowledge to serve the widest range of business travelers and vacationers.

You can tell we're travel writers. We're in "field dress" about to set out for the day climbing around sites in Thessaloniki to fly our drone
Karla, Galetea Kaliakatsou, and the author. You can tell we're travel writers. We're in “field dress” about to set out for the day climbing around sites in Thessaloniki to fly our drone.

Kilkis

One of the best places to scout out the battleground sites and cemeteries is from the town of Kilkis, about a 1-hour drive North of Thessaloniki. Its the perfect staging point to see the WW I battleground sites at Doirani and Skra.

You can stay at the Eviridiki Hotel, an upscale, contemporary, western style hotel that is the just the right size for groups that seek to explore the battlegrounds in the region. Ask for the owner, Fivos Hatzivasiliou. He has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and speaks English fluently given a lengthy tour with the Canadian Space Agency in a previous life as a Hellenic Air Force Officer. He's the perfect host.

The Author with Fivos Hatzivasiliou, Owner, Evridiki Hotel, Kilkis, Greece
The Author with Fivos Hatzivasiliou, Owner, Evridiki Hotel, Kilkis, Greece

While you're in Kilkis, make sure you visit an ancient cave dating from 29,000 B.C. and home to the then indigenous spotted hyena in Europe. It's one of the few caves in Greece where you are allowed to take photos.

The 29,000 year old cave of the spotted hyena in Kilkis, Greece
The 29,000 year old cave of the spotted hyena in Kilkis, Greece

Veria City

Those on pilgrimages and the trail of their religious past will find Veria City at the crossroads of multicultural religious history. It’s an 8,000-year-old Neolithic settlement — the oldest in Europe. It’s 8.2 km away from present-day Vergina — ancient Aiges — home of the Royal Tombs of King Phillip the II and his son Alexander the Great, the first sovereigns of a united Greece stemming from 337 BC.

Veria City is known throughout the region as “little Jerusalem” presenting 48 churches, elegant homes in the Jewish quarter with a centuries-old synagogue, a new archaeological museum, and a Byzantine museum. Jews, Muslims, and Christians have co-existed in the city since the 16th century.  Ask a resident of this city if it’s a great place to live and they are likely to regale you with the multicultural heritage and history of religious tolerance woven into the cultural fabric of the area.

The author speaking with Evi Meska at the old Jewish community and Synagogue in Veria City
The author speaking with Evi Meska at the old Jewish community and Synagogue in Veria City

You can stay at the Hotel Olganos VL, the best boutique hotel in the center of the old city only a few paces away from the oldest Jewish Synagogue. Both the hotel and the synagogue are only 5 minutes away from the best restaurant in the city — 12 Grada.

Left to Right: The Author, Yanni, the Owner-Chef at 12 Grada, and the witty, accomodating John Valachis from the Veria City Tourism Bureau
Left to Right: The Author, Yanni, the Owner-Chef at 12 Grada, and the witty, accomodating John Valachis from the Veria City Tourism Bureau

Mount Olympus

Are you the semi-action type looking for a getaway that offers historical sites, mountain hikes, fine dining, and swank digs? If so, you will find the Cavo Olympo Hotel and Resort the perfect spot to stay about a one hour drive south of Thessaloniki near Litochoro. Here, you can climb Mount Olympus at daybreak and return to the Cavo at nightfall to bask in the sunset overlooking the Aegean. You can eat at the hotels' 5-star restaurant or savor the specialty offerings at a Taverna like Aiolos at a nearby village. A 15-minute drive from the Cavo you can spend an entire day surveying the ruins at the Temple of Dion. Or, you can turn south for a 25-minute drive and tour Platomon Castle near Peiria.

A view of the Aegean coastline from Platamon Castle, Peiria, Greece
A view of the Aegean coastline from Platamon Castle, Peiria, Greece

Kipi-The Northern Pindos National Park

For the true outdoors type, a visit to the western edge of the Northern Pindos National Park not far from Ioannina is in order. You can stay in Kipi, a small village of about 30 full-time inhabitants about 50 km away from Ioannina, and set out to explore the treacherous gorges, steep mountains, and stone arch bridges found throughout the area. You can live in the lap of luxury at the KIPI Suites.  And from there, you can raft through whitewater, kayak, rappel, run an ATV, or drive a 4×4 Jeep around the area at Riverland near Konitsa, not far from the Albanian border.

The KipI Suites in the Pindos Mountains
The KipI Suites in the Pindos Mountains
The author with Stavros Gotsis, Manager of the rustic, classic KIPI Suites.
The author with Stavros Gotsis, Manager of the rustic, classic and elegant KIPI Suites.

A trip to Northern Greece offers something for everyone. Go to experience some of the best getaways at resorts with blue flag beaches on the Aegean Sea, retreats to the mountains, farm-to-table fresh food, and a distinct trademark calm very different from the hustle and bustle of the Greek islands during the high season.

You’ll see more links here over the coming months about this fascinating destination.

How To Get There

We'll offer up more details for travel tips with specific pieces later. But here's a few quick tips.

Fly into Thessaloniki International Airport (SKG). Before you go, book a rental car through Economy Car Rentals. We've had good luck using this rental car portal worldwide. For example, our car rental in Greece for 6-weeks cost around $1,100.

Several places we cite in this story range from 1 to 1.5-hour drives from Thessaloniki. They are Kallithea, Kilkis, Veria City, Mount Olympus and Kavala. A trip to Kipi from Thessaloniki is about a 3.5-hour drive through more than 50 tunnels if your route includes a jaunt through Ioannina.

Greece is a small country and easy to get around. Rent a car and go. You'll enjoy the experience.

Big Blend Radio Links

The RoverTreks radio show is featured on BlendRadioandTV.com and will be in the upcoming 2019 issue (Feb-Apr) of Big Blend Radio & TV Magazine, and in an upcoming Big Blend e-Newsletter. The show is also published on Spreaker.comSoundcloud.comYoutube.com, and on BlogTalkRadio.com which syndicates and distributes out to a number of podcast outlets including iTunes.comTuneIn.comStitcher.comOvercast.fmMixCloud.comListenNotes.com, Spotify, and Player.fm, etc.

Here are the main links to the podcast, article and video (all easy to use on social media):
– Podcast on BlendRadioandTV.com 
– Podcast on Spreaker.com 
– Podcast on SoundCloud.com 
– Podcast on BlogTalkRadio.com 
– Podcast on YouTube.com 

Greek Tourism Organizations: Thessaloniki

Doucas Tours & Travel
8, El. Venizelou Street
54624 Thessaloniki Greece
Tel: 0030 2310 269984, 633404
Email: info@doucastours.gr
Web: http://www.doucastours.gr

ETEAK
Non-Profit Civil Partnership of the Chamber of Kilkis
Steinimachou 2, PC 61100, Kilkis, Greece
Tel: +30-23410 24580
Web: https://www.enjoykilkis.gr/en/

Development Agency of Kilkis
Solonos 13, Kilkis, Greece
Tel: +30-23410 25305
Email: anki@anki.gr
Web: www.anki.gr

Halkidiki Tourism Organization
6300 Poligeros, Halkidiki, Greece
Web: http://www.visit-halkidiki.gr/

The Municipality of Veria
Department of Tourism
46 Mitropoleos Street
Veria 59132
Email: tourism@veria.gr
Web: www.discoververia.gr

PASS PARTOUT Tourism Marketing, DMC
8, El. Venizelou Street
54624 Thessaloniki Greece
Tel: 0030 2310 269984, 633404
Email: info@pass2greece.gr

Greek Hosts: Hotels

Airotel Galaxy Hotel
27 Eleftherios Venizelos Street,
65302 Kavala, Greece
Tel: +30-2510 224812
Email: reservations@airhotel.gr
Web: https://www.airotel.gr/en/Galaxy-Hotel-790.htm

Ammon Zeus Hotel
Kallithea
Chalkidiki 63077
Greece
Tel: +30 23740 22356
Email: reservations@ammon-zeus.gr
https://ammon-zeus.gr/

Cavo Olympo Resort & Spa
Plaka, Litiochoro,
60200 Pieria, Greece
Tel: +30 23520 22222
Email: info@cavoolympo.gr
Web: http://www.cavoolympo.gr/en/

Eagles Palace Hotel
Ouranoupolis
630 75, Greece
Tel.: +30 23774 40050
Direct: +30 23774 40060/40070
Direct: +30 23770 31070
Fax.: +30 23770 31383
Email: reservations@eaglespalace.gr
Web: www.torhotelgroup.gr

Elpida Resort & Spa
Valley of Agioi Anargyroi
62122 Serres, Greece
Tel: 23210 20000
Email: res@elpidahotel.eu

Evridiki Hotel
Kilkis, Greece
15 Solonos Str. – Postal Code 61100
Phone: +30 23410 22512
Fax: +30 23410 23586
Email: info@evridikihotel.gr
Web: https://evridikihotel.gr/el/

Hotel Nikopolis Thessaloniki
Asklipiou 16-18, Thessaloniki
P.C.57001
Thessaloniki, Greece 2310 401099
Reservations: reservations.nikopolis@hotel-nikopolis.com
Tel: +30 2310 401074
Tel: +30 2310 401000
Email: info.nikopolis@hotel-nikopolis.com
Web: https://www.hotel-nikopolis.com/

Hotel Olganos VL Boutique Hotel
7-10th Merarchias
Veria, Greece
Τel: +30 2331072226
Email: email: olganosvl@gmail.com • email: info@olganos.com

Hydrama Grand Hotel
Agias Varvaras 11
66131, Drama, Greece
Tel: +30-25210 33322
Email: info@hghotel.gr
Web: hydramagrandhotel.gr

KIPI Suites
Kipi-Zagori
Kipi 440 10, Greece
Tel: +30 2653 071995
Web: https://www.ariahotels.gr/en/content/kipi/welcome-8
Email: kipisuites@ariahotels.gr

 

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