Northern Greece rarely finds its way into package tours, but not for lack of appeal. Robust and pretension-free, the region draws adventurous travelers looking to flee the packed plateias and bikini-filled beaches of the islands. From the peaks of Mt. Olympus to the depths of Vikos Gorge, the diverse landscape holds countless opportunities to commune with nature, while ancient monasteries offer access to the gods of your choice. In ancient times, snide Athenians regarded the residents of Macedonia and Thrace as primitive barbarians. Today, the northern reaches of Greece vary greatly in their connection with modem life; Thessaloniki's trendsetting residents are constantly ahead of the curve, while the people of the Zagorohoria barely test the waters of the 19th century.
Some of the most captivating Greek landscapes and sights belong to Macedonia, including the sublime Olympian hiking trails, millions of sparkling mosaic tessarae from Thessaloniki's Byzantine churches, Karala's Ottoman imaret, the Royal Tombs from Vergina, the austere monasteries of Mt. Athos, and the surf and sand of Halkidiki's two peninsulas. Greece's largest province tops the mainland like an ancient goldwrought crown. You'll encounter the region's symbol, a 16-pointed star, on everything: the sidewalk at the OTE, bumper stickers saying "Macedonia is Greece," and even Philip II's gold casket in Vergina. Though rarely touristed, it's far from a backwater. hip, lively Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city, keeps the whole region on its toes.