Halkidiki, the Bright Peninsula
14 August 2019
With its sing-song name, Halkidiki (also known as Chalkidiki) is a little-known destination by holidaymakers. Yet the three peninsulas of this attached part of Greece are just as splendid as the Peloponnese or the Cyclades. For families who seek the perfect combination of the pleasures of the sea, varied landscapes and ancestral culture, this part of Greece is an absolute must-see!
1 – HALKIDIKI, IN A NUTSHELL…
- Regional Capital: Thessaloniki
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Greek
- Cost of living: very affordable
- The best period for visiting the region: To enjoy the sea, the summer period from early June to mid-September is preferable. Autumn and spring are equally ideal seasons for exploring the Greek landscapes.
2 – POST CARD
Still little known, Chalkidiki (Halkidiki) is the Greeks well-kept secret. Criss-crossed by small roads through hilly landscapes, it is a region that’s worth it! Located in the North-east of Greece, it idly lays out its three peninsulas in a water whose blue color makes that of the sky to look like its faded! In the shadow of Mount Olympus, the mountain of the gods, these three tongues of land bathed by the Aegean Sea has unique landscapes and identity.
- To the West is Kassandra, which is adored by summer visitors, and is lined by numerous beaches around which small fishing villages nestle.
- In the center, Sithonia displays unspoiled landscapes whereon mountains covered with impregnable pine forests stretch elegantly into the sea.
- Finally, there is Atké, the third peninsula, which is home to Mount Athos. Mysterious and stuck in another era, this sacred mountain is punctuated by monasteries that cling to vertiginous cliffs: as inaccessible as they are fascinating.
Considered as a land of the Gods by some, the land of Alexander the Great and cradle of Aristotle for others, several centuries of history intersect in these wild landscapes that mixed with an incomparable archaeological heritage.
Light displays on Mount Athos
3 – THE MUSTS
TO THE EAST
- Taking your eyes off the sea for a moment and getting lost in the greenery of the forest that stretches to the Varvara waterfalls, a refreshing little stream that can be reached through a secret path. Itinerary.
- Trying to unravel the mysteries of Mount Athos, where on more than 20 monasteries and 2,200 monks live. Only men are permitted to tread the soil of this extraordinary principality: enjoy a family cruise to admire the mythical mountain from the sea. Itinerary.
- Following in the footsteps of Aristotle, the great thinker, along the Strymonic Gulf and onto the ancient city of Stagire, where archaeologists claim to have found his tomb. A path has been dedicated to him, which allows you to explore Greece in a different way. Itinerary.
- Traveling from islands to islands in the small archipelago of Vourvourou. Stopping for a moment on the island of Diaporos, which is surrounded by an incredible blue lagoon wherein you can swim in its shallow waters. Embarking on a kayak or sailboat to get closer to the wild coast. Itinerary.
IN THE CENTER
- Hitting the small roads through the hilly landscapes of the Sithonia Peninsula. After being carried away by the pleasant scents released by the maritime pines, cool off in one of its many coves, which are hemmed by crystal clear waters.
- Playing the sailors and taking out time to visit the impressive Bay of Koufos. A true natural wall, this reputedly impregnable port has already been mentioned in Antiquity. It is even said that, from this preserved space, one cannot even get any sound from the sea … try listening! Itinerary.
- Letting yourself to be amazed by the Greek vineyard and the many varieties that develop there: within the Domaine de Porto Carras from Asyrtiko, Athiri, Malagouzia or Sauvignon Blanc … there will always be a problem of choice! The entire family can get on their bikes and explore the hillside. Mom and Dad can equally use this opportunity to savor the local elixir between two strolls! Itinerary.
The crazier we are, the greater the fun!
TO THE WEST
- Letting yourself to be carried away by the secrets of the Cave of Petralonà hidden at the foot of Mount Katsika. In addition to the numerous stalactites and stalagmites that bristle its walls, you’ll get to learn more about the skeleton of the Petralona man. Being over 700,000 years old, it was found during excavation and remains an object of fascination, both for tourists as for scientists. Itinerary.
- Wandering among the old stones of the village of Afytos and letting yourself to be enchanted by the charm of its narrow streets. From its stone terrace, you’ll be able to admire the breathtaking view of the sea. Continue the road towards Kassandrino, a small picturesque village surrounded by pine trees. Itinerary.
- Sitting down to savor dishes of subtly grilled octopus, accompanied by honey and a few quarters of figs: a sun-drenched specialty where the flavors of the earth and the delicacies of the sea come together! The octopus (oktopus in Greek), is one of the essentials of Aegean cuisine.
- Letting yourself to be enchanted by the outdoor shows of the Kassandra Festival, which reanimate the Siviri Amphitheater during the months of July-August. For about 20 years, music greats such as Ray Charles and Evanthia Rempoutsika have been meeting in this fishing village. Both young and old will get enchanted by the unique atmosphere of this summer event. Itinerary.
4 – HOTELS FOR FAMILIES
- Porto Sani is a little gem that is nestled on the shores of the Kassandra Peninsula. Most recently, this facility was named among the “Top 10 Luxury Hotels in the World” by the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards 2019. With its panoramic views of Mount Olympus, its two private beaches and its bespoke wellness programs, this intimate address enchants demanding families who seek tranquility and a change of scenery. In a slightly bohemian shabby-chic spirit that combines greige, cream and white, Porto Sani is the definition of luxury without ostentation. The family suites and their large surface areas welcome families in a comfortable setting. The toddlers are spoilt for choice, as the facility offers a range of activities worthy of real professionals: football courses in partnership with the Chelsea FC Foundation are organized for the future Messi and Ronaldo between the ages of 4 at 16 years old. Tennis fans are not left out and can tread the clay with coaches at the Rafa Nadal Tennis Center! Great activities between two swims!
- Greece is undoubtedly a family-friendly destination! A sumptuous 5-star hotel in North of Greece, the Sani Club, which was recently named among the “Top 10 Best Hotels for Families in the World” by TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards 2019, has all it requires to enchant families and nature lovers. Nestled on the Kassandra peninsula, in the heart of a 400-hectare private reserve, Sani Club is bordered by a white sand beach, with Mount Olympus standing on the other side of the bay. In the shadow of the mountain of gods, the entire family is transported to a different world, between the clear waters of the Aegean Sea and the bright green of the nearby pine forest. From the facility’s family services’ point of view, the Sani Club shouldn’t be left out as it offers a wide range of activities to its little guests: mini Olympic games or night hikes are on the program, not to mention the range of water activities and introductions to sailing.
- Nestled in the Thermaic Gulf, it is in the heart of the Greek peninsula of Chalkidiki, on the edge of a beautiful 350-meter sandy beach that the prestigious all-inclusive hotel, Ikos Oceania, awaits you. With its breathtaking views to the Aegean Sea and the surrounding countryside, this luxurious resort appeals to demanding families who seek tranquility and a change of scenery. No less than 11 accommodation options are offered; from the comfort of the intimate rooms to the pleasant family bungalows that can accommodate up to 6 persons. In addition to its direct access to the sea, this facility has been designed for children between 4 months to over 12. Each age group benefits from customized services and activities: baby-club, kids-club, teens-club, fun, creative or sports activities.
- The all-inclusive Ikos Olivia Hotel is one of Greece’s finest hotels, thanks to its contemporary architecture, as well as its being nestled in the heart of a splendid 8-hectare nature reserve. Dry stone walls and centuries-old olive trees create an authentic setting that is punctuated by the sound of the sea lapping the beach below. Over 450m distant, it idly stretches out to the delight of families. Babies from 4 months old are catered for at the Hero nursery by trained and caring childcare workers. The resorts’ kids-club (for children between 4 to 11 years old) is famous for its sports activities, as well as its gourmet outings “ice cream” … It’s all said!
The neoclassical lines of Danai Beach & Resort Villas, our favorite!
- Sithonia, Halkidiki’s central peninsula, is probably also the most preserved. It is in the heart of lush, wild vegetation bordered by the Nikiti Beach that you will find the Danai Beach Resort & Villas’ hotel shop. Inspired by neo-classical architecture, which has built the reputation of the ancient Hellenic temples, its luxury suites and villas stretch out, overhanging the Aegean Sea. A true ode to tranquility, this intimate address is perfect for families who seek relaxation. Every day, the kids-club and the baby-club welcome children free of charge, from 10:30 am to 9:30 pm. The surrounding area is full of family activities (diving lessons, concerts on the beach, visiting archaeological sites …). Danai Beach Resort is the ideal drop-off point for history buffs who wish to get closer to Mount Athos and its monasteries.
5 – KIDS-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS
- Behind its picturesque white façade, Massalia serves traditional dishes in an atmosphere reminiscent of Greece in its most typical way. You will kind of feel like you are dining on your charming terrace, in the sweetness of a summer evening. What’s on the menu? Zucchini patties, squid with green beans and tomatoes or octopus with beetroot and caramelized onions … Between two meals, children can go play on the adjacent plot or at the nearby playground!
- Do you seek after a trendy place that’s equally suitable for the little ones? In a skillfully tropicalized atmosphere with a fanciful touch, The Elephant Beach Bar serves refreshing cocktails, tasty juices and snack packs on the go. Its swings, small wooden huts and large colorful cushions will delight the little ones, who can play on the beach while their parents enjoy their drinks or lounge on the facility’s sunbed. Itinerary.
- Platanorema Farm is an agricultural holding that’s lost in the mountains. Located in an exceptional natural environment, this family-run facility is more than just a restaurant. Most of the ingredients come from the farm (meat, cheese, vegetables). Do not miss out on the pitas that are baked on a wood fire right before your eyes or the traditional pies accompanied by excellent and the freshest Greek salads. Platanorema is a dream place for children, who can cuddle and feed animals, go for a horse ride or learn about pottery.
- In another vein, the Atelier Restaurant of Avaton Luxury Villas Resort offers fine and creative cuisine. As a son of the soil, Chef Panagiotis Papadopoulos knows the subtlety of local flavors better than anyone. Freshly fetched fishes and seafoods (especially the mussels, for which the region is renowned) are enhanced by the peppery flavor of black basil, the famous black olives from Halkidiki or a touch of local cheese. Itinerary.
Grilled octopus enhanced by some herbs and olive oil, one of the peninsula’s specialties
6 – FAMILY ACTIVITIES
- In addition to its beaches and its waters that showcase light blue and dark blue appearances, the Greek seabed is also rich in abundant marine life. Not far from Sarti, Kalamisti Bay is home to a very active diving school, the Dolphin diving center. The young and old can look forward to sailing between underwater caves and corals, and maybe to get a chance to enjoy the night diving sessions! Itinerary.
- For those who desire more than just sea water activities, the waterslides at Waterland’s water park and their incredible convolutions allow families to have fun in the fresh waters of its many pools. In the heart of the pirate island, the little rascals can have fun like crazy, while enthusiasts of acrobatics meet at “have fun with Tarzan” where they can swing on rope ladders above pools. Itinerary.
- The Aristotle Park is a playful and informative way of introducing the thinking of one of the Western fathers of thought to the little ones. The young and old can test some of the philosopher’s ideologies and inventions. This interactive theme park will allow them to approach, manipulate and understand the operation of the telescope, the prism for analyzing light or optical discs, all in a unique setting. Itinerary.
- Numerous combined circuits and cruises allow you to take to the sea and get closer to the impressive Mount Athos and its surrounding islands. A day spent on sailing with several stops in the small port villages, allows you to get deeply rooted into the Greek traditions, “people of the sea” par excellence since antiquity. Taking a cruise by boat, catamaran or, on a smaller scale, by sea kayak … the littles sailors will only have a problem of choice! Trip Advisor lists a wide range of cruises for a day or more.
- The aspiring Indiana Jones and their parents can set out in Ancient Greece’s footsteps of by visiting one of Halkidiki’s most impressive places, the site of Ancient Olynthos. Dating back to 432 BC, its remains testify to its rich past. The enthusiasts must absolutely linger on the exceptional mosaics and its drawings. Do you recognize the animals and legendary creatures that have been depicted there? To complete the visit to the ruins, the Olynthos Museum offers a lot of additional information. Itinerary.
7 – THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
- With its long stretch of white sand bordered by the sea, the Sani Beach is perfectly suited for families. Located not far from the resort that bares the same name, this little paradise is surrounded by pines and olive trees that give it a special charm. Itinerary.
- Not far from the charming village of Afytos Beach, the beach baring the same name has been chosen by many families as the most beautiful beach in Kassandra. Being less rocky than its neighbors, the softness of its sand is suitable to the sensitive feet of toddlers. After swimming, explore the alleyways of this fishing village and get enthralled by the seaside atmosphere. Itinerary.
- Wild and unspoiled, Possidi Beach is a beach that’s worth it. Located on a tongue of land, it is accessible on foot. The windswept part of the shoreline is appealing to lovers of sea waves and deep waters. Meanwhile, other part of this beach, which is sheltered from the offshore wind is quieter and will delight families. Not far from here, the remains of a Temple of Poseidon pay tribute to the god of the oceans. Itinerary.
- With its pretty name, Lagomandra Beach is a large white sand beach. Its warm and shallow waters is very suitable for families with little children. Sunbeds and parasols can also be rented here. Itinerary.
- Be rest assured, you won’t come across any alligator at Crocodile Stone Beach (Fava Beach) but rather beautiful rocks that emerge from the turquoise water. In the hollow of this little intimate cove, children love to wade and play with the stones while the older ones can climb up these stones to then dive into the ocean! Itinerary.
- At the foot of Danai Beach & Resort Villas, lies Nikiti, a long tongue of sand. Comprised of many restaurants, it is also ideal for snorkeling. Here, you will a great variety of fishes; and with a gently sloping beach and clear waters, Nikiti is fast becoming the summer hotspot for sunbath-loving families! Itinerary.
8 – WEATHER & CLIMATE
Greece is a country of the sweetness of living and she’s blessed with a Mediterranean climate. Winters are mild and rainy, while summers are hot and generally very dry. Temperatures sometimes rise to 38°C or even 40°C. The thermal wind from the islands (meltémi) blows at regular intervals and bring a little freshness to the scorching summers, especially at the beginning and at the end of the summer period.
9 – MOVING ABOUT
The region’s main airport is that of Thessaloniki. Nevertheless, a car is necessary for exploring the hinterland. The charming, and often winding little roads, make their way between the mountains of the peninsula: consequently, the distances are often longer than expected!
Have a good trip! !
Mylène, 28 years old, art lover and travel addict, from Strasbourg, France