Halkidiki (Greek: Χαλκιδική) is a large peninsula in the shape of a trident and a major tourist destination in Northern Greece. It stretches over an area of 2886 km2 and a coastline longer than 550 km. The most familiar to tourists are the three prongs (most known as legs) of the trident - Kassandra
and Mount Athos
, but there are resorts also in the rest of the peninsula. The climate is mild, with over 300 sunny days per year and limited rainfall.
Due to its close proximity to Bulgaria and Serbia, it gets crowded in the summer season and in July and August booking in advance is desirable. Every weekend residents of Thessaloniki and its neighboring town also visit it.
The total population of the peninsula is about 80,000 inhabitants, scattered in small resort towns or villages. Generally, most resorts have population between 500 and 2000 residents, those with population of 5-6000 are considered major towns. The capital of Halkidiki - Polygyros
- has about 10,000 inhabitants and is the largest city but it is in the inland, away from the sea. Out of the three legs, the most developed and populated is Kassandra. Sithonia is a place for relaxing holiday, suitable for lovers of deserted beaches and peace. On Mount Athos there are only two resorts, the rest of the leg is occupied by the independent monastic republic Agion Oros. Detailed information for them is given in the separate description of each of the legs.
Halkidiki peninsula is known for its many different types of beaches with clear blue water. More than 46 beaches in Halkidki are Blue Flag awarded. The coastline varies from narrow strips to wide bays, some with fine golden sand others shingle or mixed. The sea is so transparent that you can easily watch life in it. Water is salty and easy to float on although it is a bit irritating for the eyes. Around the coast there are no algae or shells there are small colored stones instead. On some beaches, there are stones on the sea floor under which sea urchins hide. Close contact with them is unpleasant and can totally spoil your holiday - if you step on them, their spines may break into your skin and your leg will swell. The good thing is that water is transparent and you can clearly see the sea floor meters around you but yet it is good to have aqua shoes so you can walk safely.
Hotels and restaurants.
The prices in Halkidiki are not different than those in other places in Northern Greece. There are both expensive and cheap hotels, and in Sithonia there is choice of campsites. Each resort has bakeries, supermarkets and fast food - Doner kebab (or gyros,
as they call it in Greece), pancakes and sandwiches. Taverns are mainly fish (understandably) but there are also restaurants serving pizza and Italian cuisine. Larger resorts have Chinese and Thai restaurants. Coffee houses and cocktail bars are open until late in the evenings. Souvenir shops sell beach accessories - umbrellas, beach towels, snorkel with goggles and aqua shoes, as their prices vary between 3 and 10 euros.
As already mentioned, Kassandra is the most populated leg and offers most entertainment. Larger resorts in Kassandra and Sithonia offer water sports and diving lessons, all-day boat trips, trips to the cave Petralona and the water park Waterland. For those who want to organize trips themselves, there are cars, bikes and four wheelers to rent.