Just the name of the Greek peninsula of Halkidiki makes the hearts of beach lovers beat faster. Miles-long beaches, dreamy hidden bays full of turquoise sea and the luscious nature here are just some of the reasons why you should set off for a holiday on the Halkidiki peninsula.
The three strikingly-formed promontories, Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos, stick out like fingers into the Mediterranean. They are often called the ‘hand of Greece’ because of it. Not only can you find wonderful beaches and crystal-clear sea but there are also lots of chic beach bars, magical hotel complexes and a huge choice of exciting outdoor activities. A holiday in Halkidiki is certainly unique and full of variety. As ever, I find the best bargains and put them up on my blog for you so you too can holiday in this delightful Greek holiday region.
Halkidiki Tips – all sorts of variety under sunny skies
The best way to reach the Halkidiki Peninsula in the north of Greece is by flying to Thessaloniki International Airport. There are direct flights from Dublin to Thessaloniki, which will take you to Greece in just under four hours. As soon as you get off the plane you feel the heat wave straight away, especially in the summer. In the heat, you have to unpack quickly and head straight to the sea to cool off. If you’ve not booked a package holiday, which includes a transfer, it’s best to take the 78 bus, which usually runs to the nearby bus station every half an hour. There you can get on one of the countless coaches, which take you to all the different holiday resorts in Halkidiki. A journey costs between 8-15€ per person depending on the destination. This is definitely cheaper than taking a taxi as drivers charge around 100€ even if you negotiate a price first.
Kassandra, Sithonia & Athos – the three fingers of Greece
As I already said, the Halkidiki peninsula, southeast of Thessaloniki, is characterised by its unique shape, which resembles a hand with three fingers. The so-called ‘fingers of Greece’, which the Greeks often call ‘legs’, are individually called Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos.
Almost endless sandy beaches, vast pine forests, olive groves and small hills with breathtaking views of the sea dominate Kassandra, the first of the narrow fingers. You can find some of the most beautiful holiday resorts here. This finger is probably home to the most hotels in the whole of Halkidiki. There are all sorts of water sports on offer here but I’ll come to this later.
Sithonia, the second of the fingers, is a little different. People say it is more of a quiet beauty as Sithonia is a little calmer and less touristy than Kassandra. There are also lots of wonderful places here, which are perfect for whiling away the hours. The hills here, which tower up to 800 metres into the sky, dominate the impressive landscape of the neighbouring promontory. Secluded bays and gorgeous camp sites mean you can have a relaxing holiday in the middle of nature. This area is also ideal for holidaymakers with itchy feet as there are so many hidden sights and attractions to discover.
The third and most easterly finger is Athos, which is named after the holy mountain, Mount Athos. At 2,033 metres, it towers over the Aegean Sea. Athos is a largely autonomous Monastic State and unique in the world. There are beautiful monasteries all over this promontory, which you can visit by boat from the water. However, access is only permitted to pilgrims, who want to visit the holy sites. You need to apply for a special visa a long time in advance. Women are not allowed to enter this area at all.
Of course, the hilly hinterland of Halkidiki, also known as the palm of the hand, is worth seeing as well. However, this has more of a rural and local feel than the more touristy areas around the coast. The hinterland is a great holiday destination for hikers, adventurers and culture lovers especially. Here there are fantastic cycling tracks and footpaths as well as some interesting archaeological sites and historical healing springs. Halkidiki offers even more than just gorgeous beaches. Here, you can combine a beach holiday with different outdoor activities and some sightseeing.
The 5 most beautiful holiday resorts in Halkidiki
If you want an unforgettable and sunny holiday by the sea, you’re definitely in the right place in Kassandra, the most westerly part of the Halkidiki peninsula. Most of the holiday resorts are here and you can rent simple holiday apartments or stay in luxurious 5-star hotels. One of the most popular and definitely one of the most vibrant holiday resorts is Hanioti, which is in the south of Kassandra. A dreamy white sand beach, lots of souvenir shops, bars, cafes and traditional tavernas with amazing sea views simply make your beach holiday perfect.
It’s similar in the neighbouring resort of Pefkochori, which attracts holidaymakers because of its wonderful beaches and endless possibilities for entertainment. As soon as it cools off, go for a stroll along the promenade and breathe in the scent of pine, rose and lemon blossom that accompanies you. If you stay here, you should consider spending a day at the popular sandy beach, Golden Beach, which is only 5 kilometres from Pefkochori.
I would recommend hiring a cheap rental car as there are so many charming places in Halkidiki, which are all so appealing with their dreamy beaches or their tiny, secret bays and their narrow, winding lanes, which invite you to wander around and find somewhere to eat. Renting a car can make your typical beach holiday a bit more varied and helps you get to know the most beautiful corners of this gorgeous peninsula even better.
A little further north of the first finger, past popular resorts like Polichrono, Kriopigi and Afytos, you’ll find Kallithea, Halkidiki’s biggest resort. It’s known as the lively centre of Kassandra. Many holidaymakers love to spend their holidays in this resort on the east coast as it attracts people not only with its liveliness but also with its central location, which makes it the ideal base for different day trips. A successful day on holiday here starts with a stroll on the amazing beach. It’s not only amazing for relaxation but you can also take part in lots of different water sports. One of the most beautiful sections is the picturesque Pallini Beach with its turquoise blue water and soft sand. The beach belongs to the Pallini Beach Hotel.
After a day at the beach
After a successful day at the beach and a refreshing shower, it’s finally time to head out for the night and find a spot in one of the bars and cafes, clubs or, last but not least, in one of the amazing smelling tavernas. If you’re still after some sightseeing, you should definitely visit the famous holy temple of Ammon Zeus. It was one of the most important cults of Zeus in Ancient Greece.
Luxury and great beaches
You can expect pure luxury in Halkidiki in the small and peaceful village of Sani, where you can find the 5-star Sani Beach Resort. A seemingly endless beach with fine sand and crystal clear water makes your beach holiday absolutely heavenly. You’ll never forget a holiday here! If you stay the night here, you’ll feel as though you’re in another world. It is a gorgeous place of rest and relaxation away from the masses of tourists.
Now we’ve come at last to the final holiday resort, which I’d like to recommend to you. This isn’t on Kassandra but on the neighbouring promontory of Sithonia. About 110 kilometres from the airport, past the popular resort of Nikiti, the gateway to Sithonia, you can reach Neos Marmaras in about one and a half hours by car. This lively town, on the Toroneos Bay, is the centre of Sithonia. Dreamy white sand beaches and secluded, exotic bays are just some convincing arguments for a holiday in this gorgeous resort. You can also combine a relaxing beach holiday with fun water sports like waterskiing or surfing here. There are lots of great bars on the promenade and you should definitely visit Neos Marmaras’ small port as well. I bet you’re having trouble deciding which one of these amazing resorts to choose like I did!
Things to do in Halkidiki – Day trips, adventure & more
Halkidiki is known as the ‘green garden of Greece’. It is one of the most diverse and greenest regions in the country. It is also ideal for active holidaymakers. Picturesque beaches and small bays stand side by side with unexplored wilderness. The Greek way of life and the rich cultural history mean a holiday here is always unforgettable.
Hidden mountain villages
If you’d like to explore more of this amazing region and discover the most beautiful but also the most remote and untouched corners of it, you should do a small sightseeing tour. You could, for example, go on a day trip away from Halkidiki’s coast to see some of the hidden mountain villages and mountain scenery far away from the tourist resorts. If you like to walk a long way, you should go on hikes through Sithonia as this promontory is particularly scenic. Pine forests, a rocky coastline and easily accessible hiking trails mean you’ll have an unforgettable hiking experience with amazing views. If you’d like to see Mount Athos a little closer, you can book a boat trip towards the Athos coastline. You can see the many monasteries in the Monastic Republic from the water or actually visit them if you have special permission.
Fun and action
If you’re much more of an active person, who prefers water sports to sightseeing, you’re in the best place in Kassandra. Here, there’s something for every water sports’ fan from water-skiing to sailing and paragliding to surfing. The latest trend is flyboarding, a type of water sport where you can shoot up to 10 metres high into the air and dart through the water like a dolphin on a fly board using the power of the water from the jet ski. Halkidiki is also a great holiday destination in the autumn for outdoor enthusiasts. The temperature is usually just under 30 degrees so it’s still pleasantly warm but not too hot. This time of the year is great for amazing hiking or mountain bike trips in the great outdoors. Many people come to Halkidiki then for an easy-going holiday on one of the many beautiful campsites.
If you fancy a bit of sightseeing and shopping, I have to recommend the wonderful harbour town of Thessaloniki with its white towers, archaeological museum and its architecturally impressive churches. Among them, the famous Agios Dimitrios is absolutely worth seeing. Independent tourists especially like to rent cheap properties here the day before they leave so they can visit the many sights in this important cultural town, wander along the shopping streets and have a relaxing evening in one of the many pretty bars on the harbour.
A culinary paradise for foodies
Everyone, who has been to Greece at least once knows that this country is a real paradise for food lovers. Cosy tavernas that smell amazing and typical Greek dishes make it almost impossible for hungry holidaymakers not to stop. Luckily, it’s exactly like this in Halkidiki too! The smell of fresh fish that wafts up the noses of tourists from the tasty hotel buffet is so inviting that they keep coming back for more.
My tip: You don’t always have to choose an all-inclusive holiday, sometimes it’s enough to go on a package holiday that only includes breakfast. In the afternoon, it is usually much too hot to eat more than a small snack. Plus, in the evenings the traditional tavernas are really tempting. Once you’ve found a spot in one of the many tavernas – choosing is definitely not going to be easy -, you’ll probably first be surprised by the relatively low prices.
Despite the crisis, dishes are still affordable. For example, for a tasty mixed grill with souvlaki, gyros and bifteki including salad you’ll probably have to pay between 8 and 10 euros depending on the restaurant. It’s definitely not too much to ask for the often amazing location with a sea view. As a starter, try a freshly-prepared tzatziki with a piece of bread. Always remember to order a large glass of freshly tapped Mythos beer or a tasty Greek wine. Doesn’t that sound like a lovely evening?
“An authentic Greek wine in a typical taverna really makes your holiday perfect!”
If you enjoy fish, how about some tasty bream with lemon or some gavros (small fried fish)? If you’d rather get your food a bit quicker, order a typical Greek pizza with ham, olives, paprika and pepperoni. A pizza like this is a little more expensive than in this country but it has a unique taste. If you’d prefer a vegetarian dish, then I recommend stuffed peppers. You can get them in many tavernas without mince. As side dishes, you can have oven-baked potatoes and a little sheep’s cheese and your meat-free dish is ready. But, make sure to leave some space for a piece of cake or some other dessert!
The great nightlife in Halkidiki is mainly down to the good number of bars, which have fantastic sea views thanks to their amazing beach location. As soon as the Greeks have enjoyed their last meal in the late evening, for many, it’s time for a fun summer night out. In the dark, the wonderfully lit up bars begin to fill up between 10 and 11 pm. Whether you’re in Hanioti, Polichrono or Kallithea, there are all sorts of things going on in the summer months near each of the lively holiday resorts.
If you’d like to move your feet after a glass of Greek wine or one or two cocktails you’ll find something in Kallithea or Hanioti. There are some trendy clubs in both these resorts. It’s similar in Neos Marmaras on the second finger, Sithonia. If the choice still isn’t big enough for you, then get on a bus towards Thessaloniki. An unforgettable night is guaranteed there. The second-largest city in Greece is just teeming with possibilities. I especially recommend the Ladadika and Kastro quarters as they are the centres of the nightlife scene.
Are you already dreaming of relaxing on a sun lounger with a cocktail in your hand? Can you already feel the warm sun on your skin and hear the sound of the sea? And taste the Greek dishes and imagine an evening in one of the many beach bars? Who can resist that? Keep your eyes open as I regularly post great deals for this wonderful part of Greece on my blog. Or maybe you’ve already been to Halkidiki on holiday and you have a few more tips for us?
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