Chalkidiki - A Bathing Paradise with a Special Atmosphere
The peninsula of Chalkidiki has some of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Greece and is the perfect travel destination for families and groups of friends. Wonderful, diverse landscapes, a wide range of leisure and sporting activities as well as a variety of cultural sights promise eventful holidays.
Geography - A unique peninsula in the Aegean Sea
Chalkidiki (also called "Halkidiki") is a peninsula in the north of Greece and lies in the geographical region of Macedonia, south-east of Thessaloniki. The coast has a length of 522 kilometres. The peninsula has an area of 2,918 km² and about 96,849 inhabitants. Its capital is Polygyros. Regarding geography, the region consists of the central area, Kassandra Peninsula, Sithonia and Athos. In addition, it comprises several small islands, only some of which are permanently inhabited. Chalkidiki lies between the Thermaic and the Strymonic Gulf and projects into the Aegean Sea in three finger-shaped promontories. Between these promontories you find two great bays: the Toroneos Gulf between Kassandra and Sithonia and the Singitic Gulf between Sithonia and Athos. The climate in Chalkidiki can be divided into three vegetation periods: the rainy season (November to February), the flowering and ripening season (March to May) and the dry season (June to October). While there is typical Mediterranean climate along the coasts, the centre of the peninsula is dominated by continental climate.
Nature - Mediterranean landscape and Central European forests
Chalkidiki's flora can be divided into three types of vegetation: forests (Aleppo pines, pines, sweet chestnut, plane trees and cypresses), macchia (an evergreen shrubland) and cultivated plants (cotton, pomegranate, fig, tobacco and olives). The landscape is very varied too. The western part of the central area and the southern tips of the promontories are mainly hilly but descend towards the sea. In the centre, you see the Cholomondas mountains, which are completely covered with a Central European mixed forest. The highest peak, Mount Athos (2,033 m), is located on the peninsula of the same name - the third "finger". The mountain has the status of an Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain and is therefore still characterised by untouched nature. There are only a few rivers on Chalkidiki and most them are dried up in summer. All lakes are located at Chalkidiki's northern edge - Lake Volvi and Lake Koroneia as well as the small salt lake Aliki on Ammouliani island. The coast mostly consists of very long white sandy beaches. In the north of Kassandra Peninsula, the landscape is extraordinarily green and flat and is intensely used for agriculture.
Culture - Traditional villages and Orthodox monasteries
Due to its special shape, Chalkidiki is often described as a three-fingered hand. In Greek mythology, it is also referred to as Poseidon's trident. The three fingers (or prongs) differ from each other. The left finger, Kassandra Peninsula, is the best developed for tourists but still offers an appealing landscape. It accommodates the most tourist destinations with the most hotels. Unfortunately, this is often reflected in the prices. One cultural highlight is the Temple of Ammon Zeus near Kalithea. The middle finger, Sithonia, is not as well developed for tourists as Kassandra, which makes it interesting. It is its nativeness which makes holidays in the region a pleasant experience. With its beautiful landscapes, nice small villages and wonderful beaches, Sithonia is a popular destination for many lovers of nature and romantics. In Athos, visitors are only allowed to move freely until they reach Ouranoupoli ("city of heaven"). That is the point where the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain with the 20 inhabited monasteries begins. Only men are permitted to enter and even they need to apply for special admission beforehand. Therefore, Ouranoupoli is considered a border city between secular Greece and the religious Orthodox Church. Worthwhile sights in central Chalkidiki are Petralona Cave (a prehistoric site), the fortress of Rentina, the ancient Stageira near Olympiada, Aristotle's place of birth and the ancient city of Olynthos, which has been permanently inhabited since the 8th century BC. The capital of Polygyros has a beautiful park, various sights like the Archaeological Museum and an attractive old town with typical taverns and shops, which definitely make a visit worth your while.
Experience - Of maritime delicacies and handmade souvenirs
Holidaymakers who come to Chalkidiki see the endless blue of the sea and the deep green of nature. While the many mixed forests smell of fresh resin, the sea emits a pleasant salty fragrance. Along the coast, you find several of the most beautiful villages such as Afitos - a scenic location which invites visitors to relax and go on little shopping tours. Chalkidiki generally offers an impressive variety of products from exclusive designer brands, jewellery and beautiful antiques to high-quality leatherware, hand-woven textiles and embroidery with impressive patterns. You also find a great number of shops and taverns as well as many discos and casinos which offer entertainment in the popular tourist destination of Kalithea. The nightlife is particularly exciting on Sithonia, for example in the village of Neos Marmaras. Characteristic dishes on Chalkidiki are roasted sweet chestnuts as well as freshly caught fish and seafood such as squid.
Activities - Wonderful beaches which invite you to rest
Chalkidiki is mostly known as a bathing paradise among travellers. That is why the coastal areas are best developed for tourists. Kassandra Peninsula offers an attractive range of leisure activities, especially for water sports fans. Travellers can choose between a number of bathing resorts. Examples are Afitos, Kalithea, Polichrono, Kriopigi and Pefkochori. Two highlights are the lagoon and the islands of Vourvourou on Sithonia but the region has a lot more to offer. It is equipped with an 18-whole golf course, several tennis courts and an equally varied range of water sports facilities, especially for divers. In addition, the region is excellently suited for going hiking, cycling, camping, going on a horseback ride through the pine forests or taking part in a Jeep tour. Visitors who want to see the monasteries on Mount Athos should go on a boat trip along the coast.
You easily reach Chalkidiki by plane via the airport in Thessaloniki (SKG). From there, you can take a rental car or a bus on the well-developed roads. There are regular buses leaving from Thessaloniki which stop at all important tourist destinations on the peninsula.
Chalkidiki is characterised by its diversity. While tourism is booming on Kassandra, Sithonia is the ideal place for enjoying tranquillity, nature and the typical Greece. The best way of experiencing the many impressive Orthodox monasteries on Mount Athos and their mystical atmosphere is a boat trip along the coast.