Tourist Destination of Prefecture of Rodopi
© Region of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace
The Prefecture of Rodopi is situated at the heart of Thrace, with the Prefecture of Xanthi to the west and the Prefecture of Evros to the east. Mountain villages are dotted around the north of the Prefecture, whereas the south consists of picturesque seaside villages and beautiful beaches. It covers an area of 2,542.5 km2 and has a population of 103.190. 75% of the locals are occupied in agriculture and livestock farming and 25% are occupied in the secondary and tertiary sectors. The following municipalities come under the Prefecture: Aigiros, Amaxades, Arriana, Iasmos, Kechros, Komotini, Maronia, Neo Sidirochori, Organi, Sapes, Sosti and Filyra. The prefecture is seated at Komotini, which it is believed was founded during the reign of Emperor Theodosius, around the 4th century AD. Komotini is also the seat of the Democritus University of Thrace.
During antiquity (1,100 – 324 BC) the Ciconians and the Bistonians inhabited the present-day border areas of the Prefecture of Rodopi. The Thracians were hellenised during the Hellenistic period. Firestone tools, which belonged to Palaeolithic humans (10,000 – 7,000 BC) were found, whereas excavations at the settlement of Toumba at Paradimi affirm the existence of human life during the Neolithic Age (4,500 – 3,000 BC). There is information regarding the religion, mythology and civilisation of the Thracians dating from the Iron Age (1,050 – 650 BC). Homer mentions that Ulysses batted against the Ciconians and conquered their town, Ismaro. In the 7th century BC settlers from Chios arrived at Maronia. After the Persian wars, the Kingdom of the Odryssai was founded in Thrace, which was destroyed by Phillip II of Macedon. In 46 AD, the area became a Roman province; following the foundation of Constantinople in 330 AD, it became a Byzantine province and it was fortified with walled towns and forts, whose remains may still be seen even in the center of Komotini (Theodosian fort). In the 14 century AD, it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. It actively participated in the revolution of 1821 and at the turn of the 20th century it became the competition ground between the Balkan forces and Turkey, which lasted until 1920, when the area was re-acceded to Greece by virtue of international treaties.
Today, the completion of the Egnatia Odos and the prefecture’s transport facilities are a great service to travellers. Moreover, the town’s railway connection with the “Democritus” and “Megas Alexandros” airports in Alexandroupoli and Chryssoupoli respectively, are an added advantage for residents.
The prefecture’s mountainous area, which is crossed by the European footpath E6, provides visitors with an opportunity to enjoy the unspoilt nature and the healthy environment. Forest production is an important economic factor. The Rodopi plain is a fertile land where a variety of crops is cultivated. The coastal zone has very clean long beaches. Seaside villages such as Arogi, Fanari, Messi and Maronia have developed into holiday resorts. The wetlands of lakes Vistonida and Ismarida are very interesting and they are protected by the international Ramsar convention.
Komotini, the seat of the Prefecture and the Region of East Macedonia and Thrace, combines a variety of European and eastern elements in its architecture and traditional culture. When walking around Komotini visitors come across impressive mosques, Muslim quarters and the old market with its narrow lanes and low houses. The old market attracts all kinds of people, locals and visitors, looking around antique shops, jeweller’s, tinsmith’s workshops, shops selling pastourma, kavourma, soutzouk loukoum, tahini, and the traditional shops selling roasted chick-peas, while the smell of freshly roasted Greek coffee is pervasive all around. Visitors should also visit the mountain of Rodopi and the suburban forest of Nymfaia, go trekking along the European footpath E6, admire the wetlands of lakes Vistonida and Ismarida and go for a refreshing swim at one of the very clean beaches at Fanari, Arogi, Messi, Alkyona, Plataniti or Profitis Ilias.
Maronia is located on the prefecture’s coastal zone and is renowned for its long history. Evidence of the area’s great civilization are the grape-pressing vats dating from Homer’s age, the ancient theatre and the temple of Dionysus, the mosaic floor of a house dating from the 3rd century BC, a propylon from the Roman period and the Byzantine fortification tower.
Visitors may also visit the Archaeological Museum, the Folklore Museum and the Ecclesiastical Museum. The Museum of Romani Basketry, operating in the village of Thoulorio, is unique in Greece and the entire Europe.