Kavala is often referred to as a gateway to the islands in the northeastern Aegean Sea. In reality, it has plenty of attractions of its own. Kavala was founded in the 6th century B.C. by settlers from the nearby island of Thassos. The historical highlights of Kavala include the ruins of nearby ancient Philippi, the Aqueduct of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the Byzantine castle, and Ottoman buildings of its peninsular old town, Panagia. In the narrow streets you will find a great variety of quality restaurants, and along the coast nearby you will find beautiful beach resorts.
Where is Kavala Greece?
Kavala is the second largest city in northern Greece, the principal seaport of eastern Macedonia and the capital of Kavala peripheral unit. It is situated on the Bay of Kavala, across from the island of Thassos. Kavala is located on the Egnatia motorway, 160 km east of Thessaloniki a two-hours’ drive from Thessaloniki and forty minutes’ drive to Drama (37 km north) and Xanthi (56 km east). As you enter Kavala, you will admire the panoramic view of the town that is nestled between the slopes of the surrounding hills and the northern coast of the Aegean Sea.
Central Macedonia on a map
History of Kavala
The city was founded by settlers from Thassos in about the 6th century BC, who called it Neapolis.
Neapolis was a town of Macedonia, and the harbour of Philippi, from which it was distant 14 km. It probably was the same place as Datum, famous for its gold mines, and a seaport, as Strabo intimates: whence the proverb which celebrates Datum for its good things.
It became a Roman civitas in 168 BC and was a base for Brutus and Cassius in 42 BC, before their defeat in the Battle of Philippi. The Apostle Paul landed at Kavala on his first voyage to Europe.
The Pangaion Hills
The Pangaion Hills are a mountain range in Greece, approximately 40 km from Kavala. The highest elevation is 1,956 m and the name of the peak is Koutra. The mountain range covers the southeastern portion of the prefecture of Serres as well as the northwestern part of Kavala prefecture which covers the biggest part of the hills. The hills stand directly across a fertile plain where you’ll find the ancient city of Philippi, they are located between the Strymon and the Xiropotamos rivers and are covered in Oriental plane and Chestnut trees.
Ancient site of Philippi near Kavala
Philippi was a city in eastern Macedonia, established by Philip II in 356 BC and abandoned in the 14th century after the Ottoman conquest. The present municipality of Filippoi is located near the ruins of the ancient city and it is part of the region of East Macedonia and Thrace in Greece.
Philippi was established by the king of Macedon, Philip II, on the site of the Thasian colony of Krinides (“Fountains”), near the Aegean Sea at the foot of Mount Orbelos about 8 miles north-west of Kavala, on the northern border of the marsh that in Antiquity covered the entire plain separating it from the Pangaion Hills to the south of Greece.
The objective of founding the town was to take control of the neighbouring gold mines and to establish a garrison at a strategic passage: the site controlled the route between Amphipolis and Neapolis, part of the great royal route which crosses Macedonia from the east to the west and which was reconstructed later by the Roman Empire as the Via Egnatia. The discovery of new gold mines near the city, at Asyla, contributed to the wealth of the kingdom and Philip established a mine there. The city was finally fully integrated into the kingdom under Philip V.
The city remained. It contained 2,000 people. When the Romans destroyed the Antigonid dynasty of Macedon in 167 BC and divided it into four separate states, it was Amphipolis and not Philippi that became the capital of the eastern Macedonian state.
Kavala – What to see?
Kamares – the Medieval Aqueduct
The Old Aqueduct, the Medieval Aqueduct, is work of the Byzantine period, which held extensive repairs during the Ottoman rule, particularly during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent and Legislator (1530 AD approx.) This double arch structure was designed to bridge the peninsula of Panagia with the foot of the mountain of Lekani. It was used to carry water from mountain sources (six kilometers north from the ‘Mother of Water “or” Soumpasi “or” The Three Elms”) in today’s” Old Town “- Panagia, with the main water source situated at an altitude of 400 m and other complementary lower sources of supply. This grand monument has a length of 280 m consists of 60 arches of four different sizes and has a maximum height of 25 meters.
Castle of Kavala
The Castle of Kavala dominates the top of the peninsula, where the old city is built. During the Byzantine period and later, repeated reconstruction works, and fortification repairs were made by the Byzantines, Venetians, and Turks. Substantially, all the phases of the Modern History affect the castle and left their traces on its walls. The castle (Citadel) in its current form was built in the first quarter of the 15th century, relying on foundation from the Byzantine period. At the outdoor theatre are organized cultural events.
The Imaret in the old town
The Imaret, a big edifice of the late Ottoman period, a classic example of Islamic architecture located on the west side of the peninsula of Panagia (old town). It is one of the last built in this period and the only one survived almost intact. Its largest part was built, between 1817-1821 by the founder of the last Egyptian dynasty, Mehmet Ali. For sentimental reasons, the Wali of Egypt wanted to benefit his hometown with this religious, educational, and charitable institution. It operated as a Muslim seminary – internship and “workhouse” for all the poor of the city regardless of religion. Since 1922, the Imaret spaces were used to house refugees. In 1931, for the adjacent street to be widened, a part of Imaret was demolished. In 1967 the residents (refugees mostly) of Imaret were ordered to leave and the monument was sealed. Until the regulation of the ownership, Imaret remained completely deserted. After the settlement of property issues a part of it operated as bar and restaurant while other parts were used as warehouses.
The Archaeological Museum of Kavala is located towards the western end of the Ethnikis Antistasis road in Kavala. The museum was established in 1934 and reopened in 1964 in its current premises. Τhe museum as it stands today was built by the architects D. Fatouros and G. Triantaphyllides, professors of the Polytechnic School and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki between 1963 and 1964. The museum has been referred to as the most important archaeological museum in Eastern Macedonia and one of the most important museums in Greece. The museum contains prehistoric artifacts found all over the Kavala Prefecture such as in Neapolis (old Kavala), Amphipolis and places such as Oisyme, Galypsos, Dikili Tas, Tragilos, Mesembria, Nikisiani and Avdira.
Folklore Museum of Kavala
The Municipal Museum of Kavala first opened in 1988 and was housed for about 20 years in a neoclassical building on Filippou street. Recently, its exhibits have been transferred to the building of the Municipal Tobacco Warehouse of Kavala, at Kapnergatis Square, where for the time being only its administrative services are in operation. However, soon the works will have finished, and the Museum will start operating again fully at these new premises. The museum is separated under the following departments. (Historical Archives, Ethnographic Collection, Art Collection, Natural History, Library, Museum education)
The Tobacco Museum of Kavala is a thematic museum, which includes objects and archival material for the cultivation and the production of tobacco, its commercial and agricultural processing, its industrial tobacco products, and exhibition samples. It not only includes and exhibits the commercial processing of the Eastern Tobacco (not found in any other museum in the world) but it also showcases the social history of Kavala and the rest of the Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Its collection is extremely rich. It includes objects used in the cultivation of tobacco, machinery, photographs, rare documents (bank documents, association statutes, etc.). The visitor can also find books on tobacco, publications of the Greek Organization of Tobacco, archives of the Commercial Tobacco Association, private documents, tobacco maps and drawings, furniture etc.
Things to do in Kavala
Skiing around Kavala
There is the possibility for skiing around Kavala, there is a small ski resort in the Panagaion Hills, the site situated in the Koilada Orfea. It has just one slope in an altitude of 1.750 m, slope length is 400 m with a drop in altitude of 90 m. One lift with a 50 persons capacity. The chalet covers the need of accommodation and restaurant.
Kavala Ski & Alpine Club, Omonias 68, 653 02 Kavala, Tel: +30 051-835952
Ski Centre: +30 051-835952 Tuesday-Thursday (8-10 p.m.) +30 051-223938 (working hours).
Read more about skiing in Greece
In the Hills of Panagaion you will as well find the cave with the name Dracotrypa meaning the ‘hole of the dragon’, because of a stalactite with the shape of a dragon.
Diving near Kavala
Clear water, teeming marine life, caves and shipwrecks attract thousands of scuba divers to Greek waters each year. Until recently diving was limited to just a few dive sites to protect the many ancient underwater treasures. Now restrictions have been lifted and many new areas have been opened for scuba diving. Scuba diving is now allowed in all Greek seas, except where specific prohibitions apply. In response, there has been a huge rise in Greek diving centres.
Spear fishing is a popular activity for scuba divers but take care. It is illegal to spear fish in Greece without a license. To get a license apply to the port authority of the area or island you visit. It usually takes about a week to get one.
Diving clubs and schools in Kavala
Kavala – Where to stay?
Stay at the Imaret of Mohammed Ali Pasha in the old town of Kavala
In 2001 it was leased for 50 years to an entrepreneur from Kavala, it was restored and converted into a luxurious and elegant hotel, which maintains something of the ambience of its era.
Beaches near Kavala
- Kalamitsa Beach – Organized beach of the municipality of Kavala on the west entrance of the city, awarded with the “blue flag” and accommodating many bathers during the summer months. There is no entrance fee. On the beach and nearby there are taverns and bars.
- Toska Beach – Tosca beach is 5 km from Kavala. It has been awarded with the “blue flag” for its clear water and its organization. There is an entrance fee to use the facilities. On the site there is a 4-star hotel, a restaurant, and a cafeteria.
- Rapsani Beach – For those who cannot leave the city, Rapsani is practically at the centre of it. A municipal beach organized and awarded with the “blue flag” every year since 2009. There is no admission fee. A tavern and cafeterias are available.
- Batis Beach – A bay 4 km from Kavala, organized beach awarded with the “blue flag”. There is also an organized campsite with 100 designated spots for camping. There is an entrance fee to use the facilities. The visitors will find water sports, swimming pools, a pool bar, a beach bar, and a playground.
- Periyiali Beach – On the eastern entrance of the city, 2 km from the city centre. A municipal beach partly organized and awarded with the “blue flag” every year since 2009. In various parts of the beach there are fish taverns.
How to reach Kavala?
Kavala city is located at 680 km from Athens, 150 km from Thessaloniki and is one of the major transport hubs in Northern Greece. You can get there easily, quickly, and comfortably. Kavala International Airport “Alexander the Great” (KVA) is located just 30 km from Kavala. It serves daily flights from Athens as well as international flights from Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland, and other European countries.
From Thessaloniki by bus or car
Another easy route is to reach Kavala from the international airport of Thessaloniki (SKG), which receives daily flights from all over the world. Upon arrival in Thessaloniki airport, the easiest way to reach Kavala is by car through the Egnatia Highway or by regular bus service. “KTEL Kavalas” bus station is to be found in the centre of Kavala, connecting various cities of Greece as well as Bulgaria and Turkey with Kavala city.
Kavala to Thassos and other islands
Finally, you can reach Kavala by ferry. Kavala is a large seaport with regular ferry routes to many of the islands in the Northern Aegean Sea, like Chios, Limnos, Samos, and Lesvos. Ferries for Thassos island depart from Kavala 4 – 5 times per day. They go to the port of Prinos in Thassos and the travel duration is approx. one hour.
Kavala – Weather and climate
In Kastoria the hottest month is July with an average temperature of 23.7°C (75°F). January is the coldest at 7.6°C (46°F) and June is the month with the most daily sunshine of 13 hours. November is the rainiest month of the year with an average of 60 mm.
Cultural events in Kavala
Festival of Philippi
Kavala hosts a wide array of cultural events, which mostly take place during the summer months. The top festival is the Festival of Philippi, which lasts from July to September and includes theatrical performances and music concerts. Since 1957, it has been the city’s most important cultural event and one of the most important in Greece.
Cosmopolis is an International Festival held in the Old Town of Kavala that offers an acquaintance with cultures around the world through dancing and musical groups, traditional national cuisines, cinema, and exhibits at the kiosks of the participant countries.
Giannis Papaioannou’s Festival
Giannis Papaioannou’s Festival includes concerts and music seminars.
Ilios ke Petra Festival
Ilios ke Petra (Sun and Stone) is a Festival held in “Akontisma” of Nea Karvali in July. The event is of folkloric character, with the participation of traditional dancing groups from all over the world.
Wood Water Wild Festival
Wood Water Wild is a festival with outdoor activities, inspired by nature. It includes live bands & DJ sets, body&mind activities, a book fair, outdoor theatre, ecology, camping, and debates.