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Chalkidiki

General Info

A peninsula with three smaller peninsulas, referred to by Greeks as “the three legs”, Halkidiki is by far the most popular of all the tourist destinations in northern Greece. Kassandra, the first leg, the cosmopolitan one, has an impressive variety of extremely popular tourist resorts of the highest standards and many organized beaches. Sithonia, the second leg, has equally beautiful but more small scale and less organized resorts as well as quieter , secluded, peaceful coves. Mount Athos, the third, autonomous peninsula, is a monastic community where access is allowed only with special permit and only to men. This Christian monument is uniique to the world and has been absolutely untouched by time and is a living monument to Byzantine culture, in the midst of untouched nature. It has tens of historical Byzantine monasteries that haven’t changed since they were built many centuries ago.

History

The history of Halkidiki goes back 700,000 years. It was there and about then when the earliest known controlled fire was lit. By 4,000 B.C. Halkidiki was a rich, quite densely populated area. Its colonisation by Southern Greeks, from Chalkis and Eretria in Euboea, begun in the 8th century B.C. Herodotus, the father of recorded history, in his works about the Persian Wars, mentions Halkidiki many times, with a plethora of historical and topographical details. Among other references, he describes the digging of a canal by Xerxes at the isthmus of the third peninsula. After the end of the Persian Wars, around the middle of 5th century B.C., the majority of Halkidiki cities’ became members of the Athenian League. Many of the region’s cities were destroyed in the Peloponnesian War, as it was, for a long time, one of the main battlegrounds for the armies of Athenians and Spartans. In 168 B.C. Halkidiki, as well as the rest of Macedonia, was conquered by the Romans. In the 6th century A.D. it was again brought to ruins by the Huns. In 963, Athanasios the Athonite, the founder of organised monastic life, established, with the financial support of the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros Phokas, the first monastery of Mount Athos, the coenobium of Great Lavra,. Halkidiki played a very important role in the Greek Revolution of 1821. It was liberated in 1912, in early October, almost 20 days before Thessaloniki and in 1922 it welcomed many refugees from Minor Asia. In Halkidiki, in the city of Stagira is the birthplace of one of the Great Minds of Human Civilisation, the philosopher Aristotle, the father of modern sciences and philosophy. He was, among other things, the teacher of Alexander the Great, who often said that he owed his life to his father, but the values of his life to his teacher.

Must see

Halkidiki is an ideal location for anyone wishing to explore the historical and cultural sites of the northern part of Greece. Among the many sights one should visit are: The Petralona Caves, home to the oldest ever human remains discovered in the European continent - they give an idea about how the first European settlers lived, and are full of impressive and fascinating stalactites and stalagmites estimated to be 700,000 years old. Afytos Village, a small seaside village, known for its traditional style, the ruins of Ancient Afytos in the region and its folklore museum. The village of Ouranoupolis, on the northern end of the Athos peninsula, the border of the monastic state of Athos, with a 14th century tower dominating its harbour. Mount Athos (Hagion Oros - Holy Mountain), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A cruise along the monastic state is an unforgettable journey into the past, a tour in the architecture and lifestyle of Byzantium with all the monasteries on its western shore appearing one after the other. Stagira, the homeland of Aristotle, who was born there in 384 BC. Its archaeological site includes Classical and Hellenistic homes, an acropolis, fortifications, and an ancient temple.

Things to do

Halkidiki has diversity and variety that will give pure pleasure even to the most demanding visitors, those that believe that have seen it all. It is ideal for fascinating summer as well as winter escapes. Those of the athletic type can enjoy water sports on the hundreds of beaches, as well as biking or trekking in Mt Holomondas. The Sani Festival is a 2-month-long yearly event, with different shows staged in the natural amphitheatre of Sani Hill. Kallithéa area hosts some of the best, biggest and most lively bars in Greece. Olynthus, the ancient village with the unique mosaics is definitely a must see. Halkidiki is also famous for its rich gastronomic heritage and its premium wine, so a wine tasting tour is always a very good idea. Thessaloniki is very close, so one should spend some time in the enchanting, stimulating atmosphere of the second largest city of Greece. Ammouliani island is a five-minute ferry ride from the mainland of Ouranoupoli and has unbelievably beautiful coves and beaches on the surrounding islets. Finally, the pine forests of Mount Itamos, which conceal the world's 'oldest living tree', are near the old village of Nikiti and will leave a very strong impression on every visitor.

Beaches and nature

Halkidiki has a boast-deserving coastline of 550km. It has more than a thousand beaches of all kinds: some offering endless golden sand, others a bit rocky, some quite crowded, others being nothing less than heavenly deserted coves among the rocks. Of course, each and every one of them is blessed with crystal clear waters, where the deep green colour of the endless pine-tree forests is reflected. Kassandra peninsula’s beaches, among them Sani, Kallithea, Paleochori and Hanioti, are the most popular. The beaches on Sithonia, the second peninsula, including Lagomandra, Agios Ioannis, Trani Ammouda and Kalamitsi are more quiet but equally breathtaking. This second leg has many hidden coves which are ideal for relaxation. Apart from the breathtaking beaches Halkidiki is characterized by its dense wooded hills and mountains, with green forests that go as far as the eye can see, right down to the sea. Through the pine, oak, fir and chestnut forests cut their way - paths ideal for mountain biking and walking – a paradise for those who love mountains.

Need to know (practical info)

For any trip to Halkidiki, Thessaloniki, the second largest Greek city, is the starting point. The city which is about 100 km away, can be reached by plane, train, car or ship. The port of Kavála, with frequent ferry connections, is also close. Halkidiki has a good road network so it is very easy for any travellers to reach all of the region’s parts, villages and small towns. In the summer many well worth artistic festivals take place in different parts of this blessed place. Halkidiki has a Mediterranean climate with cold winters and relatively mild summers.

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