Few places in Greece are so attractive to the places the traveler can see, be they the remarkable areas of their beauty or the historical, cultural and spiritual load they send.
Central Macedonia generously embraces the sights you need to see at least once in your life. Only when we refer to the archaeological sites, they bring to light the temples and traces of life that marked the beginnings of Europe as we know it today.
The oldest of these is the Neolithic village of Makrygialos – a settlement that has lasted more than seven millennia, located 22 kilometers from Katerini. Discovered in the southeast of the modern village in 1992, it was one of the largest prehistoric human agglomerations in present-day Greece.
On an area of more than 60 square kilometers, dwellings, traces of cultivated land, artefacts such as stone and clay pots, marbles and clay, as well as numerous animal bones have been discovered. The excavations brought to light a building from the Minoan civilization, with the surface of a quarter of the stunning palace of Knossos-Crete, which is not a small thing for those times.
An hour’s drive is Thessaloniki, the second city of Greece. The settlement was under Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Today, history is all the way.
The city where the Roman Cicero was exiled is home to the Byzantine Museum, the Ethnology and Folklore Museum, the Macedonian and Contemporary Art Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Archeology Museum, the Memorial House of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Church of Agia Sophia, the Arch of Emperor Galerius, The Arch of Triumph, the Rotonda – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the White Tower or St. Dumitru Church – the patron of the city, the fortress Eptapyrgion, Kastra, Ano Poli – the upper city or the Citadel.
Visited by a large number of people are the famous royal tombs of Vergina, located in the first capital of the Macedonian Kingdom, Aigai. Here are four royal tombs, including Filip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, and Alexander the Fourth, the son of the latter.
The ruins of the royal palace and the theater where Philip II was killed during the wedding of his daughter, Cleopatra, with King Alexander of Epirus, were also discovered. The museum houses fabulous treasures, such as a raffle, royal crown, shields and pulp.
Naturally, it follows the ancient Dion, the city of Zeus, at the foot of Mount Olympus, where for a thousand years the Macedonians organized festivities in honor of the Olympic deities.
Located 15 km from Katerini, the archaeological park of the sacred city of the ancient Macedonians shelters the ruins of a fortified enclosure with public buildings, dwellings, workshops and shops, with the temple dedicated to the great Zeus Olympian, the sanctuaries of the Egyptian goddess Isis (adored by Alexander the Great) the goddess Demeter and Asclepios, the theater, the villa of Dionysus with its mosaics and the Roman public baths.
The museum, founded in 1983, houses particularly valuable artefacts found in Dion but also in other historical places in Pieria, including statues, funeral stars, objects of worship, ceramics, a collection of coins, and the world’s first hydraulic organ , invented by Ktesibios of Alexandria in the third century BC
In turn, Mount Olympus, the home of the ancient gods, with the highest peak in Greece and the second in the Balkans, is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the area. Here was the first National Park, a legally protected ecosystem, which shelters some 1,700 species of trees and plants, some very rare.
Aaici is also the church of St. Dionysus, built in the 16th century by a damsel, nowadays a popular pilgrimage place for the inhabitants of Central Macedonia. The departure of those who want to exclaim the mountain is from Litochoro, a town located at the base of the mountain, on the west shore of the Thermaic Gulf.
The village is located 22 km from Katerini. Passing through the Enippeas Valley, Montaniers arrive in Prionia at a height of 1100 meters. Then, at 2,660 meters, they reach the Mouson Plateau, where they can rest in a chalet in a unique mountain setting. The numerous landscaped trails make this place with pine forests, alpine hollows and springs, an unforgettable place.
Meteors, spectacular geological formations, about four hundred meters high, which house not less than 24 monasteries, are certainly one of the great destinations in Central Mechasan. Located two hours by car from Paralia Katerini, the Meteora, which means “suspended in the air” or “up to the sky”, is the second most important complex of places of worship in Greece after Mount Athos.
Monasteries built on top of the sandstone pillars bordering the Tesalia Plain near Kalambaka are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Six of them, namely the Great Meteor, Varlaam, the Holy Trinity, St. Stephen, Rousanou and St. Nicholas, still have monastic life.
Easily accessible is Platamonas Castle, built near the ancient city of Herakleion, is the best preserved fortification in the area. Located at an altitude of six hundred meters, 25 kilometers from Paralia Katerini. The strategic position, at the entrance to the Tembi Valley, made the site important from the Hellenistic and then Roman times.
Even the famous historian Titus Livius wrote about this place between Dion and Tembi lying on a rock. From the 6th century, there was a Byzantine fortification, taken over by Boniface by Momferatikos, the French king of Thessaloniki and developed in 1205. After the Crusaders, it was again taken over by the Byzantines, then by the Turks and, for a while, by the Venetians. The last four hundred years was under Ottoman domination.
The ancient village of Paleos Panteleimonas, located 25 kilometers from Paralia Katerini, at an altitude of six hundred meters, has also become an important tourist destination. Travelers can stroll along the cobbled streets to the central square where St. Panteleimonas church is located. Around it there are small outlets for local objects, taverns and cafes, many of them with a superb view of the Thermaic Gulf.
The ruins of the ancient Pydna, the largest medieval settlement in Pieria, shelter part of the Christian Kitros castle, the foundation of a inn, the terme, and a small temple. The archaeological site is declared UNESCO heritage. Pydna was part of the Macedonian Kingdom under Alexander I, besieged by the Athenians without being conquered in 432 BC, but fell under Arhelau I in 410 BC. The city will be released and annexed to Macedonia in 357 BC. by Philip II and will remain so until the Roman conquest when General Aemilius Paulus defeats King Perseus and ends the antigonide dynasty.
The Archaeological Museum of Pella, along with the ones in Thessaloniki, Dion and Veria, is among the most important tourist attractions of Central Macedonia. Ancient Pella was the second capital of Macedonia and the birthplace of kings Philip II and Alexander the Great, reaching the peak of its development during their time, Cassandra and Antigonas Gonats, when it became not only the largest city of the kingdom but also one of the most important economic, cultural and political centers in all Greek space. Conquered by the Romans, he continued to thrive because he was on Via Egnatia, the famous road that connects today’s Dyrrachium – Duress in Albania to Byzantium, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. The museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts and mosaics.
The hermitage of Saint Paraschevi, the protector of the blind, is visited annually by tens of thousands of tourists. Located in the Tembi Valley, a ten kilometer gorge on the way to Meteore, the small worship place dug in the rock houses the relics of the holy place, but also a spirited healer.
Edessa, the city of waterfalls, is an idyllic location, located about an hour’s drive from Paralia Katerini. Its spectacular waterfalls and parks make the city, at least during the summer, an oasis of coolness and relaxation that is hard to imagine. This is one of the most popular summer resorts in Central Macedonia.
The capital of the prefecture, Katerini, has, in turn, enough to offer. Here is the church of St. Ekaterina – the city’s protector, the Thia Analipsi Cathedral, the municipal park – with summer theater, artesian fountains and palm trees, the Pondian Museum and the Ottoman Mosque.
Last but not least, tourists are very attracted to a day trip to the island of Skiathos, in the Northern Sporades Archipelago, a place where heights covered by pine, sea, bay with some of Greece’s finest beaches and hospitality , make those who come here want to come back.