Summer Road Trip: Central and Eastern Halkidiki

Famed for its timeless villages, dreamy beaches, and rich cultural heritage, the region of central and eastern Halkidiki is blessed with natural beauty.


The landscape of central and eastern Halkidiki offers extraordinary beauty and variety. Unlike other coastal regions of Greece, the beaches don’t take center stage here; instead, it’s the villages, the ancient and Byzantine monuments, and the gastronomic experiences. Places like ancient Stageira and Aristotle’s Park, the museums of Arnaia, the visitable wineries of Megali Panagia, and the mussel farms of Olympiada await in this fascinating and culturally rich region.

Charming, old-fashioned villages

Located at the foothills of Mount Holomontas, Arnaia is the most famous village in inland Halkidiki, with colorful stone and wood houses with “sachnisi” bay windows and narrow labyrinthine cobblestone streets. Visit the Weaving Museum housed in the Giannoudena House to see intricate textiles, kilims (ornate rugs), carpets, and blankets. Explore the Folklore Museum, featuring exhibits on beekeeping and woodworking tools, and visit the church of Aghios Stefanos, which serves as both a church and an archaeological site. A fire in 2005 revealed three older structures inside, with the oldest being a basilica dating back to around 400 AD.

Another beautiful village is Varvara, known for its therapeutic summer coolness, lively village square, local shops offering all sorts of products at low prices, and the old-fashioned charm of a forgotten, open-hearted Greece. This year, the Varvara Festival took place for the 22nd time on July 28-30. Thirteen kilometers northeast of Varvara, you will find a clearing with twin waterfalls.

 

Lastly, the village of Megali Panagia, in the heart of Halkidiki, is a famous pilgrimage destination, with the highlight being the grand festival on August 15th.

In the footsteps of Aristotle …

For those who love archaeology, head towards eastern Halkidiki and the site of ancient Stageira, the city where Aristotle was born in 384 BC. The archaeological site is located in a unique spot, right next to the sea, with views of nearby Kapros, a small island shaped like a wild boar. According to tradition, the island was used as a a place of exile for Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great.

Twenty-five kilometers to the southwest, you will find modern Stageira (formerly Kazantzi Mahalas) and Aristotle’s Park, with its experimental instruments (compass, telescope, prism, optical discs, pendulum, and so on), which operate based on the natural laws described in the works of the ancient Macedonian philosopher. This is a park of learning and knowledge, ideal for families.

 

If you want to explore the magical nature of Mount Holomontas (1,165m), there are several trails amidst the forest roads. Additionally, if you wish to see how local lavender is distilled while also learning about the secrets of essential oils, contact Tsipeli Estate (Tel. (+30) 698.340.8513) in Polygyros.

Relaxing beaches

Across from Ouranoupoli and southeast of Ammouliani, you will find Drenia, a cluster of small islands with excellent beaches. You can also enjoy refreshing swims around the archaeological site of ancient Stageira, swimming in the area where Aristotle grew up.

In Ierissos Bay, a stone’s throw from the monastic state of Mount Athos, you will discover Komitsa Beach, with its light-colored sand and vegetation reaching all the way to the shore.

Gastronomic treasures

Arnea is a village famous for its gastronomic wealth. Try the honey and the PDO mudovina (distilled spirit from honeycomb), goat cheese, feta cheese, and yogurt. Indulge in local spoon sweets such as chestnut, wild cherry and wild strawberry, as well as mushrooms, dried forest fruits, and herbs from Mount Holomontas.

In Olympiada, renowned for its mussels, you will find Anastasiou’s mussel farm (Tel. (+30) 23760.510.08), which offers guided tours on rafts.

Wine lovers should visit the wineries in Megali Panagia: the stone-built Akrathos Newlands Winery (Tel. (+30) 698.054.5466), with a view of Sithonia and Mount Athos, and Estate Taraza (Tel. (+30) 23720.321.57), with vines planted from 1950.

In terms of restaurants, visit Bakatsiano (Tel. (+30) 23720.227.50) in the forest outside Arnea for refreshing salads, skewered and grilled meats, and other dishes; Kritiko (Tel. (+30) 23770.712.22) in Ouranoupoli, for refined Mediterranean cuisine; and Mygdo (Tel. (+30) 694.946.1179) in Varvara, for delicious pasta and meat dishes.



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