If beautiful green landscapes, clear blue waters and sun-drenched weather are top of your list when it comes to holidays in 2017, opt for the stunning Greek destination of Halkidiki. Situated in northern Greece, the peninsula of Halkidiki is the best place to enjoy a taste of authentic Greek life and get some much-needed rest and relaxation. With a privileged location nestled between a series of scenic rural mountains and the glimmering waters of the Aegean Sea, Halkidiki boasts a variety of holiday resorts to choose from, including peaceful Sithonia and vibrant Kassandra. The area overall has an intimate atmosphere and friendly, small-town spirit, making you feel right at home as soon as you step foot in Halkidiki. Sophisticates will love Sani’s yacht-filled marina, or there’s the thrilling nightlife of Thessaloniki. However you decide to spend your time in Halkidiki, you’ll feel like a superstar when you leave feeling energised and refreshed.
Halkidiki is the perfect place to get away from it all, with plenty of great hotels and resorts to choose from. There are three distinct peninsulas in the region: Sithonia, Athos and Kassandra. Kassandra is the biggest and busiest of these areas, making it the best spot for a holiday with the ideal balance between rest and relaxation beach holiday, and a cultural city break. There’s a host of family attractions set in naturally beautiful surroundings, ideal for holidaymakers with young children. You can immerse yourself in Greek culture with a visit to Nea Moundania, a quaint and picturesque town that’s home to a historic church and a number of whitewashed villas. As you wander through the streets, you can take in all of the incredible scenery and stop at a traditional tavernas for a taste of authentic Greek cuisine. If you’re more of a city type, visit Thessaloniki. Celebrated as the cultural capital of northern Greece, Thessaloniki showcases staggering Ottoman architecture, in particular in the old town area, and a number of other historic sites.
Wine and Dine
Thanks to the growing number of tourists visiting Halkidiki each year on holidays to Greece, there has been a steadily growing presence of affordable restaurants offering food from across the globe here. Of course, one of the best things you can order here is seafood, thanks to the fertile waters producing some of the finest prawns, fresh fish and mussels available in the region. There’s also a wide range of vegetarian options to choose from including cheese and halloumi salads. Some of the most popular traditional Greek dishes on offer in Halkidiki is dolmades, or vine leaves made with a range of ingredients including herbs, mincemeat and pine nuts. You won’t want to miss the classic moussaka, which can be made with meat or as a vegetarian dish with tomatoes, onions and aubergine.
A holiday in Halkidiki is a great option for families thanks to the wide range of family-friendly attractions in the area. If you prefer to stay active on holiday, Sani is a great choice of resort, as the area is rich in natural beauty and offers a wide range of rural hikes and trails with great restaurants in easy reach. Sani is also home to a variety of family-oriented hotels which cater exclusively to families, ideal for treating your family to a special holiday with all the best amenities and attractions. As kids love to explore, Petralona is a great location for active families with a range of caves to discover. With beautiful rock columns, stalagmites and stalactites, all your family will love these caves. There’s a multitude of beaches to choose from in the area, with Kavourotrypes and Kalogria being two of the most popular for families looking to paddle in the shallow waters and let the little ones run around building sandcastles.
Action and Adventure
A haven for water sports enthusiasts, Halkidiki boasts a variety of active and vibrant resorts including Kalithea, Neos, Marmaras, Vourvourou and Sarti. Each water sports centre offers a variety of activities ranging from the more sedate sports such as swimming and kayaking, through to adrenaline-pumping thrills with jet skiing and paddleboarding. Interestingly, Halkidiki’s adventurous active scene is in direct contrast with the laid-back lifestyle and ambience. Thanks to its stunning natural beauty, Kassandra is the ideal place for walkers, with striking views of sun-drenched white sands and jagged landscapes to enjoy as you make your way along the coastline. Further away from the coast, you’ll find more authentic Greek villages with scenic whitewashed buildings and the aromatic scent of pine forests, perfect for a bracing walk first thing in the morning or late in the evening. If you like exploring, take a trip to the cave of Petralona – which translates as ‘embellished’ – to take in the dramatic stalagmite and stalactite formations.
Life's a Beach
Of course, Halkidiki is renowned for its sizzling summer holidays, with long stretches of sandy beaches and clear blue waters. The summer period here is drenched in sunshine, and the beaches are jam-packed with holidaymakers lounging under parasols. Halkidiki boats a real roll call of spectacular beaches, achieving a staggering 33 Blue Flag beaches in 2014. There’s 550 kilometres of beachy coastline here, making Halkidiki one of the best Greek holiday locations for beach bums. Starting in the west, the most popular beaches are Nea Kallikratia and Nea Herakleia, large popular beaches with powdery white sand. These are two of the best beaches for families, as they’re fully organised and with authentic tavernas and a good range of amenities. Nea Potidea has six kilometres of sandy shoreline and clear waters, ideal for swimming and relaxing on your Halikidi holiday. Hanioti Beach boasts spectacularly clear waters, the perfect setting for snorkelling or swimming, and a range of beach bars close by. If you’re looking for a real superstar of a beach, try Possidi Beach, with a long expanse of white sands and a scenic lighthouse.
Halkidiki itself has a sedate, laid-back nightlife scene, ideal for a relaxing night out with your significant other or family. The main centres of nightlife in the Halkidiki area are Thessaloniki and Kassandra. In Thessaloniki, there’s a wide variety of venues that are a triple attraction: bar, café and restaurant. With their privileged locations on the beachfront, many of these venues offer a compromise between a club and a bar, giving you the best of both worlds. There’s a growing number of beach bars in the area to cater to your every need, including Navagos, Anemos and Almyra, which offer strong cocktails, pumping tunes and dancefloors for throwing some shapes. Kassandra offers a great variety of nightlife, with everything from intimate restaurants for a candlelit dinner for two, through to all-night clubs. If you’re looking for a nightlife that’s diverse and similar to that on offer in Thessaloniki, head to Halkidiki. Visitors here can enjoy seaside tavernas, laid-back lounger bars and all-night clubs.
Halkidiki has been voted the world’s most romantic holiday destination and has an equally romantic backstory, with a myth saying that Eros, the naughty god of love, was born there. Halkidiki has ‘three fingers’ in the Aegean, all of which are lined with thick green forests and idyllic white sandy coves. If you’re looking for a glamorous couples holiday with all the trimmings, pick the peninsula of Kassandra for the most luxurious resorts and well-manicured villages with the top bars and beach restaurants. Sithonia is the best place for a picturesque white sandy beaches and a variety of camping facilities. If you’re more of a laid-back or cultural couple, Athos is renowned for the historic Mount Athos monastery community, getting you up close and personal with the spiritual side of Greece. Halkidiki is a great choice for couples who prefer to stay away from the hustle and bustle, as in spite of its popularity the coastal region is still relatively unspoilt and tranquil. If you’re keen to enjoy Halkidiki at its serene best, book your break in the spring, when the temperature hovers around 20°C. The countryside here is lush, lined with pretty wildflowers. Alternatively, you could book your holiday soon after the summer rush in September to enjoy more comfortable, but still warm temperatures and scenic natural beauty.
Halkidiki is not just beautiful, it’s also a place of deep cultural importance and significance, thanks to a number of remnants of the Byzantine civilisation that are dotted across the region. One of the finest examples of monastic architecture can be found in the Byzantine Tower of Ouranoupolis, which is not just aesthetically striking but now is also a working museum so you can learn more about the area’s long and rich heritage. Religion continues to play an important role in Greek life, and a place of great significance for all followers of the Orthodox Greek religion is Mount Athos, a Holy Mountain where numerous monks made pilgrimages in the 10th century. For an unforgettable cultural experience, walk up and down the mountain to experience a slice of traditional Greek life. As you stroll the streets of Halkidiki’s resorts, you’ll feel a deeper sense of connection with Greek heritage as you take in the Turkish, Greek and Macedonian era architecture, gazing in awe at the distinctive mix of facades that characterise the area’s buildings.