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Close to Nature
NATIONAL PARKS – WETLAND HABITATS
National parks are areas with unusually rich and rare flora and fauna, impressive geological phenomena, waters and other geophysical elements which present a special interest and are protected by special domestic and international legislation. The east side of Olympus is such a site in Central Macedonia. Wetland habitats are places abundant in water, rivers or lakes with a rich flora and fauna, especially with respect to birds and fish. Important wetland habitats are lakes Volve and Koroneia, the outfall of rivers Axios – Loudias – Aliakmon, lake Doirani and the valley of Ardas.
Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and the most renowned, since ancient Greeks have thought of its peak (Mytikas – 2,918m.) as the home of the twelve Olympian Gods. Its boisterous volume towers dominatingly over the border between Macedonia and Thessaly, and comprises of a series of high peaks and deep valleys around which expands an area of special biodiversity. Since 1938 Olympus has become the first area in Greece designated as a National Forest. In 1981 UNESCO declared it a “Biosphere reservoir” and the EU has included it amongst the most important areas for birds.
The mountainous volume of Olympus is located roughly in the middle of mainland Greece and its access is easy from the national road and railroad network connected Athens and Thessaloniki. There are some roads and several paths in the forest which offer the visitor with a chance to experience firsthand the diverse flora and landscape. For experienced climbers there are also climbing routes on its steep slopes.
There are several kiosks near springs and fountains offering tranquil moments of relaxation to the visitors. The Forest Service (Directorate of Forests in Pieria) has placed informational signs with the map of the forest and useful directions.
VOLVI - KORONEIA
The lakes Volvi and Koroneia are located just a few kilometers to the northeast of Thessaloniki, next to the national motorway connecting Thessaloniki and Kavala. The area of the lakes is designated by the city of Lagadas on its westernmost end and the straits of Redina, known also as Macedonian Tempi, on its easternmost one. In the middle of this area we find the two lakes and around them the mountainous volumes of Volvi, Vertiskos, Kerdyllia, Hortiatis, Holomontas and Stratonikos. There is a narrow strip of land between the two lakes, a strip that is widening as the years pass, while a trench connects the two lakes; river Richios connects lake Volvi to the Strymonic Gulf. The fertile area of the lakes as been a motive and factor for the development of organized social life ever since the prehistoric era. A series of Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age settlements have been discovered around the lakes. In the historic era, the development of routes for the transportation of people and goods passed from the area, connected, through the narrow straits of Redina, Thessaloniki with Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, led to the development of important settlements, such as Apollonia. The Roman Via Egnatia followed the lining of the modern era motorway and one of its stops still survives in N. Apollonia. Apollonia was an important trade center in antiquity and a mandatory stop for travelers and caravans. The area is rich in flora and fauna. The wetland of the lakes comprises mainly of floating aquatic plants, plants rooting in the lakebed, reeds and rushes. The perimeter of the lakes is home to plane trees, willows, poplars, slivers and trailer plants. The lakes, Volvi in particular, were once home for many different kinds of fish. Unfortunately, all fish have become extinct in lake Koroneia, while Volvi still manages to maintain satisfactory, yet constantly depleting, populations. The wetland habitat of the lakes is protected by a series of international treaties and regulative acts which establish the status of development and management in the area.
AXIOS – LOUDIAS – ALIAKMON DELTA
The protected area of the Delta of rivers Axios-Loudias-Aliakmon, at a close distance from the urban centers of Thessaloniki, Veroia and Katerini offers exquisite opportunities for walking, bird observation, photography or simply an escape from the noise of the city. All seasons in the year have something special to offer: winter brings impressive gatherings of aquatic birds and predators in Agathoupolis; spring comes with the humming of the birds and the amassing of herds of horses in the shady forests next to the rivers; the summer will give one the opportunity to stroll near the seacoast, while the autumn is distinguished by the large flocks of birds who live near the water in the lagoon of Kalochori and Alyki (salt marsh) in Kitros.
To the east of the city of Thessaloniki rises Mt. Hortiatis, which in antiquity and until the middle Byzantine period was known as Kissos. The homonymous village is located on the foot of the mountain. The mountain is covered by oaks, chestnuts, beech trees and firs and is an ideal getaway for trekking lovers. The refuge of Hortiatis is located at an altitude of 1011 meters and at a distance of roughly 20km. from Thessaloniki.
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