The Halkidiki area is huge, but its tourist region is centred on two of three peninsulas, and much of the attraction comes from plentiful beaches and a quiet, laid-back atmosphere.
Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides believes that there are plenty of benefits to Halkidiki’s location. “The most western peninsula extends into the sea for 37 miles, and is narrow, so wherever the client is they are within close proximity to the sea. A client could choose a different beach every day without a problem.”
Planet Holidays managing director Mathilde Robert says: “Halkidiki is one of the most scenic parts of mainland Greece, popular with families and couples. I would suggest it to people who have been to, and liked, Crete.”
What to do
The forests and mountainous areas within Halkidiki make it an ideal destination for walking and hiking, while its beaches have a good choice of water sports, sailing and diving. Many operators suggest hiring a car and exploring the area outside the resorts, to visit traditional villages and authentic tavernas.
Thessalonika, about an hour’s drive from the main resorts, is the second largest city in Greece, and capital of the north. It’s a historical city, with Byzantine churches, yet at the same time very modern and a good spot for shopping.
Mount Athos, on the easternmost peninsula, has the biggest collection of monasteries in Greece, some dating back to Byzantine times. Though tourists can’t visit the monasteries, they can be seen from a distance by excursion boats that operate daily from Ouranoupolis.
Siviri has an amphitheatre where summer concerts are held, and there are plenty of archeological sites, such as Stagira, the birthplace of Aristotle. For those who want a taste of the islands, some resorts offer boat trips to nearby options such as Skiathos.
When to go
Halkidiki is much further north than any of the other popular Greek resorts and islands, so its season is slightly shorter, from May to September. The climate is more temperate, and the heat is more bearable in the high season compared with some of the more southerly islands.
Where to stay
Most of the resorts are on the western peninsula, Kassandra, while the central peninsula, Sithonia, is also relatively touristy. None of the resorts on Kassandra are overly lively, with the low-key nightlife of authentic-flavoured Hanioti a typical example. Fourka is a modern resort with shops, bars and restaurants and one disco.
The eastern peninsula is less developed, although some UK operators like Planet Holidays offer the Eagles Palace Hotel and Bungalows, which is ideal for clients looking for a quiet holiday far away from the crowds.
For a traditional Grecian experience Sunvil recommends Olymbiada, an unspoilt seaside village in the north-east, with good beaches and marked hiking trails.
When it comes to types of accommodation, there’s something to suit most pockets, according to Lambrianides. “The quality of hotels is excellent in the top range, with a string of five-star hotels,” he says. “But there is also an abundance of self-catering villas and family-run properties.”
At the top end, Eagles Palace and the Sani Resort on Kassandra are good bets. Sani comprises four hotels: the four-star Sani Beach Hotel, and three five-stars – the Sani Beach Club, the Porto Sani Village and Sani Asterias Suites, which are popular with couples. The resort is set within a 1,000-acre ecological reserve, and the complex includes a marina, 16 restaurants, 15 bars, an art gallery, sports centres, and leisure and water sports facilities.
Planet Holidays reports that it is becoming increasingly popular with groups who may be on different budgets and who can choose accommodation to suit their wallets but meet up during the day.
There are also plenty of options in the mid-range category – mainly small, family-run hotels.
Sunvil offers the two-star-plus Akroyiali Hotel in Olymbiada and its neighbouring sister property the Liotopi, with 17 and 16 rooms respectively. Accommodation is half-board, and most of the food is organic and home grown. Mountain bikes can be rented, and walking maps are provided.
Self-catering properties are also available for the budget-conscious. Halkidiki is featured by the main room-only suppliers, which can be dynamically packaged with easyJet flights to Thessalonika.
Reviews of Sani Beach Club
I honeymooned here and was really impressed. The staff are so helpful, you don’t have to lift a finger. The sea is crystal clear and the food was lovely. I would recommend going all-inclusive though, as it is expensive.”
A gazetteers user from Co-Op Travel, Leeds, on July 10
Really pretty setting, stunning views. Good to have so many options in resort – water sports, marina and lots of restaurants. The quality of food, the service and cleanliness was excellent.”
A gazetteers user from Thomas Cook, Swindon, on July 6
From agents on Gazetteers.com
What’s new for 2009
Neilson has introduced a two-week Stay and Sail flotilla course for this season at its Anastasia Beachplus Club property. Beginners start with a four-day introduction to yachting, then spend the second week onboard their own yacht, sailing around the Kassandra and Sithonia peninsulas.
Also new for this year, the Anastasia Beachplus Club spa is using Elemis products for all its treatments.
The Stay and Sail programme costs £959 per person for 14 nights in September, including breakfast, lunch and four evening meals during the first week, yacht instruction and use of all other watersports and sporting activities. neilson.co.uk 0845 070 3460
Sani Resort has included a selection of 1960s film classics for the first time in its annual Sani Festival, which began in mid-July and runs until the end of August. The festival includes art exhibitions, dance performances and concerts including jazz, African music and classical. Tickets costs between €10 and €15 for all Sani Resort guests.
Sani Beach Club, within the resort, completed its refurbishment at the start of the season, including a new creche and kids’ club and newly renovated bungalow style rooms and suites.
Planet Holidays offers seven nights’ B&B at the Porto Sani Village and Spa in a junior suite from 699 per person, including BA flights and transfers. Prices valid in September 2009 and May 2010. planet-holidays.co.uk 0871 871 2234
Sunvil Holidays has seven nights at the Miljes apartments in Olymbiada from £655 per person in August, including flights and transfers. The apartments have a pool, and are a 10-minute walk from the beach and village centre. sunvil.co.uk 020 8758 4758
Olympic Holidays has seven nights at the self-catering Anna Maria Apartments in Pefkohori for £385 per adult and £229 per child, in August. The operator also offers seven nights at the four-star Pallini Beach Hotel in Kalithea for £479 per person, in September. olympic holidays.com 0844 4994449
Youtravel.com has seven nights at the three-star Daphne Holiday Club Hotel in Chanoti for £270 per person in August. Youtravel.com also has seven nights at the five-star Alia Palace Hotel in Pefkhori from £342 per person, also in August. Both prices are for accommodation only. youtravel.com