Historical region inhabited since ancient times and for centuries disputed between Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey, Thrace (in Greek Thráki) was at the time of the Interail voyages an area to be crossed by train to go from Thessaloniki to Istanbul. Then tourism forgot about this fascinating middle land, marked by strong contrasts and the presence of numerous minorities.
Now is the time to rediscover it: boundless countryside, the peaks of the Rhodope Mountains, forests, swamps, and beaches await you; plus, towns and villages where traces of the Greek-Turkish-Bulgarian cultural mix are very evident, a rich folklore and many different culinary specialties to enjoy.
Thrace is a region of the Balkan Peninsula that includes territories belonging to the current states of Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria. It is washed by three seas: Aegean Sea, Black Sea and Sea of Marmara.
The Greek part corresponds to Western Thrace and represents the northeastern tip of mainland Greece. It is bordered to the east by the Greek region of Macedonia, to the west by Turkish Thrace and to the north by Bulgarian Thrace, while to the south it faces the Aegean Sea.
In spite of the amount of things to see and its fascinating atmosphere, Thrace is still one of the least visited regions of Greece. If you love remote places, away from the hustle and bustle, it is an ideal destination for you. Mark down the region’s top attractions to build your itinerary.
The main port of Thrace, Alexandroúpoli (Alexandropoli) is a pretty little town with plenty of small restaurants where you can eat good seafood for little money. Attractions to see include lively town squares, an impressive lighthouse and the Folklore Museum. Don’t miss the Museum of Byzantine Art, where you can admire rare icons brought to Greece from Asia Minor.
Fond of walking in the green, nature photography or birdwatching? Don’t miss the Dadia forest reserve in the town of Didymotiho: it is a fascinating protected natural area full of pine and oak trees, located on the route of migratory birds traveling from Africa to Russia.
Another splendid attraction for nature lovers is the Evros Delta, the main river of the region: it is an evocative marshy area rich in reeds and huts for birdwatchers.
Once a stopover for tobacco merchants, Xanthi is an Ottoman town which preserves intact its ancient charm. The historical center is a labyrinth of winding streets overlooked by the elegant palaces that once belonged to the rich merchants of the area.
Komotini is perhaps the city in Western Thrace that will best convey to you the multi-ethnic soul of this region. The attractions of the city include a Byzantine fortress, a Turkish mosque, the archaeological museum and a museum of sacred art.
The small village of Echinos, less than 30 km from Xanthi, is one of the last outposts of the Pomaks, an ethnic minority of Bulgarians converted to the Muslim religion.
In the surroundings of Alexandroúpoli there is thearchaeological area of Roussa where you can admire prehistoric tombs and a wall decorated with graffiti and rock art.
The last Greek city you will meet before setting foot in Turkey is Orestiada, a place completely ignored by tourists. It deserves a visit for its borderland atmosphere, for its peace and for the chance to get in touch with customs and traditions that have disappeared in other regions of Greece.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Even in Thrace you can have a sea vacation. The beaches of Thrace are not famous and this ensures that you will always find them uncrowded. The easiest to reach is Fanari Beach, in the surroundings of Komotini.
From Alexandroúpoli you can reach two beautiful islands still little known to foreign tourists that, administratively, are part of Thrace: Thassos, green and full of waterways, and Samothrace, the last Greek island before Turkey, famous for the statue of the goddess Nike.