Kavala is mentioned in most guidebooks only casually, although it is one of the most beautiful smaller cities in Greece offering a wide range of places of interest for tourism. A wealth of possibilities for excursions in the surrounding area, many beautiful not overcrowded beaches, archaeological sites and many places of natural beauty makes it a fun-filled vacation destination.
People of Thassos island established Kavala as a colony in the mid 7th century BC to secure commercial control of the straits between Thassos and the mainland and to exploit the gold deposits at Mount Pangaion.
Kavala prospered due to its trade routes and the commercial harbor and gained independence from Thassos but for security reasons, maintained friendly relations with Athens, the major power in the region, as a member of the Athenian League.
In the 4th century BC, the city lost its independence and became the port of the neighboring Macedonian city of Philippi.
During Roman occupation, the city prospered again as a major commercial station along the Via Egnatia, as well as the port of Philippi.
During the Byzantine period, Kavala became part of the “East Roman Empire”. Remains of the Byzantine fortifications can still be seen at many points on the old town (called Panagia), as well as the imposing Castle.
Kavala was prey to numerous assaults by Slavs, Franks, Venetians and Turks until in 1391 it was captured by the Ottomans. Under Turkish occupation, the Castle and the walls of Kavala were repaired, and around 1550 the large aqueduct was constructed under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566). It consists of 60 arches of four different sizes and at its highest point stands 25 meters high.
Kavala was the birthplace of the founder of the last Egyptian dynasty, called Mehmet Ali (1769). He lived in the city for many years and his home is now a museum and coffee house, standing at the top of the old town.
Mehmet Ali was a great benefactor to the city, erecting the poorhouse (Imaret) in 1817, which also functioned as a religious school and boarding school. A remarkable example of Islamic architecture, the building now belongs to the Egyptian state and is being converted into a luxury hotel.
After the Turkish-Greek war of 1922, some 25,000 Greek refugees settled in Kavala, increasing the population of the city significantly. At the same time the city was enjoying great economic prosperity as a major center for the processing of tobacco. Many of the tobacco storage and processing houses are still a part of the cityscape.
Between the 70th to 90th, the textile industry was of great importance. With the opening of Bulgaria after the fall of the Soviet Union the sewing industry shifted there. Since then, service and tourism have become the most important economic sectors.
Kavala has hot dry summers (mid June to mid September) and wet cool winters (November to April). Its not as hot as southern Greece in summer but colder in winter. The swimming season starts in early May and ends mid-October. From mid-June to late August there is hardly any rain and therefore is the best travel season (but also the hottest). For those who don't like the heat of the summer and do not mind occasional rainy days best traveling time is from mid-May to mid June and September to mid-October.
Kavala is a major port. It is possible to reach it by ferry from Lemnos, and several other north Aegean islands. With a bit of careful planning, or aimless wandering, it is possible to reach Kavala from almost any Greek island with a ferry via other islands. A modern marina for sailing boats and motor boats is under construction and should be finished summer 2016.
Alexander the Great Airport is about 30 km from Kavala near the village Chrysopolis. Planes, mostly touristic charters, fly all over Europe and there are daily flights to Athens. Except by Taxis, the airport is hard to reach by public transport. Car rental at the airport is available. There is a public bus from the airport to Kavala city. Taxi's official flat rate fare from Kavala airport to city is 35€ as of 16th June 2016. Beware that not regulated taxis at the airport are common and also the regular taxis show irregularities: taxi license not on display, complete lack of Information about the fare being applied (drivers claim they need to apply a double fare from airport to city). According to Kavala's police department, not having the fares displayed in the taxi is Legal while only license should be displayed. If you decide for taxi it is advisable to enquire about fare prior to entering in the car.
By regional coach
Interurban coaches ("KTEL" buses) are by far the most convenient way to travel around Greece, as well as for intra-regional travelling. There is frequent bus service from Athens Kifisos Station to Kavala, as well as from Thessaloniki bus terminal "Macedonia" to Kavala.
The first bus from Kavala to Thessaloniki departs at 6AM and the last one leaves at 8:40PM. There is one each hour (6AM,7AM, 8AM, 9AM, etc.) The buses at 9AM, 1PM and 5PM are scheduled as "Express" so these busses won´t stop on their way to Thessaloniki. The fare for a ticket to Thessaloniki is €13.50 and it will take about 2 and 2 and a half hour until the bus arrives at Thessaloniki.
From Thessaloniki to Kavala you have also every hour one bus from 8AM until 10PM (except 7AM and 9PM)
To Athens there is a bus twice a day: 8:45AM and 8:30PM. From Athens to Kavala it´s the same: Two buses each day at 8:45AM and 8:30PM
The timetable for buses to Ioannina is 9AM, 11AM, 1PM, 3PM and 5PM
If you are in a hurry and cannot wait for scheduled plane or coach services it could be worthwhile getting a taxi from Thessaloniki, especially if there are 4 travellers when the split price can approximate a bus fare each. Make sure you agree the price before you get in the cab.
There is an efficient public transport system with lines going around the city (ticket price about €1.50). Detailed info in the regional bus terminal (called "Astiko KTEL") in "Filikas Etarias" Street near the harbour.
Taxis in Kavala, as elsewhere in Greece, are comparably cheap. You should not pay more than €5 if you hail a cab (orange or white colour) on the road to take you anywhere in the city. Note that taxi meters have two rates - rate 1 applies from 5AM till midnight, and rate 2, the double rate, from midnight to 5AM. Taxi fare fraud is not widespread but it still happens, so make sure the rate is correct. If you feel you have been overcharged, ask for a receipt (they are obliged to give one) and take the plate number, then phone the tourist police to report the driver on 171. Expect to pay €1 or €2 extra if you take a taxi from the bus station, the train station or the port, and a surcharge if you call for a taxi service on demand.
Trainaki ("The Little Train")
There is a free bus from the main square (11) to the old town which looks like a tourist train. The station is in front of the National Bank. Schedules are written on the "train cars".
- 1 The Harbour. the central point for recreational, commercial, business and tourist activity. Since October 2002 the port is not used commercially. Today it serves the fishing fleet, tourism, ferry boats from and to Thassos, Limnos, Mitilini and water sports.
- 2 Ag. Nikolas church. with Apostle Paul Mosaic ( Kontouriotou Str), it's a “must see place”. Around the church there is an old, somewhat run-down neighborhood with many great cafeterias, Ouzo drinking places (Ouzerias), restaurants and small shops. Especially in the summer evenings it is very attractive place to have a beer.
- 3 Medieval Aqueduct. Well-preserved, it was cleaned and repaired few years ago. It looks like new now and is one of the city's landmarks. It is probably of Roman origin but the present structure dates to the 16th century during Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent's repair and improvement of the Byzantine fortifications. It reaches up to 25 meters high, 280 m long and contains 60 arches. Interesting to see are also some old houses that were built into this monument. If you go 100 m up the street on the side of the new town (Hellenikis Dimokratias Str.) and turn right into the 2nd street (Konstantinidou Str) after 50m (in front of the school) you find the start of the Aqueduct. You can even climb on it a few meters to take nice photos of the Aqueduct plus Old Town.
- 4 The Castle. on a hill above the town. Its biggest part was built in the 15th century. To get there it will take a 15–20 minutes walk from the harbour. A wonderful sea view and also a great view over the city. A simple romantic cafeteria invites you to linger. €2.5.
- 5 The Halil Bey Complex. contains the mosque of Halil Bey dated at the beginning of the 20th century, an older minaret on the side probably of the 16th century and a medrese. The mosque is built over the foundation of an early Christian basilica. Under the modern glass floor a big part of the nave of the old church with the Byzantine floor can be seen.
At the beginning of 16th century the Byzantine church was converted to a mosque. It became the center of one of the oldest Muslim neighborhoods of Kavala, that of Halil Bey. From the Early Ottoman period survived the base of the minaret, which was attached to the southern wall of the Late Byzantine chapel. To the north of the mosque a medrese (Koranic seminary) was erected. The early Ottoman mosque was replaced at the beginning of the 20th century by a new one with the correct orientation towards Mecca. Its rich interior decoration is in the Ottoman-Rococo style.
- 6 Mohamed Ali House. Mohamed Ali was born in 1769 in Kavala and lived there until we was 30 years old. He was the founder of the dynasty which ruled Egypt until 1952 and a major figure in the Eastern Mediterranean history in the first half of the 19th century. His house was built in 1780-90 and contains a museum today. The building has a total surface area of 330 square meters and was the largest house in the town at that time and is considered as one of the most splendid extant examples of eighteen-century Ottoman architecture in Greece. Apart from the house there is also a large garden that currently operates as a bar-restaurant. Next to Mohamed Ali’s house there is a bronze equestrian statue of him.
- 7 Panagia Church (at the end of the old town). From its remarkable forecourt you have a good view to the island of Thasos. Opposite the church is a pub with a beautiful terrace from where you have a wonderful view of the harbor. It's worth resting there with a cold beverage from the somewhat strenuous tour of the hilly old town. .
- 8 Lighthouse (A few meters away from Panagia Church). The small lighthouse and its lookout point with a wonderful view over the sea. From there, a path leads down to rocks in the sea which is a romantic spot to relax. From there, the path splits and leads to the port or around the headland fortification wall back to the parking lot below the Mohamed Ali statue. This "Wall trail” is highly recommended.
- 9 The Imaret. was built between 1817–21 by Mehmet Ali (founder of the last Egyptian dynasty) and is a classic example of Islamic architecture and has survived almost intact. It operated as Muslim seminary, later became refuge for Greeks driven out of Asia Minor after the Greek-Turkish war (1919-22). In 1967 the monument was sealed. In 2001 it was restored and converted into a luxurious and elegant hotel, which maintains something of the ambiance of its era. Although well worth seeing from inside, it is unfortunately a bit difficult to get in, if you are not a guest of the hotel.
- 10 Ferry terminal. The port below the old town is starting point of all ferries going to the islands (Thasos, Lemnos, Lesbos, Rhodes, etc.). Next to it is a large parking lot, which is ideal for travelers as a starting site for a city tour that come by their own car to Kavala. Here are also some good restaurants and bars that are both lunchtime and evening always well attended.
- 11 Main Square (Platia Elefterias). On the right side (seen from the sea) is the old St. Nikolas quarter with its pubs, restaurants, little shops giving an impression how the town was many years ago. To the left of the Square is a the modern shopping district. In front of the "National Bank" is the station of a train-like bus going to the old town. A good alternative if you are not so strong on foot to climb the hill to the old town. Next to the bank is the Tourist Information Center that offers friendly help and free maps.
- 12 Shopping district. partially a pedestrian area with narrow streets, shops of all kinds and many street cafeterias. Also in the evening you find pubs and restaurants there.
- 13 Promenade. Picturesque fishing and sailing boats, restaurants, pubs, coffee houses. On Saturday morning, there is an interesting fruit & clothing market (Bazaar). Sit in one of the many cafeterias along the promenade in summer to enjoy the view over the harbor and old town. Especially in the night, it's a good place to drink a cold beer and watch people walking along.
- 14 The City Hall (Dimarchio) (on Kipos Iroon Park). one of Kavala's landmarks. In close proximity is the Tobacco Museum (Philippou Odos Str).
- 15 Archaeological Museum. It has several interesting finds from the area around Kavala, as well as from other ancient settlements. It's worth seeing although it has nothing spectacular to offer.
- 16 The Via Egnatia. The Via Egnatia is the ancient Roman road which ran across the Balkans between the port of Durrës (Albania) and Istanbul connecting the Adriatic Sea and the Bosporus. This first “highway” across the Balkans was built around 146 BC. Kavala was an important station along its route. A few hundred meters of the ancient road are well preserved. Unfortunately the place is not signposted and needs a bit searching. Going out of Kavala center (on 7is Merarchia Str.) there is a parking area and view point 750m after the Hotel Egnatia on the left street side. From there a path leads 150m downhill to the Egnatia..
- 17 Agios Silas Monastery. The Monastery of Agios Silas is dedicated to the Apostle Silas who accompanied Saint Paul on his journey to Philippi. A small church was built here in 1937, at the location where, according to Christian tradition, Paul and his companions Silas, Timothy and Luke rested on their way to Philippi. Although it's not a “must see location” its quite photogenic and you have a nice view over Kavala.
- 18 The White Cross. High over Kavala a big white cross can be seen from everywhere in the town. Its a very nice place to go and you have a fantastic view over Kavala and the coast line, the Pangaion Mountain and the Delta of the river Nestos. Although you can reach the point only on mud roads and its not signposted its definitively worth to go there, especially in late afternoon, when the sun is not burning hot anymore. Coming from Kavala center turn right opposite of Ag.Silas Monastery (at a bus station shortly before the motorway access towards Xanthi) and follow the paved road uphill 1,5km until you reach a little church and a hut with parking and grill place (turn left shortly before the paved road ends, signposted as FOK). From here you can make a nice 2,5 km walk to the cross. Its also possible to go by car but the path is not paved and needs careful driving if you don't have a 4WD car.
- 19 Sfagio. A nice scenic small fishing harbour at the east end of Kavala with good restaurants and bars direct at the sea front. A perfect place for having dinner.
- Sailing / motor boat rental: Several companies offer their boats at the harbor of Kavala or Irakliza.
- Enduro Touring: Organized tours with enduro bikes in the mountains at Kavala. Any levels of difficulty are offered.
- Organized canoe trips and rafting on the river Nestos
- Jet skiing, water ski at the beaches of Irakliza and Nea Peramos
- Diving schools are at the harbor of Kavala and in the suburb “Palio”
The city beaches Kara Orman, 1 Perigiali (east end of Kavala) and 2 Kalamitza (west end) are flat and suitable for children. In the summer months, some chairs and parasols are available for free. The beaches are all easily accessible by city buses. The water quality is acceptable for beaches within the town.
Close to the west end of Kavala are the campsite 1 Batis Multiplex and the Bungalow Hotel 2 Tosca Beach. They offer all comfort for a relaxed day at the beach with pool, sun loungers, parasols, chairs, entertainment for kids, beach bar, toilets, changing room, etc.. They can be reached by public bus from the main bus terminal.
Towards the west of Kavala are the tourist places 3 Palio (10km), 4 Nea Iraklitza (15km) and 5 Nea Peramos (20km), all with nice beaches and beach bars. The latter two are typical holiday places with a lot of beach bars, restaurants, cafeterias, etc.
Especially younger people prefer the beaches of Amolofos (Nea Peramos). Parking, sun loungers, parasols, chairs and loud music are available there for free if you take a drink from the bar. The crystal clear shallow water and fine sand provides a relaxed holiday atmosphere for those who love more action than repose.
The further one moves from Nea Peramos along the expressway towards Thessaloniki, the more "lonely" are the beaches with crystal clear water and beautiful surroundings. The best known are 6 Sarakina (after the Hotel Ocean View) and Piros beach (at the tower). Further to the west, about 2 km after the turn of 7 Loutra Elefteron (hot springs) is the only nudist beach.
East of Kavala, in the Nestos Delta, near the localities Eratino and Agiasma there are vast flat beaches. Especially recommended are the beaches of 8 Keramoti.
Other beaches are Rapsani, and two small beaches hidden behind the rocks at Palio.
Prices in the shops and restaurants are fixed and bargaining is not common.
- Eastern Rhodopes: Nestos, Evros and Dadia - Bulgaria and Greece (Crossbill Guides, Band 14)
- A to Z Guide to Thassos 2016, including Kavala and Philippi by Tony Oswin
People in Greece usually eat late in the evening (21:00 - 24:00), so during the day some taverns, psistaries and restaurants might be closed. However, tsipouradika and fast food restaurants are open all day long.
The best restaurants are on Panagia, which is a street going from port to Muhammad Ali's house and at the old district next to Panagia Church (7). You may not want to eat near the port as prices are high and quality is not necessarily good. A good choice is the romantic fishing harbour "Sfagia" (19) at the east end of Kavala. There are several good restaurants directly at the sea front.
In general calculate €15 per person for meal plus drinks in Kavala. It is difficult to recommend some restaurants because the food quality often varies greatly, and hardly any restaurant provides consistently good quality.
There are no taverns with foreign cuisine in Kavala only a German restaurant in Nea Peramos (O Germanos). Real Greek specialities that are not adapted to "Tourist Greek Style" can be found in many mountain villages. A popular speciality restaurant is located in Koryfes (Oreino).
Most bars, cafeterias and restaurants are located along the promenade, at the port, in the quarter around Ag.Nikolas church and in the street that leads to the old town. Another destination is the little fishing harbor called “Sfagio” at the east end of Kavala. There are very nice restaurants and bars directly at the waterfront. Summer bars can be found also further away from the center of Kavala in Palio, Irakliza and Nea Peramos. These are typical tourist villages. During high season they offer musical events, beach parties, etc.
There are many hotels in Kavala. Most in the center near the sea. Car parking could be hard to find in the center of Kavala. For camping best places are "Batis" at the west end of Kavala and to the east "Camping Alexandros" in Nea Karvali.
Other points of interest
- Approximately 15 km away from Kavala in direction of Drama is the ancient site of 9 Philippi, a world heritage site. It was founded around 360 BC and is known from the biblical letters of the apostle Paul, who did missionary work in Philippi and performed the baptism of Lydia, the first Christian baptism in Europe. The ruins of a well-preserved ancient theatre present a delightful setting with stunning views over the plain of Drama and the massif of Pangeon. Furthermore, the Old Market, the prison of the apostle Paul and the ruins of a church from the early Christian period are worth seeing. In the summer, performances and music concerts take place in the theatre. Also worthwhile is a visit to the museum and the climb to the castle above Philippi.
- Approximately 1 km away from Philippi, on the outskirts of 10 Lydia, is a particularly interesting church and a cruciform baptismal font in a stream, where adult baptisms are performed. Many Greeks have their children baptized in the chapel because of the special importance of the place for Christianity. In the brook, which runs alongside the chapel, the apostle Paul was said to have performed the first baptism on European soil, the rich Jewish merchant Lydia.
- A few kilometers away from Lydia is 11 Lasponera, a healing mud bath , which helps fight joint and back pain.
- Drama is a provincial town with little interest. Only the very nice park, "Agios Barbara" with its cafés, high overshadowing trees, streams, lakes with bridges, ducks and swans is really worth visiting.
- Approximately 25 km northwest of Drama at the village Aggitis is the stalactite 12 cave of Maras. Because of an underground river course in the cave, there are stalactites only, but no stalagmites.
- Located 30 km from Drama towards Seres, near the village of Alistrati, is one of the most beautiful limestone caves of Northern Greece, the 13 cave of Alistrati. If you want to save yourself the long drive from Kavala, you can reach the cave also on foot through the 14 Aggitis Canyon, near the village of Nea Mpafra.
- The 15 Pangeon mountain range is the highest mountain in Kavala (ca.2000 m), with picturesque mountain villages, a large number of monasteries and impressive vegetation. At the foot the vegetation begins with the typical Mediterranean Macchia (low, crippled hard deciduous plants). With increasing altitude, it changes into a dense deciduous forest and further above in coniferous forest and reaches finally the timber line. Above the tree line only grass and herbaceous plants grow (including the famous Greek mountain tea!). Coming from Kavala the road divides into a northern and a southern bypass of Pangeon at Eleferopolis. Following the northern road for 15 km there is a junction to the typical mountain village of 16 Nikissiani. Above the village there are restaurants with impressive views over the plain of drama and on the Pangeon. Because of the altitude, it is refreshingly cool here in midsummer. 17 monastery of Ikosifinissa, 15 km from Nikissiani towards Thessaloniki, is the major attraction on the north side of Pangeon. It is well signposted and located high on the mountain with excellent paintings and impressive architecture in a fantastic location. A cafeteria in front of the monastery offers refreshments and a cool place to sit. The monastery of Ikosifinissa is one of the oldest monasteries and a center of orthodoxy in the Balkans. Above the monastery a high road passes back to Nikissiani along another, equally attractive monasteries. Another attraction in the area is the little-known 18 Aggitis Canyon near the village of Nea Mpafra. Approx. 800 m after the village direction Drama there are grain silos on the left side of the road. After the silos, turn left and in 3 km you reach a large parking lot on the edge of the Canyon. The junction is not signposted. It is recommended to check the route in e.g. OpenStreetMap before going. The parking lot is the starting point of walkways along the Canyon and to the opposite side leading to the Cave of Alistrati. At the cave there is the only coffee shop with cold drinks and ice cream around. In summer its quite hot in the canyon! To go to the top of the Pangeon mountain, follow the southern ring road. From Elefteropolis going direction Thessaloniki turn right at the next village (Akrovouni/Panagia) in front of a gasoline station and follow the road for about 1-1.5h to the summit. After about 20 minutes on the curvy, narrow road you reach an interesting monastery. There is a ghost town (Akrovouni) directly behind the monastery which has a special charm with its abandoned dilapidated houses. Because of the altitude, it is here much cooler here than at sea level and you should take along a light jacket even in summer. 3 km after the monastery is the "Dasiko Horio", a log cabin excursion with magnificent views. In the hot summer months you can escape the heat, because of the altitude. In winter, it is a cozy place to drink a wine at the large open fireplace. The trip from here to the Summit of Pangeon takes about 1 hour on a severely damaged asphalt road. It runs through wonderful dense deciduous and coniferous forests, until you reach the ski centre above the tree line (closed in summer). The view is breathtaking and worth the strenuous trip, if you choose a clear day. The way from here to the top of the mountain is closed to cars, but can be reached by foot or with a motorcycle on a dirt road. Another point of interest on the south side of Pangeon is the traditional mountain village 1 Mesoropi, with its typical stone houses and narrow streets in a particularly beautiful landscape. Several good restaurants in the village offer best meat dishes. It is popular as a leisure destination of Kavala. Above the village, a footpath leads to a small waterfall on a mountain lake.
- The 19 Rhodope Mountain National Park is located north of Kavala, along the border with Bulgaria. Best to reach it is through the villages of Paranesti (60 km from Kavala) or via Sidironero (80 km). It is a vast, sparsely populated mountain area with fantastic landscapes, lakes, waterfalls and a remarkable flora and fauna. The best information about this area that only few tourists visit, are available mainly in Greek. (www.fdor.gr/index.php, partetavouna.blogspot.gr). Recently a "nature Guide to the Eastern Rhodopes" was published and is recommended for this area.
- The Nestos river nature reserve lies some 30 km east of Kavala. The basin of the Nestos river is divided into the ravine of Nestos at Toxotes and the Nestos Delta at Chrysoupolis. Both are areas of high bird stocks and unique natural beauty. The 20 Nestos River Delta is one of the most important breeding grounds for rare bird species and a stopover for migratory birds. It is popular with birdwatchers as it is a wintering area for a variety of water-, songbirds and birds of prey. Over 250 species of birds, including rare and endangered species, were described in the Delta of Nestos river. Also for non-birdwatchers the floodplain forests of the Delta is worth a visit. The best starting point is the "Nestos-Cafe" at Chysoupolis (follow signs in the center of Chrysoupolis). The simple restaurant is located on the banks of the river in the middle of the floodplain forest with views of the river. Here, you can enjoy the nature with "a glass of ouzo" on the terrace or walks along the dam and the river itself. The Nestos river is shallow in the Delta area and can be wade through easily in most places. Especially in the summer, it is a pleasure to wade or swim in the cool waters. The water quality is good. To get to the interesting riverv mouth, does not necessarily need a 4WD, but it makes it easier. Because there is no signage, it is advisable to look up the trail on e.g. OpenStreetMap before heading there.The nature in the 21 Gorge of Nestos at Toxotes (40 km east of Kavala) is of particular beauty. It is one of the "must-see" attractions at Kavala. Breaking through the limestone mountains the river meanders and shaped a landscape of unique beauty. Along the ravine a trail of about 10km in length leads along high cliffs with beautiful views of the river. To get to the starting point of the path, you pass through the village Toxotes and follow the singnposting to the terminus of the road at a parking lot. There are boards with accurate directions. Most visitors don't go all the way but only for 1-2 km and then return to the parking lot. There is also a snack bar with fast food and cold drinks. In the summer its worth a dip in the freezing waters of the Nestos river. A large sandy beach invites you to linger. The water quality is good, the flow but quite strong. Also canoe tours are offered through the gorge, which are highly recommended. By Galani, a small town between Toxots and the parking lot, a winding road takes you to the top of a mountain with wonderful views of the Nestos River Gorge. The road is signposted as "Scenic road". The trip is highly recommended.
- The island Thassos is located 25 km from Kavala within sight. She is mostly a green Island with high forested mountains and fine beaches. Thassos can be visited as a day trip from Kavala, but it is worth to spend several days there. The trip by ferry from Kavala to Scala Prinos takes 1.5 hours hours approx. In Scala Prinos, there are car - and motorcycle rental, if one is planning a tour around the island (approx. 100 km). Alternatively, there are regular bus connections on Thasos between the villages.