Postcards from Halkidiki
Between the buzzing Kassandra and the serene Mount Athos, the second peninsula of Chalkidiki has its own attitude, grace and natural beauty, plus something for everyone.
A matter of choice
For many years now, people of Northern Greece give several answers to the eternal question “Kasssandra or Sithonia?” depending on their age and mood. I’ll go to the unsophisticated Sithonia with its wild natural beauty for all the things I can’t find in the touristy Kassandra: mountains carved by wind and the sea, verdant pine forests and vineyards, quiet coves with turquoise waters and hidden beaches waiting to be discovered.
Starting from the scenic Nikiti, at the side of the Toroneos Gulf, the heavenly beaches of Sithonia are revealing themselves one after the other: Ai Giorgis with the Saint George beach club, Ai Yiannis, the beaches Kalogria, Koviou, Elia, Spathies and Lagomandra are all easily accessible and inviting. The small town of the very touristy Neos Marmaras is beside the cosmopolitan resort complex Porto Carras, with a casino, golf court and its own marina. We are now at the heart of Sithonia, moving through the biggest organic vineyard in Europe, which gives some of the most famed Greek wines. Turn left to find the lovely traditional settlement Parthenonas with its distinctive Macedonian architecture. Make a stop to take in the view and drink a coffee at Paul. Across, you’ll see the islet Helona, popular among the spearfishing lovers, and right behind the settlement is Mount Itamos.
Far and away
Let’s go now to Porto Koufo, the safest natural port of Chalkidiki. The best place to savor fresh fish at one of the many taverns while gazing at the fishing boats -it is said that they catch here the most delicious tuna in all of the Mediterranean. Going north, the landscape becomes craggy. Thankfully, the beauty of the beaches Kalamitsi, Klimataria, Sikia and Sarti is very rewarding: golden sand and smooth white rocks steeped in emerald waters. Right across, the mountain mass of Athos is imposing, almost inviting you to touch it – it seems that close. Camping is a way of life here, either free or organised, and is linked to the “Sithonian experience.”
Nearby you’ll also find the famous Kavourotripes (crab holes): many small coves with emerald transparent waters. The area used to be somehow prohibited, due to its great difficulty of access. Of course, everything is easier if you have your own boat or inflatable vessel! If you rent a boat from Vourvourou, you can also reach the similarly seldom-seen beaches of Diaporos, the islet at the northeast of Sithonia. Diving in the small strait Blue Lagoon brings in mind the Caribbean. Next best thing, the Karidi beach with its shallow tropical waters, followed by Trani Ammouda, the largest sand surface in all of Sithonia. Right beside it is Ormos Panagias, from where boats depart for day-trip cruises offshore the Mount Athos. A sweet conclusion and a last stop for honey, at the “Honey Sithon” Cooperative near Nikiti. Taste flower honey, fir honey, and, if you’re really lucky, sousoura, a rare honey from Erica, a plant native to the Chalkidiki peninsula.