Central Macedonia is one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece, consisting of the central part of the geographical and historical region of Macedonia. With a population of almost 1.8 million, it is the second most populous in Greece after Attica. It is also a popular tourist destination, offering a variety of attractions and experiences for visitors who want to explore its natural beauty and diversity.
Central Macedonia is blessed with a rich and diverse natural environment, ranging from mountains and forests to lakes and coasts. Some of the highlights include:
- Mount Olympus: The highest mountain in Greece and the mythical home of the gods, Mount Olympus is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a national park, hosting a remarkable biodiversity of flora and fauna. It is also a paradise for hikers, climbers and nature lovers, who can enjoy its scenic trails, peaks and valleys.
- Chalkidiki peninsula: The three-fingered peninsula jutting out into the Aegean Sea is Macedonia’s most popular beach destination, combining 550 kilometres of sandy beaches with dense forests. It is also home to Mount Athos, a unique monastic community and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where only male visitors are allowed.
- Lakes: Central Macedonia has several lakes that offer stunning views and recreational opportunities. Some of the most notable ones are Lake Koroneia, Lake Volvi, Lake Doiran and Lake Kerkini. The latter is an artificial lake created by damming the Strymon river, and is one of the most important wetlands in Europe, hosting hundreds of bird species, as well as water buffaloes, otters and turtles.
Central Macedonia is not only diverse in terms of its natural landscape, but also in terms of its cultural heritage and identity. The region has been influenced by various civilizations and peoples throughout history, such as the ancient Macedonians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Slavs, the Ottomans and the modern Greeks. This has resulted in a rich mosaic of traditions, languages, religions and customs that can be seen in its architecture, art, cuisine and festivals. Some examples are:
- Thessaloniki: The capital and largest city of Central Macedonia, Thessaloniki is a vibrant metropolis with a long and fascinating history. Founded in 315 BC by Cassander, the king of Macedon, it was named after his wife Thessalonike, the sister of Alexander the Great. It became an important cultural and commercial center in the Roman and Byzantine empires, and later a cosmopolitan city under Ottoman rule, where Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted peacefully. Today, Thessaloniki is a modern European city with a lively nightlife, a rich gastronomy and a UNESCO-listed heritage that includes monuments such as the White Tower, the Rotunda, the Arch of Galerius and the Church of Saint Demetrius.
- Vergina: A small town in the regional unit of Imathia, Vergina is famous for being the site of Aigai, the ancient capital of the Macedonian kingdom. It was here that Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, was assassinated in 336 BC. In 1977, archaeologist Manolis Andronikos discovered the royal tombs of Philip II and his son Alexander IV, as well as other members of the Macedonian dynasty. The tombs contained priceless treasures such as gold crowns, jewelry, weapons and paintings. They are now displayed in a museum built underground to protect them from light and humidity.
- Edessa: Known as the “city of waterfalls”, Edessa is located in the regional unit of Pella, near the border with North Macedonia. It is famous for its spectacular waterfalls that cascade from a height of 70 meters into the river Edessaios. The waterfalls are surrounded by lush vegetation and offer a refreshing escape from the summer heat. Edessa also has a rich history dating back to ancient times, when it was an important center of Macedonian power. It was here that Alexander I, an ancestor of Alexander the Great, welcomed the Persian king Xerxes I in 480 BC.
In conclusion, Central Macedonia is a region that offers something for everyone who wants to discover its natural beauty and diversity. Whether it is hiking on Mount Olympus, sunbathing on Chalkidiki beaches or visiting historical sites like Thessaloniki or Vergina, Central Macedonia is a destination that will not disappoint.