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K. Kouzouni

Escape at the Nestos Straits

A life-giver, supporting a delicate ecosystem in Northeast Greece is what Nestos River is to the area it crosses, as it has helped create one of the most important biotopes in Europe. The river runs its long meandering way, forming a natural border between the districts of Kavala and Xanthi. Its course has helped shape wonderful land & waterscapes that include rich forests, rare wetlands and impressive geological formations. Pick this destination as your next trip, and explore the Nestos straits - the most interesting part of the river; it’s a nature reserve of great diversity, that covers an area of 23,800,000 m2, and is included in the Natura 2000 network and in the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.

A taste of paradise

Sometimes paradise is within easy reach. This heavenly location lies at a mere 12 km distance from beautiful Xanthi town. Your journey to the Nestos straits begins here. Explore the wonders of nature between Toxotes village and Stavroupoli town. You will be awed by the river’s scenic surroundings, hearing nothing but the relaxing sounds of nature all around you.

Nestos River is flanked by steep mountainsides that drop in its waters, as it winds its way through the Rodopi Mountain Range. You will see railway tracks appear and then disappear again behind the rocks, by the watercourse. A path is visible on a slightly higher elevation on the rocks, and it crosses a riverside forest that is among the most beautiful in Greece.

Your adventure starts here

The best way to explore the area is to take part in sports activities, such as mountaineering, canoeing & kayaking, horse riding, mountain biking, off road driving, and bird-watching.

Follow the hiking trail that crosses the Nestos straits, from Toxotes to Stavroupoli and back: The E6 European Long-Distance Path in Greece starts from Galani village (close to Toxotes). The first section of the well-tended trail is stone-built, and it was constructed by the railway workers in the area. The path follows the river’s east bank, it passes by Kromniko and Livera villages and ends at Stavroupoli town. It’s a fairly easy 7-8-hour hike. Feast your eyes on the rich and colourful vegetation of willow, plane and cedar trees, wild lilacs, countless wildflowers, orchids and climbing plants. You may also see wild birds such as herons, eagles and vultures soaring into the sky, and wild horses roaming about freely in the Livera and Kromniko areas. Along the way you will find cool spring waters, and rest areas, for you to take a break or have a meal.

For the water sports fans among you, we suggest a rafting, or a kayaking experience on Nestos River. Follow the Platanovrysi-Xagnanto-Stavroupoli, or the Stavroupoli-Livera-Galani course, and have an experience to remember. Your tour managers will provide you with the necessary gear, and an experienced guide will lead you safely along the way.

If extreme sports aren’t your thing, the best option for you is to board the train on Stavroupoli, and travel to Toxotes. Get a seat by the window and drink in the breathtaking views; the journey includes going in and out of tunnels, and riding through the lush riverside vegetation, as the train follows Nestos’ winding course past the rocks, trees, and sandy stretches.

Don’t miss out on:

  • Climbing to an 891m. location called Thea (meaning “view” in Greek); this vantage point affords a marvellous view of the river’s meandering waters (at a 10km-distance from Toxotes towards Imera village).
  • Visiting Dryades Cave, near Livera.
  • Seeing the impressive Macedonian shaft grave at Komnina (near Stavroupoli)
  • Exploring the Folk-Art Museum and Kalyva castle in Stavroupoli.

How to get there

You can fly to Kavala or to Alexandroupoli, and then continue by car; it’s an approx. 55km trip from Kavala to the Nestos Straits, and a 130km ride from Alexandroupoli. The nearest big town is Xanthi, at a 212km distance from Thessaloniki, 700km from Athens and only 26km away from your destination. You can also travel by train (from Thessaloniki or Alexandroupoli).