Alexandroupolis, Evros regional unit, Greece (Credit: Alexandroupolis Port Authority S.A- Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund https://hradf.com/)

Evros: The fascinating northeastern corner of Greece

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Evros is the northernmost regional unit of Greece. It borders Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the east. Its name is derived from the river Evros, a natural border that separates Greece from Turkey on the mainland. The regional unit’s capital is Alexandroupolis, a beautiful seaside city and Thrace’s largest port. Evros, Greece’s most northwestern corner, is blessed with exceptional monuments, sites and landscapes of rare natural beauty. The Evros Delta is one of Europe’s most important wetlands. Samothrace in the Thracian Sea, is an unspoiled island with lush vegetation and  mystical atmosphere. The Forest of Dadia is one of the most important areas in Europe for birds of prey (Unfortunately, the major wildfire of August 2023 burned around 73.000 hectares). Soufli, once a major silk-producing town and silk capital of the country, is now home to the Silk Museum. Didymoteicho, built on the ancient Plotinoupolis which played an important role in the period of the Byzantine Empire, and famous for its Castle, is also a town worth visiting. Orestiada, the cultural, administrative and commercial center of the northern Evros and the
northeasternmost, northernmost and newest city of Greece, is also waiting to be explored and visited.  Whatever type of vacation you are searching for if you are a lovers of authentic Greece, the regional unit of Evros is a fascinating destination all year-round.

.AT A GLANCE

Regional unit’s capital: Alexandroupolis Regional unit’s area:  4,242 km2 Regional unit’s population (2021): 133,862 Density: 32/km2 Climate: The coastal area has a predominantly Mediterranean climate, whereas the northern part and the mountains have a colder continental climate.

.ADMINISTRATION

The Evros regional unit is subdivided into five municipalities.

MUNICIPALITIES

ALEXANDROUPOLIS     DIDYMOTEICHO     ORESTIADA      SAMOTHRACE     SOUFLI 

.MUNICIPALITY OF ALEXANDROUPOLIS

Area: 1,217.0 km2 Population: 72,959 Density:  60/km2 Website: https://alexpolis.gr/

.HISTORY

Human settlements appear since the Neolithic Period (4500-3000 BC) at the southeast end of Western Thrace. The modern city of Alexandroupolis, is the site of ancient Sale, a  colony of Samothrace, according to the historian Herodotus. Over the next centuries, it was deserted and fell into obscurity until the mid-19th century when it grew into a fishing village named “Dedeağaç”, meaning “the tree of the monk”. In 1871 the railroad arrived, an event that has marked the small village’s history and future. Dedeağaç was turned into a transit hub and a major port, an attraction for traders from all parts of the Ottoman Empire. During the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), the city briefly came under the Russians. The brief Russian presence had a lasting effect on the design of Alexandroupolis’ streets. In 1896, the city further prospered with the arrival of the rail line between Istanbul (Turkey) and Thessaloniki. Ottoman rule ended with the First Balkan War, when the city was ceded to Bulgaria in 1912. In the Second Balkan War, Greece took control of the city. With the Treaty of Bucharest (10 August 1913), the city returned back to Bulgaria. With the defeat of Bulgaria in World War I, the city came under Greek control for the second time. In 1920, the city was renamed to honour the King of Greece, Alexander. With the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, Alexandroupolis became an official part of Greece. In 1941 it was occupied by Bulgaria but was restored to Greece in 1944. Today, the beautiful seaside city, whose trademark is a Lighthouse (Faros), is an important port and commercial center of northeastern Greece.

.POINTS OF INTEREST

Lighthouse: Built in 1880 by the French Society of Lighthouses and Lanterns – “Administration Generale des Phares de l` Empire Ottoman”, the emblematic lighthouse is located west of the port and stands 27m high from average sea level, with six storeys of stone steps. Its light can be seen from a distance of 24 nautical miles (around 44 km).

Mesimbria-Zone: An archaeological site 20 km from Alexandroupolis. The ruins of the sanctuary of Apollo of the Archaic Period takes us on a historical journey through time. Numerous coins in which the head of Apollo is represented have been found here.

Roman Baths of Traianoupolis: Founded by the Roman emperor Trajan (r. 98–117), Traianoupolis, on the renowned Hegnatian Road, was famous for its baths. The city flourished during the Byzantine ages. The contemporary baths, located 16 km northeast of Alexandroupolis, were built in 1964. Unfortunately, since October 2019 the baths are closed due to financial and funding problems.

Ancient Cyclops’ Cave: Above the beach of Makri, west of Alexandroupolis, the myth of  the wildest of the Cyclopes, Polyphemus, and Odysseus comes to life. The cave was discovered during the World War I but traces have been found that testify the use of the cave since the Neolithic Period. The entrance of the cave has a length of five meters and a height of three. The view from here to the Thracian Sea is panoramic.

Evros Delta: The Evros River is the Balkans’ second-longest river, just short of the River Danube. It is the natural border between Greece and Bulgaria and Turkey, has a total length of 530km. of which 230km. belong to Greece. One of the most important wetlands in Europe, the Evros Delta forms a huge area of 188km2. It was declared a Ramsar-protected wetland in 1974 because it hosts important bird species.  It has been a National Park since 2007. Part of it is also included in the Natura 2000 network.

Ancient Hegnatian Road: Built between 146 and 120 BC by the Roman Senator Gnaeus Egnatius, who named the road after himself, it was one of the largest and most important military and commercial roads of antiquity. It connected several important cities in Northern Greece, Illyria, and Thrace.

Folklore Museum of Cappadocian Association: A small museum dedicated to the lives of the Greeks from the wider region of Cappadocia (in central-eastern Anatolia, in modern-day Turkey) who came to Greece after the great population exchange between Greece and Turkey.

.GASTRONOMY

Alexandroupolis and Evros in general promise an unforgettable gastronomic journey. Try the famous fish and seafood of the Thracian Sea: tender octopus, mackerel on the grill, charcoal-cooked sea bream.
For meat lover, there is kavourma (local cold cut), delicious sausages and other meat products of superb quality. Taste also gioufkades, trahanas, couscous (local pasta) as well as traditional spoon sweets (sweet pumpkin, fig and sour cherry).  Several women’s cooperatives in Evros are engaged in the production of traditional pasta and sweets, jams and liquors.

.WINES & SPIRITS

In Evros viticulture and wine production flourished from 1870 to the early 20th century.  Since 2010, the indication PGI Evros (Protected Geographical Indication) includes wines from the entire Evros. Ouzo (dry anise-flavored aperitif) produced from grape must (the remnants of wine-making), tsipouro (a strong distilled spirit containing 40–45% alcohol by volume produced from either the pomace or from the wine after the grapes and juice have been separated) and retsina (a white or rose resonated wine) are very popular.

.FEASTS, FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Eleutheria: Celebrated every year on May 14 in commemoration of the anniversary of Alexandroupolis incorporation into Greece in 1920.

August 15: Monastery of our Lady Saviour of the World: the annual pilgrimage of the Thracians every year.

Panevria Agricultural Fair of Feres: For more than two decades, it has been the most important institution for primary and secondary agri-food sector of Evros. Taking place in early autumn, the fair brings together the agricultural and livestock farming world and includes many local products, agricultural machinery, livestock, etc.

.RELIGIOUS SITES

Holy Monastery of our Lady Saviour of the World: Located at the crossroad of Via Egnatia with the Delta of Evros, in the settlement of Ferres, the monastery  was built around 1152 by Isaas I Komnenos, the son of the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos.  It is important both ecclesiastically and architecturally. It  includes a fortress wall (with towers and a gate) and a catholicon (main church) in the type of the cross-in-square church with two columns and five domes. 

Church of Saints Theodoroi: The small church is modulated inside the cave of Zonaio mountain.
The pilgrim can enter from a metal construction with ladder. In the walls of the cave,the visitor can still distinguish the exceptional art wall paintings, some of them belonging to the 11th and 13th century.

.KEY MUSEUMS

Archeological Museum: Inaugurated in June 2022 and covering an area of 2000m2, the museum includes finds that formulate Evros history from prehistoric to roman times.

Ethnological Museum of Thrace: Collection of pottery, textiles & books, musical instruments, rare archival photographic material, tracing the history of Thrace.

Historical Museum: Built in 1995  the museum has a remarkable collection of paintings by artists who were active in the area, including Hariklia Hadjisavvas-Fotiou.  It also houses a collection of approximately 1000 books which relate mainly to the history of the city and Thrace in general.

Natural History Museum: Exhibits providing information about the natural history, evolution of life of fish, mammals and plants, promoting biodiversity in the Evros area.

Ecclesiastical Museum: Founded in 1975, it hosts 400 artifacts of ecclesiastical art (from the 15th to the 20th century) including vestments, liturgical utensils, wood-carved furniture, and other antiquities.

.EDUCATION

Alexandroupolis houses four Departments of the Democritus University of Thrace:
Department of Medicine, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Department of Primary Level Education, Department of Education Sciences in Early Childhood.

.ACTIVITIES

The Thracian Sea with its deep blue waters offers unique summer activities. Endless sandy beaches, picturesque coves. Don’t miss the beaches of Alexandroupoli, Nea Chili, Makri, Agia Paraskevi, and Dikella.

.ACCOMMODATION

There is a plethora of accommodations. From luxury 5-star hotels to agritourism facilities, like Evrothirama.

.TRANSPORT

You can reach Alexandroupolis by road, rail, air and sea . The city is served by Dimokritos International Airport, in the suburbs of Apalos. There are daily flights to Athens. The port of Alexandroupolis offers daily services to the islands of Samothrace and Lemnos. Egnatia Odos is the largest main road that passes through Alexandroupolis. The drive is 310km from Thessaloniki. By rail, Alexandroupoli is connected with Thessaloniki, Athens and Orestiada.


TO DO & TO GO