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“From Apollonia and throughout Macedonia there is Via Egnatia towards the East, counted in miles and millaries put until Kipsela and the Evros river. Its whole length is 535 miles” Strabo, the ancient geographer wrote in the 1st century BC. For over two thousand years all military, commercial and cultural life of the Balkans and neighbouring countries developed around the axis of the ancient Egnatian Way, built by the Romans as an extension of the Appian Way to Asia. Today the Egnatian Way stretches from Durres in Albania to Istanbul and along the course of its long history has witnessed invasions, conquests and changes in populations. Over its stone plates have moved their footsteps historical figures like Julius Caesar, Octavian, Brutus, Cicero, Ovid and Saint Paul.
Along the ‘Egnatian Way’ you can find some of the most important historical and cultural centers of the Balkan peninsula, which makes it possible to visit a great variety of monuments that go from ancient times and the kingdom of Macedonia to the splendor of Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques. The ‘Egnatian Way’ is among the most interesting and most original cultural tours BOREAS suggests, rich in highlights as:
Arrival in the capital of Albania in the morning and departure for Durres, on the Adriatic coast. In ancient Dyrrachion there remain Roman and Byzantine ruins. We are visiting the local archaeological museum. At the end of our visits return to Tirana. Accommodation in the hotel, dinner, time at leisure and overnight stay in Tirana.
After breakfast, we take a morning city tour of Tirana starting from Skanderbeg Square with its characteristic architecture dating back to the communist period. We are visiting the rich archaeological museum of the city. Departure from Tirana to reach the monastery of Ardenica, among the most impressive of all Albania, and then proceed to the archaeological site of Apollonia. We arrive at the ancient colony of the Corinthians dating back to the seventh century BC, where we can admire the impressive ruins of the ancient bouleuterion (parliament), while an archaeological museum is accommodated in a nearby old Byzantine monastery. Leaving Apollonia, we arrive at Berat. Accommodation in the hotel, dinner and overnight stay.
Morning tour of the city of Berat, called “the city of a thousand windows” because of its typical architecture. Berat is a charming small town with many Byzantine churches on the slope of a hill dominated by a citadel. Departure from Berat and after a short stop at Elbasan we continue towards the F.Y.R.o.Macedonia. Arrival at Ochrid, hotel accommodation, dinner and overnight stay.
Ochrid has been one of the most important cultural, religious and artistic centres of the Balkans, and to know better its charming history, we dedicate the whole day to the city and its surroundings. Since 1979 Ochrid belongs to the monuments-heritage of mankind protected by the UNESCO. We are visiting the Byzantine churches of S.Sofia, S.Clement, Ss.Constantine and Elena, where the Cyrillic alphabet is said to be born. In the afternoon, we are visiting the monastery of Sv. Naum on the lakeshore. Return to hotel, dinner and overnight stay.
Always following the Egnatian Way we leave Ochride and after crossing the border, we enter Greece and head towards Edessa. Edessa has been an important political and commercial center, especially under the Macedonian kingdom. At Vergina, ancient capital of the Macedonian kingdom and burial place of the Macedonian kings, we approach the political centers of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia. We visit the impressive sepulchral tumulus of king Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, monument protected by the UNESCO, and then proceed to Pella, second capital of the kingdom and center of government of Philip II himself and his son, Alexander. We are visiting the archaeological site and the museum and after the visits, we leave for Thessaloniki. Arrival at Thessaloniki, accommodation in the hotel, dinner and overnight stay in Thessaloniki.
Full day city tour of Thessaloniki (Salonica), the capital of the modern region of Macedonian, founded in 315 BC by King Kassander of Macedonia, brother-in-law of Alexander the Great. The city has known such glory in the Roman period, being under the tetrarchy of Diocletian, one of the four capitals of the Roman empire. Here, an important political, military and cultural center was formed that turned Thessaloniki into the second capital of the Byzantine Empire as well. We are visiting the Museum of Byzantine History of the city, the Rotunda, the Triumphal Arch and the palace of Caesar Galerius, the churches of Agia Sofia, Acheiropoiitos and Agios Demetrios, the patron Saint of the city and the Roman Forum. Accommodation in the hotel, dinner and overnight stay in Thessaloniki.
Departure early in the morning for the Chalkidiki peninsula. Along the way short stop at Stagira, birthplace of the philosopher Aristotle. An important center of spirituality and art was forming from the 9th century onwards on the Athos peninsula, called the Sacred Mountain. Imperial benefits and financing encouraged the development of this state reserved just for the monks. Today access is forbidden to women, while for pilgrims to visit the state, a special authorization is required. From Thessaloniki, we reach Ouranoupolis, a small port in the Chalkidiki region, and then we embark on a cruise along the western coast of the Athos peninsula, to enjoy the stunning views of the impressive monasteries from the sea. The monasteries of Athos conserve their medieval architectural forms that makes them appear like castles. Return in Ouranoupolis, lunch and time at leisure. Departure for Amfipolis. Upon arrival, accommodation in the hotel, dinner and overnight stay in Amfipolis.
After breakfast, we start the day by visiting Amfipolis: a major strategic, economic and cultural centre in the ancient times, where Alexander the Great started his campaign in Asia. Departure to Filippi, the city that for its outstanding importance was honored with the name of the Macedonian king Philip II. Around Filippi took place the battle between the troops of Octavian and Marc Anthony on one side and Brutus and Cassius on the other, that determined the aspect of the Roman Empire. After a short stop at Maroneia, we arrive at Alexandroupoli, city just before the border with Turkey. Accommodation in the hotel, dinner and overnight stay in Alexandroupoli.
In the morning, departure from Alexandroupoli for Istanbul, where the route of the Egnatian Way ends. Upon arrival, we visit the famous byzantine cathedral of St. Sophia, full of wonderful mosaics, and the Blue Mosque, which takes its name from the characteristic color of its Iznik tiles. Accommodation in the hotel, dinner and overnight stay.
Before following the road to the airport, where our journey ends, we visit the famous Hippodrome of Constantinople, the imperial Cistern and the Rustem Pasa Mosque, designed by the famous architect Mimar Sinan. Transfer to airport and end of services.