Levante Ferries Group has announced that its ferry route between Thessaloniki in northern Greece and the city of Izmir (Smyrna) on Turkey’s western coast will be temporarily suspended until the Summer of 2023.
The Smyrna di Levante’s maiden voyage was on October 10th of this year. The company hopes that the link will become popular with tourists, owing to the immense cultural and historical attractions offered by both cities.
The Thessaloniki-Izmir link
The Thessaloniki-Izmir ferry link is the first of its kind. The journey between the two coastal cities lasts for approximately 14 hours. Services to Izmir occur every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Voyages to Thessaloniki take place on the alternating days of Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.
Passengers can obtain a ticket for €81. A 10 percent discount is available for return tickets. It can accommodate 948 passengers, 300 cars, and 55 trucks.
Levant Ferries Group has said that “the precise date for resuming the service in the summer of 2023 will be specified in a later announcement.”
A ferry route of diplomatic value
In recent years, Greece and Turkey have been experiencing a period of heightened tensions, particularly in the geostrategically important Aegean Sea. Nevertheless, it is hoped that the new maritime link will play a small role in helping to foster more positive bilateral relations.
It took over two decades of negotiations to make the Aegean route a reality amid a deteriorating diplomatic situation. Former Thessaloniki mayor, Yiannis Boutaris, was a firm believer in the project and championed the economic and cultural benefits it could bring the two cities.
Levant Ferries Group has likewise promoted the Thessaloniki-Izmir link’s diplomatic qualities. The firm said that it had “created a bridge of communication between Greece and Turkey, which are now coming closer on a trade, social and cultural level”.
Two desirable destinations now joined together
Both Thessaloniki and Izmir boast illustrious histories and have a lot to offer visitors in terms of culture, cuisine, and tourist attractions.
Thessaloniki is Greece’s second-largest city. King Cassander of Macedon founded the city in around 315 BC, naming it after his wife Thessalonike, a half-sister of Alexander the Great. Today, it is known for its gastronomy and as an important business center in Greece. The picturesque White Tower Tower and Byzantine-era Rotunda are well-known historical attractions.
The city may also hold special significance for Turkish visitors arriving by ferry. Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, was born in Thessaloniki in 1881. The house where he was born has now become a museum and attracts thousands of Turkish tourists annually.
Izmir is the third most populous city in Turkey. Notable attractions include the marble Clock Tower, the remains of a Roman-era agora (market), and the Kemeraltı bazaar established by the Ottomans. Like Thessaloniki, Izmir is well regarded for its culinary contributions.
Its past is closely linked with the Greek presence in Asia Minor as Izmir is a Turkish rendering of the Greek name Smyrna, which was one of the oldest ancient Greek cities in Asia Minor. It was founded by the Aeolian Greeks in the 11th century BC and maintained a strong Greek presence until the Great Fire of 1922.