Selected as one of the 100 best holidays of 2014 by The Sunday Times.
One of Greece’s top three cultural holidays 2014 – The Telegraph
One of the top 10 cultural holidays in Greece 2015 – The Telegraph
We are proud to present this itinerary for a spectacular land tour of Northern Greece centred on the territory of ancient 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 explore grandiose archaeological sites, mighty castles, serene monasteries, 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 explore prehistoric sites going back some 7,500 years and trace the area’s subsequent tumultuous development from ancient times right up to the present including cities, castles, churches and more from Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Frankish and Ottoman times. You will also admire no less than three UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites, but also many “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.
Day 1: Our hotel is 30 minutes from Thessaloniki airport in the heart of this ancient and fascinating city. Welcome dinner.
Day 2: We visit the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki for an introduction to the splendours of ancient Macedon, especially the lavish grave goods deposited with the dead by the generations before and after Alexander. Later, we leave 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 tasting some of the famous Naoussa wines, we continue to Edessa, where we stay in the picturesque old town.
Day 3: On to the attractive glade at Mieza, where Aristotle tutored the young Alexander. On 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. In the evening, we stroll among the ruins of ancient Edessa.
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 tour the mighty medieval castle of Platamonas, with spectacular views of mountains and sea, before continuing to the picturesque village of Ambelakia on the border of Macedon and Thessaly.
Day 5: After visiting the remarkable 18th century the Schwarz/Mavros Mansion at Ambelakia, a unique testimony of the affluent trading communities in late Ottoman Greece, we continue into Thessaly, to Meteora. Here, Byzantine monasteries (another World Heritage site) are perched in breathtaking fashion on sandstone pillars.
Day 6: Returning to Macedon, 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 via Veroia, with its important medieval churches, to Naoussa, overlooking the heart of Macedonia’s wine country.
Day 7: We drive to Western Macedon, where we visit the 7,500-year-old Neolithic lake dwellings of Dispilio. We stroll through the lovely town of Kastoria, set upon a peninsula and surrounded by water, with its beautifully painted Byzantine churches and grand Ottoman-period mansions. On the way back to Naoussa, we try the superb wines of the Amyntaio region.
Day 8: A free day to relax and enjoy lovely Naoussa and its surroundings. For lunch and dinner, you are free to explore the area’s diverse gastronomic offerings.
Day 9: Leaving Central Macedon behind, we head east for the three-fingered Chalkidiki peninsula. Here we visit the remains of Olynthos, destroyed by Phillip II. The site is key to our understanding of domestic life in ancient Greece. We continue to the neck of sacred Mount Athos.
Day 10: We explore the remains of ancient Stageira, the birthplace of Aristotle. Beautifully situated on a hill by the sea, the city was destroyed by Phillip II, but re-founded soon after. In the afternoon, we sample the excellent wines of Drama, finishing the day in the picturesque harbour town of Kavala.
Day 11: We cross by ferry to Thasos, once a rich island state. We wander through the village, set within the extensive ruins of the ancient island capital. We explore its shrines, temples and fortifications as well as the fascinating archaeological museum. Returning to Kavala, you are free to dine at a venue of your choice.
Day 12: We visit Philippi, founded by Phillip II to guard the eastern border of his realm, with its impressive Hellenistic, Roman and Early Christian remains. On the way back to Thessaloniki, we stop at 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.
Day 13: We admire the fine displays in Thessaloniki’s state-of the-art Byzantine Museum. Later, we explore the heart of the ancient and modern city, its grandiose Roman remains and superb Byzantine churches make Thessaloniki another World Heritage site. Farewell dinner.
Day 14: Transfer to Thessaloniki airport, about 40 minutes away.