- 26 November 2020
How to organize better your vacation at the peninsula of Halkidiki
Halkidiki is part of the region Makedonia of Greece situated in the north of the country and it is easily identified on the map because it comprises of three peninsulas located east of Thessaloniki.
Halkidiki is the undeniably best Greek destination in terms of quality and variety of beaches with 94 blue flags (for the year 2020).
The first peninsula or foot as the locals call them, is named Kassandra, the second is Sithonia and the third is Athos. You cannot visit the third one as a tourist, but as a pilgrim and only if you are male. It is a sacred place full of ancient monasteries of the Christian orthodox religion and is considered a state and therefore you need an entry visa.
How to reach Halkidiki and move around
The airport of Thessaloniki is the nearest international airport, around 45 minutes by car to reach the beginning of the region. The airport of Thessaloniki which is currently undergoing a major upgrade and expansion, is very well served by many low-cost airlines, by the principal Star Alliance European companies and some of the SkyTeam. If you arrive from afar, you can transit in Athens or Munich or even Istanbul and then fly to Thessaloniki.
Once you arrive at Thessaloniki airport, my suggestion is to rent a car for two fundamental reasons:
- The public transportation to the hinterland of the peninsulas is not as efficient: you will be limited to the bus schedules that go only on main roads and villages;
- A car can guarantee total flexibility for moving around the various beaches and villages. You can combine more than a stop in the same day and keep in mind that some beaches are accessible only by car, since you might need to drive about a km of non-paved road.
If on the other hand you choose the “All inclusive” accommodation, you clearly do not need a car and can take advantage of the organized excursions of the resort, but you might miss out the best of Halkidiki.
Why choose Kassandra and where to sleep
The first foot of Halkidiki, that is Kassandra, is surely the most chaotic and full of life. In fact, here you can find beach bars that are famous for their parties, the best in the area for nightlife and many serviced beaches. Almost all beaches are sandy gold or white and the waters are crystal clear to take a dip.
Kassandra extends for many kilometres and is therefore, important to find a central logistic point so that all the beaches that interest you are within equal distance. Keep in mind that during high season the principal road along the coastline is heavily trafficked, and you should be prepared to spend quite some time moving from one village or beach to another, even though the distance might seem small.
To my experience, the best village to stay is Afytos or alternatively Kallithea which is about a 5-minute drive from Afytos. Afytos or Athitos (both names are valid) is the perfect place if you intend on visiting the different nearby beaches and in the evening, you just want to park the car and enjoy the nightlife it has to offer.
Afytos is a traditional village with cobblestone roads at its pedestrian centre and at its top you can find fish or meat restaurants, bars and some stores. Here you can end a long day on the beach and it is best if you can book a hotel within the center so as not to move the car.
Kallithea on the other hand, is the alternative to Afytos. Less interesting village than Afytos in terms of beauty, but adjacent to bars and clubs if you want to dance the night away till sunrise!
Why choose Sithonia and where to sleep
The second foot of Halkidiki, that is Sithonia, offers the best waters to swim in. The shades of blue and turquoise of the sea can be seen also at Kassandra, but in Sithonia the impact of nature is huge. So, if you intend to swim a lot and enjoy nature at its best, you should pick this foot.
Even in Sithonia you will find many serviced beaches with umbrellas, sunbeds and waiters to tend to your palate if you want to be pampered. If on the other hand you are a nature lover and want quiet beaches and not necessarily serviced and you don’t mind walking to reach some of them, then this foot is for you. Its east coast offers the best combination of green overlooking the beaches, practically immersed in water in some cases!
The focal point to stay is the village of Neos Marmaras. It is the biggest village of the second foot and you can apply the same logic for Kassandra: use the car to move around the day to the beaches, then park the car till next morning and enjoy the nightlife at Neos Marmaras where the fish taverns are in abundance.
Organize a week at Halkidiki
If you have only a few days, maybe it is better to focus and stay in one peninsula; but if your vacation extends to at least a week and you don’t know which to choose, you can always split in half your days: some days at Kassandra and some at Sithonia. This way you can get a good idea on the differences of these two feet and combine both nightlife and a more downtime.
I have not made any reference to the third peninsula, Athos since it is a sacred place mostly, but at the beginning of it you can find the same quality of sandy beaches and a couple of luxury resorts. If you choose to visit that part too, don’t forget to visit the small island of Ammouliani for a couple of days, a few minutes away by boat from Tripiti port.
Halkidiki is a region to be discovered: you will find paradise like beaches, some of the best in Europe or worldwide, parts of wild nature, fun and great food! Then you can understand why the locals claim that there is no place like Halkidiki!
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