Kastoria - Prespes - Loutra Pozar - Edessa Waterfalls - Vergina
The destination of the first day is the city of Kastoria and its lake Orestiada. Kastoria, a city which boasts a long fur trade tradition! The city that flourished during the 19th century due to fur trade is built on the shores of the beautiful lake Orestiáda, surrounded by imposing mountains. Wander around the old neighbourhoods of Doltsó and Apozári, and admire the 19th century grand mansions (three-storey buildings with large windows and enclosed balconies), owned by the rich fur traders of Kastoriá! Take a leisurely walk around the lake, watch the birds that inhabit this fantastic wetland, or board on the ferry to enjoy a romantic lake cruise! Climb to the top of the hill, and take in breathtaking views of the city.
Visit “Dragon’s Cave”, the only cave in Greece with fresh-water lakes. Winter sport fans should visit the Vitsi ski centre, and ski down beech-covered slopes. Kastoria is also famous for its rich cultural events. Every summer an exciting river party is organised on the banks of Aliákmonas river, while during the New Year’s Eve celebrations, the locals recreate a three-day Dionyssian custom (6th-8th January), called "ragoutsaria". If you want to be part of this feast, disguise yourself and wear scary masks in order to ward off evil spirits!
Kastoria has always been the basis for many excursions in the area, even more so now that the new Egnatia National road gets you to Thessaloniki in less than two hours. One of the attractions of the area is Nymfaio and one of the place you must not forget to visit. NYMFAIO is located in the southern tip of the prefecture of "Florina", on the eastern slopes of mountain "Vitsi" at an altitude of 1350 meters. It has been declared preserved traditional settlement. The residents of Nymfaio participated in all national events before, during and after the revolution of 1821. There was a significant contribution to the struggles of 1913, the 1916 and 1918. In the Second World War the village was a battlefield and it continued to be during the Civil War which followed. In the fifty?s, Nymfaio fell into decline and as a result the village was deserted and most homes became ruins. But during the last fifteen years, with the help of many residents who returned to the village and due to national and European funds, Nymfaio was completely renovated and now is one of the most beautiful villages in Greece.
Do not miss to visit "Arctouros", the Greek non-governmental organization for protecting the brown bear. It?s located 1.5 km from the center of Nymfaio (there are signs that will guide you) and the route there is very beautiful. The facilities are open to public every day except Wednesday from 11 am until 5 pm. Returning from Numfaion village you can choose the road that drives you to Kastoria passing one of the most beautiful Greek mountains, Vitsi. Mt Vitsi is part of Mount Verno in western Macedonia between Florina and Kastoria prefectures and a trip through it is cabable to leave you speechless from the amazing.
The National Park of Prespa which is about 45 km west from Florina and 50 km north from Kastoria, encompasses the lakes of Mikri and Megali Prespa- in part-, which are separated by a sandy islet of alluvial sediment and are encompassed by tall mountains. Extensive reed beds of Phragmites australis, Typha angustifolia, and Scrirpus lacustris, Carex spp. occupy the shores of the lake. There are also characteristic formations of aquatic plants which are rooted in the depths, with large floating leaves, often with a layer of underwater species (Ceratophyllum sp., Myriophyllum sp. , Potamogeton sp.). The area has rich fauna as a result of the great variety of natural habitats and its topography. The lakes are important for the breeding of aquatic birds. In total more than 200 species have been observed at the lakes and the surrounding forest. Particularly notable are the colonies of Pelecanus crispus (wild pelicans) and of Pelecanus onocrotalus (red pelicans). The marine fauna of the lake is of importance due to the large rate of endemism. At the sub-species level, 80% of the fish are endemic. Finally, the area is rich in historic and religious monuments.
A large number of Greek and foreign visitors and travelers come to the famous lakes – water borders of Greece, of former Yugoslavia and Albania. They lie 850 m. above the sea-level and have a depth of 50 m. Their shores at many places are steep and rocky. In other places they are calm and have rich vegetation. Mikri Prespa is on the left of the central road and is separated by Megali Prespa by a narrow strip of land 1,000 m. The whole region is an attraction and has been designated as a National Park. The shores of Mikri Prespa, with thick reeds, host pelicans, wild ducks and many other species of rare birds which attract the interest of international scientific institutes. Two roads lead to Prespa. One comes from Florina and the other from Kastoria. They intersect at Prevali. In the large village, Laimos of Prespa, 50 km from Florina, the road separates once again. One of its parts leads to Saint Germanos, the largest village of Prespa and the other part to the outpost of Koulas. On the rocky shores of Mikri Prespa you can see caves with walls full of hagiography.
Loutraki of Aridea is a picturesque village of Pella prefecture which is famous for the Hot Springs (Pozar Hot Springs) and it is a special mountain destination for holidays. It is 13km far away from Aridea, 20 km from the Kaimaktsalan ski center and 100km from Thessalonica. The visitors of the village have the chance to take advantage of the curative qualities of the water and combine it with outdoor activities at the round area such as skiing at Kaimaktsalan, climbing, caving and trekking at the gorge of the Hot Springs and around. The water has its source at a great depth, between rocks and it is enriched with mineral components such as natrium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sulphur, radium, iodine and gases such as dioxide of carbon, hydrogen sulphide, azote, oxygen and hydrogen.
The curative water is hot with a temperature of 37C and is offered for external use at the pools of the watering-place and for drinking-therapy from the springs. At the area, except Pozar Hot Springs, it is worth to visit Loutraki Gorge, following the path which starts from the Springs and follows a course along the river, of about 33km. In addition, it is worth a visit to the Folklore Museum with exhibits of folklore, ethnography, speleology etc. and Dombro Pole which is located at Ano Loutraki. It is an abundant settlement, which is located at an altitude of 1750m., built on a volcano’s crater. You can also visit the Black Forest which is located at the eastern part of Voras or kaimaktsalan and “Ramno Bor” or Straight Pine-Tree, which offers a wonderful landscape of very tall pine-trees.
Edessa is roughly 100km west northwest of Thessaloniki in the Pella Prefecture of Macedonia in Northern Greece. The city’s name, onetime Vodena, is the capital of the prefecture Pellas, name of the city has Phrygian origin and means castle / city underwater. By 3000 year history is one of the oldest cities in Europe and was the first capital of the Makedonian Kingdom. The city is famous for its waterfalls, the largest in Greece, forming an impressive spectacle for young and old. Previously, the waterfalls were 6-7, but now there are 2 large and some smaller. Edessa has many other attractions like the museum of water, the traditional settlement “Varosi “ with makedonian architecture, the edge of the Rock, the Byzantine churches, the Kioupri , the stone clock, Yeni Tzami and the Kannavourgio. The center and the pedestrian area await you with many cafes, bars, restaurants and shops for shopping. There are also many choices of activities such as trekking, 4x4, horseback riding, rafting on the river Edessian, parapente on the edge of town! Edessa is a town important to visiting. The natural environment, archaeological and historical heritage, green landscapes, combined with the sounds of water create a unique landscape.
It would be a shame to return to Athens without visiting Vergina, probably the most famous archeological area of Macedonia in the world. In Midas gardens, as Herodotus mentions, mythical Macedonians created their capital city Aeges. The first amazing palaces of Macedonian kings were built here as well as the foundations of the Macedonian state. Aeges dominated as Macedonian capital city until the 5th century B.C. when king Archelaos transferred the capital to the coastal (at that period) city of Pella. Vergina, is 12 km from Veroia, 75 km from Thessaloniki, and 515 km from Athens. It has enjoyed worldwide renown in the past few decades, owing to the discovery there of the ancient city of Aigai, the ancient capital of the Macedonian kings, and its cemetery. Of particular note are the tombs of the royal dynasty, most notably King Philip II and a young prince who is identified as Alexander IV, and a cist grave. The royal tombs were discovered in 1977-8 by the archaeologist Manolis Andronikos.