Halkidiki's exotic crystal clear waters
COVER STORY

Exotic never felt so close as in Halkidiki

READING TIME
As long as it takes to eat a slice of watermelon

A land blessed with Mediterranean sunshine and a generous touch of the exotic looks forward to welcoming you throughout the year in dreamy Halkidiki.

A clear winner for beaches

A coastline that stretches to 550km hides a secret. Well, dozens of secrets to be precise, given the number of Blue Flagged beaches that line its shores (you can add to this 3 marinas), making it the leading destination for Blue Flag environmental cleanliness in Greece. All three peninsulas – Kassandra, Sithonia and Mt Athos – protect their gems well. Organised beaches for all, coves that resemble a tapestry of pine-green and turquoise-blue, and near-forgotten islets that can be reached by canoe or a few good strokes on a Stand-up-Paddleboard.

The incredible variety of beaches in Halkidiki is a reason alone to visit.

The call of culture and village-hopping

Of course, the full charm of Halkidiki goes far beyond the beach. The monasteries of Mt Athos stand tall – as they have done for more than 1,000 years and will continue to do so as UNESCO World Heritage Monuments. And the archaeological sites of Ancient Stagira (the birthplace of Aristotle) and Αncient Toroni (dating from the 8th century BC) command the attention of all the family.

But you must take the time to travel through villages that have preserved – and often even revived – their rich cultural traditions: Parthenonas, on the slopes of Mount Itamos, or the old town of Nikiti, another wonderful village in Sithonia. The former silver and lead mining villages of Mademohoria, in central Halkidiki, are certainly worth a visit, among them Paleochori, below Mt Holomondas, or perhaps Megali Panagia, Neochori or Stratoniki… Truth be told, there are any number of coastal and mountain villages with compelling stories to share.

Stavronikita monastery, Mount Athos

Heavenly tastes that change with the seasons

Take a deep breath, you’re about to get hungry. In such a rich and fertile landscape, it is unsurprising that nature gives generously. Exceptional quality olive oil pours with golden ease and table olives have rightly been given Protected Designation of Origin status. And from the ubiquitous goats, come milk and cheese (feta, myzithra, graviera).

Organic fruit and vegetables are offered in abundance, changing with the seasons or preserved as jams and marmalades. We won’t even talk about the fish caught daily, but we will dwell on the honey – with the scent of pine (they say Aristotle was a fan) or the distinctive tasting Sousoura honey, referring to a plant with medicinal properties that grows locally. But the last word goes to the region’s orange cake… Heaven comes in many forms.

Traditional honey-maker in Halkidiki

The most divine wine routes

Vineyards dot the landscape right across Halkidiki – from Agios Pavlos (Tsantali) on the low-lying hills of Kassandra to the sunny slopes of Mt Meliton in Sithonia (Domaine Porto Carras) and the mountain village of Arnea (Domaine Claudia Papagianni).
There are plenty to choose from. Grape varietals indigenous to Greece –AssyrtikoMalagouziaRoditisXinomavro and Limnio (an ancient grape mentioned by Aristotle!) – thrive in the warm dry climate, cooler evenings and mountain air, while in the monasteries of Mt Athos monks have been producing minor miracles in viticulture for centuries. All the spirit of Halkidiki in a glass. Or two.

Exploring the wine routes of Halkidiki

Inspired by nature

Hiking paths spread right through Halkidiki. How else could it be in a location blessed by mountain and sea? Some routes have been inspired by the archaeological sites they pass by (Ancient Stagira), and others by nature (the pine forest of Kryopigi, in Kassandra) or the nearby monasteries (Ouranoupolis). And with such rich biodiversity around you, sometimes it’s just a single magical spot (Varvara Waterfalls).

And, of course, with all that blue and favourable sailing conditions, the boating options are plentiful. The Nautical Club of Thessaloniki offers sailing lessons and yachts can be hired from the Sani and Porto Carras marinas.

Festivals for every taste

For a land with such a deep ancient heritage, Halkidiki has an impressive record in attracting modern greats to perform at events from May to October. The Kassandra Festival and Sani Festival have lured the likes of soul legend Ray Charles and jazz great Hank Jones to their stages.

And the aptly named Festival of the Sea (Festival Thalassas) is another to light up the Kassandra peninsula’s summer nights. And when it’s not the arts being celebrated, its gastronomy… with festivals dedicated to sardines (Nea Moudania), olive oil (Olynthos), honey (Fourka), mussels (Olympiada) and mushrooms (Mountainous Taxiarchi) there truly is something for every taste.

Sani Hill , near Sani Resort

An endless coastline, a rich culture that reveals itself the more you explore and a culinary experience that comes from the heart… Halkidiki truly offers a beguiling holiday experience from beginning to end.

Plan your trip

 

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