Fascinating island with mesmerising beaches

This land of philosophers and fishermen, green olives and white sands shows that there’s far more to Greek holidays than island hopping. Halkidiki has long been popular with visitors from Germany and Russia – but now other countries are beginning to get in on the act. And with fascinating towns dotted across a landscape of soaring mountains and luxury hotels beside some of Europe’s best beaches, it’s easy to see why.

Things to do

Greece is celebrated as the cradle of western culture – and in Halkidiki you can visit the birthplace of one of its founding figures. Aristotle was born in the ancient city of Stagira, whose ruins still stand, to the north of Athos Peninsular. Athos itself is home to historic sites such as Ouranoupoli, known for its beautiful beaches and striking Byzantine tower house.

Halkidiki’s three peninsulas – Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos – are treasured for their white sand beaches and glassy waters. Athos is the least developed of the three, with much of it a National Park you’ll need access permits to visit. You’ll find the best (easily accessible) beaches to the north of Athos and on Sithonia. Highlights include the secluded shores of Ammouliani island and Kryaritsi in Sithonia, a peaceful beach with views across to Mount Athos.

This region of northern Greece mixes classic elements of the country’s cuisine with flavours from Turkey and the Middle East, which arrived with the Ottomans. For example, meat is often prepared with fruit and vegetables, such as pork with quince or lamb with raisins and spring greens. Fish is a highlight of menus on the peninsulas. Look out for warming fish stew with lemon juice – a centuries old dish from the monasteries of Mount Athos. Olives are also plentiful here, with regional specialities including green olives stuffed with truffle.

Top Tip from SLH

Legend has it that Halkidiki’s three peninsulas were formed by an epic battle between the Olympian gods and the Titans.