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Chalkidiki

Chalkidiki Chalkidiki Chalkidiki Chalkidiki Chalkidiki Chalkidiki Chalkidiki

Description

Head for the huge region in the north of Greece, where three fingers of land known as Poseidon’s Trident poke out into the Aegean sea, and you find Chalkidiki or Halkidiki. It incorporates large chunks of central Macedonia and also referred to as ‘The Bread Basket of Greece’ – so no surprises that it’s rural and quaint inland with hidden beaches, tiny islands and beautiful scenery around the coasts.

So welcome to a Greece that’s ‘off the beaten track’ for most Brits. Most holiday-makers head for the coast and visit one of the three promontories – Kassandra, Sithonia or Mount Athos.

Kassandra, the easternmost spike of land, is the most developed with high quality hotels and full resorts if you want them, complete with water sports on crystal clear waters, lovely beaches and a thriving nightlife.

The middle spike, Sithonia, locally reffered to as ‘Kassandra’s untamed sister’ is a nature lover’s dream. It has managed to maintain a natural splendour and if you’re looking for ‘off the track and then the back of beyond’ you’ll be in your environment.

The western prong of Halkidiki is rather more bizzare – essentially a semi-autonomous monastic community that is comprised solely of men. A man must be over the age of 18, a member of the Orthodox church, and be a monk or a worker in order to live on Athos. Commonly referred to as the "Holy Mountain", it’s a World Heritage Site with 20 Monasteries on it, 17 of which are Greek. Even though it is connected to the Mainland it‘s only accessible only by one boat and the number of visitors allowed per day is restricted leaving the monks and priests enjoy the exclusivity to some of the most beautiful and untouched beaches in Greece.

All in all it’s a fascinating area, although the seas off the south end of the peninsula are quite precarious. They have been responsible for the loss of close to 400 ships during 492-411 BC.

History

As with most places in Greece Halkidiki has a past that ties with ancient times and each of the peninsulas received their name from mythological connections. Kassandra was named after a Kassandra promontory crushed one of the Titans. Mount Athos was named after the Giant Athos who threw a mountain at the gods but missed. Sithonia was named after Poseidon's son.

Items found in the Caves of Petralona suggest life has existed in Halkidiki for approx 700,000 years. Certainly a Human skull discovered in the caves dates back 200,000 years proving that villages flourished during both the Neolithic and Copper Periods in West and Central Halkidiki. There is well-documented history that dates back to the Bronze Age and Halkidiki was an important commercial centre during the Persian wars, its position enabling the area to connect Asia Minor to countries beyond Greece.

In the 8th Century BC the population in the region grew dramatically. By the 5th Century BC Halkidiki had 25 important cities including Sani, Potideia, Sarti, Olynthos, Akanthos and Pyloros. As the number of major cities grew they were placed under the "municipality" of Olynthos, which unfortunately dissolved when the Spartans took over in 379 BC. Between 315 and 280 BC the main cities of Kassandria, Ouranopolis and Antigoneia were constructed under the Macedonian Kingdom. The Romans were next to realise that Halkidiki could be used as a strong foot hold in commercial trade. They took control in 168BC.

Recent history has been extremely colourful. Christianity was introduced in 50 AD following which there were a number of catastrophic raids by the Huns and Goths. The Monastic State on Mount Athos was created during the 9th Century AD when the Monastery of Great Lavra was built in 963, the other 19 following later.

During the 14th Century Halkidiki was, at various stages, under the rule of the Serbians, the Turks and also the Venetians. From 1430 the whole region suffered badly under Turkish rule, even Mt. Athos which was technically an "Independent" State. The residents Halkidiki refused to give up and managed to bring growth back to the region during the late 18th century. Then due to the increase in the area's productivity, Pirates began to infest the surrounding waters.

After various attempts the Greeks finally won their freedom from the Turks in 1912. Ten years later many Greeks returned from Asia Minor along with other refugees. This led to the development of more villages and cities and helped to increase the productivity of the region.

Sightseeing

Halkidiki is such a large area you’re spoilt for choice for places to visit. The 3 ‘prongs’ make a natural focus for holiday makers but before heading off towards the coast you really should visit the Caves of Petralona, home to the oldest Arhanthropos (ancient man) relics in Europe. The human skull found here is most probably about 200,000 years old and the Cave has fossils of birds, lions, hyenas, bears, elephants, bison, rhinoceros and many other species. The Stalagmites and Stalactites are also incredible.

 

Kassandra

At the very top, the village of Nea Potidea is known for its canal and ruined castle. In the nearby village of Nea Fokea you can visit the Wildlife Reserve and the Church and Tower of the Apostle Paul. If you’re in the area it’s worth calling in to the village of Afitos where you will find the ruins of Ancient Afitios, the Ancient Millstone Quarries, a Folklore Museum and the Natural Springs of Moudounou & Vrysitsa.

A bit further south lies Kallithea with the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the abandoned Windmill, the Cathedral of the Birth of the Virgin and the Sanctuary of Amon Zeus. The villages of Polychrono and Pefkochori have wonderful natural sightseeing - the small lake you can walk to from Polychrono is a natural Reserve for the Testundinata Turtle. Pefkochori has a Sea-Lake called Glarokavos located in a stunning setting.

 

Sithonia

A peninsula of rustic beauty, mainly mountains and beaches, Sithonia has a lot of outside activities. Mount Itamos is a protected reserve with amazing flora and fauna – get there by 4x4, bicycle or on foot. Elsewhere there are numerous hiking and cycling trails and paths, some leading to secluded beaches, others to high spots to enjoy the view.

You can explore the area on horseback, jump on a boat and tour the coast, scuba dive, go for some deep sea fishing, sail, or even take a snorkelling tour to watch the fish.

Places to visit include the old village of Nikiti, a true exhibition of 19th and 20th century stone architecture, and the Church of St. Nikitas which was built on an old Ottoman tower. The Sofronios Basilica has some wonderful art and a mosaic floor.

 

Mount Athos

The most famous site in the whole of Halkidiki is only open to male visitors and they have to apply for a permit at least 6 months in advance – we can arrange trips to monasteries for male parties given sufficient notice –call and ask for details as it’s a very holy experience and worth the effort.

Alternatively if you get down to Ouranoupoli, known as ‘the door step of Mount Athos’, we can arrange a day boat trip around the perimeter of the peninsula to see the monasteries near the waterline. Ouranoupoli’s most prominent feature is a large 14thcentury Byzantine Tower (the biggest of its kind in Halkidiki).

 

Retail therapy

If your money is burning a hole in your pocket you’ll find plenty of places to spend it from big shopping malls to boutiques and craft shops.

 

Beaches

A gobsmacking 46 of Halkidiki’s beaches have been awarded blue flags for their stunninging clean aquamarine colour. Sadly we only have space for a short list.

 

Kassandra

 

  • Dionisou, a long sandy beach that running in front of tavernas and bars. It is a wonderfully clean beach with umbrellas and beds.
  • Kalithea, possibly the most popular beach on Kassandra. The beach's back drop is one of lush pine trees. It has beautifully clean water and good facilities.
  • Pefkohori, only 300 metres long, with a small village that runs behind it, providing facilities for visitors.
  • Sani, a beautiful beach with sun beds, umbrellas, water sports and tavernas. It also has shallow waters for quite a long distance so it is ideal for children.
  • Siviri, quite simply a huge sandy beach with lots of restaurants, bars and shops.

     

    Sithonia

  • Armenistis, listed as one of the top beaches in Greece it has beach bars and camping facilities on a 600 metre stretch of fine sand.
  • Lagomandra, 3 beaches in fact, with shade is provided by the pine trees, and a good choice of restaurants and bars.
  • Kalogria, white sands, pine trees in the background, a beach bar on one side for adults, shallower water on the other for the kids
  • Vourvourou, great for families with both shade and shallow calm water plus a coral reef to explore.
  • Kavourotrypes, a beautiful collection of little coves, so you may be lucky enough to find one all to yourselves. The main cove has a beach bar where the younger crowd seem to ‘hang out’. Lots of people camp in the pine wood that is just behind the cove.
  • Sykia, a huge 1.5 kms stretch of sand very popular with campers. Facilities include beach bar and umbrellas.
  • Kalamatsi, 3 wonderful coves, one of which is bare (as are most of the people who visit it), one that has camping and one with hotels.
  • Nightlife

    When night falls you’ll have the choice of traditional Greek nightlife – both ancient and modern. So you get tavernas and restaurant, Greek dancing and night clubs, live music and disco. Kassandra is nightlife central with a cool vibe. As you’d expect if you’ve gone for a quieter place what you lack in choice will be made up for in terms of local colour. Ask the locals or your hotel and you’ll be pointed in the right direction.

    EAGLES PALACE & SPA

    A more beautiful and mystical a place is nigh impossible to find. Surrounded by lush nature, azure blue seas, golden beaches and by one of the most spiritual sites in the world, Mount Athos, Eagles Palace is a resort that offers a unique and esoteric experience.

    A distinguished member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the world, a 5 star beach and spa resort, Eagles Palace is a magnificent resort that coupled with its personalised, attention to detail service and luxury will make your stay a truly wonderful experience.

    from £ 719 per person incl flights

    EAGLES PALACE & SPA

    AEGEAN MELATHRON HOTEL & SPA

    The Aegeon Melathron Hotel is a luxury 5 star impressive complex nestled in an area of spectacular beauty on the popular first peninsula of Chalikidiki. with contrasting natural landscapes of lush wooded areas and golden sand beaches lining azure waters, is the perfect escape for all.

    A great range of rooms and suites , fantastic facilities and stunning scenery will awaken your senses and ensure a memorable stay.

    AEGEAN MELATHRON HOTEL & SPA

    PORTO CARRAS MELITON

    The spectacular Porto Carras Grand Resort is made up of two superb 5* hotels: Meliton and Sithonia. Both of these boast unrivalled leisure facilities and luxurious accommodation for a perfect family holiday amid lush surroundings of blue seas and green pine tree lined beaches.

    PORTO CARRAS MELITON

    PORTO CARRAS SITHONIA

    The spectacular Porto Carras Grand Resort is made up of two superb 5* hotels: Meliton and Sithonia. Both of these boast unrivalled leisure facilities and luxurious accommodation for a perfect family holiday amid lush surroundings of blue seas and green pine tree lined beaches.

    PORTO CARRAS SITHONIA