The three peninsulas, Kassandra, Sithonia and Mt.Athos make up the region of Halkidiki and cover an area of 2,918 square kilometres. Halkidiki has a varied landscape from forests to golden beaches, busy tourists resorts offer all that the tourists need. Traditional architecture, archaeological treasures and the historical monuments make Halkidiki a splendid place and an attraction for a large number of tourists.
The History of Halkidiki
Greek mythology often refers to Halkidiki. The earthquake giant, Egelados and according to legend he is buried on the peninsula of Kassandra, he was buried alive after a battle with the gods, and it is believed the earthquakes that occur in the region are due to Egelados trying to get free. A gigantic rock thrown at the gods by Egelados missed them and landed in the sea to form the peninsula of Mt. Athos. The peninsula of Sithonia owes its name to Sithonas, son of Poseidon. Fossils of prehistoric elephants and other species have been unearthed in the region. Excavations in the Petralona Cave have shown that the human presence began 700,000 years ago, while the scull of a man, found in the caves dates from about 200,000 years ago.
In the 8th century BC, people settled in the region. In the 5th century BC many settlements grew in size and importance, among them were the settlements of, Arnea, Potidaea, Olynthos and Toroni. By the end of the 5th century BC, the most important of these settlements were under the protection of the kingdom of Olynthos, which was dissolved by the Spartans in 379 BC. In 348 BC, Philip integrates the region into the Macedonian Kingdom. In the Hellenistic years, three great cities arose, Kassandreia, Ouranoupolis and Antigoneia. In 168 BC, the Romans take control of the Macedonian Kingdom and its decline began as all the cities came under the control of the Roman merchants.
Christianity came to the region in about 50 AD, During the Christian centuries Halkidiki experienced many invasions by foreign powers, the Goths, the Huns and the Catalans all were eager to take control of the region. During the 9th century, the monastic state of Mount Athos was established. After the 10th century, the biggest part of the cultivated land came to the property of Mount Athos Monks. From these settlements, many villages were established and developed along with the old ones. In the middle of the 14th century, a large part of Halkidiki was under the control of the Serbian state, while Kassandra, before its enslavement to the Turks, was under the Venice domination.
In 1430, Halkidiki came under the control of the during that time the inhabitants of Halkidiki suffered a great deal as all the Greeks did due to the repressive Turkish domination. However, they did not lose either their faith or their national conscience. By the end of the 18th century, all the prefectures begin to develop, agricultural growth increased with the production of wheat, the silk industry and the breeding of cattle. The mining of silver added to the prosperity of the region, however, this wealth attracted the pirates who raided the coastal villages and ships carrying precious cargo. In the 19 th century, the inhabitants revolted many times against the oppressive Turkish regime. Freedom for the region came in 1912, and by 1922 thousands of Greek refugees from Asia Minor came to the region and many new villages were established, and contributed to the development of the region.
Polygyros : this pleasant market town is the administrative capital of the region. Set among lush vegetation on the slopes of Mt. Holomodas, it makes a perfect base from which to travel around the region. Polygyros is 69 km from Thessaloniki and 590 km from Athens.
Sights of Interest in the City
The Archaeological Museum: in the town has displays of ceramics and sculptures from around the district, among them artefacts from the ancient city of Olynthos.
The Folklore Museum: has on display items that include traditional costumes and furniture and other items of interest.
The Old Quarter: parts of the old quarter remain, where little has changed over the centuries.
Towns and Villages
Petralona: near the village is the Petralona Cave, the total length of the cave is 1500m; here they found a skull reputed to be 700,000 years old. In addition, found were traces of fire that dating from over 1 million years ago, this one of the oldest traces of finds of fire making in the world. The museum next to the cave has on display finds found in the cave. Only part of this enormous cave is open to the public, a well-lit walkway makes it easier for the visitor to walk around the cave, and see the magnificent with its stalagmites and stalactites.
Dionissiou and Zografou: these two villages on the road to the Kassandra peninsula remain unaffected by the modern developments in the area. Quaint stone built houses with strange chimneys reflect a time gone by.
Nea Moudania: lies on the road into the Kassandra peninsula, along the waterfront are many good tavernas serving freshly cooked fish and other culinary delights. The town is the largest in the prefecture of Halkidiki, and a busy commercial and tourist centre for the area.
Arnea: is a picturesque village, famous for its wine and hand-woven fabrics.
Stagira : is the birthplace of the philosopher Aristotle. Just outside the village is a marble statue of thus great man.
Nea Roda: it was here that the Persian King, Xerxes built a canal as a short cut so his fleet of ships did not have sail round the peninsula. Today nothing remains of the canal, even though the Greeks depict it on their maps.
Amouliani: is a small wooded island of the west coast ideal for daytrips by boat from the village of Tripiti.
Gerakani: is one of the main tourist resorts of the region. The long sandy beach and other amenities attract thousands of visitors every year.
Kassandra Peninsula: is the most western peninsula of Halkidiki. The development of tourism, with its well structured facilities, good beaches, luxury hotels and plenty of entertainment centres have something for everybody.
Kassandra: is the largest town on the Kassandra peninsula, and very popular with tourists. The town is the administrative and cultural centre of the peninsula, in the 16 th century the town was an important trading post for grain and other agricultural produced in the area. In the town are many reminders of the past, the cathedral, old houses and one of the best-preserved windmills in the area.
Fourka: is a busy resort with modern hotels and amenities for the tourist. The beach is very good and crystal waters invite you to swim.
Nea Moudania: is a busy commercial centre for the area, it is also a popular destination for tourists with entertainment facilities and some good fish restaurants along the waterfront. Nearby is the site of the ancient city of Olynthos, dating from the 7 th century BC was once one of the most powerful in the region The Persians destroyed it in 479 BC. Later rebuilt and became the principal city of Halkidiki, and then in 348 BC it was destroyed on the orders of King Phillip II of Macedonia. The city has remained in ruins ever since. The museum has only audio-visual material that tells of the life and times of this ancient city. The artefacts unearthed here are on display in the museum at Polygyros.
Nea Potidea: Refugees from eastern Thrace founded this town in 1922; built on the site of ancient Potidaea, a city built by the Corinthians in 600BC. This is a charming village with the waters of the Thermaikos and Toroneos gulfs lapping its shorelines. The village has lots to offer the tourist with hotels, restaurants and a good nightlife.
Nea Phokea: refugees from Asia Minor also founded this village in 1922, with its excellent beaches and archaeological ruins it attracts many visitors. The facilities range from luxury hotels to camping sites, also a wide range of tavernas and restaurants.
Kallithea : lies 51 km south of the city of Polygiros. It is a cosmopolitan village with good beaches, hotels and restaurants. The archaeological sites around the village include the 8 th century sanctuary dedicated to Dionysius and a 4 th century temple dedicated to Zeus.
Nea Skioni: is a traditional fishing village in a setting of beautiful scenery, today the village is a popular tourist resort with numerous hotels and other facilities for the visitor.
Sithonia Peninsula: is the middle peninsula of Halkidiki, with delightful, small picturesque harbours, wonderful beaches, secluded bays, to olive groves, lush meadows and forests, quiet fishing villages and the splendid architecture of houses and churches. Popular beaches are between Nikiti and Paradisos. Neo Marmaras is the areas biggest resort and therefore very busy.
Nikiti: this village is located at the top of the Sithonia peninsula; this traditional village has some excellent beaches. The area is has numerous ruins from times gone by, from prehistoric times to the classical era. The most important city of the classical era was, Galipsos to the south of the village. The church of St. Nikitas that dates from 1867 is worth a visit as is the ruins of a 16 th century church that has some frescos dating from that time.
Agios Nikoloas: tis village has many fine 19 th century houses built in the special architecture of the region. In the village, there are many good tavernas where one can enjoy the local cuisine. Nearby is the small harbour of Ormos Panagia, where boats make trips to Mt. Athos.
Vourvourou: With its stunning beaches and its natural beauty, it offers the visitor all the amenities associated with a popular resort.
Neos Marmaras: is another very popular resort, with good beaches and al the amenities catering for the tourist, hotels, restaurants and much more. Outside of the village is the very popular tourist complex of Porto Carras, which offers hotels, an open-air theatre, and a golf course. The resort offers everything for those seeking a fun filled holiday.
Parthenionas: this traditional village built on the slopes of a mountain, and has good tavernas serving local foods. The folk museum is worth a visit with items from around the area on display. A visit to the local distillery where they produce local wines and “tsipouro” (a very strong Greek drink), is worthwhile.
Sarti: is also popular with the tourist and offers the tourist everything they require for a memorable holiday. The area is excellent for all kind of watersports, eat in one of the many tavernas or restaurants that serve local fish dishes and the excellent local red wine, a relaxing way to end a day.
Sykia: Is one of the oldest villages on the peninsula dating from the 14 th century. The village with its narrow streets, houses and school, and the church of St. Athanassios is worth visiting. The village caters for the tourist with many hotels and amenities.
Toroni: this village has a wonderful 2km golden beach and is ideal for sunbathing. The village is built near the site of an earlier settlement of the same name. Today remains of the settlement are visible on the hills above the village.
Porto Koufo: lies on the southern most part of the peninsula, it is a charming village with a fine beach, and boats will take you to the nearby caves along the rocky shoreline.
Athos Peninsula: better known for the monastic state of Mt. Athos situated to the south of the peninsula. The northern part of the peninsula is of forests, vineyards and orchards along with sandy beaches. Some of these villages along the coast have developed into busy tourists resorts.
Ouranopolis: is the last village before entering the monastic state of Mt. Athos. The village has many fine beaches and tavernas offering good food. In the village is the impressive tower of Prosphorius dating from the 14 th century, it is the largest tower in the Halkidiki region.
Place of interest
Known as the Holy Mountain, this semi-independent monastic state is on the World Heritage list of remarkable areas, and is solely comprised of monasteries. The nature of the peninsula is magnificent with valleys, gorges, sea views and dominated by Mt. Athos (2,030m). There are strict rules to visit Mt. Athos; these rules issued in 1060 AD are still in force today.
A permit is required for individuals or groups, and they must be over 18 years old. Only 10 males a day, who are not of the Greek Orthodox religion, can enter Mt. Athos. Females cannot enter the monastic state. (Though they can view the monasteries from a boat, but the boat must remain 500m from the shore). When you have your permit these last for three nights, four days, you then take the boat to the monasteries, as there are no roads to Mt. Amos from secular Greece.
Take the minimum of requirements, as you have to carry these with you all the time. A lot of walking is necessary so good footwear is essential, as is bottled water. You may take with you a camera, but leave your video camera behind. Inside the monastery, ask before you take any photographs. On arriving at Dafni, you should plan your route as to which monasteries you wish to visit and stay the night. Normally you stay one night in a monastery before going to the next one.
There are 20 monasteries on the peninsula the oldest monastery is the 10 th century Megistis Lavras and some has exquisite frescoes. Agiou Pandeleimonos is a Russian monastery and used to house up to 1000 monks who came here from Russia in the 19 th century. Simonos Petras monastery is worth the climb up but it is well worth it, stay the night, go out onto the wooden balcony (notice the sheer drop under the balcony) that surrounds the outside walls of the monastery and listen to the silence.
There are many routes (some can take about 5 hours walking) to take to see the different monasteries so well planning is required.
The Folklore Museum of Aphytos: This interesting folk art museum is located on the square of village. The collection consists of works of traditional art, ceramics, woven fabrics and tools of everyday life.
The Folklore Museum of Arnaia: The museum is located in the town of Arnaia, 37 kilometres from Polygyros.On display are items from the surrounding region.
Many villages of Halkidiki try to save their traditions and customs.
Many of the customs are from Asia Minor, brought to the district by Greek refugees in 1922.
Carnivals take place in the villages of Polygyros, Agio Mamas, Aphytos, Nikiti, Polychrono, Stratoni, Arnea and Flogita.
On the feast day of the Dormitorion of the Virgin (15th of July), celebrations and festivities take place in many of the villages in the district.
The Sardine Festival takes place every year in July at the village of Nea Moudania and the village of Nea Rhoda.
On the last Sunday in July, swimmers gather at the village of Kallithea to swim over the Toroneos Gulf.
On the 1 st of March, the residents in the villages of Nikiti and Arnea celebrate the coming of spring.
Easter is the time for the major festival in the Greek calendar, along with other towns and villages in Greece, the towns and villages of the region take part in many celebrations.
Many more feasts and customs are celebrated in many of the districts villages throughout the year.
The beaches of Halkidiki have the reputation of being the best beaches of Greece, The best beaches of Halkidiki are in the third “finger”, in the peninsula of Mont Athos; but because they lie in the monastic state, the beaches are not for tourists. Happily, the other two peninsulas, Kassandra and Sithonia have marvellous sandy beaches
Dionisiou Beach , 2 km from Nea Moudania, is a long and sandy beach.
Nea Flogita located near the village of Nea Moudania, is among one of the top beaches in the district.
Sani, this beach is also very popular with tourists.
Kallithea also offers amazing beaches, with the blue waters of the Gulf of Cassandra lapping on its shores.
North of Kalandra you will find the superb beaches of Fourka and Siviris.
Sithonia is quieter than Kassandra and more mountainous, moderately untouched by the tourists. The peninsula is full of wonderful beaches, some deserted, some more popular with the tourists.
Neos Marmaras offers many golden beaches lined by trees.
Toroni, to the south of the peninsula has a long sandy beach were one can sunbathe and relax or swim in the clear waters that lap the beach.
Sarti has some of the most stunning beaches on the peninsula.
Vourvourou also offers astonishing places, combining olive and pine trees, dreamy coves and the superb beaches on the small islands opposite Vourvourou.
Many beaches along the coastline offer the tourist the chance to relax or take part in one of the many water sport activities offered to the tourist.
Sports in Halkidiki
Potidea Water action
Kassandra – Halkidiki
Phone: +30 23730 41 653
E-mail: [email protected]
Agios Nikolaos: 2375031324
Megali Panagia: 2372031111
Nea Moudania: 2373021371
Neos Marmaras: 2375071500
HOSPITALS AND FIRST AID
Pharmacies can be found in all areas in Chalkidiki. Medical centers and hospitals however, are found in the areas presented below:
General Prefecture Hospital of Poligiros:
Agios Nikolaos: 23750-31-788
Nea Moudania: 23730-22-222