The day I heard my Greek boyfriend is from North-West Greece, I felt a bit sad. Why didn’t I find a guy from Crete, Kefalonia, or Mykonos? How am I supposed to enjoy my summers, spending an entire month in Xanthi? The only place in Greece that can have months of rain. And just 60.000 inhabitants in a region of almost 500 square kilometers.
Three years later, however, I realize how I based my opinion on prejudices. Asking me today if I want to go on a holiday in Crete, I would reply, only if we visit Xanthi as well! This small and unknown region in western Thrace stole a place in my heart.
Why visit Xanthi?
Looking at the facts, Xanthi does not do well. The region does not have the bluest seas, the highest mountains, the most picturesque towns, interesting archeological sites, or idyllic churches. Xanthi is not the best at anything. However, it has everything. And that’s Xanthi’s power.
After waking up at the beach house in the morning, I have the freedom to do anything. Go for a swim or go shopping in the city center. In the mountains, I can go hiking or canoeing. I can get lost in the narrow streets of the old town, visit multiple archeological sites, or see an idyllic white church on a lake surrounded by flamingos. The best thing is, I can do all of the above without meeting other tourists and not spend more than 30 minutes in a car!
The region of Xanthi
The region of Xanthi is bound by mountains in the North, on the border with Bulgaria. In the South, the region is enclosed by the Aegean sea. In between, there is a plain, where the people of Xanthi used to grow tobacco. Which used to be the most important part of Xanthis economy.
The city of Xanthi consists of two parts. The old town, on the foot of the mountain Augo. Augo means egg in Greek, which perfectly describes the shape of the peak. Below the old town, towards the south, the new city of Xanthi is built. From here you are going towards Xanthis coastline.
In the east of the region are the wetlands. Home to many different bird species and part of Natura 2000. In the middle of a lake, part of these wetlands is a small monastery, built on a wooden deck in the water. In the winter, this area is home to thousands of flamingos.
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How to get to Xanthi
Xanthi doesn’t have an airport, making the region not easily accessible. In the summer months, however, many smaller airplanes fly from Athens and the islands to both Kavala and Alexandroupoli. From here, Xanthi is very close by.
The other option for reaching Xanthi is to fly to Thessaloniki. You can take a rental car or bus from here. This journey is about 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on how Greek you drive. On your way, you will pass the giant lakes of Korneia and Volvi, but you will also see Halkidiki and drive through the mountains.
Is Xanthi expensive?
No. Xanthi is not (yet) discovered by tourism, meaning that prices here are Greek. You can buy a coffee, with a bottle of water, for less than two euros. Going out for food at one of the many tavernas costs approximately 10 euros per person. And staying in a hotel with two people during the summer costs only 60 euros a night. Outside of the summer season, prices will drop to 50 or even 40 euros. Besides, along the coast are many privately rented beach houses which usually offer a pretty good deal.
Meet the real Greeks
The prices make Xanthi the perfect place if you want to stay in Greece for a longer period and get to know the Greek culture. Tourism is not a big thing in Xanthi, so every person you meet or see during your stay will be Greek.
Great events to visit in Xanthi are Carnival, Easter, Christmas, their liberation day on the 4th of October, and the old town festival at the end of the summer. But even the usual days here are worth experiencing. Pick up bougatsa for breakfast in the morning. Work only till 2 in the afternoon. Leave town for a swim in the summer, or a hike in the winter. Enjoy long and tasty Greek lunches. And visit the main square or the old town, at night. That is what life is like for the locals.
What to do in Xanthi
Here is a list of all the things you can do in Xanthi:
- Go to the beach in Myrodato or Mólos. Or visit the beach bar Porto Moló at night.
- Hike in the mountains, especially from Augo. The view on the top is amazing.
- Canoe or barbecue on the Nestos river.
- There is also an accessible “monopati” if you want to watch the river on foot. From here you can see many old railway tunnels through the mountains.
- Visit the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas.
- Get lost in the old town.
- Visit the bridges around Xanthi.
- Watch flamingos in the lakes during the winter months.
- Visit the Pomaks villages, like Smithi or Echinos.
- Eat at local taverns, or try bougatsa, and a lot of other sweets.
- Go to the Bazar on Saturdays. It used to be the biggest one in the Balkans.
- Visit the waterfall of Levaditis.
- Have a look at the great mansion of Manos Hatdjidakis. One of the greatest worldwide recognized music composers of Greece.
- Walk the path of life.
- Hang out at the square, together with the locals.
How long to stay in Xanthi?
As I mentioned before, Xanthi is perfect for a longer stay in Greece to blend in with the locals. Nonetheless, a shorter stay is also possible. Rent a house or room at the beach and relax for a week or two. Or, go hiking in the mountains. To visit all the landmarks of Xanthi four or five days should be enough. However, I do not recommend staying only for those days. Xanthi has to grow on you, so give it a chance!
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