Evros County in Thraki (Θράκη) in the minds of other residents of Greece it is the most remote area of Greece. It is actually a magical place, with impressive history and important Byzantine heritage. The river Evros (Έβρος), which flows between Greece and Turkey, determines the past, present and future of the region. The beauties of the area are innumerable and with these 8 stops from our road trip we simply scratch the surface of the treasures that are hidden in this corner of Greece.
Evros Delta National Park (Εθνικό Πάρκο Δέλτα Εβρου) is formed at the mouth of the river Evros and is one of the most important habitats in Europe. The waters and sediments of the river together with the action of the sea formed and continue to form a complex Delta with a wide variety of plants and animals that find refuge here. It constitutes a very important natural resource for the local community, due to its value for fishing, livestock, agriculture, climate, flood protection, education, recreation and science. It is a unique place and the only way to visit it is the guided tour (by mini bus and river boat) by the Visitor Centre of Evros Delta, which is located in Traianoupoli. The people at the Centre are very hospital and informative, and as locals proud of the beauty of their homeland. The best time to visit the Delta is during the seasonally migration of birds. For more information about the guided tour to the Delta visit the official website of the Centre.
Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli Forest National Park (Εθνικό Πάρκο Δάσους Δαδιάς-Λευκίμης-Σουφλίου) is one of the most important protected areas in Europe. It is one of the first areas in Greece to be declared as protected due to the large number of flora and fauna species that coexist here and could be found in the Balkans, Europe and Asia. The landscape of the Park is formed by pine and oak forests, interrupted by glades and fields, which are the ideal habitat for birds of prey. The Park is home to three of Europe’s four species of vultures (the Black Vulture, the Griffon Vulture and the Egyptian Vulture) and the only breeding ground for the population of Black Vultures in the Balkans. You could reach the Birds of Prey Observatory only with a guided tour, organized by the Information Centre which is located in the Park, about 800 meters from the main square of the village Dadia, at the heart of the protected area. They also provide binoculars to observe the feeding area of the vultures. It is an amazing experience to watch these impressive creatures from such a sort distance. For more information about the guided tours to the Observatory visit the official website of the Park.
Panagia Kosmosoteira Feron (Παναγία Κοσμοσώτειρα Φερών) is a monastery, 30 km from Alexandroupoli, at the centre of Feres (Φέρες). It is the most sacred place for the people of Thraki all over the world. It is also one the of the most important Byzantine monuments of Greece. The monastery of Panagia Kosmosoteira (Our Lady, Savior of the World) includes a fortress wall with defensive towers and a main church (catholicon). The iconographic decoration is a characteristic specimen of high quality painting of the School of Constantinople, dated to the 12th century. The monastery was founded in 1152 by the Byzantine lord Isaakios Komnenos, who was buried here. Two hundred years later, the main church was converted into the mosque and five and a half centuries later was again converted into a church.
Soufli (Σουφλί) is one of those places that everyone in Greece knows but few have visited. Most know it as a remote place to serve your military service. However, during the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Soufli was an important commercial centre. Soufli is known mainly for its silk. Four silk factories were operating here and gave the city the name “Silk City”, but sericulture and silk weaving were not the only occupation of the inhabitants, as viticulture and winemaking, fruit making and ironwork had shown growth. Along with the economic development of the 19th century, the social and cultural flourishing of Soufli took place and the educational level of the inhabitants developed. The discovery of artificial silk fiber gradually reduced silk production and Soufli was transformed into a rural town. The excellent Art of Silk Museum (Μουσείο Τέχνης Μεταξιού) and Silk Museum (Mουσείο Μετάξης) take you back to the glorious and urban past of the city, introduces you to the art of silk and help you understand a relatively unknown part of Greek history. Apart from visiting the museums, a walk in the picturesque alleys of the village and in the few shops that still sell silk is a real joy.
Didymoteicho (Διδυμότειχο) is a beautiful city, with rich history and well-preserved archeological Byzantine and Ottoman monuments, near the border line. Built amphitheatrically on a steep hill, next to the tributary of Evros, Erythropotamos (Ερυθροπόταμος), according to one version it took its name from the twin Byzantine wall or, according to another, from the two opposite fortified cities, one of the castle and the other of Ag. Petra. It became the capital of Byzantium in 1325, during the reign of Emperor Andronikos III and after the conquest of Thrace by the Turks; it became their capital for a while. During the Turkish occupation, the organized guilds of various professionals contributed to the economic development of the city. In the city centre you could see the Great Mosque (Μεγάλο Τζαμί), which is the oldest and largest mosque in Europe built in the 14th century. You could also take a walk around the walls and the castle at the top of the city, known as Kale (Καλέ), which are probably the most overlooked Byzantine monument of Greece. In the castle area there are Byzantine churches, caves that were used as houses, monuments and of course the picturesque neighbourhood of Pano Poli (Πάνω Πόλη) with wonderful traditional houses.
Ardas (Άρδας) is an affluent of river Evros. During the ancient times it was called Arpissos (Άρπησσος). It has a total length of 290 km, from which 240 km are in Boulgaria and the last 49 km in Greece. Ardas meets with Evros near the village Kastanies (Καστανιές). Near the mouth of the river, the riverbed widens and during the summer months, there are many activities you could do, like swimming, beach volley and canoeing. At the same spot there is a crossing of the river from one bank to the other (actually a road covered by the water), which could be done by car (you don’ t need a 4×4), when the water level is low, during the summer months . It is a guilty pleasure and quite impressive. However before you cross the river, even during the summer months, check the water level (or ask the locals), because, due to a sudden heavy rain, the water could rise again.
Mesimvria – Zoni (Μεσημβρία – Ζώνη) is a very important archeological site located a few kilometers west of Alexandroupolis. The site has two names because the archaeologists initially had identified the city as Mesimvria but today the believe that the city was Zoni. It was the westernmost of the colonies of Samothrace (Σαμοθράκη) and was founded in the 7th century by the sea. Most likely in the area there was an older Thrakian settlement. The city functioned as a trading post and contributed significantly to the Hellenisation of the Thracian tribes in the region. The most impressive buildings of the site are the Temple Apollo and a residential complex of the 5th century BC, in two rooms of which were found dozens of pointed amphorae placed next to each other. Archaeologists believe that they were used to waterproof the floor. All this area and with it the flourishing economy of Zoni gradually declined after the end of the 4th BC, as the Athenian interests that prevailed here had received a strong blow after the domination of the Macedonians. However, the rich findings are the memory of a defining historical period for this region.
Alexandroupoli (Aλεξανδρούπολη) is one of the newest cities in Greece, as it was founded as a simple fishing village in the middle of the 19th century. Today Alexandroupoli, as the capital of the prefecture of Evros, holds a hegemonic position in the geographical area of Eastern Macedonia and Thraki. The fishing village has been transformed into a modern city, with wide streets, good roads, and is full of taverns, bars and cafes. Alexandroupoli is a lively and full of energy city ideal to live and a joy to visit. The seafront of the city is dominated by the Lighthouse, which is the trademark of the city with a total height of 27 meters. In Koundourioti Street, known to the locals as “Odos Ladokolas”, all the taverns serve the grilled meat on ladokola (parchment paper) instead of dishes. Finally, if you are a chocolate lover, look in the local confectioneries for the local sweet farouk, a unique dessert which is made only here. Alexandroupoli is one of those place that wins you over from the first moment with their energetic ambience.
These 8 unique stops in Evros County are only few of the places a traveller should visit. Pithion Castle (Κάστρο Πυθίου), Tombs of Doxipara (Τύμβοι Δοξιπαρά), the traditional villages of Metaxades – Petrota – Roussa (Μεταξάδες – Πετρωτά – Ρούσσα) are only some examples of the hidden treasures of the area, which are waiting to be discovered. Evros is sure to offer you a complete travel experience.