An unspoiled natural paradise that harmonizes tradition with modern life, a wide choice of hotels, offering luxury and comfort, a casino, Golf and blue flag awarded marinas, spas and shopping centres, fully equipped conference halls, good food and wine, beach bars and clubs. International festivals, cultural events, popular celebrations, local feasts and in addition to that countless opportunities for exercise and entertainment. Modern facilities for tourists accompanied by top quality services that the people of Halkidiki know how to provide without sacrificing the region’s special character.
All these are less than two hours’ drive from Thessaloniki. Acres of olive groves and vineyards surround the monolithic Porto Carras resort, which produces the Porto Carras wine variety and has an 18-hole golf course plus yacht marina. At Stagira to the north lie the unremarkable ruins of the town where the philosopher Aristotle was born. There’s a fine beach there now, plus the ruins of a mediaeval castle.
Halkidiki, in short, is northern Greece’s playground for all tastes, from luxury hotels to fishing villages, and the presence of Mount Athos for those who want to duck out of the irksome modern world for a little while.
There are four immense international cultural events organized in Halkidiki each summer:
• The Sani Festival, an official member of the International Festivals and Events Association Europe (I.F.E.A.), that while setting the highest standards of quality intends to build a bridge towards the art of other countries and to open up to new trends and venues, thus managing an ever-growing attendance of new visitors both nationally and internationally.
• “The Festival of the Sea”, the leading cultural foundation of the Municipality of Moudania also gives the possibility to thousands of visitors to get in touch with Greek art and the local folklore – tradition.
• “The Festival of Siviri” of a European dimension, hosts dozens of art-forms annually and gathers thousands of visitors as well.
• And finally the Porto Carras Festival, a new event placed in settings that provide diversity, thus inspiring both artists and the public.
Beyond these high-standards artistic events, Halkidiki celebrates a hundred (100) festivals in hundreds of villages, churches and small sanctuaries, which mainly originate from religious heritage and anniversaries. Morals and the old habits, popular customs and their demonstration – the revival of old traditions compose the mesmerizing image of a different world that satisfies even the most demanding visitor. In addition there are countless evening performances of all kind on the moonlit beaches, at the archaeological sites open to the public, at nights with a full moon and in the tiled… in the mountains.
As for the sports fans, apart from the sea sports Halkidiki has to offer a wide range of athletic events, the biggest of all being the Marathon Swimming of the Golf of Toroneo. It hauls between Kallithea and Nikiti and is organized each summer with the attendance of the most prominent resistance swimmers of the world. There is an intence attraction, however, of athletes in training during the summer period, while there are quite a few championships of basketball, beach volley, yachting, game fishing and kick-boxing.
Halkidiki is naturally the only and the official golf destination of Northern Greece. The Porto Carras Grand Resort operates a golf course of international standards, as well as both a tennis and a golf academy.
Yachting is a great asset of summer tourism in Halkidiki. The marinas of Sani and the Porto Carras can host vessels of any length and will satisfy the needs of each of their guests.
Winter Tourism – Tours – Lodgings – Agrotourism
As mentioned before Halkidiki is not only a summer destination but an ideal and inclusive winter holiday destination. Winter sports, expeditions, horse-riding, excursions of nature, accommodation in Macedonian lodgings are all “tourist experiences and pleasures” of the region of the mountains. Agrotourism in the mountains of Halkidiki is growing rapidly, and today there are a hundred Macedonian guest-houses with approximately 600 beds available.
It is a type of tourism that is growing rapidly in Halkidiki. The “Sani Gourmet” at the Sani Resort gathers the greatest names of the field annually, but the pleasures of gastronomy are not limited solely to organized summer festivals and to sea food. During the winter in Halkidiki one can savor the flavors of the mountain in all the taverns and the lodgings of the mountain region.
There are organized WINERIES all over Halkidiki producing a variety of wine, that are launched in the markets of the entire world. Fans of wine-tasting can obtain yet another “tourist experience” during organized events of all the enologists of the region.
Bicycle – Hiking Tourism
There is a particular attention paid to the seventeen (17) distinctive cycling routes, on which visitors train themselves while enjoying the natural landscape (the sea or the mountains, depending on their choice) at the same time. The region is ideal for cycling. It is worth mentioning Halkidiki hosted the 1st Bicycle Tour of Halkidiki in May 2008 that lasted for four (4) days and was covered by the biggest television networks of the world. Hiking tourism is of similar importance. The twenty (20) peripatetic routes of Halkidiki are a great deal of attraction for European tourists.
The historical importance of Halkidiki is confirmed by its distinctive historical and archeological discoveries proving its cultural heritage.
• The traces of man here start from the prehistoric period: the “archeanthropos” was discovered in the Cave of Petralona where he lived about 250.000 years ago. Today this cave is of great paleontological interest while the fossils are exposed in its museum or are kept at the Department of Paleontology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
• During the classical antiquity Halkidiki had a great magnitude. Powerful cities, like Olynthos, Stageira, Akanthos or Potidea were flourishing, the findings of which are archeological sites of immense importance. The remains of the Temple of Ammon Zeus lay in Kallithea and the most ancient Sanctuary of Poseidon (Neptunus) is in Potidea. Ancient Stageira was the birthplace of Aristotle, the greatest philosopher of all times.
• The region is scattered with Byzantine and religious monuments, that from the 17th century until today are destinations pilgrimage for thousands of visitors: the Sacred Convent of the Annunciation in Ormylia, the Holy Temple of Saint Nikolaos in Olynthos, the Byzantine towers in Fokaia and Ouranoupoli and so much more.
Relaxation – Spa
There are wellness centers and spas in most of the hotels in Halkidiki. Visitors can relax and benefit from the services of the aforementioned centers all around the region and all through the year. Today Halkidiki offers equally high-standard services and has developed the same hotel infrastructure with all the traditionally touristic regions.
Congresses – Congress Tourism (MICE)
After all this description it is evident that Halkidiki can host congresses of all kinds, large or small ones, since it offers spaces and halls of multiple capacity, but also congresses with a wide range of topics, given that it offers almost all types of tourist activities.
The 20 monasteries on Mount Athos were founded around the 10th century. They were once more populated than they are now, but of all the corners of Greece, this is the most unspoiled. You get to the Holy Mountain by a short boat trip from Ouranoupolis (literally Heaventown) which represents the border between Athos and the rest of Greece. Foreigners need to get permission from the Greek Foreign Ministry branch in Thessaloniki, but this is just a formality. Chances are you will be looked over to make sure you’re not a woman in disguise. Don’t be surprised if someone yanks your beard to see if it’s genuine. (In the past, visiting men were asked to display more obvious signs of maleness, but that, happily, isn’t done any more.) So why are women kept out? No-one really knows. The probable explanation is that it was a tradition that grew gradually. Today not even female animals are allowed on the sacred promontory – except cats, which are needed to keep down the rodent population that nibbles at the crops. There have been a few sporadic efforts by feminist groups to overturn the ban on women, but they have come to nothing.
A visitor can be sure of unstinting hospitality in any of the monasteries. The food is spare but healthy, based on vegetables, fruit, pasta and fish. As a result, cancer is almost unknown among the 1,500 or so monks. (Orthodox monks are forbidden to eat meat anyway.) There are no wheeled vehicles on Mount Athos, so the sense of peace is supreme.
Prince Charles regularly goes for his spiritual retreats to the Vatopedion monastery, a majestic seaside cloister that has a 10,000-volume library, hundreds of priceless manuscripts and relics such as the purported whip that was used to scourge Christ.
Going back into the world, the other two prongs of the Halkidiki peninsula, Kassandra and Sithonia, have become the playgrounds of the wealthy. Massive seaside resort hotels dominate the beaches within view of the austere triangular peak of Mount Athos that can be seen peeping above the clouds as you fly into Thessaloniki.
Tourists adore the exceptionally crystal-clear sea of Halkidiki and thus continue to return again and again. They adore the golden sandy beaches, the water sports, playing in the sand, the fishing spots, the traditional harbors bathing in the Mediterranean light, the sunsets by the Aegean Sea with the peaks of the Olympus in the background, and so much more…
• organized beaches for the crowd-lovers
• “untouched” beaches for those seeking adventure
• peaceful beaches for family-holidays
• uncountable gulfs for romantic people
• camping beaches for those traveling by car
• stunning fish-havens ideal for angling (fish tourism/angle tourism)
• 46 Blue Flag Beaches
Hospital Tel: +30 2371020101
Police station Tel: +30 2371023227 & 21617
Ν. Μoudania: Tel +30 2373022222
Κassandria: Tel +30 2374022222
Agios Nikolaos: Tel +30 2375031788
Paleochori: Tel +30 2372041472
Mt Athos: Tel +30 2377023217
Ierissos: Tel +30 2377022666 & 22576
Ν. Μoudania: Tel +30 2373021172
Ν. Μarmaras: Tel +30 2375071933
Dafni: Tel +30 2377023682
Halkidiki is served by the National Airport “MACEDONIA” of Thessaloniki that is connected on a daily basis with several flights with the biggest towns in Greece and Europe. Information on departures and arrivals +30 2310 473212
From the airport, it is easy by taxi (the distance to the centre of Thessaloniki is approximately 15km) or by bus to go to the Coach Station of Halkidiki (KTEL) in Thessaloniki and take the coach to any destination in Halkidiki.
In Halkidiki, there is no train network.
Travelers coming by train either from other parts of Greece or from abroad arrive at the Train Station of Thessaloniki. From the Train Station, either by taxi or by bus, they can go to the Coach Station of Halkidiki (KTEL) in Thessaloniki and take the coach to any destination in Halkidiki.
Train Station of Thessaloniki – Information: Tel. +30 2310 517517, 517518 (www.ose.gr)
All the villages and the beaches of Halkidiki are connected with coaches with Thessaloniki. There are buses that run daily and several times throughout the year.
Information – Coach Station of Halkidiki (KTEL):
Thessaloniki Station, tel.: +30 231 0 924444, 924445
Polygyros Station, tel.: +30 2371 0 22309
Nea Moudania Station, tel.: +30 2373 0 21228
Arnea Station, tel.: +30 2372 0 22278
Kassandreia Station, tel.: +30 2374 0 22214
All text and photos by www.halkidiki-hotels.gr