The only enjoyable and efficient ways to see the places where Philip of Macedon (382-38 B.C.) and Alexander the Great (356-23 B.C.) lived and reigned are by car or with a tour. (Tip: Prices on rental cars from international agencies are almost always lower when the car is booked in advance from outside Greece.) Budget Rent-A-Car has offices at the airport (tel. 2310/471-491) and in the city at 15 Angelaki, opposite the International Fairgrounds (tel. 2310/274-272 or 2310/229-519). Other rental offices are Avis, 3 Leoforos Nikis, at the western end of the harbor, opposite the docks (tel. 2310/227-126 or 2310/683-300); Europcar, 5 Papandreou (tel. 2310/836-333); and Hertz, 4 El. Venizelou, on Eleftherias Square (tel. 2310/224-906).
Several Athens-based companies, such as CHAT (www.chatours.gr) and Dolphin-Hellas (www.dolphin-hellas.gr) offer tours of Central and Northern Greece that take in the most important Macedonian sites; 5 days from about 500€. Zorpidis Travel, 76 Egnatia(tel. 2310/244-400; www.zorpidis.gr; website only in Greek, English information on Zorpidis's Facebook entry), is an established Thessaloniki company offering tours of the Philip and Alexander sites. A day trip to Pella, Edessa, Veria, and Vergina, or to Philippa, Kavala, and Amphipolis, costs from 150€. It is vital to make an advance reservation. Avoid visiting on summer weekends, when Greeks flock to these sites. Be prepared to encounter school groups throughout the year.
By Bus -- If you try to visit these sites by local bus, you may feel that it takes you longer to see them than it took Alexander to conquer the world. Still, if you have lots of time and love buses, you can visit the following sites by bus from Thessaloniki. For Pella, there are sometimes direct buses; failing that, take a bus to Edessa and ask to be let off at Pella. For Vergina, take a bus to Veria, and then a local bus to the site of Vergina. To travel from Pella to Vergina, take the Thessaloniki bus from Pella to Halkidona, where you can get a bus to Veria. This may involve a substantial wait. For Dion, take a bus to Katerini and then a local bus to Dion. For information on bus schedules and departure points, check with the Greek National Tourism Organization, 136 Tsimiski St., in Thessaloniki (tel. 2310/221-100; www.mintour.gr); the bus information line (tel. 2310/512-122) is unlikely to have English-speaking staff.
If you stop in Athens or Thessaloniki before visiting these sites, the free brochure Greece/Macedonia should be -- but may not be -- available at the Greek National Tourism Organization (www.gnto.gr) in Athens at 7 Tsohas (tel. 210/870-7000) or in Thessaloniki at 136 Tsimiski (tel. 2310/252-170).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.