With beautiful beaches and five-star resorts, Halkidiki is Greece's best-kept secret
Greece is an easy country to fall in love with, a perfect blend of natural beauty, delicious food and ancient sites – yet many travellers tend to venture beyond the islands. But those in the know are heading off-the-beaten-track to Halkidiki.
Also called Chakidiki, this stunning region in Northern Greece is picture-perfect. Made up of three peninsulas (Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos), each feels like its own island with its own character.
Why visit Halkidiki?
The region has more than 3,000 miles of coastline, so those far-reaching, shallow turquoise waters are never far away. But it’s the unspoilt natural beauty that will astound.
Pine forests, vineyards, olive plantations, verdant valleys and picturesque meadows make for a standout scene. And it’s all sits in the shadow of Mount Athos, a holy mountain that’s home to 20 monasteries.
It’s no wonder this beautiful three-pronged region has attracted some serious luxury resorts to its shores, making it Greece’s (just-about) best-kept secret.
What to do in Halkidiki
Enjoy the Med’s best beaches
The Caribbean-like beaches of Halkidiki are considered to be amongst the best in the Med, with white sand and crystal-clear water.
Sani Beach on Kassandra is known for its stunning sunsets and beach bars. Meanwhile, Karydi Beach on Sithonia – all secluded coves and tiny fishing ports – is practically wave-free, making it ideal for little ones.
See Mount Athos by sea
Unless you’re a man, there’s only one way of seeing Mount Athos – and that’s by boat.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988, this holy mountain is shrouded in mystery. Home to 20 monasteries and nearly 1,500 monks who live a life practically unchanged since the ninth century, women have been banned from visiting for more than 1,000 years.
But this spectacular mountain with its cliff-hanging monasteries is well worth a boat trip – especially at sunset. Take a sightseeing tour with Athos Cruises and you may just spot a dolphin or two along the way.
Devour the world-famous Halkidiki olives
There’s nothing like tasting the locally-sourced produce when travelling abroad, and here in this sun-drenched region, olives are most definitely on the menu.
Halkidiki olives are plump, meaty and nutritional. Rich in vitamin E, bursting with good fats and acting as an anti-inflammatory, they taste pretty good too. Perfect as a table olive or pressed as an olive oil, these little ovals are hugely popular for a reason.
Snorkel at the Blue Lagoon
If you still need your island fix, take a boat or kayak tour to Diaporos Island of Sithonia’s east coast. So small you can sail around its circumference in half an hour, it certainly packs a punch for a petite isle.
This private bay is blessed with astonishing natural beauty. Covered in picturesque pine forests, beautiful beaches and crystalline waters, there’s a blue lagoon to snorkel between Diaporos Island and Agios Island.
With a shallow bay and white sandy bottom the waters take on a cool glacier-like hue. Swimming amongst the colourful shoals of fish here is nothing short of mesmerising.
To reach Halkidiki, it’s most likely you’ll fly into Thessaloniki – Greece’s second largest city. Instead of jumping straight into a private transfer, take a few days to enjoy all this intriguing city has to offer.
It’s a cosmopolitan place with a fascinating history, 15 world heritage sites and incredible museums. Located at the head of the Gulf of Thessaloniki, its position on the sea is enticing – especially to students. The city’s respected university is Greece’s sixth oldest.
In front of its famous White Tower – a monument and museum on the waterfront – you’ll discover cocktail bars and a fab café culture. Head to the impressive Aristotelous Square for a similar vibe.
The city is enjoying a real ‘foodie moment’ and its street food and markets are just as enticing as the restaurants. We recommend the trying bougatsa, a Greek-style custard pastry.
Soak up intoxicating views
It’s time to switch off and renew your relationship with nature amongst the unspoilt beauty of Halkidiki.
Take a moment to gaze at the lush green forests reaching all the way down to the sandy bays, the west coast’s pretty plants and prepare to be awe-struck by the east coast’s epic mountains. It’s a kaleidoscope of blues and greens you’ll never tire of seeing, still reeling from its beauty as you sip your last sundowner.
Where to stay in Halkidiki
This legendary 1,000-acre luxury resort on the Kassandra peninsula starting life in the 1960s. Since then, it has grown into a sprawling destination featuring four hotels, 18 restaurants, six beaches and its own marina.
Staying at Sani is a true luxury. Each of the rooms – from the stylish standards to the sumptuous Sani Asterias suites – come with their own private beach setting. Stunning sunset views of Mount Olympus and the Aegean Sea guarantee a memorable stay.
Ekies All Senses
Stylish yet unpretentious, unique beachfront hotel Ekies All Senses is a huge hit with families.
Parents can relax in the chic, contemporary bar and restaurant, where soft, ambient dance tracks throughout the day. Meanwhile, little ones can play in the gently shelving waters of the hotel’s private beach. Couples should book in to the romantic treetop restaurant for a special sunset moment.
Rooms are all individual with quirky design. From standard rooms to family suites and villas with their own private pools, it’s a special spot in this idyllic region.
Eagles Palace lies just outside one of Halkidiki’s most beautiful villages, Ouranoupolis, on the Athos peninsula. This five-star resort with a chic, retro vibe is a firm favourite with Halkidiki regulars, and it’s easy to see why.
Luxe features include a freshwater pool with swim-up bar and a Blue Flag beach right on your doorstep. There’s plenty on-site to keep you entertained too, including tennis courts and a fitness studio for active types, and regular art exhibitions for culture vultures.
Where to eat in Halkidiki
It may be located on the Sani resort, but fortunately anyone can book into to visit the delightful Tomata restaurant. Overlooking the marina, there’s a great buzz to the place. But be sure to book ahead – it’s popular and busy.
Here you can savour classic mediterranean flavours with a modern twist. The chefs use only local and seasonal produce, from Halkidiki chickens to olives from the region’s Halipa producers and local seafood. Diners can even create their own salads at their tables using fresh greens from the neighbouring gardens.
In the heart of Ouranoupolis is this popular restaurant. The idyllic location on Mount Athos makes for a wonderful atmosphere, and the food is fantastic. The focus here is seafood; expect octopus, mussels and shrimps, all as fresh as can be.