Renowned for its magnificent golden beaches, often backed by the green of a pine forest, Halkidiki has three legs - Peninsulas extending into the Aegean south-east of Thessaloniki (Salonika).
Owing to this geography, Halkidiki boasts one of the longest single stretches of coastline in Greece, much of it sandy. The white of the sand, the azure of the sea and the green of the pines typify Halkidiki - in places the coastline could almost be mistaken for the Caribbean.
This all means that Halkidiki sees plenty of visitors in the summer months and a string of resorts and hotels, large and small, has sprung up. Some areas, inevitably, get over-busy, but with some 500 kms of coastline these are not difficult to avoid.
Most visitors stay on the western peninsula called Kassandra which has the majority of Halkidiki's more established resorts. That said, it also has many of the best beaches too and boasts what is undoubtedly Halkidiki's prettiest and most traditional seaside village in Afitos - one little spot which has worked hard not to lose its character. Nea Skoni avoids the crowds in the peninsula's south west.
The central peninsula is called Sithonia. Being further from the airport it attracts fewer visitors, generally those looking for a quieter stay away from the crowds. The extra journey time is rewarded by nearly 100 beaches (most beautifully sandy) and Halkidiki's signature green pine forests going to the water's edge.
Least developed of all is the easternmost peninsula, Athos, as is appropriate for a region which takes its name from the Holy Mountain at its tip. This peninsula is world famous for the male-only ‘monk’s republic’ in its southern half. one trip every visitor should make is the daily cruise down Athos' western coastline to view the monasteries from the sea - really quite spectacular and even at 500m distance from shore (the closest that women are permitted!) one gets a sense of the mystery and power these ancient Byzantine monastic citadels still exude.
Inland Halkidiki is good for walking almost everywhere, and some organised trails are now starting to appear. There are traditional villages such as Arnea, a 45 minute drive through the forest from Olymbiada, and the spectacular Petrolona Cave some 35 kms south east of Thessaloniki, which is the site of the famous skull, Europe's oldest hominid estimated at some 800,000 years old. The little museum here is fascinating.
The bustling large village of Ouranoupolis lies half way down Athos' western side and is known as 'the gateway to Athos' as it is just above the border with the monastic republic. Monks going about their business mix with tourists, and the souvenir shops here sell more icons than T-shirts. Ouranoupolis is the port from which daily excursion boats cruise along the western flank of Mount Athos, getting as close to the monasteries as they dare. As nearly everywhere on Halkidiki, Ouranoupolis is blessed with fine sandy beaches to either side.
Not many people know that Halkidiki has an island! We are delighted to be the first British operator to offer holidays to Ammouliani, just off the top of Athos' western flank. Ammouliani is Halkidiki's only inhabited island and is very small and friendly. Like the rest of Halkidiki, Ammouliani boasts a string of superb white-sand beaches.
Our holidays here can be very flexible and we are pleased to quote for odd durations. They may also be combined with a few nights in fascinating Thessaloniki, or with a fly-drive arrangement to discover northern and central Greece.