Halkidiki is one of the most beautiful parts of Greece, with miles of sandy coastline, forest-clad hills and quaint villages that look like they’ve been lifted from a postcard. We sat down with Keith, one of our Halkidiki experts, to get the lowdown on this stunning slice of mainland Greece…
Tell us about Halkidiki.
When people go to Greece they expect to see little white houses with blue shutters, but as Halkidiki is so far north, it’s completely different. It’s very green, it’s very lush and some of it can be quite remote – even in the middle of August, you can be the only people on the beach.
This region has an amazing coastline, shaped like Poseidon’s trident – three incredible peninsulas in the North Aegean Sea. We’ve got 52 Blue Flag beaches, more than any other region in Greece! There are beaches for every taste – lively beach bars, relaxing swathes of sand, even beaches that look over to Mount Olympus, home of the Gods.
Are there any off-the-beaten-track ones to discover?
If you want to go off the beaten track, you need to head to the Sithonia Peninsula, where the beaches have backdrops of mountains covered in pine forest. My favourite is Karydi. It’s a magical place, perfect for snorkelling and swimming. Diaporos Island is also a special place only accessible by boat or kayak – it has beautiful turquoise water and is as untouched as you can get!
If people can tear themselves away from the beaches, what else is there to do?
Halkidiki is a walker’s paradise and there are many trails to choose from. Head to the Holomondas mountains and you can discover huge forested areas of fir and pine trees. Mount Olympus, Greece’s highest mountain, is also great for hikers.
Experiencing the beauty of the Monastic State of Mount Athos is also highly recommended. This is the third peninsula, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and home to 2,200 monks living in spectacular monasteries. Access is restricted, however everyone can enjoy a cruise along its coastline – look out for dolphins along the way!
The region is also rich in Ancient Greek ruins. Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great, is well worth a visit, as are the tombs of the Macedonia Kings, the resting place of Phillip II (father of Alexander the Great) at Vergina.
How about shopping, is there much on offer?
Thessaloniki is close to Halkidiki and is a city full of great shopping opportunities, from designer shops to street markets. The famous shopping street is called Tsimiski. Look out for local products; chocolate tsoureki – a brioche-style sweet bread – comes from the city, and is perfect with a Greek coffee.