The landscape in the Xanthi prefecture is most varied. The Rodopi mountains, Nestos River, the Vistonis Lake and their wetlands comprise an unspoilt environment of special ecological interest.
Xanthi, the capital, was built in 1926 in the site of ancient Xantheia. Traces of the 13th century Byzantine fortress are still discernible. Xanthi is built like an amphitheatre up the sides of a hill and it is split in two by the Kosynthos River. The main attraction is the beautiful traditional houses of Old Xanthi. On the hillside to the north and below is the Byzantine Castle, which was built to defend the defile from Bulgar incursions. The old city is particularly charming with its mansions belonging to tobacco magnates. The tobacco warehouses are also noteworthy for their architecture which are located on the southeast side of the town.
On the higher slopes some monasteries are located, such as Moni Panagias. The monastery called ``Moni Megiston Taxiarchon'', houses the Ecclesiastical College of Xanthi.
The Nestos River rises in the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria and divides Macedonia geographically from Thrace. Above the village of Paranestion the river is enclosed in inaccessible gorges that rival in wildness that between Stavroupoli and Toxotes. Nestos Delta, also called as Temple of Thrace by the locals, is rich in flora and fauna, including wild ducks, cranes, herons and poplar groves. Byzantine monuments as well as the ruins of fortresses and inscriptions from Roman tombs can be seen at the villages of Toxotes (12 km. from Xanthi) and Paradeisos respectively.
Northwest of Xanthi lies Stavroupoli, a village surrounded by lush vegetation in a forested semi-mountainous area whose gulleys and gorges are filled with oaks, chestnuts and poplars. From the high point of Prophitis Ilias there is a splendid view of the Nestos valley. Eighteen kilometres from Stavroupoli at Arkoudorema is a virgin beech forest, with trees more than two centuries old covering a large area. Among the most important archaeological sites in the region is a subterranean Macedonian tomb with painted decoration from the 2nd century B.C. near the village of Komnina (2 km. from Stavroupoli).
Southwest of Xanthi, very near the sea, is the archaeological site of Abdera, the birthplace of Democritus and Protagoras. Ancient Abdera is traditionally founded by Hercules on the spot where Abderos was killed by Diomede's horses, but in fact colonized ca 656 BC from Klazomenai. Refounded ca 500 BC by refugees from a Persian occupation of Teos, it became a prominent member of the Delian League and famous for the beauty of its coinage.
Beautiful lake Vistonis lies in southeast of Xanthi. The shores of the lake are wetlands of international importance: during the winter months some 200,000 wild Mediterranean birds take refuge here. At the mouth of the lake is the small, picturesque town called Porto Lagos. Its fishermen maintain that submerged on the lake bottom are the ruins of Ancient Vistonis, once the capital of Diomedes¢ kingdom. Foundations of the houses of ancient Dikaiopolis are located near Porto Lagos.