Serres, the prefectural capital, is a modern, bustling city, with broad streets and open squares. The new town blends pleasantly with the old. In its northern sector, on the piney hill of Koula, the ruins of the ancient acropolis and the Byzantine castle bear witness to a history stretching from the depths of time.
Coordinates: 41°5′N 23°33′E
There is also a 14th century church here, dedicated to St. Nicholas with beautiful mosaics. At a distance of 12 kilometres, in a gorge stands the monastery of Timios Prodromos (1270 A.D.) with frescoes of various eras. More antiquities are to be found at Amfipolis, 62 kilometres from Seres, once an Athenian colony, founded in 437 B.C.
Outside the village, near the bridge over the Strimon river, the famous Lion of Amfipolis was discovered, a 4th century B.C. funerary sculpture. The pieces were reassembled and now the Lion guards the bridge.
Sidirokastro, near the Bulgarian border, is a pretty town built on the banks of the Kroussovitis river. It took its name (Iron Castle) from the stronghold on the imposing rock, 155 m. above it, that once offered sure protection. The town and the surrounding area are almost overwhelmed by greenery and richly endowed with streams, waterfalls, bridges, churches and monasteries.
May 21st-23rd: The Anasternaria is the traditional fire walking which dates back to pagan times. Barefoot villagers of Agia Elleni near Serres and at Langada near Thessaloniki, clasp icons of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen, who are celebrated throughout Greece on May 21st, and dance upon charcoal embers without getting burned.
In the nearby village of Monoklissia women dominate the village and in Gazoro they still do Dionysian ancient dances. The cave at Alistrati is one of the largest and most spectacular in Greece.
Things to do
The fishing is good in the Strimon and Kroussovitis rivers and on Mount Vrontos there is a mountain climbing refuge that sleeps 60 people. There are thermal spas at Therma, near Nigrita and at Loutra near Sidirokastro.
The Lai-Lia Ski center has two ski lifts, ski rental and a restaurant open on weekends. It is operating from December to March and is managed by the Hellenic Alpine Club of Serres, it is located 27 miles from that city high atop Mt Vrontos at an altitude ranging from 1850 meters to 1600 meters. It has one slope of moderate difficulty as well as a lift that can serve 700 people an hour.
The longest slope (1250 m) starts out as red (difficult) and then continues as blue (experienced). It is named after Macedonian revolutionary war hero Emmanuel Pappas. There is also one baby lift serving the learning slopes, ski school and first aid station. The centre is famous for its Lang-Lauf courses, making it one of the best resorts in Greece for the sport. The wood and stone ski lodge has all modern facilities, including restaurants with local delicacies and ski rentals. The centre offers night skiing every Saturday night.
• Lailias Ski Centre, Phone: +30 23210 62400
• Hellenic Alpine Club of Serres, Phone: +30 23210 53790
• Aetopetra Hotel and ski lodge, Phone: +30 23213 00933
The canyon of Aggitis river
Few meters away from the railway line which is also next to the Alistratis Cave you will find the Canyon of Aggitis River, “vraous” as the locals call it. The canyon of Aggitis river is one of the most amazing sights of the area. Huge rocks start from both river banks and create enormous walls to define the course of the river.
The sheer, nearly smooth 50-70 meter slopes of the Aggitis Gorge are a canyoneer’s dream. Considered by locals to have been hewn by Philip II of Macedon, the limestone ravine was more likely the result of seismic shifts between the Paggeo and Menikon mountains. Whatever the reason, this 15-kilometer river gorge offers untold opportunities for rappelling and canyoning as close to nature as one can get. The railway line passes by the village of Symvoli at the entrance to the gorge, making it easy to get to or be whisked away after a long day and tired muscles. The canyon is open year-round.
Canyon Exploration Association (ESEF)
The sport is rapidly taking off in Greece. The ESEF offers training, excursions and advice.
Phone: +30 24210 23957
Hellenic Alpine Club of Serres
Established in 1930, the Serres branch of Greek mountaineering organization is especially active in Macedonia. Phone: +30 23210 53790
Also contact the branch in Nigrita, Phone: +30 23220 24924
Birdwatching in Serres: One of the the top bird sites for birdwatching in all of Greece, Lake Kerkini is an extremely important area for the passage, wintering and breeding of both waterfowl and raptors as well as for the breeding of migratory songbirds.
The nearby forests and mountains provide nesting grounds for the eagles, falcons and owls that forage in the area. More than 300 species of birds have been sighted, with more than 140 calling the lake home and another 170 coming here to reproduce or stopping over on migratory routes to the rest of Europe.
Lake Kerkini Center for Ecotourism, Lithotopos: This is the place to go to learn what options for excursions there are on or around the lake. Also exhibits samples of plant life, insects, fowl and fauna in a mini museum. Phone: +30 23250 41036
Paragliding in Serres: Centres for hang-gliding and paragliding can be found at an altitude of 1000 meters north of Poroia and Vyronia on Mt Belles. There are manmade hills for beginners and special takeoff points for more skilled practitioners. There are also bluffs near the Vlach-speaking village of Chionohori, 20km northwest of Serres on Mt Menikio.
Aeroclub of Serres: Established in 1984, this air athletics school and organization offers courses in hang-gliding, paragliding, skydiving and ultra-light aircraft. Phone: +30 23210 47100
Horseback riding in Serres: The residents of the Serres region have embraced horseback riding as just one of many non-intrusive eco-activities in the area, perhaps partially a throwback to the area’s tumultuous history and its agrarian way of life. There are stables in Nea Petritsi, Chrysohorafi, Kerkini and Ano Poroia. Most of the hotels and guest houses near Lake Kerkini can arrange equestrian excursions and suggest routes, either around the lake itself or up Mt Belles or Mt Kroussa to the west. For general information on riding around Kerkini, you may call +30 23270 28004
The Centre for Alternative Tourism on Mt Vrondou organizes horseback riding as part of its programs. Phone:+30 23210 50544 www.parkovrodou.gr
Hiking in Serres: Hiking is one of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of the area — its stone bridges, amazingly rich foliage, rushing streams or monasteries and quaint villages.
There are routes for beginners and more advanced hikers. Long haul routes include international walking paths — the European long-distance trail E4, over Mt Belles, and E6 through the Vrondou mountains. Not yet complete, national Route 04 is planned to connect with E6 to Thessaloniki. At present it is marked from Amphipolis over the Pangaion, or Paggeo, mountain, giving the hiker a splendid view of the sea from the summit.
The Hellenic Mountaineering Association runs a refuge of 64 beds at an altitude of 1,956 along Route 04. Almost every municipality can provide maps of hiking routes in its vicinity. Suggested start-off points include Siderokastro, which can be combined with a visit to the town’s hot springs, Aghio Pneuma, with a stop at the area’s three monasteries, Oreini with beautiful mountain views, or Ahladohori along the banks of the Kroussovitis River, a good place to spot wildlife.
The Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing (EOOA) was established in 1927 on Mt Olympus, Greece’s highest peak. Phone: +30 210 364 5904
Hellenic Mountaineering Association (EOS) Phone: +30 23210 23724
Amateur rock climbing can be practiced all over Serres. The Kroussa, Belles and Mavrovouni mountains overlook Lake Kerkini in the region’s northwest, while the peaks of Menikio and Vrontos meet up with the Rhodope range in the northeast. One good place to start is in Chionohori, also Hionohori, a traditional stone village (at 850 meters) at the base of Mount Menikion (at a height of 1,963 meters) deep in the Lailias Forest. For further details, contact the clubs in the area:
Hellenic Alpine Club of Serres (EOS in Greek) Phone: +30 23210 53790
The Alpine Club manages the ski centre at Lailias as well as running a mountain refuge high on Mt Pangeon.
Center for Alternative Tourism – Lodge Ano Vrondou. This ambitious adventure and activities camp organizes excursions throughout Serres.
Phone: +30 23210 35375 www.parkovrodou.gr
Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing (EOOA)
Phone: +30 210 364 5904 www.eooa.gr
This umbrella organization for mountain climbing in Greece frequently schedules climbs of the many mountains in Macedonia, including Mount Olympus, where it was first founded in 1927.
Health/Spa in Serres
Natural Mineral Springs at Agistro: Near the Promachonas border with Bulgaria, this is the oldest hamam in Greece, built in 950 AD. Hugely atmospheric, it is set amid wild landscape known for its honey and trout. The water temperature is 40.5 degrees, said to cure arthritis and dermatological ailments. Phone: +30 23230 41296
Pighi Spa and hot Springs, Loutra: Located 6 kms from Siderokastro and 25 km north of Serres, this spa is divided in 3 parts with two hamams from the Byzantine era for men and women, as well as hydrotherapy rooms and private baths. The water is a steady 45 degrees. Spa hotel available. Phone: +30 23230 22422
Therma, outside Nigrita: The water of Therma is famed throughout Greece for its medicinal qualities. The onsite spa is open from July through October and private baths are available for the therapy of rheumatism, arthritis, back problems, lumbago and dermatological problems. Phone: +30 23220 22893
• The cave of Alistrati
• Serres Prefecture official site (only in Greek)
• Mountaineering and Ski Clubs – Mountain Refuges
• Mountain refuges and ski resorts in northern Greece
• 12th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities
• 28th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities