Xanthi (population 40,000) sits on the lower slopes of Mt. Koula at the opening of the Esketze River valley. The rail station is about 2.5km from the center of town. Xanthi's regional importance was enhanced by the coming of the railway in the 19th century, having been previously a summer resort for the area's Turks. This town is the center of the tobacco cultivation; it is also a university town, with a Byzantine citadel (views), a large platia with café and a large cathedral. Its most fascinating feature, however, is its old Turkish quarter on the hill with winding cobbled streets and traditional houses. A folk arts museum occupies one of the older mansions belonging to local tobacco barons. The Saturday morning market is heavily attended by Muslims from the surrounding areas.
To the south is Yenesia , which was the old regional center before the railroad gave Xanthi that role. Yenesia is a farming town with no shining attractions, although its 400-year old mosque, which has been sorely neglected, is one of the oldest in Thrace. The coast near Xanthi is marshy, but there are some beach resorts about 38km from the city around Porto Lagos -- Fanari the most appealing of these, and where there is a campground. The site of ancient Abdera is further along the coast near the present village of Avdira. An important bird sanctuary is in the marshland along the Vistonian Gulf. Live eels are fished for in this area and exported to Central Europe, this being a main industry here.
North of Xanthi towards Bulgaria there is nice mountain scenery and interesting, ethnically mixed towns. The large market village of Ehinos serves the local Pomak community.
East of Xanthi are more tobacco fields, and also cotton. The highway parallels the train on the north (left), following the old Via Egnatia route; the sea is visible to the south. Several farm villages ensue, and the nomos of Komotini is entered. There's a Byzantine castle at Polyanthos; near Amaxadhes remains of an old Roman town, which was a fortified station on on the Via Egnatia. Iasmos is a large village (around 3,000 population) on the banks of the Kompsatos River.There a double-arched medieval bridge and a Byzantine church there. Over the Akmar River (after Sostis) is a 75meter long rail bridge, and the silver-capped minaret of Miskos is on your left as the train enters the rail station of Komotini.
Komotini (population around 45,000) is the capital of the nomos (prefecture) of the same name. Around half of the population here is Turkish, and there are many functioning mosques in the city, which sits on the plain only 22km from the Bulgarian border. The OSE rail station is 1.5km from the center of town. The large Turkish quarter behind Platia Ifastou has many small cafes, antique shops, and hawkers selling their wares on the sidewalks. The University of Thrace has a branch here; there is a Turkish secondary school; the Archaeological Museum is very excellent, with artifacts from the Thracian sites of Maronia and Abdera. On entering the town, one can see remains of Byzantine walls. There is also a Pontic community center (called Leski). Accomodation is plentiful.