The Via Egnatia was a Roman road that ran as an eastern continuation of the Via Appia between Rome and Istanbul (Constantinople, Byzantium), the two great metropolises of the late Roman Empire. Built between 146 and 120 BC, the army road was named after Gnaeus Egnatius, proconsul of Macedonia. He had commissioned the construction. In places, Macedonian royal roads were included in the construction. The ancient road ran through today's Albania, North Macedonia, Greece and Turkey. The starting point was Durrës on the Albanian Adriatic. A southern branch began in Apollonia (at today's Fier), which was also an important port city at the time. In the valley of the Shkumbin, the two branches first came together again. In the area of Lake Ohrid, there were again two routes that met near Heraclea Lynchestis (now Bitola). Then the route led south to Thessaloniki, from there it went eastwards to Istanbul.
Along the road, stations were built from the beginning of the Imperial era. About every 15 km horse-changing stations (mutationes) and about every 40 km rest stops (mansiones) were built mainly for the state postal and courier service. Later, they were expanded and then used by travelers and traders, who then traveled from one rest area to another in one day. They consisted of stables, horse cart depots, and dining and guest rooms. Among the larger service areas were also workshops and comfortable rest houses (praetoria) with baths (balnea). Vici (settlements) often developed in the vicinity of heavily frequented mansiones with other craft enterprises and larger bathing facilities, some of which developed into cities that still exist (Thessaloniki) or have perished (Philippi, Anastasiopolis).
The road was used by the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey when he traveled from Philippi to Thessaloniki (Acts 16-17). It also played a crucial role in several important moments of Roman history: the armies of Julius Caesar and Pompey marched during the civil war of Caesar along the Via Egnatia, and later the legions during the civil war between Mark Antony and Octavian and those of Cassius and Brutus who met for the Battle of Philippi. Milestones found prove that Emperor Trajan carried out extensive road repairs before his campaign against the Parthians. However, due to political instability in the region, the road was largely abandoned and maintained in the 5th century AD. A 5th-century historian noted that the western parts of Via Egnatia were in such poor condition that travellers could barely travel on it, which also had economic consequences for the places along the road.
Its strategic and economic importance was not lost after the decline of the Roman Empire. Also in Byzantine times, the Via Egnatia was one of the important roads. Crusaders and Ottoman invaders also used this route. The route changed partially in Byzantine times. In later years, the Via Egnatia was revived as the key road of the Eastern Roman Empire.
Procopius of Caesarea was a late antique Greek or early Byzantine historian of the 6th century AD. He is considered the last great historian of antiquity. He reported on repairs of the East Roman Emperor Justinian I from the 6th century, since the dilapidated road even in rainy weather was virtually unusable. Almost all Byzantine overland trade with Western Europe went along Via Egnatia. During the Crusades, the armies that traveled east by land followed the road to Constantinople before arriving in Asia Minor. Even in Ottoman times, this land route still had an important role, when it was known as sol kol ("left arm", as seen from Constantinople's point of view, with orta kol, "middle arm" being the Via Militaris linking with Central Europe through the central parts of the Balkans, and sağ kol, "right arm", the route to Crimea along the Black Sea - the Via Pontica).
Exact maps of the Via Egnatia do not exist, as the route has changed over the millennia and its remnants have been severely damaged in the 20th century by land development for agriculture. Further in Greek part of Thrace some remains of the Via Egnatia were uncovered. There, the route is known more precisely.
Preserved by the old Via Egnatia are only short sections, especially in Albania and partly also in Greece. Whoever wants to move along the Via Egnatia today, does so mainly because of the impressive landscapes in touristy uncrowded areas, the typical places that are not shaped by tourism, as is the case on the coastal towns and not least, to the to taste different dishes and wines that can be discovered along the more than 1000 km. The Via Egnatia is also part of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and also part of the old Silk Road.
If you like the bathing pleasures by the sea, you will find excellent beaches along the Via Egnatia in Greece near Asprovalta, Kavala and Alexandroupolis.
The easiest way to get there is via the international airport of Tirana in Albania, 30 km from Durrës, if you want to explore Via Egnatia from west to east. Otherwise, the airport of Thessaloniki offers, if you only want to visit the Greek part of the route, or Istanbul for the Turkish part.
The preparations depend on whether you really want to hike the route or drive off in the motorhome. In Albania and northern Macedonia, it leads through mountainous areas with the typical rapid weather changes and low temperatures, while in Greece and Turkey it travels a lot through lowland where sun and heat can be a challenge for the hiker. Hikers usually go the route in 2 stages: (1) Durres to Thessaloniki, and (2) Thessaloniki to Istanbul. To prepare for a hike, the guides of the Via Egnatia Foundation and the Facebook Via Egnatia friends are recommended. Also the App Via Egnatia Hiking is useful.
Almost no rental companies allow the border crossing into another country.
For hikers, the wild mountain landscapes in Albania are a highlight of the Via Egnatia. For car or motorhome riders the poor road conditions in Albania might bring some trouble. In general, Albania has had modest tourism only since the fall of communism, after decades of abject poverty and also almost exclusively on the coasts. If you are traveling inland, you often have to be content with less luxurious accommodation and restaurants and expect difficulties in understanding.
Durrës - PeqinEdit
From Durrës, the road used to run along the coast, then inland following the valley of the Shkumbin River to Peqin, where it joined with the branch of the Via Egnatia that came from Fier.
- 1 Durrës (Durrësi, Dyrrachium, Dyrrhachium, Epídamnos). The most important port city of Albania, its history is varied due to its strategic location. Today the town attracts many tourists. Interesting churches, mosques, museums, Roman monuments, such as the amphitheater, city walls and beaches, nightlife and shopping add to the city's appeal.
- 2 Fier (Apollonia). A few kilometers east of the modern city of Fier extends the Apollonia Archaeological Park. The beautifully situated archaeological site is Unesco heritage and most important archaeological site of Albania. So far, only a small part of the entire ancient city has been excavated, dating from the 8th and 7th centuries BC. The museum in the nearby church is also worth seeing.
- 3 Peqin (Clodiana). The city sits in the valley of the Shkumbin River northeast of the Myzeqe Plain between Durrës and Elbasan on the main route between these places, today, as well as in Roman times. A few kilometers east of Peqin numerous ancient remains were found. It is believed that there was the ancient Clodiana, where the two branches of the Via Egnatia from Durres and Apollonia united. The first written mention of Peqin dates back to 1431. At that time called Biklenet, this was a very small place. In the 16th century, the Ottomans built a fortification here to protect the coast and trade routes. As a suburb of the castle Peqin developed rapidly. Tourist has the place really not much to offer.
Peqin - Elbasan - PerrenjasEdit
From Peqin the Via Egnatia continues to Scampis, today's Elbasan and on to Perrenjas to the present border with North Macedonia on the 1 Lake Ohrid. Remains of the ancient road are still partially preserved in the Polis Mountains high above the Shkumbin Valley. Here the road did not run for long stretches in the valley of the Shkumbin, but high up on the southern mountain slope. In some places near the Albanian city of Librazhd you can still see or guess the ancient course.
- 4 Elbasan. lies in a wide valley at about 150 m above sea level. A few kilometers to the east, the Shkumbin River emerges from its rocky valley, allowing productive agriculture here in history. In the north and south of the city high mountains rise up to 1000 meters or 1800 meters. Elbasan has a continental climate with warm and dry summers and cold and rainy winters. Due to its central traffic-related location, from north to south and from east to west, it is sometimes called Albania's navel. The castle is located right in the centre of the city. Only two old walls are left, but the area is full of old houses, cobblestone streets and excellent restaurants.
- 5 Polis-Hills. In the Polis Mountains on the southern slopes of the Shkumbin Valley are still remnants of the ancient pavement. Between Xibraka and Qukës there is a footpath of the ancient Via Egnatia. In part, the track is now developed as a roadway, in part, it is passable only on foot.
- 6 Perrenjas. It is the last large place before the border but it has no tourist interest. North of the city is the Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park. It is one of the newest national parks in Albania and was founded in 2008. The park is in the northeastern part of the district of Librazhd and runs along the border with northern Macedonia. The park's terrain consists mainly of mountain foothills that lead to mountains that are over 2,200 meters high. The park is home to a number of rare and endemic plant and animal species. Beech, oak, fir and other pine trees dominate the wooded parts of the park. There are also a number of meadows and pastures. The brown bear, the gray wolf and the Eurasian lynx are native to this area. Most of the roads around the park are unpaved roads, and some require four-wheel drive. There are also 4 marked trails that cross the park. Maps for the hiking trails in the park can be obtained free of charge at the info point in Fushe Studen or at the forestry department Librazhd near the train station.
North Macedonia Edit
The western part of the country is an area of picturesque mountains, lakes, forests and fields, nestled between the Povardarie region and Albania, home to most of the attractions of North Macedonia.
Struga - Ohrid - BitolaEdit
- 7 Radožda. Today's main road after the border to the north does not follow the Via Egnatia, this went to the village Radožda, where also a piece of the original road can be seen. Worth seeing here is the St.Mihail Cave Church from the 14th century, built in a natural cave and decorated with frescoes. Further north are two other churches worth seeing, the 1 St. Atanasia Cave Church and the 2 Kalishta Cave Monastery. Both are worth a visit.
- 8 Struga. In antiquity the city was known as Enchalon. The name Struga was first used in a document in the 11th century, but dates back to the 7th century. Byzantine Ana Komnina visited Struga in the 11th century, calling it the "City of 100 Bridges". While nearby Ohrid has been a cultural and religious center, Struga has played the role of the commercial center of the region. It still is and a visit to the market day and a walk through the old bazaar can be fun.
- 9 Ohrid. With ancient churches and flower-decked balconies in the old town on the hillside and beach life on the lake shore, Ohrid is something of the "Macedonian Riviera". Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980, it sits between mountains up to 2,800 meters high and Lake Ohrid, and is not only a place of historical importance, but also of exceptional natural beauty. Ohrid is the jewel in northern Macedonia. Archaeological finds indicate that Ohrid is one of the oldest settlements in Europe. The city was first mentioned in the Greek documents from 353 BC. when it was called Lychnidos or "City of Light". It was renamed Ohrid in 879 AD. The city, as we know it today, was built mainly between the 7th and 19th centuries. During the Byzantine period, Ohrid became an important cultural and economic centre, the episcopal centre of the Orthodox Church and the site of the first Slavic university. At the beginning of the 11th century Ohrid briefly became the capital of the kingdom governed by Zar Samuel, whose fortress still dominates the city. The castle, a number of churches and mosques worth seeing, the old bazaar, the traditional houses, the ancient theater, the waterfront etc. make Ohrid a place to visit.
- 10 Bitola. It has the atmosphere of an old northern European city, as it was the seat of consuls from many countries in the 19th century. This brought the European culture and influenced the local aristocracy, who lived in European fashion and built their homes in neoclassical style. Bitola is a worthwhile place to visit with its beautiful mix of Ottoman architecture and the romantic architecture of the 19th century. The Pelister National Park is nearby, as is the ancient city of Heraklea. Also worth seeing are some mosques, churches and especially the Old Bazaar (Стара чаршија). Bitola's Old Bazaar is the city's historic business centre. It is located north of the Dragor River, opposite the Clock Tower and Magnolia Square. In the narrow streets are examples of traditional Turkish architecture, including important religious and cultural buildings. A visit to the ancient site of Heraclea Lyncestis, just south of the city, is a must.
- 11 Heraclea Lyncestis. It was an important settlement from the Hellenistic period to the Middle Ages. It was mid-4th century BC. founded by Philip II of Macedonia and named after the Greek demigod Heracles, whom Philip considered his ancestor. As an important strategic point, it has become a prosperous city. The Romans conquered this part of Macedonia in 148 BC. and destroyed the political power of the city. The prosperity continued mainly through the Roman Via Egnatia street, which passed near the city. In Heraclea there are several monuments from the Roman period, including a portico, spas (baths), an amphitheater and several former temples of the Greco-Roman gods covered by basilicas.
The route through Greece leads through Macedonia and Thrace. Although northern Greece, with the exception of Chalkidiki, is significantly less touristy than the islands or the south, it is significantly better developed than Albania or North Macedonia, especially along the coastline.
The Egnatia Odos, a modern motorway named after the ancient route, roughly follows the path of its predecessor between Thessaloniki and the Turkish border although its western terminus at Igoumenitsa is much further south than that of its ancient namesake.
Florina - Edessa - ThessalonikiEdit
The landscape around Florina is mountainous but from Edessa on it gets flatter. In the course to the Turkish border the landscape is more or less flat. with only a small mountain range before reaching Alexandroupolis.
- 12 Florina. Due to the altitude, the weather in Florina is quite unstable throughout the season, especially in winter. It is the city with the most snowfall in Greece, lasting from December to March. In winter, the temperature is usually below zero degrees Celsius. You can easily explore the city on foot. There are no special sights, but it is worthwhile to walk along the river Sakouleva in the summer or to sit in one of the street cafes by the river.
- 13 Edessa. It is known for its impressive waterfall, one of the must see attractions on the route. You can even walk under the waterfall, which makes it all the more impressive. Even otherwise, the mountain town has a lot to offer. The ruins of the ancient city are located in the valley and are also worth seeing, as well as the monastery complex next door. Do not miss the Aridea thermal spa, 30 km to the north. In the outdoor pool there is a warm and a cold waterfall next to each other.
- 14 Pella. It had its heyday in antiquity when it was the capital of Macedonia. At that time ruled the most important kings of the country, Philip II and after him his son Alexander the Great. 168 BC Pella was conquered by the Romans, a few years later an earthquake destroyed the city. In the Middle Ages, the city was named after the holy apostles Agios Apostoli. Since 1926, the place has again been called Pella, and this emblematic name also carries the political region. The site is not very impressive, but because of its history is one of the must see places. 60 km southwest of Pella is the well-known and impressive site Vergina. It is worth deviating from the route from the direct route to Thessaloniki.
- 15 Thessaloniki. It is the second largest city in Greece. The city is the cultural centre and capital of the Macedonia region. Thessaloniki has much to offer in sights. Its buildings from early Christian and Byzantine times belong to the world cultural heritage of UNESCO since 1988. You should at least 2 nights plan here, because of it's sites and the culture, many shops and nightlife. Southeast of Thessaloniki lies Chalkidiki, one of the main tourist centres of Greece with countless beautiful beaches in particularly beautiful landscape and also the monastic republic Mount Athos. If you are interested in the worldwide unique spiritual life of the monks and the exceptionally beautiful monasteries, you can apply for a visa in Thessaloniki. For women, however, access is prohibited.
Thessaloniki - Amphipolis - Philippi - KavalaEdit
The following route of the Via Egnatia led through scenic and partly hilly areas, south along the lakes Koronia and Volvi until it reaches at Asprovalta, a popular seaside resort, continuing along the sea to Amhipolis. From Amphipolis the route led in the time of the Romans north along the Pangaion Hills to Philippi. In Byzantine times, the southern bypass of the Pangeon was preferred, where today also runs the highway. Philippi was not necessarily the destination at that time any more, but directly Kavala.
- 16 Amphipolis. The formerly important city was founded as Athenian colony 438/437 BC. because of its strategic location, near the fertile Strymon valley and the gold mines of Pangeo. The numerous findings from the excavations can be found in the Archaeological Museum of Amfipolis and in the Archaeological Museum of Kavala. As in most of the archaeological sites, former temples were covered with churches, which explains the foundations of several basilicas on the excavation field. In the immediate vicinity are still several ruins of towers from the Byzantine period. Before reaching Amphipolis, stands the Lion of Amphipolis, a very beautiful tomb monument from the 4th century BC. built in honor of Admiral Laomedon, who came from the island of Lesbos.
- 17 Pangaion Hills. The Pangeon mountain massif is with nearly 2000 m the highest mountain near Kavala, with picturesque mountain villages, some very scenic monasteries and an impressive vegetation.
- 18 Philippi. The archaeological site of Philippi is the most important archeological site in northern Greece, with characteristic monuments of the Hellenistic, Roman and early Christian periods. It was founded about 360 B.C. as colony from the island of Thasos. In addition to her important role as a station on the Via Egnatia, she became known through the apostle Paul, who wrote the Philippians' letters from the Bible while in prison. The first Christian community was founded in Philippi, and the first Christian baptism in Europe was carried out here by Apostle Paul.
- 19 Kavala. It is one of the most beautiful cities of Greece with a picturesque old town, a castle, an aqueduct, the harbor and the marina, the promenade with many cafes and restaurants and also beautiful beaches. Before Kavala are the best preserved pieces of Via Egnatia in Greece.
Kavala - Anastasiopolis - Mosynopolis - Mesimvria - TraianoupolisEdit
The route goes through lowland until before Alexandroupolis, where you have to cross a range of hills.
- 20 Akondisma. From Kavala, the route continues along the coast to the village of Nea Karvali, at the end of which is Akontisma station. The ruins of the old castle are preserved. Founded in the 6th century BC. on the site of today's very attractive hotel village as a colony of Thasos and Paros. The colony was founded because of their interests in precious metals from the hinterland and as a distribution centre for goods from the islands, such as honey, olives, fish, wine, cheese, pottery, wood products. Later it became a military base for the Macedonian kings and Romans. Due to the location on the Via Egnatia Akondisma gained in importance as a commercial centre. With the decline of trade by land in favour of maritime trade also Akondisma lost its importance and henceforth existed as an agricultural settlement. Under Ottoman times (from 1350 AD) it became a rest area for traders to and from Istanbul. The place recovered again until it was completely destroyed in the First World War by bombing. Today, below the former fortress walls is a very worth seeing hotel complex in the stalk of an old village. The area is located directly on the main road and worth a short sightseeing tour. Pass the hotel uphill past a chapel and follow the path to the hill. Only remnants of a fortress wall can be seen here, but the view makes up for the short walk.
- 21 Petropigi. After another 2 km past the ruins of the ancient city 'Pistyros' (see Nestos) you reach the next still-in-ruins station Petropigi. This fortified station on the Via Egnatia dates back to the late Byzantine period (13th-14th centuries), with some changes from the early Turkish period, when it was used as a 'Karavanseray' until about 16th century. There are some fortress walls preserved. The interior of the castle ruin is completely overgrown with shrubs.
- 22 Topiros. After another 20 km past the nature reserve Nestos you reach Topiros. The current municipality of Topeiros owes its name to a city that existed on the Via Egnatia during the Roman era, in the same area in which the municipality is today. Few remains of the ancient city of Topeiros with Byzantine ruins are tucked away and overgrown by vegetation between the main road and the Nestos River. Topiros was founded in the 1st century AD as a station on the Roman Via Egnatias. The city had its own coins, which testifies to the wealth and importance. With the division of the Roman Empire into East and West Topeiros belonged to the Eastern Empire and forms its western boundary. In 549 AD, the city was conquered by the Slavs, who completely destroyed it. Two years later, Justinian I rebuilt it and surrounded the settlement with stronger walls. It was finally destroyed in 812 by the Bulgarian tsar "Croumo".
- 23 Abdera. It lies south of the Via Egnatia, but was connected to the road as a port town. it. It was a busy ancient Thracian port city and home to the philosophers Democritus and Protagoras. But it lost its importance in the late Roman era. The city was on the major shipping route to the Black Sea: The Roman Empire took part of its grain from today's Ukraine. On the other hand, the Thracian hinterland contributed to the prosperity of the colonists and the city of Abdera with fertile fields and pastures, rich forests in the valleys of Nestos and its tributaries, fish-rich waters and precious metal deposits in the mountains. Today, there are some interesting ruins and an archaeological museum in the modern village of Avdira. Next to the excavation site on the hill are the ruins of a Byzantine castle. The nearby beaches are among the best in the region which makes the place definitively worth a visit.
- 24 Anastasiopolis. (Peritherion): approx. 30 km further to the east, past the very worth seeing Nestos gorge, and the interesting city Xanthi, you reach Anastasiopolis. Today, the impressive ruins lie in a forest, overgrown with vegetation. It was once a main station along the Via Egnatia. A not easy to find "loste place" but just for that reason definitely worth a visit. Close to the sea there is a must-see monastery at Porto Lagos (see Xanthi). Following the road towards Komotini, you will come to recently discovered pieces of Via Egnatia past Iasmos.
- 25 Mosynopolis. ( Μοσυνόπολις, Maximianopolis, Mosinopol ) 20 km to the east was another well-known station, Maximianopolis, just before the worth seeing city Komotini. The ruins of a Byzantine city are an archaeological site 7 km west of Komotini south of the village Miskos is located. In the area was the ancient city of Paxoula. In the archaeological site, the ruins of a temple from the 11th to 13th centuries, a part of the wall, a tomb of Maximianopolis and early Christian tombs of Mosynopolis were excavated. Findings from archaeological excavations are kept in the Archaeological Museum of Komotini. The Via Egnatia and a branch leading north to Stanimaka fortress and the Via Militaris crossed here making the settlement a trade centre.
- 26 Maroneia. Southeast of Komotini 30 km away on the coast is the port of Maroneia, the ancient Ismaros . It was not directly on the Via Egnatia, but connected to the road. Some ancient ruins, an interesting landscape and good beaches are worth the detour.
In the further course of the Via Egnatia in the east of Komotini there are no known stations until we reach the coast. Only at the village Mesti a piece of the old road was found and uncovered.
- 27 Mesimvria. It was a colony of the inhabitants of the island Samothrace, built at the end of the 7th century BC. The city flourished in the 5th and 4th century BC. However, during the period of the Macedonian and later Roman rule it began to lose importance, as the construction of roads in the hinterland lowered the importance of the coastal city. On the excavation site, the remains of the fortress wall with towers, private houses, a road network, public buildings, a sanctuary of Demeter and an Apollo temple were found. The most important monument of the archaeological site is "The Shrine of Demeter". Inside the building, silver, gold, silver and gilded relief panels were found, all connected to the Demeter cult. Dated to the 4th century BC. The archaic temple of Apollo was part of a larger building complex (35 x 45 m) with a central paved courtyard, surrounded by a stoa. Many ceramic fragments were found with engraved inscriptions inside the temple from the 6th and 5th century BC.
- 28 Traianoupolis. Further east along the very beautiful coast, past the port city Alexandroupolis lies the last known station in Greece Traianopolis. The city was founded by the Roman Emperor Trajan (reigned 98-117AD) and was famous in Roman times for its baths. In the 4th century it became the capital and metropolis of the Thracian Roman province of Rhodope. Despite a rich history, the city remained the metropolis of the ecclesiastical province of Rhodope until its decline in the 14th century. The area was destroyed in 1322 by Bulgarian raids and 1329/30 by Turkish troops. You can see ruins of former bathing facilities and parts of the city wall. You should definitely combine a visit with a visit to the modern bath, because even today, the place is a health resort. Approximately 1.5 km after the entrance to Traianopolis to the east, a section of the Via Egnatia was uncovered, directly parallel to the main road.
The ancient road crossed the Hebrus (modern Evros/Meriç), perhaps the most major river on the route, probably on a man-made ford in a locality named Taşlısavak (Turkish for "paved sluice"). Remnants of the crossing reportedly still exist on the site; however, this is a closed military zone as it lies on the border of two countries that have tense relations at times. The modern highway, E90, crosses the river on a half-Greek, half-Turkish bridge about 12 km (7.5 mi) upstream (north).
As with many other Roman roads in the country, the Via Egnatia (or at least parts of it) was in use well into the 1960s, when a new nationwide highway network was implemented and major realignments took place.
It is believed that the Turkish part of the route led from İpsala across the Turkish Thrace region to Tekirdag and then along the Marmara coast to Istanbul. Because of the enormous construction activity along the entire Marmara area, especially on the coast, there are hardly any witnesses of Via Egnatia and its former stations. Many things, regardless of history, may have been overbuilt here. Of some stations, the name is known, but not the exact location, so you can not visit them. The entire coastal region is heavily influenced by tourism and on weekends with a lot of traffic through the weekend tourists from Istanbul.
- 29 İpsala. This town of 6,000 inhabitants is east of the border crossing between Turkey and Greece. The lowland around the city, richly irrigated by the Meriç River, produces about half of Turkey's total rice production. In the vicinity of Ipsala lay 'Kypsela' (Cypsela, Kypsela, Κυψέλα Κύψελα), an ancient Greek city on the river Hebrus in ancient Thrace, which was once an important place on the Via Egnatia and of which today nothing more can be seen.
- 30 Edirne. Approximately 30 km north of Ipsala is Edirne, a must see city famous for its famous mosque. It was not on the Via Egnatia, but rather on the equally important Via Militaris, which linked Constantinople with Singidunum, modern Serbian capital of Belgrade, and onwards to Central Europe, and a major connection between these two routes existed here. Also, some evidence suggests that, in its earlier stages, the road might follow the Hebrus valley northwards to Adrianople, and then headed southeast to meet the Marmara coast in Perinthus. The area around Edirne is one of the most competitive places in Europe, thanks to its strategic location on major roads towards Istanbul, Bosphorus and on to Asia. There were no fewer than 16 major battles and sieges in this area since the days of Ancient Greece. Edirne's former name is Adrianople, d. H. "City Hadrian", named after the Roman emperor who founded the city on the site of the Thracian village Uskudama.
- 31 Enez. It is a small town on the Aegean Sea, near the Maritsa/Evros River (Meriç in Turkish, Evros in Greek), which flows into the sea here. Its old name was 'Ainos' or 'Aenus' . Because of its strategic location, it has a very eventful history. Ainos was mentioned by Homer and Herodotus. The place was considered an aioli colony of Mytilene and Kyme founded in the 7th century BC. A major harbour before the siltening up of its bay by the Maritsa, the city was prosperous through trade and agriculture and paid high fees as a member of the 1st Attic-Delian League. Ainos fought in the Peloponnesian War on the side of Athens and was 375 BC. Chr. member in the 2nd Attic Sea Alliance. From 341 to 185 BC Ainos belonged to the empire of the Attalids of Pergamon, who inherited Ainos with their whole empire to the Romans. In late antiquity, the place was bishopric and capital of the small province of Rhodope. Emperor Justinian I had the walls of the city built into a fortress. In place of the ancient Acropolis is a medieval castle of the Genoese family Gattilusio, who dominated the city from 1376 until occupation by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1456 as a Genoese colony. The ruins, including a Roman road excavated for a short distance, are now an attraction of the city. It was not right on the Via Egnatia, but it was strongly connected to it by a road tracing the rim of the marshlands surrounding the Stentoris, modern rice paddies around Lake Gala, where the locals report substantial remains, some inundated due to water level changes of the lake. The modern 22-58 Enez–İpsala road roughly follows this route.
- 32 Aprus (Apros, Apri, Aproi). It was a city of ancient Thrace and later a Roman city on the Via Egnatia. The town was re-established as Colonia Claudia Aprensis in the middle of the 1st century AD, probably during the annexation of Thrace under Emperor Claudius, and was intended for retired members of the Roman military. In the 4th century, Aprus was the capital of the region southwest of Heraclea, the capital of the province. The city was renamed Theodosiopolis' in honor of Theodosius II, Emperor from 401 to 450, or Theodosius I (347-395). After the capture of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, the Latin empire Theodore Branas (called by Geoffroi de Villehardouin Li Vernas) made the ruler of Aprus. In 1206, the Tsar Kaloyan from Bulgaria destroyed the city, but Branas rebuilt it. In the battle of Apros in July 1305, the Catalan company destroyed the Byzantine imperial army under Michael IX Palaiologos. Except for some scant fortress ruins in the vicinity of the modern village of Kermeyan, nothing can be seen today, although some findings are in exhibition in the archaeological museum of nearby Tekirdağ. The modern highway bypasses the village several kilometres to the south.
- 33 Tekirdağ. It was founded by Thracians as "Byzanthe". The first site of Byzanthe was today's Barbaros, a village 9 km southwest of Tekirdag. It was then settled by Greeks from the Aegean island of Samos. After the split of the Roman Empire into two parts Tekirdağ in Byzantine hands and in the 14th century Ottoman Turks conquered, which gave the city the name "Rodosçuk". The name was changed several times and only since 1927 the city got its present name. It is today a modern city with a beautiful extensive promenade, but without outstanding sights. The area is known for its vineyards and some wineries are worth the visit.
- 34 Perinthus. Marmara Ereğlisi is a coastal town 40 km east of Tekirdağ on the highway to Istanbul. This is the site of ancient Perinthos, another station along Via Egnatia. Perinthos, probably a Thracian settlement. It was colonized 654 BC or 599 BC by Samos and later renamed Heraclea. The ancient city can still be visited in small parts today. At the market square in the lower town is an open-air museum with finds, including a couple of original Egnatian milestones. In the city there are excavations with mosaics. On the hill of the former Acropolis there are not yet excavated ancient buildings and columns. Other finds can be visited in the museum of Tekirdağ.
- 35 Silivri. The ancient Greek Selymbria or Selybria owed its historical importance to the natural harbor and its location on the main trade routes. Today the place is a suburb of Istanbul. In Silivri began the Byzantine wall of Anastasios I (491-518 AD), Constantinople's outermost defence line, which crossed the entire peninsula with its farther end being on the Black Sea. Parts of the wall have been preserved. The remains of the Byzantine episcopal church of Selymbria, still visible in Silivri before the First World War, have since been eroded and disappeared, although the contemporary underground cistern beneath the church still exists and is open for visits.
- 36 Caenophrurium. In the older incarnations of the route, it headed inland after Heraclea Perinthus towards Caenophrurium, which was a Roman settlement between Byzantium and Heraclea Perinthus. It appears in late Roman and early Byzantine reports. Caenophrurium is translated as the "stronghold of the Caeni", a Thracian tribe. IThe place became known by the murder in 275 AD to Emperor Aurelian (Lucius Domitius Aurelianus, Roman emperor from 270 to 275 AD). In the midst of his plans for a campaign against the Sassanids near Caenophrurium in Thrace he was stabbed to death. Here the route crossed a gate of the Anastasian Wall, some well preserved sections of which can be seen in the woodlands to the north. The location of Caenophrurium is not really known, although Sinekli and Kurfallı, two modern villages near each other, are thought to be likely sites. As such there are no (known) remains to visit.
- 37 Melantias (Melantiada, Melentiana, Melitias, or Melitiada). It was a settlement on the Via Egnatia in Roman and Byzantine times near the city of Constantinople. The village was on the road between Athyra (now Büyükçekmece) and 'Rhegion' (now Küçükçekmece), another station on the Via Egnatia. There is nothing to see, as it is today the densely built suburb of Yarımburgaz. However, Yarımburgaz Cave, the site of the oldest inhabitation (dating back to the Paleolithic) in the greater Istanbul area, is nearby.
- 38 Hebdomon. Literally "seventh", as it was on the seventh mile out of Constantinople, Hebdomon was the first major settlement on the route westbound. Except for a Byzantine-era cistern named Fil Damı, do not expect to see much history here as today it is the rather busy suburb of Bakırköy.
- 39 Istanbul. Endpoint of the Via Egnatia and the highlight of all cities along the route — only for a tour of the main attractions you have to plan several days. The original route entered the city through the Porta Aurea ("Golden Gate"), the triumphal arch on the city walls used by the victorious emperors returning back to their capital. Since this gate is no longer (it was bricked up by the later Ottomans, who made it a part of the Yedikule Fortress, although its outline can still be seen), the closest approximation for the modern traveller would be taking the Kennedy Avenue along the Marmara coast and crossing the city walls next to the Mermer Kule ("Marble Tower"), an impressive tower right on the coastline where the land and seawalls joined each other, although crossing the walls through an actual gate can be experienced at a number of ancient gates to the north. While the road officially ended at the Golden Gate, a more appropriate finish might be at the Milion, a monumental tetrapylon from which all distances in the eastern half of the empire were counted. A fragment of the Milion, clearly marked with a sign, stands in its original location, at the side of the Sultanahmet Square.
Just off the route of Via Egnatia are some very well-known sights or landscapes
- 40 Gjirokastër. Another UNESCO city in the south is known for its unique Ottoman architecture. On the hill in the middle of the city is a large castle that has served as a prison for generations. Inside, there is now a military museum and an art gallery. Gjirokastër is also the birthplace of former communist leader Enver Hoxha and the internationally most famous author of Albania, Ismail Kadare. Their houses today serve as museums
- 41 Berat. Considered one of the oldest cities in Albania, it is a new member of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Berat has long been known as the "city of the 1001 windows" because of its unique Ottoman-Albanian architecture. It has a well-preserved castle where the inhabitants still live in the defensive walls.
- 43 Mavrovo National Park. The national park is used for hiking, cycling and skiing. There are hotels, holiday homes and ski lifts. Hiking trails are only occasionally marked. Worth seeing are, among others, the waterfall Duf near Bituše, the village Galičnik and the monastery Jovan Bigorski.
- 44 Pelister National Park. The mountainous park is one of the country's leading tourist areas and a well-known ski resort. From Pelister you can see Pelagonia Valley, Prespasee, Nidže, Galičica, Jakupica and Bitola. The Pelister is one of the most southerly mountains in the Balkans, which has an alpine character and is also known for its two mountain lakes called Pelister's Eyes. The Great Lake is 2,218 meters above sea level, while the Small Lake is 2,180 meters high. Here are many rivers.
- 51 Rhodope Mountains. Thinly populated mountain landscape with amazing natural phenomena and many places of worship of the ancient Thracians.