Since ancient days, the strategic location of Edessa above Via Egnatia, the Roman road between Byzantium and the Adriatic, has given the town its long historical importance. ‘Water’ is a keyword when it comes to Edessa, a town of rivers, fountains, streams, and waterfalls. Voden (Place of Water) is its long-existing Slavic name.
The old part of Edessa and the beautiful Byzantine bridge are other great features of this charming town, perfect for a night’s sleep on your road trip adventure or hiking tour to archaeological sites in Central Macedonia. You should visit the nearby royal tombs of Vergina, Ancient Aigeai (discovered in 1977) and Ancient Pella, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia. Until 1977 Edessa was thought to have been ancient Aigeai. Edessa is the archaic name given back to the town in 1923.
Why visit Edessa and Pella?
Today the region of Pella is an area full of surprises, perfectly combining the natural beauty, with the impressive historical past and the archeological sites, such as the King’s Tombs, the museum with the impressive artifacts and the ruins of the ancient city Pella.
With plenty options for entertainment and interesting activities, alternative tourism and winter sports, the region of Pella is an ideal holiday destination, in settings with immense natural beauty where you can enjoy truly relaxing holidays.
Some of the interesting attractions of the region, are the ski center of Vora, (Kaimaktsalan) the famous waterfalls of Edessa, and lake Vegoritida, perfect for fishing and sailing.
Gianitsa is another town of Pella, with impressive sites such as the clock tower, the charming village of Panagitsa, and the traditional and old hamlet of Agios Athanasios, which has preserved the classic elements that constitute to the Macedonian architecture style. The hamlet was deserted during the 80’s, but today is back to its old glory, as a base with proximity to the ski center Kaimaktsalan, just 17 km away.
The spas of Loutraki or Loutrohori, the natural history museum and the monastery of Archangelos, which was built in the 18th century, also make the region worth visiting.
Where is Edessa Greece?
Edessa is a city in northern Greece and the capital of the Pella peripheral unit. It was also the capital of the defunct province of the same name.
Edessa Greece – Map
How to reach Edessa?
The nearest airport to Edessa is Thessaloniki International Airport “Makedonia” (SKG). From there you can choose to continue by train, bus, taxi, or car. The travel duration by train is approx. 1 hour 25 min, by bus it is approx. 1 hour 30 min, and by taxi / car it is 1 hour 15 min. The distance between Edessa and Thessaloniki is about 90 km.
What to see in and around Edessa?
Edessa Waterfalls are a stunning sight. In ancient years people created a basin here for their water supply, but for some reason the river changed its course in the 14th century, creating the first waterfall in Edessa. Later, several smaller waterfalls came along. Today you can see the waterfalls from a viewpoint above. The left waterfall, called Karanos, is a single drop and the right Twin Falls are named Lamda Falls. It is possible to step behind the big waterfall, Karanos, to have a perfect view through the “water curtain”. The total height of the waterfall is approx. 70 metres. At a lower point of Edessa Waterfalls, you will find a cave of great geological value. The cave entrance is covered with moss, but inside it is quite spectacular. There is a small entrance fee.
Vergina Royal Tombs
In Vergina a grass covered tumulus (burial mound) has been discovered to be the unspoiled royal Macedonian tombs from the times of Alexander the Great and his king father Philip II. Today, it has been converted into an “Indiana-Jones-exciting” museum where you can descend to the countless treasures, since the grave was never robbed, and everything is on display.Read more
Vergina (Ancient Aigeai) is a small town in northern Greece, located in the peripheral unit of Imathia, Central Macedonia. The town became internationally famous in 1977, when the Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos unearthed what he claimed was the burial site of the kings of Macedon, including the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. The finds established the site as the ancient Aigeai.
Early 19th century excavations
Archaeologists were interested in the hills around Vergina as early as the 1850s, supposing that the site of Aigai was in the vicinity and knowing that the hills were burial mounds. Excavations began in 1861 under the French archaeologist Leon Heuzey, sponsored by the Emperor Napoleon III. However, the excavations had to be abandoned because of the risk of malaria.
During and after WWII
In 1937, the University of Thessaloniki resumed the excavations. More ruins of the ancient palace were found, but the excavations were abandoned on the outbreak of war with Italy in 1940. After the war, the excavations were resumed, and during the 1950s and 1960s the rest of the royal capital was uncovered. The Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos became convinced that a hill called the “Great Tumulus” concealed the tombs of the Macedonian kings. In 1977, Andronikos undertook a six-week dig at the Great Tumulus and found four buried chambers, which he identified as hitherto undisturbed tombs. Three more were found in 1980. Excavations continued through the 1980s and 1990s. Andronikos claimed that these were the burial sites of the kings of Macedon, including the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. Andronikos maintained that another (Tomb III) was of Alexander IV of Macedon, son of Alexander the Great and Roxana, a view challenged by other archaeologists.
Studies of Tomb II
Recent papers (by Eugene N. Borza and his research partner Olga Palagia) utilizing the construction of Tomb II’s ceilings, the incorporation of a weight measurement system introduced by Alexander the Great on golden objects in the tomb, Asian themes on the Tomb’s friezes, and the discovery of a scepter like that found on coins minted under Alexander’s reign suggest Tomb II likely belongs to Alexander’s half-brother Philip III Arrhidaeus and his wife, Adea Eurydice. Instead, according to Borza and Palagia, the simpler Tomb I may contain the remains of Phillip II and his family. If this theory is true, then the golden weaponry and royal objects found may have belonged to Alexander the Great.
However, a subsequent (2010) research publication supports that tomb II cannot belong to Philip III Arrhidaeus and his wife. This research, based on detailed study of the skeletons, sustains the facial asymmetry caused by a possible trauma of the cranium of the male, an evidence that is consistent with the history of Philip II.
The museum, which was inaugurated in 1993, was built in a way to protect the tombs, exhibit the artifacts, and show the tumulus as it was before the excavations. Inside the museum there are four tombs and one small temple, the heroon built as the temple of the great tomb of Philip II of Macedon. The two most important graves were not sacked and contained the main treasures of the museum. The tomb of Philip II, the father of Alexander was discovered in 1977 and was separated in two rooms. The main room included a marble sarcophagus, and in it was the larnax made of 24 carat gold and weighing 11 kilograms. Inside the golden larnax the bones of the dead were found and a golden wreath of 313 oak leaves and 68 acorns, weighing 717 grams. In the room were also found the golden and ivory panoply of the dead, the richly carved burial bed on which he was laid and later burned and silver utensils for the funeral feast. In the antechamber, there was another sarcophagus with another smaller golden larnax containing the bones of a woman wrapped in a golden-purple cloth with a golden diadem decorated with flowers and enamel. There was one more partially destroyed by the fire burial bed and on it a golden wreath representing leaves and flowers of myrtle. Above the Doric order entrance of the tomb there is a wall painting measuring 5,60 m which represents a hunting scene.
The latest discoveries
In 1978 another burial site was also discovered near the tomb of Philip, which belongs to Alexander IV of Macedon son of Alexander the Great. It was slightly smaller than the previous and was also not sacked. It was also arranged in two parts, but only the main room contained a cremated body this time. On a stone pedestal was found a silver hydria which contained the bones and on it a golden oak wreath. There were also utensils and weaponry. A narrow frieze with a chariot race decorated the walls of the tomb.
The other two tombs were found to have been sacked. The “tomb of Persephone” was discovered in 1977 and although it contained no valuable things found, on its walls was found a marvelous wall painting showing the abduction of Persephone by Pluto. The other tomb, discovered in 1980, is heavily damaged and may have contained valuable treasures while it had an impressive entrance with four Doric columns. It was built in the 4th century BC and the archaeologists believe that the tomb belonged to Antigonus II Gonatas.
Archaeological site of Pella
Pella became capital of Macedon under dynastic King Archelaos (413-299 B.C.). Footings and low sections of walls has been carefully excavated; today it is quite atmospheric and Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine cities take form for your inner eye. What you will find are resurrected columns, an agora (market) surrounded by shops, two villas, sanctuaries, and workshops of the former important city. Entry to the site includes the on-site museum.Read more
Pella, an ancient Greek city located in Pella Prefecture of Macedonia in Greece, was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia.
What does ‘Pella’ mean?
One of the proposed etymologies is that Pella originally meant “defensible citadel on a cliff“, and this etymology is backed by the numerous ancient cities throughout Greece with similar name i.e. Pellana, Pallene, Palle, Pelle, Pelion, Palamede, Pellene, etc.
The ancient city of Pella was the royal capital city of Macedonia, a city with an extraordinarily strong and important presence in the history of Ancient Greece. Today the region of Pella is an area full of surprises, that perfectly combines the natural beauty, with the impressive historical past and the archeological sites, such as the King’s Tombs, the museum with the impressive artifacts and the ruins of the ancient city Pella.
Founded in 399 B.C by King Archelaos
The city was founded in 399 BC by King Archelaos (413–399 BC) as the capital of his kingdom, replacing the older palace-city of Aigai (Vergina). After this, it was the seat of King Philip II and of Alexander the Great, his son. In 168 B.C., it was sacked by the Romans, and its treasury transported to Rome. Later, the city was destroyed by an earthquake and eventually was rebuilt over its ruins. By 180 A.D., Lucian could describe it in passing as “now insignificant, with very few inhabitants”.
Built on the island of Phacos
The city is built on the island of Phacos, a promontory which dominates the wetlands which encircle Pella to the south, and a lake which opened to the sea in the Hellenistic period.
The Pella Palace
The Pella palace consisted of several — possibly seven — large architectural groupings juxtaposed in two rows, each including a series of rooms arranged around a central square courtyard, generally with porticos. Archaeologists have thus far identified a palaestra and baths. The south facade of the palace, towards the city, consisted of one large (at least 153 m long) portico, constructed on a 2 m high foundation. The relationship between the four principal complexes is defined by an interruption in the portico occupied by a triple propylaeum, 15 m high, which gave the palace an imposing monumental air when seen from the city below.
The size of the complex indicates that, unlike the palace at Vergina, this was not only a royal residence or a grandiose monument but also a place of government which was required to accommodate a portion of the administrative apparatus of the kingdom.
Edessa – Things to do
Skiing on Mt. Voras
Voras Mountain is located at the frontiers with the Former Yogoslav Republic of Macedonia and its crest-ridge is the limit line of the two countries. It is the third highest mountain in Greece after Olympos (2917 m.) and Smolikas (2637 m.), with an altitude of 2524 m, on the peak of which stands Kaimaktsalan Ski Center. The view from the mountain is amazing, since one can see as far as Thermaikos Gulf, the peak of Olympos mountain and, of course, the 3-5 Pigadia Ski Center in Naoussa, which is across from the peak.
Kaimaktsalan Ski Center (website only in Greek) starts at 2040 m, where you also find the chalet.
The centre is located at an altitude of 2,000m. There are 4 ski lifts for all levels and the summit of the mountain is at 2,500m. The ski bar at the base of “Sarantovrisi” lift is cozy and it serves nice hot chocolates and cold beers! The music rocks!
Kaimaktsalan, Edessa 58002, Greece Tel: +30 23810 32000, +30 694303001
- Highest peak at 2524 m
- Highest lift at 2480 m
- Greatest lift height difference at 290 m
- Greatest slope height difference at 440 m
Pozar Hot Springs near Edessa
Pozar or Loutraki at the Kaimamtsalan foothills is known as Pozar Hot Springs or the Thermal Baths of Pozar. On site you will find hotels, guesthouses, taverns, and restaurants. Pozar is one of the most therapeutic spas in Greece, with many amenities and services.
The waterfalls in Pozar, the large swimming pool with thermal water gushing from Earth itself has been in use since ancient years and is indeed a miracle of nature. You will also find several new private baths in Pozar where you can isolate yourself for an hour or more and enjoy the waters with your friends. Find info about Loutraki Pozar
Archaeological remains have been discovered on the site of ancient Edessa, just below the modern city. The walls and the agora have been unearthed so far. A colonnade with inscription in Greek dates from Roman times. The city achieved certain prominence in the first centuries A.D., being located on the Via Egnatia.
Edessa Greece – History
Little is known about the fate of the city after 500 A.D. After the Slavic settling in the 6th-7th century, the name of “Edessa” disappears and what remains of the city (a fortress in the acropolis of the ancient city) is named “Vodena” (from Slavic ‘Voda’, “water”), recalled by 11th century Byzantine historian John Skylitzes. It fell to the Ottomans along with the rest of Macedonia around 1390.
During the Ottoman rule, the Turkish component of the town steadily increased. From the 1860s onwards, the town was a flashpoint for clashes between Greeks and Bulgarians.
Post-war history of Edessa
In the post-war period Edessa gradually lost its competitive advantage in industry and declined economically and in population. Currently there are no major industry at the town. At the beginning of the 21st century, it is a city based on services (mostly linked to its function as capital of the Pella Prefecture) and tourism due to the waterfalls and winter sports.
Edessa – Weather and climate