Spring Destination: The Great Variety of Halkidiki

Located only about one hour's drive from Thessaloniki, the three 'legs' of the region of Halkidiki offer visitors a great wealth of villages, towns, mountains and beaches to visit.


TOP REASONS TO VISIT

1. The traditional villages

In the middle peninsula of Sithonia, visit the village of Nikiti, a 700-year-old settlement, with beautiful houses built in the traditional Macedonian style. Another must-stop is Parthenonas, a village that was abandoned by its residents in the late 1960s (many of whom settled in Neos Marmaras to find work in the tourism industry). Some years later it started to attract foreign settlers who began refurbishing the traditional homes and creating guesthouses and restaurants. Today it is one of the most beautiful places in Halkidiki and has been declared a protected village.

Walk up to the village of Afitos on the western Kassandra peninsula, with its cobbled streets and stone-built houses. In central Halkidiki the traditional mountain town of Arnaia is also well worth a visit, with charming cobblestone alleys and colorful yellow, red and blue buildings.

2. The Tower of Prosforios

Head to Ouranoupoli (the last village before the monastic communities of Mount Athos) to see the Tower of Prosforios, a unique – in every respect – Byzantine-era tower built right on the sea. It is considered the largest and most well-preserved of such towers in the region of Halkidiki.

3. The cruise along the coast of Athos

In Ouranoupoli, hop on one of the boats that make day trips along the west coast of the Athos peninsula, to get a taste from afar of the eight stunning monasteries of Mount Athos, accompanied by the white seagulls that will doubtlessly follow your boat, hoping for a scrap of food or three.

EASTER IN HALKIDIKI

In Ierissos on Easter Tuesday, all of the residents, led by the elders, form a line that stretches for hundreds of meters in a traditional dance that ends with the Kagkelefto, a reenactment of a slaughter of 400 villagers by the Ottomans in 1821.

In Arnaia, also on Easter Tuesday, underneath the large plane tree in the central square, a huge kantari, or scale, is set up to measure the weight of those who didn’t fast during lent. On the same day in Sykia, traditional horse races take place on the village’s beach.

4. The Holomontas mountain

Full of wildflowers, oaks, pines, chestnut trees and firs (the last are sold as Christmas trees), Holomontas is a beautiful mountain of central Halkidiki. It’s tallest peak reaches an altitude of 1,165m, and its slopes are ideal for trekking and biking.

MINI GUIDE

GETTING THERE

By car: Polygyros (the capital of the region of Halkidiki) is around 600km from Athens (roughly 6 hours’ drive, with petrol and toll costs at 170 euros return). You can also fly to Thessaloniki as there are regular flights from Athens, operated by Aegean, Olympic Air, Ryanair, Ellinair etc. (the cost is about 70 euros return). From Thessaloniki you can easily reach Polygyros by car (60 km, 1 hour and 15 minutes).

ACCOMODATION

Sani Resort Restaurants, bars, a spa and activities for the whole family are available in this luxurious resort of Kassandra. From 174 euros. Tel. (+30) 23740.995.01.

Eagles Palace 5-star hotel near Ouranoupoli, with impressive rooms, suites, bungalows and many dining areas. From 165 euros. Tel. (+30) 23770.311.014.

Ikos Oceania features a variety of rooms and suites, and is opening its doors again in April after a major renovation. From 193 euros, all inclusive. Tel. (+30) 23730.953.00.

Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort – luxury accommodation in Kassandra with 300 rooms and suites, 48 of which have private swimming pools. From 132 euros. Tel. (+30) 23744.400.00.

FOOD

Bakatsianos Enjoy shoulder roast with rosemary potatoes, rack of lamb, stuffed eggplant with kefalotyri cheese and zucchini with filled with cornstarch. Tel. (+30) 23720.227.50.

• Kritikos Galleries & Restaurant, Ouranoupoli. In this restaurant located on the third ‘finger’ of Halkidiki, you will taste dishes like magiritsa (traditional Easter soup), lamb, and tzigerosarmades, a local dish served as small parcels made mainly with lamb and entrails. Tel. (+30) 23770.712.22.

• Ta Kymata, Neos Marmaras. Fish tavern with excellent seafood meze, such as steamed scorpionfish, fried shrimp, grilled sea bream and fish soup. The menu also offers roast lamb with potatoes and various other meats. Tel. (+30) 23750.713.71.



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