Halastra – Mussel farmers huts – Observation tower – Danio channel
- Distance: 24 km.
- Time on vehicle1 hour, 20 min.
This is probably the most typical of the suggested routes of the National Park, which crosses the rice fields, passes in front of the “photogenic” wooden huts of the mussels producers and leads to the observation tower of the Axios Delta.
The rice fields
Follow the Thessaloniki – Athens highway until you reach the Halastra junction. Turn off here and follow our signs for the Axios Delta. This route takes you to the eastern part of the Delta of the Axios river.
The first thing you see is the agricultural zone of the National Park. Most of this vast area (about 10,000 hectares) is given over to rice production so rice fields occupy one third of the whole park area, becoming thus one of the characteristic ecosystems of the park.
We suggest that late spring is the best time to take this particular route because that`s when the rice paddies are flooded ready for planting and they are at their most interesting. This is the breeding season for birds, and the rice paddies provide a plentiful food supply for them at the time when they most need it.
You`ll probably be lucky enough to see herons, storks, Mediterranean gulls and glossy ibises feeding in the rice fields, whilst Western marsh-harriers, buzzards, levant sparrowhawks and other birds of prey glide over the reeds in search of prey: little snakes, frogs and mice.
With the city of Thessaloniki on your left, continue your way to the wooden observation tower, from where you can enjoy the view to the Axios delta.
On reaching the sea you will see the little church of Saint Nikolaos and just beyond that you`ll encounter the wooden huts of the mussel producers. These constructions serve for work, rest and tool storage. This area is the main source of mussels in Greece. You can watch fishermen and the mussel producers working, using the tools of their trade, but don`t miss seeing cormorants and pygmy cormorants- the real “professionals” -at work fishing under water or drying their wings in the sun.
With the city of Thessaloniki on your left, continue your trip on the coastal road until the wooden obsernvation tower, from where you can enjoy the view to the Axios Delta.
On your return continue north towards the national road and follow the river embankment along the channel called “Danio”. If you need to open the gates put there by the stock breeders, make sure you close them after you.
The fresh water in the channel attracts glossy ibises, herons, spoonbills, mallards and the rare ferruginous duck. There`s also a good chance of spotting coypu here. This invasive large “river rat” breeds here, though it is a native of South America. Fur farmers brought it to Greece and, inevitably, there were escapes…
- Climb the wooden observation tower in “Danio” in order to orientate yourself and get a great view of the east bank of the Axios and its delta.
- Ask a fisherman or mussel grower to tell you about the cultivation of the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis. This grows very fast here because of the abundant nutrients that the rivers bring.
- Come to the Axios Delta at the end of summer or autumn in order to see the glasswort carpeting the area a glorious dark red.
- If you feel like trying some local gastronomy stop at the town of Halastra which is famous for its fish restaurants.