Xanthi offers each traveller a unique opportunity to discover a part of Greece that combines the Rodopi mountain range with huge landscapes of endless forests and the Evros River. Thanks to its fantastic geographical location, it connects the north-eastern part of Greece with Bulgaria and Turkey. Xanthi is where the saying 'East meets West' comes to life. It is part of the prefecture of Thrace, a nature lovers’ paradise that is all about fertile land, sunflowers, huge trees, and nesting birds. If you're looking for a powerful destination that offers the aura of tradition steeped in nature, Xanthi is certainly a place to discover.
Whether fishing is your passion or not, it's good to know that the region hosts an international conference on Fish Tourism in Abdera every year to promote eco-friendly methods of commercial fishing and supports its local fishermen. This area of Greece combines many types of outdoor activities which includes hiking, caving, kayaking, birdwatching, horseback riding and agrotourism among others. The Nestos river and Nestos delta are the gods' gifts to outdoor activities from rafting to birdwatching. Lake Vistonida and Xanthi's lush forests are equally enchaning.
Due to Thrace's location, Xanthi struggled from Antiquity to remain Greek. It was invaded by the Persians, Goths, and Bulgars just to name a few. In 1912 it was invaded by the Bulgarians but for a short time until the Greeks freed the population eight months later. However, the area was seized again by the Bulgarians until the end of World War II, when it was finally liberated and became part of Greece. This city suffered through two Earthquakes in 1829 and was rebuilt. The main source of agriculture and trade in the 19th century was tobacco and it is interesting to see the architecture of tobacco stores from that period in the Old Town of Xanthi which are still well preserved. Indeed, visiting the Old Town is a must as it provides an enchanting window into the past. The preservation of the Old Town shows that the community has been very connected in keeping its heritage alive. Once you venture outside of the city centre, the east unveils the enormous landscape of the Rodopi mountains while the west reveals the beautiful town of Stavroupolis. There is an area here protected under the European Natura 2000 scheme, considered one of the only protected aquatic woods in Europe, where nature rules. Another outdoor destination is Livaditis, which offers a lot of sports like mountain climbing, hiking, walking, and cycling.
Xanthi also boasts a connection to the Sea. The towns that are on the coastline for swimming activities are Avdera, Erasmio, Mirodato, Magana, Madra, Porto Lagos, Potamia and Nea Kesani. The beaches are sublime, and not as well known as other parts of Greece luckily.
On the culinary front, the greater region of Xanthi offers all types of cuisine and is especially known for its unique sweets. Meat dishes and vegetarian meze (small starters) like Kolokythokeftedes – zucchini patties – can be found to be very tasty at “To Palio Meraki in Plateia Andika. If you're looking for a evening spirit with healthy snacks, try Myrovolos which offers Tsipouromezedes – dishes infused with the hearty homemade liquor, Tsipouro, known for its medicinal qualities. You must sample the garlic eggplant dish there too. This place and many others offer live local music on weekends that adds an authentic touch to the whole dining experience.
Another must is to visit local bakeries and taste the various homemade desserts that each pastry chef has assembled for viewing. Saragli, Kariokes, Baklava,Kazandipi, Seker pare, ekmek kadaifi, touloumbes, ravani, and loukoum. These sweets represent the multi-cultural diversity of Xanthi between the local Greek residents, Greeks from Constantinople (Istanbul) and Turkey. Even the main dishes are influenced from these cultural blends, don’t miss the Giaourtlou (a kebab dish topped with yogurt sauce and served on pita) and soutzoukakia (tomato meat balls flavoured with cumin and many other spices). The local wild greens are must to try too. These are all locally grown and cultivated from farmers of Xanthi.
The region is well known for its monasteries and churches. Keeping in mind that Greeks are very spiritually connected to their faith, if one ventures into any of the monestaries or churches in this region, they will be awestruck by the individual beauty and mystical aura that they exude. Right in the middle of the Rodopi Mountains stands The Monestary of Panagia Archaggeliotissa (The Virgin Mary Archangel), built in 1848 and rebuilt in the 20th century after a fire. Many visitors make the pilgrimage to this sacred place to pay homage to the Virgin Mary. There are dress codes for visiting Monasteries and Churches, so dress conservatively.
There are many museums to discover in this region too. The Folk Museum in the Old Town is well worth a trip to view the traditional village style clothing, furniture, and decorative creations on display. Another gem is to see the architecture of the residences in the Old Town, once again it is obvious of the blend of cultures from Greek neoclassics to Western Macedonians and German Romanticism. Each residence in here is a historic wonderland. It tells a story of another era. Xanthi offers a touch of spice to every traveller. It is a jewel of Greece that focuses on continuing a long tradition of pride in preserving its heritage and landscape.