When tourists think of Greece, they always think of Crete, Athens, Mykonos, Corfu, etc. However, one unexplored gem that usually glosses travel magazines is Halkidiki. This gorgeous area offers you the mountains, miles of sandy coastlines, secret coves, traditional villages, luxury villas and even monasteries- all at the same time. Yes, Halkidiki caters to every taste and budget.
Halkidiki is a peninsula off the Greek mainland. It run southwards from the city of Thessaloniki, in southern Macedonia. As the land moves south it gives off three prongs resembling a fork, each trailing into the turquoise warm waters of the Aegean Sea.
Unlike most holidays, going to Halkidiki is more like a journey to explore natural beauty on planet earth. The reason why it has managed to preserve its heritage and culture is by sheer luck. But now the secret is out and people are flocking to Halkidiki in droves.
The rugged resort area with year round warm weather has miles of soft sandy beaches surrounded by mountains and water. However, Halkidiki offers much more than a tropical holiday. The landscape is surrounded with lush tropical forests, countless secluded coves and some of the most well preserved architectural sites in the country. Halkidiki is rich in culture and has its own unique touch for the traveler. The other benefit of coming to Halkidiki is that unlike most of Greece, the place is unspoilt, underpopulated and worthy of a picture on national geographic magazine.
What to see
Besides the sun and the sea, Halkidiki has famous archeological treasures such as the Ancient Olynthus. Also standing in the midst of nature is the Stágeira, the birthplace of Aristotle and, of course, Mount Athos, a unique Christian memorial, unswayed by passage of time and a living repository of early Greek civilization.
For those who just want to soak the sun, there are hundreds of miles of untouched beaches. The warm waters allow for almost every type of water activity including snorkeling. One can even sail from the Gulf of Vourvourou in Sithonia and go diving among the colored coral reefs or explore the serene coves in the rugged Terra firma. Or you can spend a day at Sithonia’s little port of Ormos Panagias and enjoy dining at some of the elegant restaurants. In the evenings, you can have a barbecue and watch some the most beautiful sunsets on this planet.
For those who are into exploring and hiking, central Halkidiki also had rugged mountains, sandy pathways and lush forest trails that can be explored. As you get a view over the three prongs: Sithonia, Kassandra and Mount Athos you will have access to over 300 miles of the most picturesque views of the water. For those energetic, spend a day on Mount Athos and see the monasteries. The most popular area is Kassandra which is a costal town with some excellent sea food restaurants, a busy fishing harbor and miles of olive groves.
Where to stay
Halkidiki has accommodation to suit every budget. You can stay at some of the traditional seafront guesthouses, five star hotels, rent a cottage or at a bed and breakfast.
What to do?
If you have had enough of the sun and the water, Halkidiki has ample spas where you can get a soothing massage, taste some of the best wines in Greece and dine on authentic Greek food. You will also find casinos, high end bars, night clubs and boutique shops.
How to get there
Visitors need to first get to Thessaloniki to get to Halkidiki. Thessaloniki can be reached by train, car, ship or plane. From Thessaloniki, one has to go south by car to get to Halkidiki which is one hour away. Mind you transportation is not reliable so book ahead of time if you plan to rent.
Best time to visit
Anytime in early spring, late summer and early autumn when the crowds are gone and you will have the beaches to yourself. Hotel rates also tend to be much less during this time period. Plus, summers in Greece are hot and humid.