Unique Places to Visit Near Thessaloniki, Greece: The Island of Thassos
When people think of Greek islands the first ones that come to mind are usually Santorini, Rhodes, Mikonos, and the monster of them all, Crete. But near Thessaloniki there is a beautiful island, the northernmost of all the Greek islands, popular with Greeks and tourists alike, called Thasos.
How to Get There
One of the great things about Thasos is that it is very close to the mainland, so it is much less expensive to get to than most of the other Greek islands. From Thessaloniki you take the northeast highway to Kavala. It's a wide new highway on which speeds up to 130 km per hour are allowed, so you can get to Kavala in an hour or so. On the way you can enjoy beautiful views of the lake district north of Thessaloniki, and farther on the northern coast of the Aegean Sea. The ferry that leaves from the terminal in the center of Kavala goes to the western side of Thassos; it takes forty-five minutes or so and is slightly more expensive. Just east of Kavala there is another ferry which takes you to the northern part of the island; this takes about half an hour. For the affluent there is frequent airline service as well, from both Athens and Thessaloniki.
The center of Thassos is dominated by mountains, and a drive up into the hills can yield breathtaking views of the island and the sparkling Aegean. Parts of the hills are rough barren rock, but other parts are covered with beautiful verdant forest. In the small villages scattered throughout the hills you can find tavernas (traditional Greek restaurants) where you can feast on grilled or roasted lamb and other traditional delicacies. Thasos is also famous for its wines, and wine shops in the villages can sell you bottles of regional wine at considerable discounts from the prices in the cities.
But the main reason people go to Thasos is the beaches. There are beautiful beaches all around the island; if you want you can take a slow circular tour and hit a different beach each day. You can either stay at a different hotel each night – because hotels abound – or you can stay in one place and take drives one way or the other to various locations. Some white sand beaches are so broad there is room for multitudes of volleyball and soccer games and Frisbee matches. Some beaches have wonderful opportunities for snorkeling and observing the teeming colorful undersea life. Some beaches have romantic and mysterious beachside caves and grottos. And for the adventurous, one beach on the east side of the island is officially designated a nude beach. Be aware, though, that not only here but on many Greek beaches, especially on the islands, women are quite free about sunbathing topless. As I said, there are many beaches for many tastes, so you can check them all out or find one that suits your fancy and relax. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants, and night spots around the beaches as well.
There are several monasteries in the hills, for those who enjoy contemplating Orthodox art and architecture. Various archeological sites, the ruins of ancient marketplaces and temples, are scattered around the island, notably the Ancient Agora and the Temple of Dionysus. There are three museums in various locations, including an archeological museum.
One advantage of Thassos is that though it is popular it is not as crowded as some of the other islands, even during the peak season of late July and early August. You can enjoy yourself without being overwhelmed by other holidaymakers. So why not give Thasos a try?