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~WAS IT PUPPY LOVE? (For Greece) ~
Back in the 1970s while at secondary school I went on a school trip. My school's geography teachers had cleverly planned this trip, choosing to take a large group of fourteen and fifteen year olds on a Mediterranean cruise. As school pupils, we couldn't believe our luck. Once the ship sailed away from Naples we weren't quite so sure about it though. Well, we learned some geography and the teachers developed nice suntans! It proved not to be quite the holiday we had anticipated. The school section of the ship was poor; we slept in a dormitory, low down in the ship, so no portholes. We were all very sea sick. The portions of food were meagre and it was pretty awful too. We hadn't been warned that we would have to attend lessons and do homework; but this was still a great and affordable way to see some foreign shores. In fact it was it was probably this cruise which began my love of foreign places.
We visited various countries over the two weeks spent cruising the med and one of them was a place called Katakalon, in mainland Greece. I and my school mates absolutely loved our taster of Greece. We started our day early and were driven by coach past picturesque villages, on our way to visit Mount Olympus. To us London girls it was so strange to see men riding on donkeys with their wives walking along bedside them, carrying baskets full of lemons. This was the seventies and although equal pay for women hadn't quite become the norm we knew all about burning bras. But we loved the foreignness of the place; the aroma of the pine clad hills and the sight of olive groves. This enjoyment of Greece and its islands has remained with me for many years. When I began journeying in later years to foreign climes I wondered would I still feel the same about this country.
For many years my family's holidays took place in England, and very enjoyable they were too. Then a time came when we were able to spend a little more on holidays and also, to be honest, it helped when the eldest two were off on their own holidays, leaving only the younger two of our brood to take away with us. We visited some places around the Mediterranean and had some lovely holidays, but it took a while to convince my husband that he would enjoy going to places Greek I think he had become comfortable with Spain and was also maybe a little put off by the fact that Greek plumbing leaves a lot to be desired; the thought of using bins for lavatory paper rather than flushing it down the loo didn't' appeal at all. But, eventually he gave in and we have now visited places such as Crete, Corfu and Cyprus (alright Cyprus isn't really a Greek island but the regions that we have been to are essentially Greek) and Halkidiki.
I looked in travel brochures and on the internet for suitable holiday areas in mainland Greece. I felt that Halkidiki might be a good choice for two adults and two almost adults. Of course if they were the clubbing type then this might not have been as good a choice but luckily they weren't and still aren't particularly.
I'm glad that we chose Halkidiki. The hotel we stayed at was lovely but had some downsides but the location; we felt, was wonderful for us. I would love to return there soon.
~ HALKIDIKI OR CHALKIDIKI ?~
Halkidiki, also referred to as Chalkidiki, is Greece's famous trident. It's southeast of Greece's second largest city of Thessalonika. The area is served by the airport at Thessalonika. It took us a coach transfer of over two hours, to get to our hotel in Kalithea, from the airport, but we enjoyed the ride. The trident is made up of three peninsulas, reaching out into the shimmering Aegean Sea . The peninsulas are Athos, Kassandra and Sithonia. Our hotel was in Kalithea,on the Kassandra peninsula, which is probably the most popular with overseas visitors, although, I understand the other areas have many charms. Sithionia is particularly scenic.
~ FUN IN THE SUN ~
Weather temperatures range from 54 degrees f (12 c) highs in January to 86 degrees f (30c) in August.
It rained while we were on our August holiday to Halkidiki. It was raining when we arrived and there were a few more days when we experienced some rainfall. However, no day was without sunshine. The rain seemed to fall heavily for a while but then would stop and the sun would shine and soon the puddles would evaporate and the skies would be blue and the temperature hot.
Night-time was hot, but not too hot whist outside. In the hotel room we usually needed the air conditioning on at a low setting.
Really the weather suited us as it was mostly hot and with clear skies, but not as hot as usually experienced in Cyprus, for instance. It was hot when travelling around but still pleasant enough to want to go out and about.
~ COME ON IN; THE WATER'S LOVELY ~
Golden, sandy beaches galore are to be found in Halkidiki. In the Kallithea area the beach was sandy although there were rocks here and there guarding the way into the sea, but investing in a pair of pool shoes means the way in should be both safe and manageable, especially as the water is very clear and rocks and stones can be easily seen.
Once in the sea, in summer at least, is wonderful. Really, who would want to be anywhere else? It's as warm as a bath and the view out to sea is marvellous.
For water sports enthusiasts there is plenty of choice. All of the usual; parascending, jet skis, banana boas, fun rafts etc.
All around this area are places to partake of half, or whole days boat excursions or fishing trips. I always try to go on at least one boat trip when in hot places. I find being on a boat to is a cooling way to see some sites while enjoying the sun without overheating. Myself and my husband enjoy a swim but we aren't expert, and I especially am not a strong swimmer, for those that are, then these trips often come with the bonus of the boat anchoring in a secluded spot so that and swimming or snorkelling can be experienced.
~ GET OUT IN THE COUNTRY ~
Halkidiki offers many sandy beaches and just as much in beautiful scenery. I suppose like many places it has become commercialised to some extent, and the main roads can be busy and even littered somewhat, but there are picturesque villages a plenty to be seen, tavernas and sea views to be enjoyed.
The villages in this area remain low rise and sit comfortably with their environment.
We visited a few of these and found them pleasant and friendly.We saw 'old' Greece, with women dressed in black sweeping doorsteps whilst men with brown wrinkled faces played cards outside as they drank strong coffee from tiny cups, sitting amiably alongside the more modern young Greece with pleasant restaurants which had some modern features such as internet facilities and sometimes a pool table or two. Dotted here and there were the obligatory souvenir shops. Restaurant proprietors were happy to serve a meal or just drinks. They also would arrange a taxi for the return journey back to the hotel.
~ WHERE TO REST ONE'S HEAD ~
There are many hotels, guest houses and cottages to accommodate the visitor in this area. Some of the hotels are quite upmarket and expensive such as the Sani Beach resort, but fortunately not all of them are. I would think that a holiday on a tight budget should be possible here; after all, once you're in Greece you don't need to spend too much. The entertainment, in my opinion, is to be had in the views, swimming in the sea and eating out in Greek tavernas, dining on olives, feta cheese, salads and dolmades and, of course, sampling local wines or perhaps even ouzo.
We stayed in an all-inclusive hotel, but if I were to return without any youngsters, then I think myself and my husband might well be tempted to stay on a bed and breakfast basis, our requirements being simple, which would make it more likely for us to enjoy the local restaurants.
Hotels here vary;some being more imposing than others but I the area where I stayed I felt that they lent themselves well to the ambience of the locality.
~ DON'T FORGET YOUR CAMERA ~
We mainly visited Halkidiki for a chill out holiday in a beautiful location but we still found the energy to do some touristy things. Many of our trips out involved taking a bus ride past olive groves and pine covered hills, to stop at a village enjoying lunch and having a dip in the sea but there are other things to do.
Poligiros is Halkidiki's capital. It is 69 km from Thessalonika. The town has been built on the foothills of Mount Holomonta. This is a town of historical importance in the area. In the year 1821 a local farmer was murdered here by Turkish soldiers, which resulted in the populace attacking and killing the Turks, thus the Turkish army were later forced to retreat from the area.
As well as churches, parks and wonderful views over the surrounding area, there can also be found museums such as:
*The Archaeological Museum Of Poligiros and
*The Folklore Museum.
I didn't actually visit these museums so can only mention that they are there waiting for those who are interested. Not that I wasn't interested but two weeks flies by when you're having fun in the sun. There's never enough time to do everything you want to do.
*Mount Athos also known as Agion Oros, the 'The Holy Mountain',is an important site in the region. Mount Athos contains many monasteries strictly ruled, so strict in fact that I along with all of my gender, am not actually allowed inside them. There are excursions along the coast here, in the form of cruises, passing Mount Athos monasteries and continuing on to the port of Ouranoupolis, where there is a good selection of tavernas.
~ OVERALL THOUGHTS ON HALKIDIKI ~
In my opinion Halkididki has something for everyone but if you're looking for somewhere lively, such as Benidorm, Magaluf or Faliraki then it won't really be for you. There are nightclubs to be found here and there, unfortunately some fast food outlets can be found, but Halkidiki is authentically Greek, and proud of it.
Kalithea is a little varied. We found the coast side pleasant and pretty, but along the road not as scenic. There were a few shops and bars but nothing much that near to the hotel. For us this didn't matter too much although a few more places close by would have made for pleasant after dinner strolls.
From my observations Halkidiki is a great palce for all ages, but if wanting lots of hotel facilities, then check carefully before booking, although this isn't always that easy to do. We did like our hotel but thought it wasn't well suited to teenagers or young adults.
Chalkidiki or Halkidiki is an area near Thessaloniki (2nd biggest city in Greece). Halkidiki is consisted of the mainland and 3 peninsulas (or 3 'legs' of Halkidiki as we call them) that are full of lovely beaches for all tastes. Halkidiki used to attract lot tourism from Germany, but lately the main tourism comes from East Europe and the Balkans. It is a great place in the summer as long as you know where to go and you need to rent a car or a bike to access as many beaches as possible. You will find 'all inclusive' packages in Internet and many tourists prefer them. I wouldn't recommend it, because
a)there are hotels for all tastes and budgets, but generally they are not anything special to justify spending all your holiday in the hotel
b)there are so many beaches worth to see and usually these are not the ones in front of the hotel
In the mainland there are traditional villages that are good choice for winter mountain tourism, offering thermal spas and great tavernas (local restaurants with barbecue choices in the menu etc): the best one is Taxiarhis. There are also ancient ruins and museums in some places, like the ancient city of Olinthos.
Each of the 3 legs has something different to offer.
The first leg is the more lively, attracts mainly young people, with plenty exotic beaches, beach bars, clubs and 'bouzoukia' (bars with live local music and dancing). The busiest places are Kalithea, Kriopigi and Pefkohori. If you drive further down the first leg, there are even nicer beaches called 'Aigaiopelagitika' or 'Piratis. Lovely turkuaz waters and long sand beaches.
Another village that it worths visiting is 'Afitos' - a beautiful village, built on a hill with traditional style stone houses and breathtaking views... and some lovely tavernas for local fish and meat tastes (SOS: in Halkidiki and generally in Greece, you must try the fish and seafood in the local tavernas - it has nothing to do with 'fish & chips' - big variety and fish tastes that you won't expect). Only thing for Afitos is taht the sea is rocky, but there are other choices nearby.
*** You will find sea sports facilities, beach bars etc to many beaches.
Personally, the first leg is not my cup of tea, especially when it is too busy (July-August) and I definitely prefer the second leg, which offers more natural beauty and it is still much quitter and wilder than the first leg. The second leg is greener and the combination of forests and sea is magnificent. The trees some times are a few meters away from the waves... You will find some lovely beaches at Vourvourou, especially the beach 'Karidi' and the beach 'Kavourotripes', both a bit outside Vourvourou. Kavourotripes used to be a nude beach and known to a few people only, as it is hidden and difficult to access it, but now it is quite popular and unfortunately open to 'free camping', making the beach a bit dirty in the busy months. A beautiful town with loads of shops and tavernas is Marmaras.
The third Leg or 'Mountain Athos' is a religious place with many monasteries and is open to men for religious tourism only. Special laws and regime apply to this area and no woman has ever been there... there are some beaches at the beginning of the leg, before the monastery area starts, which are open to the public. These are really quite beaches and started developing the last years as 1st and 2nd leg get crowded.
Disadvantages for Halkidiki:
a)the locals... you will meet people with no manners and no 'hospitality' sense whatsoever... unlike the rest of north Greece.
b)prices are high considering the service most shops/hotels offer and compared to other international destinations.