The stunning region of Halkidiki is situated in central Macedonia in Greece and consists of the Kassandra peninsula, the Sithonia peninsula and Mount Athos. It is a beautiful region with spectacular landscapes, mesmerizing beaches and gracious natural beauty.
The popular Halkidiki Peninsula has three tendrils stretching into the Aegean Sea. Kassandra and Sithonia draw crowds to their blissful beaches and growing adventure travel scene. Meanwhile Athos is the mysterious monks’ republic.
Being closest to Thessaloniki, Kassandra is more built up with better nightlife (though it has good beaches, too). More subdued Sithonia has campgrounds, hidden coves and clear waters. Both are popular with Greek and foreign holidaymakers (most from Eastern and Central Europe). Most of the easternmost peninsula belongs to the Mt Athos monastic community. Active for well over 1000 years, it’s accessible by boat and open to male pilgrims (with advance reservations).
Kassandra and Sithonia are mostly populated along the coasts, the interiors of both being rugged, with thick pine forests. The main roads, therefore, hug the coasts. Many Halkidiki beach villages were settled by refugees during the 1923 population exchanges with Turkey; the government gave the ‘useless’ coastal land to these newcomers, and their descendants would have the last laugh when beach tourism took off in the 1970s.
In high summer traffic can be exasperating and finding accommodation tough. For those after beach-bar parties and nightclubs, July and August are best, while families and solitude-seekers will prefer September when waters are warmest and the crowds disappear.
It’s always wise to plan and book ahead for summer. Outside May to October many hotels undergo refurbishment; restaurants close; and attractions limit their hours.