Beautiful Kalamitsii Beach on the east coast of Sithonia on Halkidiki, Greece.

6 reasons to visit Halkidiki, Greece

Planning a trip to the Halkidiki Peninsula? Here are our top picks...

Stay: La Mer Apartments

Experience: Kayak to Diaporos Island

Day trip: Mt Athos and Ammouliani's island

Sailing trip: West Sithonia islands and Porto Carras

Car rental: Compare rates with Discover Cars

Just an hour's drive south of Greece’s lively second city, Thessaloniki, the Halkidiki Peninsula remains fairly unknown to foreign tourists. But Greeks discovered this northern paradise long ago with its long white-sand beaches, fresh local cuisine, and wild mountain forests.

Though the main resorts are accessible by public transport, it’s best to hire a car to fully explore the off-the-beaten-path gems in Halkidiki.

Visit from June to September and you can expect warm sunny beaches, and lower prices than in the southern regions. Shoulder season is also a great time for hiking and discovering more of the rugged mainland.

Halkidiki’s “three legs” are made up of the Kassandra Peninsula, Sithonia Peninsula, and Mount Athos. The latter is best known for the holy monasteries of hilly Mount Athos, while Sithonia is great for hiking and cycling, and Kassandra is popular for its stunning beaches.

The sandy Paliouri Beach on Kassandra Peninsula, Halkidiki, Greece

1. Halkidiki has beaches that rival any Greek island

Halkidiki is the No.1 Blue Flag destination in Greece with over 100 beaches to choose from. Many have white or golden sands, sheltered bays, and calm shallow waters that are perfect for swimming in.

The main resorts of Kallithea, Kriopigi or Hanioti cater to every need with beach loungers, cafes and bars for relaxing away the day.

But venture a little further afield and you can find hidden gems like Paliouri Beach on the south of the Kassandra peninsula.

Porto Koufo Beach on the Sithonia Peninsula is another beautiful, naturally protected slice of sand surrounding Greece's deepest natural harbour.

The Holy Monastery of Simonopetra at Mt Athos, Greece

2. Halkidiki is home to Mount Athos

The monastic state of Athos is second only to Jerusalem as one of the most important sites of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians.

Though there are strict rules, limits on numbers, and permits required for men to visit (women aren’t allowed at all), it is possible for anyone to take a boat trip around Athos to admire the impressive ‘heavenly city’ from the water.

Hanging on the cliff's edge are over twenty monasteries, protecting the secretive and reclusive lives of the Athos monks. Visit from the gateway resort town of Ouranoupoli and see the Byzantine tower, shop for local produce from the monasteries, or enjoy the views from one of the waterfront tavernas.

People bying fruit and vegetables at a market in Nea Kallikratia, Greece

3. It has some of Greece's freshest food

If you have travelled to Thessaloniki you will already know that the region has some of the best produce in Greece. The mountains and lowland areas around Thessaloniki, including Halkidiki, supply the city with fresh ingredients and local products that the islands further south can only dream of.

Halkidiki is best known for its world-renowned honey, but there are also olives, dairy products, refined wines, and fresh seafood straight from the Aegean Sea.

The fertile valleys and plains surrounding Mt Holomontas in the central region of Halkidiki are abundant with olive groves, vineyards, orchards, and apiaries.

Visit one of Greece's busiest fish markets in Nea Moudania, try spoon sweets from local women's cooperatives, or visit Vrastama to sip on tsipouro.

View to the sea from top of a hill, in Sithonia, Greece

4. Halkidiki is great for outdoor adventures

Did you know that Halkidiki is a top cycling destination with over 100 kilometres of bikeable routes? The quieter and more rural Sithonia Peninsula is the perfect place to rent a bike and explore the quaint villages and wild landscapes.

Visit the traditional village of Agios Nikolaos and wander through its shady pine trees - it's a top spot to go shopping for local olive oil, honey and wine.

Or take it slow and go hiking in the forests surrounding Ithamos mountain range, best known for its rare Itamos trees. Start at the small hamlet of Parthenon, which is worth a look around too as it's like an open-air village museum.

There are also ample opportunities for swimming, snorkelling and diving on the Halkidiki peninsulas. Divers can expect to find shipwrecks, steep drop offs and overhangs, and rich underwater flora with an abundance of marine life.

Stalactites and stalagmites in the Petralona Cave in Halkidiki, Greece.

5. There’s ancient history to uncover

It’s not just the beaches and the food that makes Halkidiki worth a visit. Take a trip to Petralona Cave (note, the cave is currently closed) to uncover the story of Europe’s oldest known man - believed to have died over 700,000 years ago.

In 1959, villagers discovered the skull of an early human, along with other skeletons of the time like panthers, lions, bears, elephants, and rhinos.

Travel to the foot of Katsiki (Goat) mountain (about 50 km southeast of Thessaloniki) to take a guided tour through the cave system which is rich with stalactites and stalagmites.

You can see the ‘Petralonas Hoard’ at Thessaloniki’s Archaeological Museum, along with several other discoveries at the Anthropological Museum of Petralona - adjacent to the cave itself.

A boat on a cruise to islands near Halkidiki

6. You can still go Greek island hopping

Part of the charm of Halkidiki is that it’s much quieter than Greek islands like Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes. But you don’t have to skip a spot of Greek island hopping if you’re travelling here. While Halkidiki only has one inhabited island, the quaint island of Ammouliani, there are others that are also worth a visit.

Visit Ammouliani from the port of Ouranoupoli, situated in the calm protected bay between Athos and Sithonia. Wander around traditional houses with flowers adorning postcard-worthy window sills and fishermen's nets littering every backyard. Ammouliani was settled by refugees from the Propontis islands who brought with them their fishing traditions and unique cuisine.

Next, head to the Drenia Isles or ‘Donkey Islands’ for its secluded beaches and diving opportunities. Catch a boat from Ouranoupolis to Drenia, the largest islet, to relax at one of two beach bars on a complimentary deck chair.

Boats run from 10 am to 7 pm and the price of a return ticket is just €7 per person. If you prefer complete solitude you can also make your own way by kayak (guided tours are also available) to one of the other six rocky outcrops, peppered with hidden coves and noiseless lookouts.

Share this article

Jo Williams

Author - Jo Williams

Jo Williams is a freelance writer with 10 years' experience working in travel and tourism. A Brit who got fed up with the 9 to 5 corporate life, she sold everything to become a full-time wanderer.

Jo has travelled to over 70 countries and worked throughout Europe for a major tour operator. She hopes to inspire you to work less and travel more.

Last Updated 22 January 2024

Chora village and the old harbour of Astypalea island in Greece


In many ways, Greece is the perfect holiday destination. From white, sandy beaches and clear waters to amazing food and historical sites, Greece has you covered.