Rodopi

The prefecture of Rodopi lies between region of Evros and Xanthi, and covers an area of 2543 square kilometres. Many small villages area spread around the region, from the foothills of Mount Rodopi to the plains around the regions capital Komotini. Along the coast are many picturesque villages where the residents sustain themselves by fishing. The climate varies, abundant showers, snow and frosts are the characteristics of the mountains of Rodopi, whereas the coastal areas of the region have a more temperate climate.

Rodopi has a long history, this is the land where Orpheus’ lyre once rang, filling the air and where the Menands would cheerfully dance. Stone tools dating from 10,000-7,000 BC have been found in the area, excavations at the settlement of Paradium have revealed have shown that the area was a thriving community between 7,000-3,000 BC. Philip II of Macedonia destroyed the powerful Kingdom of the Odrisos in Thrace after the Persian war. In 46 AD, Thrace becomes part of the Roman Empire. The Romans emperors take a special interest in Thrace; they built a network of roads to connect the towns of the region to Europe and the Byzantine region, one of longest of these roads being the Via Egnatia, which today is a major route between Thessaloniki and Alexandroupolis and Turkey.

Komotini City

Capital: Komotini is the economical and administrative centre of the region, and combines its historical past with the modern development of the region. The visitor can observe the history of Komotini at every corner of the city, with the co-existence of different religions and cultures, traditional and modern buildings. The central square is a point of reference for both residents and visitors. The Democritus University has schools devoted to the study of a wide range of subjects from international finance to sport sciences.

The multi-faceted city of Komotini, offers various kinds of entertainment and nightlife. Komotini caters for different ages and different preferences. The young population in town, enhanced by students studying at the Democritus University, gives a special note to the town-life. One can enjoy lunch or dinner in good restaurants of tavernas, which take pride in their specialities of local meat, fresh fish and seafood. The “Ouzeri” with selected hors d’oeuvres, the pizzerias, bars and cafeterias offer the visitor to the city a unforgettable experience.

To the North of Komotini is the Forest of Nimfaia, where one can stroll though and enjoy the views from the remains of the Byzantine fortress on the summit, here is a tourist pavilion where one can buy refreshments. The area to the north of the forest towards the Bulgarian border is popular with alpinists, here is a well-equipped cabin used by the Alpine club based in the town. Experienced mountain walkers can take a trip along the European mountaineering path (E6) that crosses the Rodopi Mountains. The “Meteora of Thrace” with its rocky formations is a place of natural beauty; here you can see wild horses roaming the area as they have done for many years.

Places of interest in the City:

The Archaeological Museum: here one can see on display the historical stages of the region. A wide range of artefacts is on display that includes tools from the Palaeolithic Age, statues to an extensive range of pots. Also on display is the golden bust of Septimius Severus along with the bas-relief of the “Rider of Thrace” and a mask of Dionysos.

The Folklore Museum: which belongs to the Educational Society of Komotini is housed in the restored Peidi, has on display, outfits, uniforms, agricultural tools, a assortment of household appliances, rare books, pictures or photographs.

The Ecclesiastic Museum: housed in the old poorhouse (Imaret) is of historical and archaeological value. It contains remarkable ecclesiastic objects, from our region and from Asia Minor.

The Papanikolaou Institute : has an excellent display of rare manuscripts from the Byzantine period and the 16 th to 19 th century.

The Byzantine fortress: the remains of this 4 th century are still visible today; it was a important defensive fortress along the Egnatia Road.

The Church of theHoly Virgin: built in the early 19 th century, the church, erected on the site of an earlier Byzantine church,inside are icons dating from the 16 th and 17 th century.

The Eski and Geni Mosques: in the centre of the town are two of the oldest mosques in the region.

Towns & Villages

In the area, there are many villages to visit, some in the mountains and others on the fertile plains of the region.

Karidia and Pantrosos : situated on the lower slopes of Mount Nimfaia here one can enjoy local food in the tavernas set among the rich nature of the region.

Lasmos: is a picturesque large village. The churches of St. John Prodromos and St. Nikolaos along with the old houses add a certain charm to the village. The villagers retain many of the old traditions of the area, and the visitor will enjoy their hospitality

Thrilorio: here is the Gipsy Museum of Woven Baskets, is unique and has on display woven baskets from around the region.

Sapes: southeast of Komotini, set among lush vegetation this town is rather charming. The region around Sapes offers the visitor the chance to visit traditional villages in the nearby mountains.

Gratini: is circa 14km northeast from Komotini, here you can see the aqueduct and church along with the remains of the fortress built during the Byzantine period. To the northwest of the village is the massive reservoir that supplies water to the power stations in the region.

Paterma: this small village set in the mountains is picturesque, ere you can visit the ruins of a small Byzantine chapel and the remains of an ancient settlement. The area is very popular with locals due to its natural beauty.

Maronia: situatedon the hillside of Ismaros, with its charming houses, the churches The Holy Mary and of St. John Prodrome the village is a place of natural charm and worth the visit. The central square offers views over the Thracian Sea, in the square there are tavernas where one can try the local dishes. The area has many ruins from an earlier age. The town, formerly on the coast moved on the hillside in the 16th century due to repeated attacks from marauding pirates.

During the Macedonian conquest Alexander, the Great travelled through ancient Maronia on his way to Asia. Near the harbour are the remains of an earlier settlement from the 3 rd century BC. Remains of a wall and portico from Roman times are visible in the harbour of St. Haralambos. The restoration of the ancient theatre being done will soon be finished, when completed plays will be held here. Nearby is the temple of Dionysus where archaeologists found a ceramic mask from the 4th century BC. Remains from the Byzantine period a temple from the 11 th century BC, and fortifications. The archaeological findings to the east of Maronia, where ruins of a basilica from the 6 th century and the remains of a 9 th century monastery are of importance to understanding the earlier life in the region.

Near the village of Proskinites, one will find a cave with stalactites and stalagmites, according to legend this was the cave of the Cyclops Polifimo.

Along the coast are resorts that are becoming popular with the tourist due to their good beaches and amenities.

Wildlife: the rich water wildlife sanctuaries offer a unique experience to the ornithologists due to the site of hundreds of birds amongst others, flamingos, dwarf geese, wild swans

Vistonida Lake: in the western part of the Prefecture between the Prefecture of Xanthi and Rodopi is a shallow lake, separated from the sea by a single strip of land. According to legend, the name descends from the ancient Thracian people of Viston, who used to populate the area, and it was here that Hercules accomplished his eighth trial of labour capturing the fierce (man-eating) horses of Diomedes.

Place of interest

Water wildlife

A precious spellbounding asset for the Prefecture of Rodopi that will always attract new tourists are the rich water wildlife sanctuaries. The area has been endowed with a unique natural beauty and the picturesque coast offers views that go beyond imagination.

A combination of the grandiose mountain Ismarou and the coast with sunny beaches, lakes and lagoons is ideal for any type of activity. Vistonida lake and Ismarida lake along with a group of five other lagoons offer the ideal conditions for a rich flora and bird fauna.

Vistonida lake lies in the western part of the Prefecture down the Old National Highway between the Prefecture of Xanthi and that of Rodopi being an extension of the intimacy of Porto Lagos. It is a wide lake basicaly quite shallow which is separated from the sea by a single strip of land.

According to mythology the name descends from the ancient Thracian people of Viston who used to populate the region under the reign of King Diomides. Hercules ( is said to have accomplished here his eighth labour capturing the fierce (man-eating) horses of Diomedes.

The old name of the Lake, “Bourou” comes from the Byzantine city of Poroi, that was discovered by archaeologists South of the Lake.

At the heart of the water wildlife sanctuary, surrounded by the lake, the forest and large meadows, there is a rich bird fauna which offers a unique experience to the ornithologists due to the site of hundreds of birds gathered round the picruresque church of St. Nickolaos, Monastery Property of Vatopedio Monastery, situated in the middle of the sea-lake Porto Lagos. Herous, kormorane, wild pelekanes, chalchochotes, flamingos, dwarf geese, wild swans, are only a few examples of the birds which have their permanent or temporary shelter in this region. In the lake there are fish-pools and its extended region represents an important agricultural and cattle-breeding activity.

The lake Ismarida of Mytricou is the East side of a complex of five sea-lakes (Elos, Ptelea, Alilei, Caratsa, Xirolimni) and the unique shallow lake (with sweet water) of North Greek. The wildlife sanctuary, which has a special ecological importance presents a very opulent flora (shrubby areas of Armirikia, riverain vegetation, elovia, meadows and floating vegetation) and fauna consisting of species of mammals, reptiles, and some species which are in danger of becoming extinct, as well as bird fauna, such as argiociknias, houliaromyta, chalchochota and seagulls. The economical contribution of the lake in this region is remarkable due to the fishing wealth and it contributes to the agriculture and the cattle-breed.

South of Komotini heading towards the New Sidirohori village, the road goes to Ismarida lake. The visitor has the opportunity, passing next to the exceptional water wildlife sanctuary, to observe different species of birds, obviously annoyed by the human presence. The unpaved road continues and leads to the Molivoti peninsula. It is a beautiful sandy beach, proper for summer camping, which, once noticed by the people of Thasos, became the chosen place for them to built the ancient Strimni in the 7th B.C. century. The discoveries of the archaeological spade are exposed at the Archaeological Museum of Komotini. In the region fish cultures function.

From Komotini, following the ancient ethnic road to Xanthi, at about 28 km, the traveller reaches an intersection which is marked by the Sarakatsanoi traditional settlement. From there, the visitor has the opportunity to continue the ethnical road on the sides of the Vistonida and to the church St. Nickolaos or to turn to the left and within a distance of 7 km, he will arrive at the picturesque lake of Fanari with the homonym settlement. Just before the harbour of the Fanari Lake there have been located some traces of the Ancient Dikea, an important maritime town. The extended sandy beaches which spread the settlement has been touristically adjusted with hotels, rooms to let, bungalows and with the camping of EOT placed in a verdant place. Apart from all these, there are cafeterias and taverns for the visitors. The Fanari beach stretches to the Arogi Beach, a region full of .summer houses belonging to the residents of the Prefecture.It is an extended sandy beach whose clean sides are marked by the Blue Banners. There are summer bars all along, where tourists can enjoy themselves.

Along the same itinerary there is the coastal settlement of Mesi, which gives shelter to local and foreign travellers, during the summer.

To the Ismarida Lake

South of Komotini heading towards the New Sidirohori village, the road goes to the Ismarida lake. The visitor has the opportunity, passing next to the exceptional water wildlife sanctuary, to observe different species of birds, obviously annoyed by the human presence. The unpaved road continues and leads to the Molivoti peninsula. It is a beautiful sandy beach, proper for summer camping, which, once noticed by the people of Thasos, became the chosen place for them to built the ancient Strimni in the 7th B.C. century. The discoveries of the archeological spade are exposed at the Archeological Museum of Komotini. In the region fish cultures

MARONI

An exceptional place in the Rodopi Prefecture is the one that ends at the historical picturesque Maronia 30 km far from Komotini. A little bit before the town of Xilagani (17 km) on the left side one can see some parts of the fortification of the Acropole of Ergani (13th-12th century B.C.). From Xilagani there are two ways to Maronia, both in the unique colours of the surroundings. To South West direction, the road goes to the Imeros village, making a bigger circle. Its beach is sandy with shallow clear water and has at its disposal a touristic pavillion and an area of pine trees right next to the beach. In the little harbour of Imeros or at the pisciculture of the region one can find fresh fish or sea food.

The road continues its course to the coastal settlements of the Profitis Ilias, of Alkiona and of Plataniti, which apart from the very clean beaches of Thracian open sea, are gradually and continuously developing with new hotels and fish taverns, built next to the coast. Before arriving to Profitis Elias, one goes through a little water wildlife sanctuary, which is very rich as far as its flora and fauna are concerned. The swans, the erodioi and many other species of birds offer a veritable magic site to the visitor.

The destination of all this itinerary is Maronia, to which one can arrive very quickly using the briefest road passing through Prokinites village. After Proskinites village on the left side of the road, one will find a cave with rich natural embellishments: stalactites and stalagmites. Tradition attributes this cave to the cyclope Polifimo. The investigation was made by the Greek Speleological Company. This cave can’t be visited yet, but it’s bound to be soon open to visitors.

Maronia, built on the hillside of Ismaros, is picturesque with its restored houses, with the churches of the 18th century, of Holly Mary and of St. John Prodrome, with traces from all periods of its long-lasting history. The square in the centre of the settlement functions as a balcony, from where someone can see the Olive trees and the thracian open sea. The longevive plane trees of the square and the taverns with the fried lamb constitute the pole of attraction for the summer months.

The town was moved on the hillside in the 16th century due to hazardous pirates’ attacks. The ancient coastal city Ismara became colony of the colonists of Chios (7th century B.C.) who renamed it as Maronia after the name of Maronas a priest, who friendly accepted them. In Maronia public edifices, harbours, agora, theatres were built and mosaics and statues were created.

During the period of the Macedonian conquest Alexander the Great passed through this region on his way to Asia. On the way to the harbour the ruins of a habitation settlement of the 3rd century B.C. and an exceptional mosaic floor, rich in forms and colours are really impressing.

In the St. Haralambos harbour, with its modern pier, where the fishermen

and the their fisher boats are protected, there are distinct segments of the wall and monumental portico of Roman times. A very important ornament of Maronia is the ancient theater, which is about to be repaired so that performances of ancient drama can take place there. Ot the west side of the ancient theater there is the temple of Dionisos in which a ceramic God mask of the 4th century B.C. was discovered. Maronia maintains its prosperity during the Byzantine times as well. An Episcopal temple (11th 12th B.C.) has been discovered and a square high tower of a Byzantine fortification has been saved. The archaeological findings in the “Sinaxi” region East of Maronia are very important. On the ruins of the ancient Christian basilica of the 6th century B.C., were located ruins of a monastery of the 9th century.

The surroundings of Maronia are of a special beauty. The feet of the mountain Ismaros stretch down to the sea and change the view, completing the immensity of the thracian coast with beautiful picturesque harbours and stony shores. The region “Kageles”, on the west side of the harbour can be used as a place for swimming. The coast forms a white lane of little stones. On the East side of the harbour, the stony coast “Marmaritsa” is ideal for fishing. The vineyards and the olive trees cover a very large area and constitute a precious local treasure. The touristic element of the region is remarkable for the modern amenities and for the marvellous sight to the verdant hillside and to the Thracian Open Sea.

Events in the district

Events in the Districts: the festival of Panagia Faneromeni at the Vathiriaka monastery is very popular and receives many visitors. Another popular festival is the St. Marina’s festival in the village of Imeros. In many towns and villages of the region, they celebrate the Festival of St. Ilias.

One of the most important events in the region is the Festival of the Liberty of Thrace in Komotini, where shows and cultural events amongst others entertain the visitors and locals alike. On May 14, Liberation Day the festival ends with a large parade through the streets of the town.

In the rural districts, they celebrate the fertility and the emancipation of woman, with the celebration of “Ginekokratia” (Babos Feast).

The carnival of Sapes attracts many visitors from abroad as well as Greeks.

Many religious festivals take place around the region, in celebration of the numerous saints of importance to the region.

Beaches

The surroundings of Maronia are of a special beauty. The feet of the mountain Ismaros stretch down to the sea and change the view, completing the immensity of the thracian coast with beautiful picturesque harbours and stony shores. The region “Kageles”, on the west side of the harbour can be used as a place for swimming. The coast forms a white lane of little stones. On the East side of the harbour, the stony coast “Marmaritsa” is ideal for fishing. The vineyards and the olive trees cover a very large area and constitute a precious local treasure. The touristic element of the region is remarkable for the modern amenities and for the marvellous sight to the verdant hillside and to the Thracian Open Sea.

Other popular beach are: Alkyonas, Arogis, Mesi, Fanari, Glyfada, Molyvity, Imeros, Profitis Ilias, Proskynites, Plataniti and Petrota.

Sports in the region

Rodopi area is very popular for those who enjoy outdoor pursuits, such as mountain walking and climbing.

The region offers a variety of sports from Astronomy, Bird watching, mountain bikes, Canoe trip, rock climbing, mountain trekking, Water sport in major hotels.

Where & what to eat

Food and Drink: this region offers the visitor local foods influenced by the multi-cultural community, there are numerous tavernas and restaurants in which one can enjoy these culinary delights. Dishes include Sarmas, and stuffed lamb cooked with onions and spices and served with potatoes. The pastries, pies and sweets of which there are many, along with wines of the region offer the taste buds a culinary experience.

Tourist information

Flights: The rail junction of the region constitutes an additional advantage of the region which is also assisted by the airports “Democretus” of Alexandroupoli and “Alexander the Great” of Chrysoupoli.

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