Just south of the Greek-Bulgarian borders in the region of Serres you will find Lake Kerkini, a wetland of world-wide importance. It is a rare example of successful human intervention with nature – the delicate balance of the ecosystem has been regained with great benefits for the region.
Lake Kerkini is fed by the Strymon River – which springs on Mount Vitosa in Bulgaria and flows into the lake before continuing its journey to the Aegean Sea. The wetland is nestled beautifully in between three mountain ranges (Beles, Dissoro, Mavrovouni). Lake Kerkini is an unexplored wonderland of beauty and remarkable biological diversity. If you love nature and activities like hiking, mountaineering, fishing, birdwatching, or paragliding look no further. Find all the information in this Serres travel guide.
Why visit Serres Greece?
Serres is part of the Region of Central Macedonia, Greece. Its capital is the town of Serres. The total population reaches just over 200,000.
The regional unit has many archaeological and historical features including Serres, Amphipolis, several monasteries, and Metaxa near the border with Bulgaria. The regional unit is also a tourist attraction including Lailia, rich in forests, a skiing resort in the central portion, lake Kerkini which is a reservoir supplying water to the farmlands. Fishing is common within Ano Poroia especially during the summer months and famous Alistrati’s Caves and the nearby Aggitis ravine.
Where is Serres Greece?
Serres is a region in Central Macedonia Greece. Serres city is the capital of the Serres region and second largest city in the region of Central Macedonia, after Thessaloniki. It is situated in a fertile plain at an elevation of about 70 metres above sea level.
Map of Serres, Central Macedonia
Coordinates: 41°5′N 23°33′E
How to reach Serres?
If you do not arrive in Greece by car, you should rent a car upon arrival in the airport to visit and enjoy activities in the region of Serres.
Serres Greece – nearest airport
Thessaloniki International Airport “Makedonia” is the nearest airport to Serres. It is located 80 km from Serres City. You can also choose the International Airport “Alexander the Great” in Kavala. It is located 92 km from Serres City.
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.
What to see in Serres Greece?
- Agios Nicholas church – this 14th century church, dedicated to St. Nicholos, has beautiful mosaics.
- Monastery of Timios Prodromos – built in 1270 A.D. stands in a gorge 12 km from Serres city. It has frescoes of various eras.
- Ancient Amphipolis – once an Athenian colony was founded in 437 B.C., located 62 km from Serres.
- Lion of Amphipolis – was discovered near the bridge of Strimon river. It is a 4th century B.C. funerary sculpture. The Lion ruin was reassembled and is now guarding the bridge.
- Sidirokastro (Iron Castle) – is a pretty town built on the banks of river Kroussovitis near the Bulgarian border. It took its name 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.
- Anasternaria fire walking – is taking place every year on May 21st-23rd. It dates to the 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.
- Ancient Dionysian dances – women dominate the village and in Gazoro they still do Dionysian ancient dances.
- Cave at Alistrati – one of the largest and most spectacular in Greece is located about 6 km southeast of Alistrati’s town at a place called “Petroto”. The expanse of the area is almost 14.000m².
The Alistrati cave lies about 6 km southeast of Alistrati’s town at a place called “Petroto”. The expanse of the area is almost 14.000m². The antechamber of the cave is 8 m height. From this point different high galleries start, decorated with stalactites and stalagmites.Read more
The main branches of the cave are developed to the left and to the right of the entrance starting from a huge chamber, the Teception Chamber of a width of 60 m, a length of 100 m and height of 20-30m. There are other chambers, and their height is quite the same 8-10m. From the reception chamber and towards the left, emerges a second passage, quite parallel to the first. In this gallery there are even some red stalagmites which are called “The flames”. The height of these formations reaches 35 m. Somewhere in this passage the two main passages join each other and continue with an always increasing width and height while from the ceiling one can see suspended huge and majestic stalactites of a height of 15 m.
Today Alistrati attracts a lot of tourists not only because of the famous cave but because of all the natural beauty around it as well. The small neighborhoods with the narrow streets and the typical up-hill alleys, the hospitable inhabitants, the nice old square, the beautiful belfry, and the elaborate old reredos of the church of Agios Athanasios are tokens of the inhabitant’s taste. There are also many cafes, and tavernas with delicious, traditional dishes. And all these things combined with the excellent climate (there is exceptionally low humidity) help the visitors have a great time and escape from their everyday life routine.
Serres Greece – Things to do
Serres will surprise you with its lush green and rich natural environment with Lake Kerkini, river land and mountains. 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.
Skiing in Serres
The Lailias 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 per hour.Read more
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, Tel: +30 2321 058783
- Hellenic Alpine Club of Serres, Tel: +30 23210 53790
- Aetopetra Hotel and ski lodge, Tel: +30 694 393 7662
Mountaineering in Serres
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 riverbanks and create enormous walls to define the course of the river.Read more
The sheer, nearly smooth 50–70-meter slopes of the Aggitis Gorge are a canyoner’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.
Tel: +30 24210 23957.
Hellenic Alpine Club of Serres Tel: +30 23210 53790
Established in 1930, the Serres branch of Greek mountaineering organization is especially active in Macedonia.
Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing (EOOA)
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.
Hellenic Mountaineering Association (EOS) Tel: +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.
Birdwatching in Serres
Lake Kerkini is one of the the top bird sites for birdwatching in all of Greece. It 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. Read more about birdwatching in Greece here
Lake Kerkini – an artificial wetland
Lake Kerkini in Serres, Greece, is an artificial reservoir that was created in 1932, and then redeveloped in 1980, on the site of what was previously an extremely extensive marshland.
Lake Kerkini is now one of, if not the, premier birding site in Greece, and, as it is situated along the migratory flyway for migratory birds en route to the Aegean Sea, the Balkan region, the Black Sea, the Hungarian steppes and beyond it experiences an interesting migration.
In the flat and semi-mountainous area, important hydrobiospheres are developing which are of great international significance and acceptance. The most essential hydrobiosphere is the one in Kerkini lake. It is a miracle of nature which came about by man’s technical intervention on the natural characteristics of Strymon river. The water extent, which varies from time to time from 54 km² to 72 km², is useful in two different ways, for one as a technical work of great agricultural utility and last but maybe most important as a hydrobiosphere for thousands of waterfowls.
Thousands of birds, both rare and protege, riverside forests, waterlilies in a large area, fish variety and fantastic panoramic view from the mountains of Belasica and Krousia give it a characteristic tone. The lake hosts 227 kinds of birds, especially non-migrants. 76 of them are recorded in the National Red Catalogue, while at least 31 of them are protected by EEC’s Directive concerning wildlife. What makes an exceptional presence is the buffalo herd in the area, plus the one of the jackelo around Kerkini lake. In the surrounding area of Kerkini lake there are at least 10 amphibian species (frogs, salamanders, tritons), five snail species, 19 reptile species (lizards, snakes, turtles) and a great variety of insects which play an important part in the food chain and contribute towards the biological resources of the lake.
Its natural beauty, its high ecological significance, and its contribution to the agricultural production of the valley of Serres, act as a main promoter of well-being and development. It is worth visiting as well as making any possible effort to preserve its wealth.
Lake Kerkini Center for Ecotourism, Lithotopos Tel: +30 23250 41036
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.
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, 20 km northwest of Serres on Mt Menikio.
Aeroclub of Serres Tel: +30 23210 47100
Established in 1984, this air athletics school and organization offers courses in hang-gliding, paragliding, skydiving and ultra-light aircraft.
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
Centre for Alternative Tourism on Mt Vrondou organizes horseback riding as part of its programs. Tel: +30 23210 50544
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.Read more
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.
Health spas 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. Tel: +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. Tel: +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. Tel: +30 23220 22893
Serres Rally is a Rally Raid event which is held in Northern Greece, it is part of the UEM calendar making it an official event of the European Championship Cross Country Rally Raid. It is organized in October each year.
The 1500 km course runs within the magical forests of Serres and the surrounding area, where in 2008 the International Six Days Enduro was held, and it promises to leave you full of excitement and long lasting memories.
Furthermore, the organizational integrity of the event will be of the highest standards, since the Off Road
Team (www.offroadteam.gr) and the Auto Moto Club of Serres (www.lams.gr) have already shown their
quality with successful event organizations, like the World Championship Enduro WEC – EWC from 2004 to 2010, the ISDE 2008 and also the National Championship Rally Raid with 8 races every year all over the Greece, from 2005 to 2011.
Off Road Team’s experience for mapping out off road routes along with faultless design of Road Books and in conjunction with the organizational force of LAMS, guaranties a most exciting and unforgettable race experience.
The race centre will be based at the Elpida Hotel Resort, providing crews and families a variety of facilities.
All essential information for the race can be found at http://www.greecerally.gr/
Serres – Weather and climate
Serres has a warm and temperate climate with a great deal of rain even in the driest months. The area is situated 50-70 metres above sea level with a beautiful and rich riverland and lake Kerkini. The average temperature in Serres is 15.8 °C (60.5 °F) and the rainfall about 731 mm (28.8 inch) per year. August is the warmest month of the year witn an average of 27.6 °C (81.6 °F). The lowest average temperatures in the year occur in January is the coldest month with the lowest average temperatures per year with around 4.4 °C (39.9 °F).