Photo: empisteutiko.gr

One can find it all in Serres… this largely undiscovered jewel at the heart of Macedonia in the country’s north is a hive of natural activity and eco activities. From the peaks of its mountains to the density of its forests, the breadth of its glittering lake, teeming with fish and fowl, and the depths of the Alistrati Cave, one of the largest in Europe, Serres offers a cornucopia of sights and experiences unrivalled elsewhere in Greece.

Nestled between the mountains of Kilkis to the west, the Rhodope mountain range to the northeast and bordering on Bulgaria, due north, the well-watered fertile plain of the Serres region is dominated by the manmade Lake Kerkini. But the abundant Lake and adjacent wetland represent just one of Serres’ many attractions. Visitors come to hike its valleys or climb its summits, explore the timelessness of its ancient Ottoman and Byzantine ruins and forts, or bathe in the therapeutic waters of its natural mineral springs.

While few Europeans are aware of the treasures waiting to be discovered in the country’s north, there are increasing well-heeled visitors from the nations of the former Soviet Union and Balkans. However, the Serres region has somehow remained off the beaten track for most visitors to Greece. It is this lack of overdevelopment as compared to the rest of the country that caused the entire prefecture to be chosen as a European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) in 2010. The EDEN awards are intended to promote year-round sustainable tourism models across the EU and the 2010 theme was aquatourism, something in which Serres excels!

Fed by the Strymon or Strymonas river that originates in Bulgaria’s Mount Vitosas, flows across the prefecture and empties

into the Orfanos Gulf in the south, the Serres plain has ample water for a rich agricultural landscape that has drawn inhabitants since the beginning of time. The artificial Lake Kerkini was created by a dam on former marshland in 1928 in order to halt outbreaks of malaria among newly resettled refugees from Asia Minor. Its channels and canals as well as the Kerkinitis river, descending from nearby Mount Mavrovouni to the west, today make this some of Greece’s most arable land. Archaeological exploration of the area of Mount Vrontos, covered by the Lailias Forest, indicates that Neolithic tribes mined the region’s minerals and felled its timber as far back as 1200 BC. Thankfully, the modern inhabitants take better care to preserve the region’s natural wealth.

The flatlands, mostly planted with grain and cotton in the 19th century, host agricultural production today that is as diverse as it is eco-friendly. Area entrepreneurs are proud of their organically grown produce, from fruits, vegetables and grains to honey, tahini, pulses, olive oil and dairy. Recent startups include the cultivation of the ancient antioxidant biofood spirulina and ostrich farming. Serres is also famous for its own indigenous ‘Turkish’ delight – ‘loukoumia’ in Greek – locally called ‘akanes’ and made of fresh goat butter and the pure water of the nearby mountains.The region was also reputedly a favored haunt of wine god Dionysius, a claim its viticulturists heartily endorse. The majority of the wineries offer tours to visitors and host autumn festivals, and so do some distilleries, keeping in mind that ouzo is also produced here from natural aromatic ingredients.

The tavernas in the small villages that dot both the plain and higher elevations serve local game and traditional ethnic recipes created by the multicultural influences of its turbulent history. This was a region much fought over in both modern and ancient times; even today a visit to the Roupel Fortress, near the border with Bulgaria, must be chaperoned by the military. Serres only became part of Greece in 1913. It was an important seat of Byzantium and played a significant role in the uprising against Ottoman rule and in holding back Axis powers Germany and Bulgaria in the Second World War, as can be seen from the area’s many fortresses and monasteries.

The county capital, also called Serres, is the only major urban center, a sprawling verdant city with large squares and impressive mansions that attest to the region’s long prosperity. It’s center is Plateia Eleftherias, meaning Freedom Square, and a festival is held from June 23 to 29 to celebrate the region’s liberation from the Bulgars in 1213. The music dance and arts festival ‘Gefiroudiana’ takes place from August 20-30. The park in the valley of Agii Anargyroi, off Exochon Street, is one of the most shady and beautiful, providing respite and relaxation. It is the municipality’s cool hotspot in the summer months.

Photo: www.discovergreece.com

Just 86 kilometers from Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki, the city is served by 33 buses daily from that city and 3 daily from Athens as well as by railroad, making it easily accessible for the ski and snowboard devotees who flock to the winter sports center 24 kilometers from the city. But when winter passes, the massive Vrontos mountain massif – 33,000 stremma (or 33 square kilometres) – on which the alpine center sits, settles back into pristine beech and pine forest that is the perfect escape from the stresses of modern living. The Lailias Forest provides a canopy of flora in which to explore. It would be a shame to miss its kaleidoscope of foliage during the ‘off’ seasons.

Lake Kerkini

One of the few success stories of man’s intervention in nature, this rich biotope, 17 kilometers in length and 5 wide at its maximum in early spring, is home to more than 620 species of plants, 31 species of fish as well as amphibians and reptiles, rodents and immeasurable insects. An entomologist’s dream, 120 species of butterfly alone flit among its wildflowers. This generous ecosystem also supports hedgehogs, hares, ferrets, foxes, wolves, boar and roe deer that roam Kerkini’s shores, not to mention the herds of water buffalo wallowing among the water lilies in its shallows. However, it is the birdwatching that draws the greatest number of visitors to this protected national nature reserve, one of 10 in Greece of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. At almost any time of the year, the lake hosts more than 20,000 birds, from ducks, geese and swans to pelicans, egrets, herons, storks and cormorants. Listed as an Important Bird Area under the Bonn Convention, many migratory birds come here to reproduce, including eagles, owls and numerous passerines and songbirds in addition to the more prevalent waterfowl.

For those more inclined to doing than observing, a range of activities, including fishing, boating, canoe and kayaking, cycling, trail walking and climbing and horseback riding are also on offer.

Share:

Location - Serres

Ski resort Laila

The Lailias ski centre, operating from December to March and managed by the Hellenic Alpine Club of Serres, is located 27 miles from that city high atop Mt Vrontos at an altitude ranging from 1850 meters to 1600 meters. It has one slope of moderate difficulty as well as a lift that can serve 700 people an hour. The longest slope (1250 m) starts out as red (difficult) and then continues as blue (experienced). It is named after Macedonian revolutionary war hero Emmanuel Pappas. There is also one baby lift serving the learning slopes, ski school and first aid station. The centre is famous for its Lang-Lauf courses, making it one of the best resorts in Greece for the sport. The wood and stone ski lodge has all modern facilities, including restaurants with local delicacies and ski rentals. The centre offers night skiing every Saturday night.

Find Out More

Bird Watching on Lake Kerkini

One of the the top bird sites for birdwatching in all of Greece, Lake Kerkini is an extremely important area for the passage, wintering and breeding of both waterfowl and raptors as well as for the breeding of migratory songbirds.

Find Out More

Bougatinas Mountain Refuge, Proti

Along national hiking Route 04, the mountain-climbing shelter, run by the Serres branch of the Hellenic Alpine Club (EOS), sits at an altitude of 1956 metres on Mt Pangeo.

Find Out More

Lake Kerkini Center for Ecotourism, Lithotopos

This is the place to go to learn what options for excursions there are on or around the lake. Also exhibits samples of plant life, insects, fowl and fauna in a mini museum.

Find Out More

Bird Watching on Lake Kerkini

One of the the top bird sites for birdwatching in all of Greece, Lake Kerkini is an extremely important area for the passage, wintering and breeding of both waterfowl and raptors as well as for the breeding of migratory songbirds.

Find Out More

Kerkini Wetland Information Center, Kerkini

Make a quick stop here to learn how the lake was created and what is being done to preserve and protect it for future generations. Using traditional boats called ‘plaves’, visitors can experience the beauty of the water on the lake at a safe distance from the birds, enjoying the wet forest and birdwatching at the same time, all year round.

Find Out More

Lake Kerkini Center for Ecotourism, Lithotopos

This is the place to go to learn what options for excursions there are on or around the lake. Also exhibits samples of plant life, insects, fowl and fauna in a mini museum.

Find Out More

Management Authority for Lake Kerkini, Kato Poroia

This organization polices the area to make sure no illegal hunting or intrusive practices are taking place.

Find Out More

Serres offers little in the way of organized campgrounds except for along the little bit of seashore by Amphipolis, in the south. That shouldn’t put one off, as 'free' camping has a long and strong tradition in Greece. A farmer may let someone set up in their field, as will some hotels and guesthouses on their property, as long as one purchases water or a meal. It can’t hurt to ask but remember that crucial belongings should never be left at camp.

The lifeline of the Serres area, the Strymonas River flows north to south the entire length of the region. The rivers that lead into it and irrigation canals winding off of it form an extensive network of charmingly scenic waterways that provide endless options for exploring the area by canoe.

The Strymonas River empties into manmade Lake Kerkini 20 kilometres from the point it enters Greece from Bulgaria. The crown jewel of Serres, Lake Kerkini, 24 kms in length, is a wonderland of nature, be it for flora, fauna or fowl. The Strymonas then meanders another 70 kilometres of luscious farmland and bright meadows before emptying into the Strymonikos Gulf on the Aegean. On Lake Kerkini, sightseeing boats and canoes can be rented from the village of Lithotopos, near the dam that formed the lake. For the even more adventurous, there’s the fast-flowing water of the Aggitis Gorge, 45km southeast of Serres. The Aggitis River flows through the villages of Symvoli and Lefkothea and winds up at the five-arched stone bridge at Aggista. Limestone layers form a ravine through which the river passes while 6th century paintings of animals and people can be seen along the canyon’s walls against a rich green backdrop.

Photo: www.trekking.gr

Kayaking is a great way to take advantage of the province’s numerous waterways and see much more than one would from the road. One of the least obtrusive ways to view the delights of the Serres region, whether its flora, fauna or birdlife, kayaking is readily available around Lake Kerkini in the region’s north. Just inquire at any hotel or hostel. Rafting tours of the sheer Aggitis Gorge run its 15 kilometers between the Pangeo and Menikion mountains and pass through lush vegetation and by the 5th century rock paintings on its limestone cliffs.

Aggitis Gorge

The sheer, nearly smooth 50-70 meter slopes of the Aggitis Gorge are a canyoneer’s dream. Considered by locals to have been hewn by Philip II of Macedon, the limestone ravine was more likely the result of seismic shifts between the Paggeo and Menikon mountains. Whatever the reason, this 15-kilometer river gorge offers untold opportunities for rappelling and canyoning as close to nature as one can get. The railway line passes by the village of Symvoli at the entrance to the gorge, making it easy to get to or be whisked away after a long day and tired muscles. The canyon is open year-round.

Find Out More

Once the winter snows are gone, Serres is ideal for cycling; options include mountain biking up its many rugged slopes through forests of pine, beech and chestnut or along bountiful Lake Kerkini. Spring is hands-down the best season around the lake, when the poppies and other wildflowers begin to bloom, butterflies are the air and one can stop to take in the majestic sight of thousands upon thousands of birds taking flight. If one doesn’t have their own equipment, rentals are available in most of the larger towns, while more extreme organized options are available in Serres, Protomachonas, Falakro, Alistrati and along the length of the Aggitis Gorge.
Cycling Bulgaria also organizes 8-day tours beginning in Greece’s north neighbor, taking in the Alistrati cave and Aggitis gorge and ending in Halkidiki, the peninsula next to Thessaloniki.

Sweets for the sweet, they say, and Serres is sweet-tooth country – and not just for the 'bougatsa' cream pie that is a speciality all over northern Greece. The Serres version of 'loukoumia,' or Turkish delight, is called 'akanes' – a soft chewy buttery gelatin candy covered in icing sugar.

The region’s many fruits – cherries, lemons, strawberries, raspberries, figs, apples, peaches, pears, apricots, plums, kiwis, bergamot and oranges – are preserved as jams and spoon sweets, called 'glykia tou koutaliou,' while local honey, sesame, semolina and nuts provide the ingredients for a complete range of other delicious goodies. These sweets are just the thing to aid digestion after a meal of the area’s other specialities – wild boar and buffalo meat and trout or lake carp. Buffalo meat is also processed as sausages or strong-tasting preserved meat called 'kavourmas.'

The fertile Serres plain is also known for the agricultural production of nuts, rice, grains, pulses, tomatoes, potatoes and sugar beet, which explains the predominance of desserts. Visit the teashop run by the Women’s Cooperative in Ano Poroia and sample the traditional products made by its members. The region is also known for growing tobacco, especially the village of Gazoros after a documentary was made about its farmers in 1974.

In addition to the many vineyards (see wine section), local vintners also make tsipouro (Greece’s version of moonshine) as well as ouzo. The brand of ouzo under the Babatzim label rivals the ouzos of Lesvos for quality. Connoisseurs of the spirit claim it is the best-tasting ouzo of all due to the purity of the local water used in its distillation.

Though the Serres plain is called, “the flattest area in Greece,” it is surrounded by numerous mountains. Hiking is one of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of the area — its stone bridges, amazingly rich foliage, rushing streams or monasteries and quaint villages.

There are routes for beginners and more advanced hikers. Long haul routes include international walking paths -- the European long-distance trail E4, over Mt Belles, and E6 through the Vrondou mountains. Not yet complete, national Route 04 is planned to connect with E6 to Thessaloniki. At present it is marked from Amphipolis over the Pangaion, or Paggeo, mountain, giving the hiker a splendid view of the sea from the summit.

The Hellenic Mountaineering Association runs a refuge of 64 beds at an altitude of 1,956 along Route 04. Almost every municipality can provide maps of hiking routes in its vicinity. Suggested start-off points include Siderokastro, which can be combined with a visit to the town’s hot springs, Aghio Pneuma, with a stop at the area’s three monasteries, Oreini with beautiful mountain views, or Ahladohori along the banks of the Kroussovitis River, a good place to spot wildlife.

Photo: www.toarchontikotoukosti.gr

A flat river basin encircled by 10 mountains, how could Serres NOT be mountain-climbing country? Indeed, the alpine clubs here date back to the beginning of the century. There are two major mountain shelters, open year-round, along international hiking paths, as well as established courses for the more intrepid. Along the Bulgarian border sits Mount Belles (also called Kekrini) at 2031 metres. Further west are Aggistro (at 1294 metres above sea level), Orvilos (1888), Vrontos (1849), Menikio (1963), and Pangeo (1956). In the region’s south and east lie Kerdilio (1091), Krousia (860) and Mavrovouni (1179). Mount Vertsikos is just over the prefectural border in Thessaloniki.

Bougatinas Mountain Refuge, Proti

Along national hiking Route 04, the mountain-climbing shelter, run by the Serres branch of the Hellenic Alpine Club (EOS), sits at an altitude of 1956 metres on Mt Pangeo.

Find Out More

Shelter Olympia Lailias

Just 3km away from the Lailias Ski Centre, the Hellenic Alpine Club runs this shelter at an altitude of 1500 metres on Mt Vrondos. It also runs a summer camp for children 8-15 years old with activities taking place in the Lialias Forest. (Operated by HAC Serres)

Find Out More

Amateur rock climbing can be practiced all over Serres. The Kroussa, Belles and Mavrovouni mountains overlook Lake Kerkini in the region’s northwest, while the peaks of Menikio and Vrontos meet up with the Rhodope range in the northeast. One good place to start is in Chionohori, also Hionohori, a traditional stone village (at 850 meters) at the base of Mount Menikion (at a height of 1,963 meters) deep in the Lailias Forest.

Though not as prevalent as outfitters of kayaking or canoeing in Serres, sailing is available on Lake Kerkini in the region’s northwest. The volume of this manmade body of water rises in the spring and drops in the autumn and contains a submerged forest, which would be wise to steer clear of with a hull. Sailing craft are available at either end of the lake, at Kerkini in the north or near the dam in Lithotopos. Some sailing can also be done in the Aegean at the port of Amphipolis in the Strymonikos Gulf.

Kerkini Wetland Information Center, Kerkini

Make a quick stop here to learn how the lake was created and what is being done to preserve and protect it for future generations. Using traditional boats called ‘plaves’, visitors can experience the beauty of the water on the lake at a safe distance from the birds, enjoying the wet forest and birdwatching at the same time, all year round.

Find Out More

Ski resort Laila

The Lailias ski centre, operating from December to March and managed by the Hellenic Alpine Club of Serres, is located 27 miles from that city high atop Mt Vrontos at an altitude ranging from 1850 meters to 1600 meters. It has one slope of moderate difficulty as well as a lift that can serve 700 people an hour. The longest slope (1250 m) starts out as red (difficult) and then continues as blue (experienced). It is named after Macedonian revolutionary war hero Emmanuel Pappas. There is also one baby lift serving the learning slopes, ski school and first aid station. The centre is famous for its Lang-Lauf courses, making it one of the best resorts in Greece for the sport. The wood and stone ski lodge has all modern facilities, including restaurants with local delicacies and ski rentals. The centre offers night skiing every Saturday night.

Find Out More

A holiday spent testing one’s mettle and one’s muscles wouldn’t be complete without someplace to unwind and the Serres region is blessed with having not one but three spots with geothermic hot springs, each quite distinct from the others.

Natural Mineral Springs at Agistro

Near the Promachonas border with Bulgaria, this is the oldest hamam in Greece, built in 950 AD. Hugely atmospheric, it is set amid wild landscape known for its honey and trout. The water temperature is 40.5 degrees, said to cure arthritis and dermatological ailments.

Find Out More

Pighi Spa and hot Springs, Siderokastro

Located 6 kms from Siderokastro and 25 km north of Serres, this spa is divided in 3 parts with two hamams from the Byzantine era for men and women, as well as hydrotherapy rooms and private baths. The water is a steady 45 degrees. Spa hotel available.

Find Out More

Therma, outside Nigrita

The water of Therma is famed throughout Greece for its medicinal qualities. The onsite spa is open from July through October and private baths are available for the therapy of rheumatism, arthritis, back problems, lumbago and dermatological problems.

Find Out More

Photo: www.summer-greece.com

Compared to other regions of Greece, Serres has very little coastline, but what it lacks in seaside areas, it makes up for in cold fresh water streams straight from the mountains. Swimming, however, is frowned upon in the Kerkini wetland and one might be better off cooling off in one of the tributaries of the Strymonas river further south. What beaches there are, where the river empties into the Aegean, are overdeveloped and not well cared for. There is a major holiday resort at Nea Kerdilia, or Kerdylia: Avoid at all cost in high season.

Ski resort Laila

The Lailias ski centre, operating from December to March and managed by the Hellenic Alpine Club of Serres, is located 27 miles from that city high atop Mt Vrontos at an altitude ranging from 1850 meters to 1600 meters. It has one slope of moderate difficulty as well as a lift that can serve 700 people an hour. The longest slope (1250 m) starts out as red (difficult) and then continues as blue (experienced). It is named after Macedonian revolutionary war hero Emmanuel Pappas. There is also one baby lift serving the learning slopes, ski school and first aid station. The centre is famous for its Lang-Lauf courses, making it one of the best resorts in Greece for the sport. The wood and stone ski lodge has all modern facilities, including restaurants with local delicacies and ski rentals. The centre offers night skiing every Saturday night.

Find Out More

Bird Watching on Lake Kerkini

One of the the top bird sites for birdwatching in all of Greece, Lake Kerkini is an extremely important area for the passage, wintering and breeding of both waterfowl and raptors as well as for the breeding of migratory songbirds.

Find Out More

Bougatinas Mountain Refuge, Proti

Along national hiking Route 04, the mountain-climbing shelter, run by the Serres branch of the Hellenic Alpine Club (EOS), sits at an altitude of 1956 metres on Mt Pangeo.

Find Out More

Lake Kerkini Center for Ecotourism, Lithotopos

This is the place to go to learn what options for excursions there are on or around the lake. Also exhibits samples of plant life, insects, fowl and fauna in a mini museum.

Find Out More

Though not as prevalent as in other regions of Greece, Serres does have some impressive archaeological finds. As is true of most of the country, just scratch the surface and you’ll discover something. Unfortunately, the majority of Ministry of Culture funding has been channelled elsewhere, so most of the region’s ancient treasures have yet to be excavated. One notable exception is Argilos, an active dig. The major archaeological site in the area is at Amphipolis, with impressive fortification walls, a necropolis and homes complete with murals. Smaller ancient outposts around Serres show signs of being built by the diverse Thracian tribes when the area was known as Bisaltia, or Vissaltia, before it was conquered by Philip II of Macedon in the 4th century BC.

Cave of Alistrati

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Find Out More

Lake Kerkini

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Find Out More

Pristine forests, craggy mountains, the basin of the Strymonas river and manmade Lake Kerkini all provide refuge for diverse wildlife in Serres. Wild boar and brown bear, mountain cats and foxes as well as hares, hedgehogs, badgers, owls, eagles and numerous waterfowl can be sighted here. At Agio Pneuma, just west of Serres on Mt Menikio, can be found one of the country’s rare populations of wild horses, a herd of about 100. Water buffalo cool off in the shallows of Lake Kerkini near the villages of Vironia and Megalohori. Check out the birdwatching section for a description of the hundreds of species of birds.

Serres has a very long tradition of winemaking. Just how long? Well, it is said that a light was always kept burning at the temple of Dionysus in Ancient Visaltia to ensure a good harvest. Today the descendants of these ancient vines comprise acres and acres of viticulture on the slopes of Mounts Kerdylio, Menikio, Belles and Pangeon as well as in the lowlands around Gazoros and Abeloi. Mythology says that the god of music, dance and inebriation, Dionysus, married Ariadne, who had two sons, Staphillos and Oinopoeonas, who, in turn, gave grape cultivation and wine production to the Greeks. Even today, a festival is held in Gazoros where Dionysian dances take place. Another myth says that a follower of Dionysus, Ampelos, was killed by accident when riding a bull and that the god took pity on the youth, bringing him back to life as a grapevine. No matter how wine production first arrived in Greece, it has flourished. Though not as well known as other European wines, Greece produces some excellent vintages, Serres in particular.

Alexandridis ouzo production

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Find Out More

Apostoli’s Vineyard, Abeloi

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Find Out More

Domaine Romalidi, Abeloi

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Find Out More

Kyathos Winery

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Find Out More

Neratzi Estate, Pentapolis

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Find Out More
No tours found in this destination. Please check other destinations.
No Archeological Tours found in this destination. Please check other destinations or tour types.
No Geo Tours found in this destination. Please check other destinations or tour types.
No Hiking Tours found in this destination. Please check other destinations or tour types.
No Top Tours found in this destination. Please check other destinations or tour types.

Chateaux Constantin

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Book with booking.com

Guesthouse Limnaio

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Book with booking.com

Oikoperiigitis Hotel 3 *

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Book with booking.com

Chateaux Constantin

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Book with booking.com

Guesthouse Limnaio

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Book with booking.com

Oikoperiigitis Hotel 3 *

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Book with booking.com

Chateaux Constantin

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Book with booking.com

Guesthouse Limnaio

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Book with booking.com

Oikoperiigitis Hotel 3 *

Macedonia & Thrace / Serres
Book with booking.com

Explore More

More Subdestinations In Macedonia & Thrace
Drama Macedonia & Thrace
Evros Macedonia & Thrace
Florina Macedonia & Thrace
Grevena Macedonia & Thrace
Halkidiki Macedonia & Thrace
Imathia Macedonia & Thrace
Kastoria Macedonia & Thrace
Kavala Macedonia & Thrace
Kilkis Macedonia & Thrace
Kozani Macedonia & Thrace
Pella Macedonia & Thrace
Pieria & Mount Olympus Macedonia & Thrace
Rodopi Macedonia & Thrace
Samothraki Macedonia & Thrace
Thassos Macedonia & Thrace
Thessaloniki (Salonica) Macedonia & Thrace
Xanthi Macedonia & Thrace