Discover beautiful Xanthi, the Grand Lady of Western Thrace

Do not miss the chance to discover Xanthi, a city unspoiled, and let your senses enjoy the sounds and colors. Welcome to Xanthi, the Grand Lady of Thrace.

Wooden boardwalk in Lake Vistonida, Porto Lagos near Xanthi, on a sunny winter day

Xanthi city is built amphitheatrically at the foot of the Rodopi Mountains in northeastern Greece. This beautiful lady is situated at the crossroad of the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea, between Europe and Asia. If you are crazy about history, addicted to traditions, or a nature lover Xanthi is your place. And if you are a foodie, you will have the chance to indulge in mouthwatering local specialties and sweets in the Middle East style before experiencing the city’s vibrant nightlife.

Xanthi on a map

Map of Central and Eastern Macedonia Greece
Map of Macedonia and Thrace in northern Greece – Coordinates: 41°8′N 24°53′E 

Xanthi is the capital of its regional unit of the region of East Macedonia and Thrace.

Walking around Xanthi, you will soon understand that the Kosythos River divides the city into the western part, which hosts the main town with old and modern parts, and the eastern part, also known as the “Samakov district,” where you will find a rich natural environment. Both the eastern and western parts of Xanthi have preserved their traditional ambiance. Everywhere you will find yourself mesmerized by the nobility and charm of the grand lady.

Xanthi Old Town – gorgeous mansions in cobbled streets

In the narrow, cobbled streets of the Old Town, you will see gorgeous mansions built in a beautiful blend of local and Ottoman architecture and Greek Neoclassicism. The Old Town is like an open-air museum, with the old Byzantine churches and charming little squares always staying the same throughout years of history.

Modern Xanthi – tobacco warehouses and colorful bazaars

Walking into the modern part of Xanthi, you will find a beautiful square with renovated tobacco warehouses and a Clock. Do not miss out on the flea market taking place every Saturday at Zoagoras Square.

History of Xanthi – tumultuous and disastrous

Known references to Xanthi date back to 879 AD. It began as a small village and experienced all the tumultuous periods of the history of Thrace, such as raids, disasters, ethnic conflicts, and civil wars. The population of the region of Xanthi had dwindled down to almost nothing and almost everything had been destroyed when the Ottomans conquered the region in 1361. For this reason, the Ottomans brought settlers from the depths of Asia Minor, which is how Genisea was created, while Oreo and Xanthi remained mainly Greek and Christian centers.

By 1715, Xanthi, as well as Genisea, gained fame for their tobacco quality. Tobacco commerce throughout Europe led Xanthi into a course of prosperity.

In March and April 1829 two earthquakes completely leveled the city, this came to play a decisive role in the further developments. The city’s re-building immediately got underway.
In 1870, the city of Genisea was burned down and thus all of the agencies and services were transferred to Xanthi which, at that time, had a population of about 10,000 inhabitants. In 1891, the railroad line was established near the city, while further economic development led to the founding of schools and associations.

Xanthi today – a modern city, rich in history

Nowadays Xanthi is a modern city, rich in history, traditions, and customs, and with many attractions for the visitors (including the surrounding areas). It is worth visiting the city during the Carnival (February – March) and during the Old Town Festival (start of September). Also, one should not miss the Xanthi Bazaar every Saturday. Xanthi is known as “The city of a thousand colors”.

The city-state of Ancient Abdera

Ancient Abdera, Thrace, Greece
Ancient Abdera, Thrace

Abdera was a city-state on the coast of Thrace 17 km east-northeast of the mouth of the Nestos, and almost opposite Thasos. The site now lies in the Xanthi regional unit of modern Greece. The municipality of Abdera, or Ávdira, has 18,573 inhabitants (2001). The seat of the municipality is in Genisea.

Abdera – attributed to Heracles

Abdera coin, Thrace, Greece

Its mythical foundation was attributed to Heracles (on behalf of his fallen friend Abderus), and its historical one to a colony from Klazomenai. This historical founding was traditionally dated to 654 BC, which is unverified, although evidence in 7th century BC Greek pottery tends to support it. But its prosperity dates from 544 BC when the majority of the people of Teos (including the poet Anacreon) migrated to Abdera to escape the Persian yoke (Herodotus i.168). The chief coin type, a griffon, is identical to that of Teos; the rich silver coinage is noted for the beauty and variety of its reverse types.

Abdera – a wealthy city and prime port of trade

Mosque in Ehinos, Xanthi, Thrace, Greece
Mosque in Echinos, Xanthi

In 513 BC and 512 BC, the Persians conquered Abdera. In 492 BC, the Persians again conquered Abdera, this time under Darius I. It later became part of the Delian League and fought on the side of Athens in the Peloponnesian war.
Abdera was a wealthy city, the third richest in the League, due to its status as a prime port for trade with the interior of Thrace and the Odrysian kingdom.

The ruins of the town may still be seen on Cape Balastra; they cover seven small hills, and extend from an eastern to a western harbor; on the southwestern hills are the remains of the medieval settlement of Polystylon.

The settlement of Echinos and the Pomaks

Echinos is a settlement in the municipality Myki in the Xanthi regional unit of Greece. It is 27 kilometers northeast of Xanthi. In 2001 the village had around 2200 inhabitants of which the majority are Pomaks. As it is common for many villages in Thrace, quite a few Muslim families live here and have done so for generations. They maintain their religion, culture, and language – still, the Orthodox Christian Greeks and the Muslim Pomaks live peacefully aside. According to the legend Echinos was founded during the 1360s by Lala Shahin Pasha, hence its old name – Shahin. The village is first mentioned in an Ottoman document from the middle of the 16th century.

Xanthi and its unspoiled natural surroundings

Drone view of Nestos River

All nature lovers visiting Xanthi discover that they have suddenly entered an unspoiled paradise; the river Nestos winding its path all the way to its delta, which is a unique aquatic forest. On its way, it passes the Drymos Forest and Lake Vistonida. Also, Erimanthos, a forest village, and the Rodopi mountain range with virgin forests and quaint, traditional villages are some of the hidden treasures of this destination. Do not miss the opportunity to visit “Pomakohoria,” a cluster of around 40 villages north of Xanthi. They are renowned for their architectural and cultural uniqueness.

What to do in Xanthi?

Aerial view of adventure team doing Kayaks on the cold waters of the Nestos River in Toxotes, Xanthi, Greece. Nestos river is one of the most popular among rafters in Greece
Aerial view of adventure team doing Kayaks on the cold waters of the Nestos River in Toxotes, Xanthi, Greece. Nestos river is one of the most popular among rafters in Greece

If you are in for some action, you will not be disappointed: Go canoe-kayaking in the Nestos passes, or hiking, cycling, bird watching, off-road driving, and horseback riding in the areas of Nestos, Livaditis, or Vistonida.

Museums in Xanthi

The old city of Xanthi, Thrace, Greece
The old town of Xanthi

Suppose you would like a deeper insight into the rich history of the Xanthi region. In that case, you should visit the Folk Art Museum, the Municipal Gallery, the Natural History Museum, and the Avdera Archaeological site.

Festivals in Xanthi

Aerial view of the old town of Xanthi in northern Greece

Throughout the year, cultural events are organized. In February, you can experience the renowned Carnival of Xanthi. The Old Town Festival is held in September, during which all events occur in the narrow old streets. And during your summer holiday, you can celebrate the Youth Festival and River Nestos Music Festival.

Health travels

Thermes Springs in Xanthi region, Thrace, Greece
Thermes Springs in Xanthi region, Thrace

Thermes is a municipal unit in the municipality of Myki. It is located very close to the Bulgarian border north of Xanthi. It consists of the villages Ano Thermes, Kato Thermes, Meses Thermes, Medousa, Kidaris, Diasparto, and Kottani. The population of Thermes was around 800 inhabitants in 2011. Thermes is popular for its hot spas, which can be found all around the area.

Greece, tunnel and rails from Drama-Xanthi railway and walking path along Nestos river
Tunnel and rails from Drama-Xanthi railway and walking path along Nestos river

Weather and climate in Xanthi

Average monthly temperatures during day and night in °C and average rainfall in mm in Xanthi City
Panorama of the old town of Xanthi in Thrace, Greece