Region of East Macedonia and Thrace
The Region of East Macedonia and Thrace is located at the Northeastern edge of Greece and includes the Prefectures of Drama and Kavala (East Macedonia) and the Prefectures of Xanthi, Rodopi and Evros (Thrace). The Region covers a total area of 14,157.2 square km and occupies almost 1/10 of the total Greek territory. It has a population of 611,067 inhabitants (National Statistical Service of Greece 2001).
People of the countryside are mainly occupied in the sectors of agriculture, livestock farming and forest production. The inhabitants of this region are also involved in fish farming, mussel cultivation, marble quarrying and trade (in the Prefectures of Drama and Kavala), oil pumping in the coastal region of Prinos, sericulture in the region of Soufli, and agrotourism.
The earliest settlements were traced in many towns now forming part of the modern region of East Macedonia and Thrace and date as early as the Neolithic Age (Arcadiko at Drama). Many important cities are founded in the historic times and in the antiquity (mid- 7th to 5th centuries BC) that continue to flourish during the times of the Macedonian Dynasty (4th century) and the Roman era. In Byzantine times, several cities developed into strong castles of strategic importance.
In the Region of East Macedonia and Thrace are found four out of eleven wetlands of International importance that are included in the International Convention of Ramsar such as the Delta of Nestos, the Vistonida Lake, the Ismarida Lake and the Delta of Evros. The European Mountain Path (E6) runs across a large part of the Region, extending from Mount Falakro of Drama through the mountains of Xanthi and Rodopi, Ismaros and ending in Mount Saos in Samothrace. There are many remarkable forests in the region like the fir forest in Drama, the forests in Mount Falakro, where the ski resort of Falakro is located, as well as the forests with perennial chestnut-trees, fir-trees and beeches in the mountains of Menoikio and Pangaion and forest villages (Leivaditis, Xanthi), where visitors can find restaurants and accommodation. The mountainous part of Xanthi is also worth visiting; in Arkoudorema there are trees, which are over two hundred years old. The falls of Leivaditis and the mountain settlements to the north of Xanthi are also interesting. One can live a unique experience when travelling along the Nestos River (the so-called Thracian Tempi), the pine forest of Nymphaia in the Prefecture of Rodopi or the forest of Dadia, which is a natural refuge for mammals, reptiles and rare birds, the plane forests in Samothrace and the natural ponds along the riverbed of Fonias, at the falls of the river under the same name to the north of the island.
There are equipped beaches in the Prefecture of Kavala like Nea Peramos, Ofrynio, Myrtofytos, Folia, Karyani and Touzla. The most remarkable are the cosmopolitan beaches of Batis, Toska, Palio and Keramoti, where the visitor can savour mezedes (small dishes) based on fresh fish. The island of Thasos is also ideal for its picturesque beaches with the blue-green waters and the calm idyllic atmosphere. The beaches of the Prefecture of Xanthi and the tourist resorts of Fanari and Arogi in Rodopi offer the opportunity to relax and enjoy the beautiful alternating landscape. The most remarkable beaches of the island of Samothrace are the beaches of Kipoi and Pachia. Healing springs with guesthouses can be found in most of the Prefectures of the Region, and are ideal for calmness and relaxation. The most remarkable are the Healing Baths of Paranesti in the Prefecture of Drama, the bathhouses of Krinides, Thermes and Kessani in the Prefecture of Xanthi and the Bathhouses of Traiano, in the Prefecture of Evros.
Remnants of both prehistoric and historic times are scattered along the Region. The archaeological sites of Philippi in Kavala, of Thasos, of Abdera in Xanthi, the prehistoric citadels of Maroneia and Ergani, the Macedonian tomb of Stavroupolis in Xanthi, the Sanctuary of the Great Gods in Samothrace are only a few examples of the rich archaeological treasures that this Region possesses.
There are numerous places of pilgrimage that visitors can find in the entire Region. In the Prefecture of Drama and in the province of Nevrokopi there are churches of the post-Byzantine era. In the Prefecture of Kavala one can find the Baptistery of St Lydia as well as the Church of St Gregory, where the Saint?s relics are kept. In the Prefecture of Xanthi there are monuments like the Monastery of Panaghia Archangeliotissa, the Monastery of Panaghia of Kalamos and the picturesque chapel of St Nicolas in the Vistonida Lake.
Folkloric culture is also very interesting. The custom of ?Arapides? revives in the Prefecture of Drama, on the 7th of January, the custom of ?Anastenaria? between the 21st and the 23rd of May, the ?Chelidonismata? on the 1st of May and the traditional horse races that take place on the 2nd of May. People have a lot of fun during the Carnival of Xanthi, which is the biggest in Northern Greece and includes several carnival activities. The custom of the ?Camel? revives during the Carnival festivities in Stavroupolis at Xanthi. The festivities of ?Bambo? or ?Mami? take place in the villages of Nea Kessanthi in Xanthi and Xylagani in Rodopi on the 8th of January. The traditional architectural features of the Old town of Xanthi are very interesting, as well as the traditional mountainous settlements in the area of Echinos in the Prefecture of Xanthi and Kechros in the Prefecture of Rodopi.
Throughout the whole region, one can taste a great variety of dishes either of fresh sea fish and shell-fish in the small taverns of Keramoti, Kavala and Maroneia or other traditional Thracian dishes like sarma, pies, sausages of Soufli, and the stuffed goats of Samothrace. The olive oil and the honey of Thasos, the aromatic wines of Kavala, Drama and Xanthi are only part of the local gastronomy that can make a journey in this blessed land an unforgettable experience.
There are many different historic monuments and sights, which visitors can see in East Macedonia and Thrace, an entire region of unique beauty and of particular interest that is gifted by God and nature.