Western Thrace is a region in Greece. In Greek, it is referred simply as Thrace (Greek: Θράκη), as there is no other Thrace in Greece. Eastern Thrace is part of Turkey.
Tourism in Western Thrace is developing along the seacoast from Abdera to Maroneia but many travelers on their way to Turkey still make few stops in the region. The archaeological sites of Abdera and Maroneia, the traditional settlements of Xanthi and Komotini, the Rhodope Mountains range and the Nestos River gorge and delta, are the most interesting features of Western Thrace.
- Rhodope Mountains — Region - mountainous lonely region with interesting ancient Thracian cult sites
- Evros Region — nature reserve with a large number of bird species
- Pomaks Region (Pomakochoria) — Charming villages scattered in the green Rhodope valleys and graceful mosques complete with tall minarets.
- 1 Alexandroupolis — Coastal city with ferry links to Samothrace
- 2 Didymoteicho (meaning 'Twin Walls') — A typical Greek town, but well worth a detour if you are interested in Byzantine and Ottoman styles of art.
- 3 Echinos — A charming 'Pomak' (Greek Muslim) village on a valley of the Rhodope Mountains.
- 4 Feres — A town with a 12th century Byzantine style church adorned with numerous frescoes.
- 5 Komotini — City with a Muslim/Turkish community
- 6 Maroneia — the ancient Ismaros, the largest and most important of all Greek colonies of Western Thrace, mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey.
- 7 Stavroupoli — The old town still preserves its traditional flair, attracting plenty of tourists from Thessaloniki and other Greek cities.
- 8 Xanthi — An old town with pleasant cobbled narrow streets and old buildings
- 1 Vistonida — Lake and site of Anastasiopolis a Byzantine archaeological site
- 2 Abdera — One of the wealthiest cities of Ancient Greece, birthplace of the philosophers Democritus, Protagoras and Anaxarchus, and the lyric poet Anacreon.
- 3 Maroneia — One of the wealthiest cities of Ancient Greece,
- 4 Evros River Delta — Marshes and wetlands across the Turkish borders attracting large flocks of migratory birds in autumn, when breeding is over in Europe.
- 5 Dadia forest — Heavily wooded hills providing a habitat for diverse wildlife not common in other areas of Western Thrace.
- 6 Fanari — The best seaside resort of Western Thrace.
- 7 Nestos River Delta — Comprises freshwater lakes and ponds that offer refuge for birds and various mammals. Further north extends the “Kotza Orman" (Great Forest), once a very large forest but today restricted to some fragments along both sides of the river.
Greek is the native language of most the people of Thrace. Most of the Muslims in Thrace are ethnic Turks and speak Turkish as a native language. In villages north of Xanthi, Pomaks, who are ethnic Bulgarian Muslims, speak Pomakika (a dialect of Bulgarian). However, most people also speak passable English and some may speak German or other European languages.
The closest airport is "Alexander the Great" airport (KVA IATA) in Kavala City. Flights, mostly charters, from all over Europe.
Alexandroupolis International Airport "Dimokritos" (AXD IATA)
- 1 Kastanies border crossing is just 6 km southwest of 9 Edirne on the Turkish side.
- 2 Kipi/İpsala — The main border crossing between Greece and Turkey.
- 3 Ormenio/Svilengrad — Main border crossing between Greece and Bulgaria.
- 4 Makaza–Nymfaia border checkpoint (Balkan Toresi) — This mountain pass provides quick access from central Bulgaria to Western Thrace, some 30 kilometres (19 mi) from Komotini, and to the Greek motorway Egnatia Odos. The distance from Kardzhali to Komotini via Makaza is around 70 kilometres (43 mi) and takes approximately one hour and 15 minutes by car.
- 5 Cross-border Zlatograd - Thermes — The Greek border lies just 5 km away from the Bulgarian town Zlatograd. A very scenic route though driving can be a very hard experience.
Some private companies running comfortable buses are Simeonidis Tours[dead link], Crazy Holidays and the low cost Alpar Tourism (20€).
A railway winds through the mountains from Thessaloniki to Strymonas (where the line branches to Sofia), Serres, Drama, Xanthi, Komotini and Alexandroupolis; it doesn't serve Kavala on the coast. In early 2021 no passenger trains are running on this line.
A train runs once M-F from Alexandroupolis to Pythion, Kastaneis and Dikaia, taking two hours. Kastaneis is a short walk from the Turkish border, 4 km from Edirne. Since 2011 there are no cross-border trains to Turkey, take the bus. The line beyond Dikaia continues to Ormenio and Svilengrad in Bulgaria, but since 2020 it's been closed for upgrading. So no trains to Bulgaria either.
When the national borders were redrawn in 1923, it caused the mainline from Turkey to make two loops into Greece before entering Bulgaria. Eventually Turkey and Greece re-routed their railways to avoid this. So this means that riding the train between Pythion and Dikaia is one mighty cheap way of re-creating the route of the original Orient Express.
The new super-highway Egnatia can get you anywhere in the region within an hour or an hour and a half for the most remote areas. It connects all the major cities in Thrace from Xanthi to the border crossing with Bulgaria in Kastanies north of Evros or the customs with Turkey to the east.
Even the smallest rural villages can be accessed by using a combination of local run buses.
Frequent stops all along the region's sole train line and cities dotted along the Evros River. A scenic route for some but rather slow for the busy traveler.
SAOS will sail you to Samothraki daily or even more frequently during the summer period.
- 1 Livaditis Waterfalls
- 2 Stone bridge on the Kompsatos river — A magnificent stone bridge
- 3 Macedonian tomb of Stavroupoli — A small but well preserved Macedonian tomb dating back to the first half of 4th century B.C.
- 4 Thracian Μeteors (Thrakika Meteora) — Amazing rocky peaks surrounded by abandoned settlements. Access by car through a dirt road that starts east of Iasmos Town.
Kayak or canoe descent of the river Nestos has become a popular sport and numerous hotels in Stavroupoli and nearby villages provide a trip package. Horse riding along the gorge is also available.
You can go for hiking in the Erimanthos Forest on the southern slopes of Rhodope mountains and spend the night in the basic cottages owned by the local park rangers.
Mosquitoes are a matter of increasing concern along the coastal marshes. As a rule the hotels do not provide anything and you have to buy specific products to protect yourself
These area are within easy reach once you are done in Western Thrace:
- Macedonia to west.
- Northern Thrace (Bulgaria) to north.
- Eastern Thrace (Turkey) to east.
- Island of Samothrace to south.