Discover our tour of Macedonia in Greece.
You can’t separate them: Macedonia and Alexander the Great go hand in hand, and Alexander will always be in the first breath of any discussion of why you should come. But did anyone tell you how beautiful his kingdom is? Rugged mountains, their steep slopes thick with trees, make it a tough land to dominate, hard to weld together. They provide a perfect backdrop for the fertile plains of the Macedonian lowlands, the core of the ancient kingdom, a place to develop a deep and distinct culture and produce fine treasure. Beyond the plains there are the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea, inviting for us, and a gateway to the islands, but often a threat for Macedonians. And there you have the twin attractions: desperately beautiful country with a history threaded with triumphs and turbulence as Macedonians alternately rise to political and cultural dominance or fight invaders – or each other – for the wealth of the land.
It was this dividable land that was definitively brought together and harnessed by King Philip II of Macedon. Our tour will show you the scale of that achievement, right up to the very spot of his dramatic end. You’ll see where Alexander spent his formative years in his father’s kingdom and the wealth that surrounded their Argead dynasty, the profits of conquest fit for the warrior descendants of heroes.
Between the sun-drenched beaches and the snow-dusted mountains, Macedonia has a wealth of sites, well-known and obscure, not only from the time of Philip and Alexander but also of their distant ancestors, and those of the later masters of the region – Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders and Ottomans. As well as world-famous highlights like the royal tombs at Vergina and the embattled imperial splendour of Byzantine Thessaloniki, you’ll come to the great sanctuary of Zeus at Dion in the shadow of Mount Olympus and the towering ruins of Philippi with its enormous Late Roman basilicas. They are matched by a throng of lesser-known marvels: one of Europe’s oldest lake settlements at Dispilio, the seat of long-forgotten Iron Age warrior kings at Aiani, and a marvellously-preserved Classical Greek island city on Thasos. You’ll explore the remains of private homes, two millennia old and more, room by room at Olynthos, a great late Classical city doomed at Philip’s hands; you’ll be entranced by a medieval fairytale town rising from a misty lake at Kastoria – and so much more…but for the rest, you’ll need to give in to the temptations of reading the itinerary…
Following the principles of our acclaimed Exploring tours, the best-prepared land tours available, Peter Sommer Travels has crafted an unforgettable itinerary in this extraordinary part of the world, a tour ideal either for the first-time visitor to Macedonia, or as a profound deepening of the experience, revelatory even for those who have travelled there before. Meticulous attention has gone into every detail: superb accommodation in selected characterful locations, fascinating in their own right; excellent meals that reflect the full spectrum of the local tradition, wine-tastings highlighting this ancient product of the area, and a succession of site visits offering insights into the breadth of the region’s culture and history, eagerly brought to you by our trademark team of expert guides.
In addition to our scheduled tours of Macedonia, we also offer bespoke private tours of this wonderful region, just as we do for all of our tours in Greece.
Our tours receive an average rating of 5 out of 5 from 684 reviews, according to AITO reviews.
We move on to Pella, the city chosen by Philip as his capital, the birthplace of Alexander. This carefully-planned city illustrates the new ambition of Macedonia, with vast, refined houses orbiting a huge and extravagant agora. We’ll take in the excellent site museum, including the famous pebble mosaics with their evocative celebration of the hunting prowess of Macedonia’s transformative generations.
We then drive to our next base, the ancient city of Edessa, set on rocky heights from which waterfalls fountain forth over a glorious plain artistically broken by rugged green hills: a perfect vista to gaze down over.
A leap forward in time leaves us in no doubt that the embattled nature of this region remained a constant long after the ancient world. We visit the brute mass of the sprawling crusader castle of Platamon, latched onto a great crag overlooking the coast. Here, we first encounter the shattering of the Byzantine Empire by the Fourth Crusade which would see Macedonia bear the brunt of decades of strife, for which Platamon offers a potent symbol.
After lunch, we return to the days of ancient Macedonian power at the royal ceremonial and religious centre of Dion, a great city dominated by the eastern slopes of Mount Olympus. Under the gaze of Cloud-Gathering Zeus himself we visit this enormous site, filled with shrines and temples, some still being excavated. We see many of the already uncovered monuments, including the theatre where Alexander first assembled his troops and sought divine favour for the fateful expedition that would plunge into the empire of the Persians and change the world forever.
After lunch in Aiani, we drive on towards our next base, Kastoria. But there’s time for a stop first at Dispilio, one of the most extensively-studied prehistoric settlements in the country where lakeside houses on the tranquil shores of Orestiada, now visible as full-scale reconstructions, revealed organic material dating back to its Neolithic occupation over millennia, 8,000 to 5,000 years ago.
Shortly after, we reach Kastoria, further up the lake, wreathed by hills and studded with tiers of wonderfully aesthetic historic houses. We stay the night in traditional Ottoman-era mansions amid this almost unbelievably charming ensemble.
In the afternoon, we stop for a wine-tasting at a famous estate in the Amyntaio region before making our way to Naousa, at the margin of hill and plain. A perfect base from which to view Philip’s kingdom.
Here, Alexander spent his formative years, and so our first visit is to the Nymphaion, an idyllic shrine to the water deities at Mieza which Aristotle chose as the school for the prince and other sons of Macedonia’s elite. We’ll experience the space that formed a generation who would go on to found empires and reshape the history of continents, famed not just in war, but for patronising scientists and poets, establishing great libraries and exploring a new, wider world.
We next take in the new Vergina museum, which has an extraordinary range of displays covering Macedonia’s rise to power, including the lavish burials of early rulers from the royal tombs and the magnificently impressive façade of the palace from which its Hellenistic kings ruled.
This might well be enough for a satisfying day, but in some ways is made mere prelude to the overture which follows:
The Tomb of Philip.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest highlights of the trip, we enter the great mound at Vergina, laid over the first cluster of royal tombs discovered here by Manolis Andronikos at the end of the 1970s. The subterranean interior, now one of the finest archaeological museums in the world, allows us to visit the unbelievably rich and historically unsurpassed finds laid out right by the tombs in which they were found. Here we came as close as is now possible to the epoch-making Philip, to Alexander’s son and others from the peak of Macedonia power in an absolutely transformative and unforgettable experience. More words would be useless – even alone, this visit will make the tour a once in a lifetime experience.
Suitably stunned, we return to nearby Naousa for dinner.
After lunch on the splendid coast of the peninsula, we head back north and make our way to Kavala, a modern port town with ancient roots, and capped by a splendid mediaeval fortress, to check-in to our hotel.
We begin by heading to the southern coast at Alyki, where we’ll find an unusual shrine complex, Byzantine basilicas and a unique sprawling site which was a major source of Thasian wealth: one of her marble quarries. Thasian marble was prized across a wide part of the classical Mediterranean, and we can see the workfaces from which it was won, hewn right down into the sea. The precious cargo and the buildings it made may be long-gone, but the imprint of the workers’ hard toil is everywhere here.
Driving back north beneath the steep and majestic heights of Thasos, we return to Limeni, site of the ancient city. The city was founded by Parian Greek colonists in the seventh century BC, and rapidly became wealthy. Its remains are threaded through the modern town – a city gate with a huge, exuberant relief of a characterful Silenus, a market square bedecked with shrines and temples, and an excellent archaeological museum.
We return to Kavala in the late afternoon, the golden light making the return voyage even more pleasant.
After visiting a leading winery, we make our way to our new hotel, particularly enjoyed by previous Macedonia Explorers, in the town of Drama.
After a lunch on the lovely shore below Stageira, we head to a site associated with some other renowned figures of the classical period, the great ancient city of Amphipolis. Set on heights over a great bend in the River Strymon, Amphipolis was an imperial foundation of Athens in the run-up to the Peloponnesian War. Torn from her in a famous battle in 422, it allows us to encounter the Spartan general Brasidas and the Athenians Cleon and Thucydides at close hand. Athens never accepted the loss, and it became a bone of contention with Philip when he took the city in 357. Amphipolis became the centre of Macedonian rule in the east of the kingdom and the place where Alexander marshalled his troops in 334 en-route to his epic campaign in Asia. We see the results in the excellent site museum, including finds from the nearby Kasta tumulus – huge, enigmatic, mysterious and recently revealed as an exceptional archaeological site.
We return to Drama for a free evening in lovely surroundings.
We begin with its Byzantine period, when it was the second city of the great empire, by viewing the mighty fortified citadel high above the city, with sweeping views down to the sea over seemingly endless Roman walls equally impressive for their extent, scale and superb preservation. We descend a little to visit the city’s emotional heart, the basilica church of St Demetrios, which still preserves celebrated decorative traces of its origins in the seventh century. when it was the seat of the city’s hopes and fears as the saint saved the city from siege after siege. After lunch, before checking into our hotel, we visit the city’s wonderful Byzantine Museum, a triumphant display of mediaeval Greek history and culture. Your afternoon and evening are then free to explore one of the greatest of European cities.
We then take a very short drive to the Archaeological museum, one of the finest in Greece. The displays are beautifully done and have some truly outstanding finds – it’s almost unfair to single out the amazing Derveni krater and the colossal treasure house of finds from the gold-rich Macedonian tombs. An amply rewarding visit for these new wonders alone, it’s also an ideal place to remind ourselves of the stellar variety of ancient finds and sweep of history we’ve encountered during our time together. No doubt we’ll have a lot to talk about in the evening while enjoying our final meal.
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Arrival and Departure Information
Arrival Airport – Thessaloniki Airport (Macedonia)
Departure Airport – Thessaloniki Airport (Macedonia)
Check in time at your hotel in Thessaloniki is after 14:00 so we recommend choosing a flight that arrives in the afternoon/early evening. Check out time is 12:00 pm. We will arrange local transfers from Thessaloniki Airport and to Thessaloniki Airport on the first and last day of the tour.
Booking Flights The cheapest way to book flights for our Exploring Macedonia tour is directly with the airline online.
If you prefer to book with a travel agent, we are happy to recommend specialists in a number of countries around the world, please contact our office for more details.
Travel Insurance: We consider adequate travel insurance to be essential. You should ensure that you take out a suitable policy, to make sure that your trip is properly covered.
For UK Nationals, travel to the EU will change from 1 January 2021. Please check the current situation regarding visa requirements before you travel. You can find more information online here.
Citizens of European Union member states, the United States, Canada and Australia do not need to apply for a visa to visit Greece for trips of less than 90 days duration.