New for 2016. Join us for a spectacular tour of Northern Greece centred on the core areas of the ancient kingdom of Macedon.
This journey takes you through a series of remarkably beautiful and unusually diverse landscapes, ranging from lofty mountains via fertile plains and valleys to the blue waters of the Aegean Sea. You’ll discover grandiose archaeological sites, picturesquely labyrinthine villages and the great city of Thessaloniki, home to many different cultures during its 2300 years of uninterrupted history. The city is especially famous for its dazzling Byzantine heritage, outshone only by that of Constantinople (Istanbul) itself. At night we stay at carefully selected accommodations, ranging from fine city hotels to lovingly restored traditional town or village inns representing the best Greek hospitality has to offer.
Along the way, you’ll experience the area’s culture through its gastronomy, enjoying excellent meals at specially chosen venues. As the itinerary passes through several of Greece’s key wine-growing areas, we also taste the exquisite products of Greece’s recent wine revolution, the rediscovery of millennia of tradition.
This region was the geographic and cultural backdrop to the formative years of Alexander the Great and to the achievements of his father, King Phillip II. The many extraordinary archaeological sites we visit include places intimately linked with Alexander’s early years, such as his birthplace Pella, Mieza, where he was taught by Aristotle, and Vergina/Aigai, where he buried his father in a lavishly appointed monumental grave.
The importance of the area neither started nor ended with the Kingdom of Macedon. You will trace the area’s subsequent tumultuous development from ancient times right up to the present including cities,, churches and more from Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Frankish and Ottoman times. Apart from two UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites, you will also discover “hidden gems”, superb locations that have so far escaped the attention of the crowds.
Join us on this exciting tour, a rich panorama of one of Europe’s historical heartlands.
Average rating 5 out of 5 from 371 reviews for Exploring Thessaloniki and Northern Greece, according to AITO reviews.
Day 1: Our hotel is 30 minutes from Thessaloniki airport in the heart of this ancient and fascinating city. Welcome dinner.
Day 2: We set out for Pella, Alexander’s birthplace and capital of the Macedonian kingdom until its conquest by Rome. We explore the site and its excellent museum. After lunch at one of the famous Naousa wineries, we visit the attractive glade at Mieza, where Aristotle tutored the young Alexander. After a look at some of the area’s splendid Macedonian tombs, we spend the first of two nights in the Old Town of Naousa.
Day 3: In the morning, we visit the superb archaeological site and museum of Aiani, capital of one of Macedon’s constituent kingdoms and one of the hidden gems of Greek archaeology. We continue to the World Heritage site of Vergina, ancient Aigai, where Alexander’s father, Phillip II, was assassinated and Alexander proclaimed king. The underground museum exhibiting Phillip’s grave and its contents, truly fit for a king, is one of the most remarkable archaeological displays in Europe.
Day 4: We explore the splendid site and museum of Dion, the chief sanctuary of ancient Macedon, sacred to Zeus and set in the shadow of Mount Olympus, home of the gods. It was here that Alexander assembled his armies before setting out to the East. After lunch, we continue eastwards to finish the day in the picturesque harbour town of Kavala.
Day 5: We explore the important museum and site at Amphipolis, another key centre of Eastern Macedon. This was the final mustering point for Alexander’s expedition to the east. It is also where the mysterious Kasta Tumulus (not yet accessible to the public) was excavated in 2014. In the afternoon, we visit the splendid ruins of Philippi, founded by Phillip II to guard the eastern border of his realm, with its impressive Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine remains.
Day 6: We return to Thessaloniki, where we discover the superb collection of Roman and Byzantine monuments in the heart of the city: the agora, the great cathedral of Saint Demetrios and the fantastic Rotonda (recently renovated), built as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Galerius, as well as his arch and palace. In the afternoon, we explore the superb displays in the Archaeological Museum, especially the lavish grave goods deposited with the dead by the generations before and after Alexander.
Day 7: We admire the fine displays in Thessaloniki’s award-winning state-of the-art Byzantine Museum, one of the best exhibitions worldwide on this important cultural and historical context. After a visit to the city’s fine defensive walls – with great views over Thessaloniki herself and the Aegean Sea, there is time for shopping and relaxation before our final dinner.
Day 8: Departures from Thessaloniki airport.