Greece offers a veritable smorgasbord of historic, cultural, and gastronomic delights sure to satisfy the most demanding of visitors with diverse interests. Yet, the challenge to figure out where to go and what to do can be overwhelming even for the most experienced traveler.
One approach to resolve this problem is to set up your own travel sampler—an itinerary that will satisfy your inner butterfly to flit and sip the delights of all a destination has to offer. To do this, you’ll need to pick an area that offers a lot to see and do but is small enough to allow you to see it all quickly.
Kavala: Diverse Offerings, Compact Area
Kavala occupies the enviable position of being one of the best destinations in Greece for those seeking a roving travel buffet. Known as Neapolis during the Hellenistic era (323-31 B.C.) and Christoupolis in Byzantine times (9-14 A.D.), this 2500-year-old city presents slices of Macedonian history and culture spanning the Ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and present periods all in one compact geographic area.
In town, you can stroll along the seashore, relax on city beaches, explore museums, take in the sights, sounds, and welcome aromas of the tavernas, cafes, and restaurants, go on tours or soak up the nightlife of this vibrant Macedonian city.
Out of town, you’ll find the ancient thermal spas and therapeutic clays at Krinides, the UNESCO World Heritage site at Philippi and, the top-notch wineries near Drama are only minutes away from Kavala by car.
Here’s the good news. You don’t have to figure out where to go and what to do from scratch. The sample five-day itinerary below will give you a head start. All you have to do is tailor it to meet your needs, and you’ll be ready for your trip to the Kavala-Philippi area.
A Five-Day Travel Sampler To Kavala
Day One: Partial Travel Day
Fly into Thessaloniki International “Macedonia” Airport (SKG). You should assume an arrival no earlier than midday since it’s likely you’ll catch a connecting flight from either Athens or another major city in Europe. Rent-a-car and drive about 2-hours due east on the A2 national road to Kavala.
Slip off the A2 national road at the Kavala exit, and you’ll cross the crown of a two-lane mountaintop highway as you descend into a city amphitheatrically built right next to the Aegean Sea. There’s no urban sprawl. The mountains and sea that embrace the city ensure that will never happen. Gleaming off-white mountain village style homes are one with the hills as if Earth and rock have somehow figured out a geological variant of cellular mitosis. The main road descends to a highway that runs along the city at the coastline.
- Check in to the Airotel Galaxy Hotel at the harbor side entrance. Why this hotel? It offers a panoramic view of the harbor, downtown, and historic Old City areas from the rooftop bar-restaurant and waterside facing rooms. These areas are an easy walk to and from the hotel. Street parking is available. Ask the attendant at the front desk about street parking rules.
- Visit the city tourism center in the square across the street and caddy corner from the hotel (opposite entrance from the waterside) between Eleftherios Venizelos and Filellinon Streets. They will give you a walking guide map to the city that highlights historic, cultural, and gastronomic delights. Some attendants speak English, German and languages other than Greek.
- Visit the rooftop bar at the hotel for nighttime views of the city. The hotel offers various buffet dinner packages and a breakfast buffet in this area. You’ll find this a great spot to snap photos at dawn.
Day Two: Old Town City Walk
One: Visit the Kamares or Arches Old Aqueduct
Set out from the hotel for a 15-minute walk to the Kamares or “Arches” Old Aqueduct. From Karaoli Square walk about 5 blocks toward Omonias street for a close encounter with this medieval structure.
- An iconic, photogenic subject suitable for sharing on social media.
- The most recognizable structure in the city.
- Stands on the border of the old and new city.
- Notable Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman architectural influences.
- The Ottomans built similar structures in Istanbul using similar methods.
- The Refugee Museum (Greco-Turk war, 1919-1923) is nearby.
About 50 meters from the Aqueduct is a sidewalk incline to the Old Town area and walkways that ascend to the Fortress at the Acropolis nearby.
Two: Visit The Castle of Kavala
Leave Kamares and walk up Lamprou Katsoni street toward the fortress at the top of the hill. Follow visual cues to get to the top or use a city map or the Google Maps feature on your cell phone for directions.
- The Castle is an imposing fortress at the top of the Old City peninsula. The Byzantine
(Eastern Holy Roman) and Ottoman Empires used it for the defense of the city and as a
sentinel to engage hostile naval forces transiting the Hellespont (Dardanelles).
- Enjoy a stunning, panoramic view of the city and the surrounding area.
- Note the impressive visual array of architectural styles in the walled Old City area.
Three: Visit the Halil Bey Complex
Leave the Castle and walk downhill toward the pointy end of the Old City peninsula. You’ll run into the Halil Bey Complex. You may also wish to visit The Holy Temple of Panagia and the Lighthouse that are nearby if you have time.
- Note the various religious and cultural variants in building design as you walk through the city that reflects Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Greek, and Ottoman influences.
- There is a 16th-century Mosque built on the foundation of an early Christian Basilica.
- Ethnic Greek refugees from Turkey settled in the Mosque after the Greek-Turkish War (1919-1923). The Turks massacred 4.5 million ethnic Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians between 1900 and 1923.
- Ethnic cleansing of Christian minorities living in Asia Minor by the Turks led to the removal of 1.6 million ethnic Greeks from Asia Minor to Macedonia. Three hundred fifty-five thousand (355,000) Muslims from Thessaloniki and areas eastward were expelled from Greece to Turkey.
- It was the most significant population exchange in the history of the region since the Hellenistic era.
- Take a look around the country when you’re on the road. If you see a town name with “Nea” at the beginning of the name, it usually means the town was set up by ethnic Greeks expelled from Turkey during the Greco-Turk war.
Four: Visit the Imaret
From the Halil Bey Complex walk back toward the city on Ali Mechmet street to the intersection of Polidiou street. There you’ll find the Imaret, a classic example of early 19th-century Islamic architecture, that now serves as a boutique hotel.
- Notable early 19th-century Islamic architecture.
- Various uses of the structure in the community.
- You can pay for a guided tour (English, Greek or German).
Relax and Enjoy a Meal at To Araliki
Finish your day with a meal at To Araliki. It is the #1 rated restaurant on Trip Advisor and right across the street from the Imaret. A stop here will make your day.
Offerings are a barbeque and traditional Greek Mediterranean dishes including selections for Vegans. You can land a tasty grilled lamb platter that serves 4 people for 20 Euros!
Everything about this place screams excellence. And to top it all off, they play traditional Rembetika (Greek folk music) in the background while you eat dinner.
- Greek Mediterranean barbeque style food and a welcoming ambiance.
- Various period architectural styles of homes and buildings.
- Only a 15-minute walk from the hotel.
Day Three: Sun, Sand, Museums, Culture and History
Five: The Morning—Relax or Explore
If the weather suits you and the time is right, set out in the morning to bask in the sun, sand and clear blue Aegean waters. Kavala offers spotless, sandy white beaches only minutes away from the city in the suburbs of Kalamitsa, Batis, Tosca, Palio, Rapsani, and Perigiali. You can reach these areas quickly by car or taxi from the hotel.
- The beaches at Kavala enjoy Blue Flag status. The Hellenic Society for the Protection of
Nature (EEPF) runs this program in the country. It is the gold standard worldwide for
environmentally safe, clean water beaches.
If a morning out at the beach doesn’t interest you, consider a visit to one of the museums in the city. These include the Archaeological, Municipal Folklore, Tobacco, and Maritime museums. All offer enthralling thematic content.
If you prefer to take a walk, Kavala will accommodate you nicely. You can absorb the sights, sounds, and welcome aromas of the taverns, cafes, and restaurants, go on tours, or just stroll along the seashore.
- Culture and history of your choice
Six: The Afternoon—Explore
Check out of the Airotel Galaxy Hotel, hop in the car and, head out to explore the UNESCO World Heritage site and museum at Philippi.
King Phillip II of Macedon conquered nearby Krinides in 360 B.C. He fortified and renamed it, Philippi. It stood at the crossroads of military and commercial history under the dominion of several empires up to the 15th Century A.D. It’s a 12 km or 8.3-mile drive from the city center of Kavala.
- Stunning, crisp, detailed Hellenistic and Christian antiquities at the museum.
- Vast fields of fallen structures.
- 44 B.C. War. The Roman Republic falls, and the Roman Empire begins at Philippi.
- 49 A.D. Apostle Paul lays the foundation for the first Christian church in Europe and baptizes the first Christian in the history of Europe (Acts 16:9-10).
- The Romans built the Ignatian Way, a road for commercial and military traffic, that ran across Macedonia. The site at Philippi was of strategic importance to ensure the flow of traffic.
- The Byzantines and Bulgarians fought for control over the Ignatian Way throughout the 8th Century A.D.
Note: If you bring a drone, you won’t be allowed to use it. The Greek Ministry of Culture (GMC) bans their use. Only those holding special permits issued by the GMC may use drones.
Drive to nearby Drama (27 km or 17 miles and 27 minutes by car) and check in to the Hydrama Grand Hotel. Why? The Hydrama is the most upscale, visually stunning hotel in all of Greece in terms of ultra-modern, contemporary design. You have to experience it to believe it. Yes, it is a destination in and of itself.
- The hotel is a former tobacco warehouse!
- You’ll find historic photos and records about the hotel and the city on display in the lobby.
- Highly rated restaurants and city parks are within walking distance of the hotel.
- Look for concerts and shows in outdoor parks during good weather.
Note: Reserve for the Hydrama in advance! It is a popular destination for travelers across Europe.
Day Four: Heal and Relax
Seven: The Morning—Clay and Hydrotherapy
You’ll need to recover after walking all over Philippi and Kavala. The thermal waters and therapeutic clay at Krinides might be just what your body needs. It’s only 23 km or a 24-minute drive from Drama.
In the early Hellenistic era, King Phillip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, left his indelible impression here in 360 B.C. with his conquest of the village of Krinides about 17 km from present-day Kavala. It’s possible his warriors and workers found relief in the famous thermal waters and therapeutic clays native to the area. A discovery of the Homeric Age (1100 B.C. – 800 B.C.), these healers of nature make this a favorite oasis for travelers to this day at the Krinides Health & Wellness Center.
- You’ll walk away feeling clean, refreshed, relaxed and even pain-free, depending on the type of treatment.
- Bragging rights. How many of your friends can say they’ve soaked themselves in a pool of therapeutic clay?
Note: Call for an appointment in advance.
Eight: The Afternoon—Wine Tasting
You’ll need to toast your therapeutic adventure with a bottle of excellent Greek wine. Fortunately, the fertile valley spanning Philippi to Drama is home of some of the finest wines in production on the planet. Nine provincial growers now work in the region.
The Chateau Nico Lazaridis Wineries at Doxato produces fine wines and stands as a must visit experience for the connoisseur.
How vital has wine been to humankind throughout history? Federico Lazaridis says it best when he states “ … Marble is the hardware of human history. Wine is the software of human history …”
Consider a visit for a wine tasting. It’s a 20-minute drive from Krinides to Doxato. But call the Chateau before you visit to find out if you can make an appointment.
- Chateau Nico Lazaridis Wineries is strong in red wine production. The climate around
Drama favors the production of red grapes.
- Grapes around Drama grow in the bed of an ancient dry lake borne during the last Ice Age and drained during the 1930s. Calcium Carbonate, Dolomite, Agilas and many different soils add to the complexity of the wines. Wines produced at Doxato are a classic wine following a blended style using oak kegs.
- A separate growing area near Kavala produces more modern, Mediterranean wines.
- The village of Xoristi near Doxato was one of the few areas allowed by the Ottoman Empire to produce alcohol during the period of Ottoman rule.
Drive back to Drama (23 miles and 24 minutes by car) to the Hydrama Grand Hotel.
Day Five—Travel Day –Return to Thessaloniki for International Travel
Check out of the Hydrama Grand Hotel for a 1-hour 40-minute drive back to the Thessaloniki International Airport.
There you have it — a five-day sampler of what you can do in this enthralling area of Macedonia. Are you ready to plan your trip?
When to Go
You can visit the Kavala-Philippi area all year. But it will be too cold for outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, sailing during the winter months. The best months to visit span April-October.
An annual Sea-Air show occurs every year during the last week of June. Open air theatre shows occur every weekend throughout July and August at the Fortress and elsewhere in Kavala.
How To Get There
Fly into Thessaloniki International “Macedonia” Airport (SKG). From there, you can rent-a-car and drive to Kavala, or you can hop on a connecting flight to Kavala (KVA) and rent-a-car at that airport.
You can also fly into Athens International Airport (ATH) and get a connecting flight to either SKG or KVA or, you can drive to Kavala from Athens (about 8 hours). The new national road system in Greece makes getting around the country a snap. If you decide to drive from Athens, make sure you have about 100 Euros and a credit card. The new national road system is a toll road. To learn more about how to get around Greece, read this story.
Aegean Air is the national airline of Greece and offers direct flights into SKG from all over Europe. Air travelers from other continents may have to fly to ATH for connecting flights to SKG.
- Aegean Air
- Airotel Galaxy Hotel
- Doucas Tours and Travel
- Economy Car Rentals
- Greek Blue Flag Beaches
- Hellenic Ferry System
- Hydrama Grand Hotel
- Museums and Archaeological Sites in Kavala and Surrounding Area
- Municipality of Kavala
- Other stories by the author
- Philippi Archaeological Museum
- Pass Partout Tourism Marketing
- Thessaloniki International Airport
- The Hellenic Refugee Museum
The author is the source of all photos in this article unless stated otherwise. All rights are specified by Food, Wine and Travel Magazine on publication. The featured photo stems from Shutterstock for editorial use only.
The author thanks Doucas Tours and Travel, the Airotel Galaxy Hotel, and the Hydrama Grand Hotel for sponsoring his visit to the Kavala-Drama area. The assessments in this article are those of the author and do not represent the official views of sponsors or the publisher of this article.