The Ultimate Guide to Halkidiki, Greece

Written by Teresa Bitler

March 5, 2024
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In Northern Greece, Halkidiki boasts sandy beaches, ancient ruins, thermal baths, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Read on for what to see.

Not far from Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, the region of Halkidiki consists of three peninsulas—Kassandra, Sithonia, and Athos—and is a mix of pine forests and sandy beaches. It’s also the birthplace of Aristotle, known for its olives, and home to Mount Athos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 20 architecturally stunning Greek Orthodox monasteries.

This ultimate guide to Halkidiki details what there is to see and do in the region along with details about getting there. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your time visiting Halkidiki.

Halkidiki has more than 340 miles of beaches and even more coastline. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Halkidiki has more than 340 miles of beaches and even more coastline. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Sights in Halkidiki

Even though Halkidiki is known for its beaches, it has plenty of archaeological sites to explore. If you see only one, take a boat tour to Mount Athos to view its monasteries.

Mount Athos

Mount Athos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to 20 Greek Orthodox monasteries. Greek law prohibits women from getting closer than 500 meters, and men must have a permit to visit. For tourists of either sex, a boat tour is the best way to experience Mount Athos. Tours leave from Ouranoupolis and last three hours. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses, especially if you plan to sit on the top deck.

Tip: Pack binoculars for better views of the monasteries.

Mount Athos is a UNESCO World Heritage site with 20 Greek Orthodox monasteries.

Mount Athos is a UNESCO World Heritage site with 20 Greek Orthodox monasteries. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Byzantine Tower in Nea Fokea

Built by the Byzantines in the 15th century, this tower stands watch over the port in the village of Nea Fokea. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations when I visited, but it was still an impressive site. You can also visit the Agioi Apostoloi church next door. Plan to spend about a half hour there, longer if you stop for lunch at one of the restaurants along the walk to the tower.

Holy Water of Saint Paul

Across the street from the port in Nea Fokea, look for a small parking lot and a chapel built into a rock. According to legend, Saint Paul stopped to drink water from a spring here while in the area nearly 2,000 years ago. Several rock steps lead into the cave-like chapel, and a passage continues to the water. It’s not for the claustrophobic. My friend traveling with me didn’t even enter the chapel, and I gave up before making it to the spring.

Saint Paul reportedly drank from the spring water in this cave, now a chapel. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Saint Paul reportedly drank from the spring water in this cave, now a chapel. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Olynthos

This impressive archaeological site features the foundations of the ancient city of Olynthos and its well-preserved mosaic tile floors. Nearby, in the village of Olynthos, you can see artifacts from the site at the Olynthos Museum. The museum also has a display giving an audio-visual tour of the ancient city if you can’t make it there.

Things to Do in Halkidiki

Need a break from archaeological sites? Halkidiki has incredible beaches, water activities, quaint villages, and more.

Beaches

Halkidiki features more than 90 Blue Flag-accredited beaches, which means they meet the high standards of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) for water quality, safety, and sustainability. On Halkidiki’s western shore, beaches like Nea Plagia, Dionysiou, and Flogita combine white sands and water sports, while Kassandra’s beaches add beach bars and nightlife to the mix. For surfing, head to Sarti on Sithonia (second finger). Or you can learn to dive in the area’s clear waters.

Halkidiki's beaches range from sandy stretches to more intimate coves. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Halkidiki’s beaches range from sandy stretches to more intimate coves. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Thermal Spa Agia Paraskevi

This spa boasts therapeutic waters that hover around 95° Fahrenheit on a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. You can soak in communal indoor or outdoor pools or individual hot tubs, enjoy a steam bath, or book a massage. Between treatments, lounge on chairs with a sea view as you sip on cooling drinks from the snack bar.

The Thermal Spa Agia Paraskevi overlooks the Aegean Sea. Photo by Teresa Bitler

The Thermal Spa Agia Paraskevi overlooks the Aegean Sea. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Polygyros

Polygyros, the capital of Halkidiki, is tucked in the mountains, making it the perfect day trip from the coast. Start at the new, interactive Archaeological Museum of Polygyros, which showcases regional artifacts from prehistoric times to the Roman period. Next, head to the Folklore Museum of Polygyros. Housed in the home of a former mayor, the museum features items ranging from kitchen utensils to farm tools and wedding attire. End with a trip to Andreadi Boutique Patisserie, where baker Kyriaki Andreadi crafts delicate pastries and sweets.

The Archaeological Museum of Polygyros displays ancient pottery like this. Photo by Teresa Bitler

Where to Stay in Halkidiki

Halkidiki offers a mix of resorts, hotels, vacation rentals, and campgrounds. Depending on where you stay, you will likely need to walk a short distance to the beach, which is public for the most part. Many resorts and hotel packages include breakfast or half board (breakfast and dinner).

Flegra Palace Hotel

Located on Kassandra, the Flegra Palace Hotel was one of my favorite hotels in Northern Greece. The hotel’s whitewashed buildings surround a large pool with a deck extending over one end, perfect for sipping cocktails or enjoying dinner. The breakfast buffet was plentiful and fresh, and I appreciated being able to order off a menu for dinner. If you have the time, book a spa treatment.

Philoxenia Hotel

The Philoxenia Hotel sits along the curved coast between Halkidiki’s first and second finger. It makes a good base for exploring inland or heading to Ouranoupoli for a boat tour of Mount Athos. It features two swimming pools and a large buffet for breakfast and dinner.

How to Explore Halkidiki

Thessaloniki Airport (SKG) is the nearest major airport to Halkidiki—however, most flights from the United States to Greece land in Athens. From there, you have two main options. You can take a flight from Athens International Airport (AIA) to Thessaloniki and rent a car there, or you can rent a car in Athens and drive to Halkidiki.

A third option is to take the train (35€ or about $38 each way) from Athens to Thessaloniki and, from there, transfer to a bus (2€ for a single ride). Buses run from the airport to the Thessaloniki station and continue to the region’s beaches.

For exploring, renting a car makes the most sense. Luckily, driving isn’t much different in Greece than in the United States. You don’t need an international driver’s license; your American driver’s license will suffice.

Tip: When reserving your car, be sure to specify you want an automatic if you don’t know how to drive a manual. Note that you will pay extra for an automatic, though.

After visiting Mount Athos, you can visit the Byzantine tower at Ouranoupolis. Photo by Teresa Bitler

After visiting Mount Athos, you can visit the Byzantine tower at Ouranoupolis. Photo by Teresa Bitler

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More Tips for Halkidiki

I recommend visiting Halkidiki in May, June, September, or October since the summer can be sweltering. The beaches will also be packed with European visitors then.

Depending on what you want to see and do, plan to spend at least three days visiting Halkidiki. This allows a full day to see Mount Athos, another day to explore sites around the region, and a final day to relax at the beach or the thermal spa. If you have extra time, explore the many villages in the area.

This ultimate guide to Halkidiki should help you maximize your time during your stay. If you have a few extra days, consider spending some time in Thessaloniki. We invite you to explore Wander With Wonder for more of our favorite things to do in Greece.

In Northern Greece, Halkidiki boasts sandy beaches, ancient ruins, thermal baths, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Read the Wander With Wonder article for what to see. | What to do in Halkidiki, Greece | Best places to visit in Greece | Where to stay in Halkidiki | Where to eat in Halkidiki | Travel Guide to Halkidiki

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The Ultimate Guide to Halkidiki, Greece

Written by Teresa Bitler

Teresa Bitler is an award-winning travel writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Way, Wine Enthusiast, and AAA publications. She’s also the author of two guidebooks (Great Escapes Arizona and Backroads and Byways of Indian Country) and a contributor to Fodors Arizona & The Grand Canyon. While Teresa would never miss a must-see attraction, such as the Statue of Liberty in New York City, her favorite travel experiences are the unexpected ones: KoolAid with a Hopi medicine man, lobster prepared by a local on a Belizean beach, or a ride in a World War II-era bomber.

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