The area in Greece’s northeast that stretches southeast from Alexandroupoli to the delta of the Evros River, northeast to historic Feres, and west to nearby golden beaches offers ideal autumnal pleasure.
The border town of Alexandroupoli
Alexandroupoli, a pleasant and attractive city of 60,000 residents, is located on the west side of the Evros River estuary. The Lighthouse of Alexandroupoli, located just west of the city’s port, is perhaps the city’s most famous landmark. It was built by a French company to help serve the increased shipping traffic through the Dardanelles in the late 19th century. The 18m-high structure, which has been declared a cultural heritage site, began operating on June 1, 1880.
There are cafes and restaurants in the area immediately around the lighthouse, and an impressive fountain at its base. This is often the starting point for strolls taken by locals and visitors along Alexandroupoli’s seaside promenade. Closed to traffic during the afternoon hours, this strip becomes a major leisure attraction.
Alleys and smaller pedestrianized side streets off the main seaside promenade offer plenty in terms of up-market restaurants, traditional tavernas, modern cafés and stylish ice cream parlors, most of which stay open all day.
Boat rides in the Evros Delta
Heading east out of the city, you’ll see a road sign pointing left immediately after the city’s Dimokritos Airport. This turn-off will lead to the Evros Delta Visitor Center in Traianoupoli (Tel. +30 25510.61.000). You can find more information about the delta here.
The Evros River has shaped both the character and reputation of this border area, a region of rare beauty. With a total length of 528km, 310km of which flows in Bulgarian territory and 218km of which determines the Greek -Turkish border, the Evros River ranks as one of the longest rivers in Eastern Europe. Its headwaters are in the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria, south of Sofia.
The Evros Delta, covering a space of 9,500 hectares, constitutes one of Europe’s most important wetlands and is, thanks to international environmental agreements, a protected area.
A total of 317 bird species and hundreds more types of flora, many exclusive to the area, have been documented.
Mini-buses provide transport up to a certain point along the delta. From there, weather permitting, visitors need to board traditional wooden boats, referred to as plavves, in order to reach less accessible parts of this earthly paradise. Boat rides need to be arranged in advance. The cost for groups of 4-6 persons is €10 per person while children under six are entitled to half-price tickets. As part of this fee, visitors are provided with telescopes and binoculars. Deep in the delta, an incredible serenity prevails. Depending on the season, the area features rare bird species and many migratory bird species from all over Europe.
Turning back towards Alexandroupoli, a gorgeous 25km stretch of coastline west of the Evros Delta that runs all the way back past the city to ancient Mesimvria is an ideal spot for the year’s final swims before the colder weather starts setting in. Charming coves and golden beaches with pristine water attract swimmers until mid-October.
PLACES WORTH VISITING
Ethnological Museum of Thrace
Alexandroupoli possesses a rich history worth exploring. The Ethnological Museum of Thrace (63 14th May St, Tel. +30 25510.36.663) hosts significant permanent collections and maintains a comprehensive archive, including photographs, covering the wider Evros region. Screenings of educational films are often held, as are children’s activities.
Traianoupoli Thermal Spa
The Traianoupoli Thermal Spa is located within the remains of Traianoupoli, a significant Roman-era city 14km east of Alexandroupoli on the way to the Evros Delta. (For information/bookings, Tel. +30 25510.61.225). The facility has been recently renovated, and hotels and restaurants operate in the area.
Feres – Panaghia Kosmosotira (Our Lady, Savior of the World) Church
The city of Feres, 28km northeast of Alexandroupoli, features a unique religious monument, the Church of the Panaghia Kosmosotira (Our Lady, Savior of the World). Believed to have been founded in 1152, it has been preserved in excellent condition. Also known as the St. Sophia of Thrace Church, the monument attracts thousands of visitors each year, drawn by its unique Anatolian architecture and its surviving frescos.
Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli Forest National Park
This national park, located roughly 65km north of Alexandroupoli and regarded as one of the world’s most significant protected areas, is highly recommended for a day-trip away from the city. Three of the four European vulture species (the Black Vulture, the Egyptian Vulture and the Griffon Vulture) co-exist here. (Information: Tel. +30 25540.32.209, dadia-np.gr).
Alexandroupoli is a 300km drive from Thessaloniki along the Egnatia Odos Highway (3 road tolls, €2.40 each for cars).
The local airport is located 7km east of the city. Buses run regularly from Athens and Thessaloniki (KTEL Evros, Tel. +30 25510.26.479), as do trains (Tel. +30 25510.26.395)