Halkidiki, sometimes spelt Chalkidiki, is the triple-pronged peninsula that lies on the north-east coast of mainland Greece. The Halkidiki region is primarily served by the international air and ferry ports at Thessaloniki and its characteristic three pointed prongs are called Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos, separated by two large bays.
Halkidiki is noted for its long, sandy beaches, deep coves and fast-developing tourist resorts. Kassandra, to the west and nearest the airport, has seen the heaviest influx of tourism with purpose-built resorts all around the coast.
The middle prong of Halkidiki is Sithonia – more hilly and wilder than neighbouring Kassandra and very popular with campers, although luxury hotel resorts can also be found.
The third prong of Halkidiki is Mount Athos or Holy Mountain. Athos is wilder still than both its neighbours. The Athos area is almost wholly given over to Christian Greek Orthodox monasteries, established there since the 9th century, with tourists strictly confined to the northern end of the peninsula.
Women are banned from stepping onto monastic land on Athos and male visitors need a special permit to go ashore. Most tourists are reduced to skirting the peninsula on daily boat trips.
Halkidiki's peculiar geography gives the province the longest single stretch of coastline in Greece at around 500km and much of it made up of sandy beaches and deep bays
Most of the beach holiday resorts throughout the region are easy to reach thanks to an extensive and well-maintained road system, although public transport tends to peter out in Sithonia.
Kassandra is the most popular 'leg' of the Halkidiki peninsula as it is closest to the ferry and airport services of Thessaloniki.
Both the east and west coast are blessed with large beach resorts and long sands. There is plenty of good holiday hotel accommodation linked by a good road.
The atmosphere tends to be more international than Greek, with the biggest resorts on the east coast. The west coast is quieter and much more secluded.
Sithonia is less commercialised than its western neighbour Kassandra and has more luxury upmarket resorts interwoven with small fishing ports.
Camping is very popular on the Sithonia peninsula and many beaches are backed by holiday campsites. Roads are good but bus services are few.
Outside the high-end luxury hotel resorts, Sithonia has a rural Greek atmosphere and more character than Kassandra.
Athos is the least populated of the Halkidiki peninsulas with holiday resort hotels restricted to the northern region.
Most of the Athos peninsula is a closed 'monastic state' with severe limitations on entry and tourist activity restricted to offshore boat trips.
Nevertheless many consider north Athos to be the most attractive area of Halkidiki, although there is far less provision here in the way of public transport.
Halkidiki (or Chalkidiki) is located in northern Greece, about 100 kilometres from Thessaloniki. Halkidiki is formed from three peninsulas of Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos. Halkidiki is relatively easy to reach because of airport, ferry, road and rail connections at Greece's second city of Thessaloniki. Most Halkidiki holidaymakers fly into Thessaloniki airport on package tours and get bussed out eastwards to the various resorts.
Independent travellers can reach Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos by bus from both Athens and from Thessaloniki. The usual route is Thessaloniki by plane, boat or train and then a bus to Nea Moudania or Poligiros and travel from there onto the resort of choice. German and East Europeans often travel by rail or road to Thessaloniki.
Thessaloniki Airport (SKG) is the third biggest in Greece and handles around 4 million passengers annually. The airport is located about 14 kilometres from Thessaloniki city centre. It is the main airport of Northern Greece and it not only serves the city of Thessaloniki, the second largest in Greece after Athens, and the tourist holiday resorts of Halkidiki but also the cities of the Macedonia region.
Visitors say the airport is not really geared for tourist traffic – public transport information is difficult to find, the tourist office is often closed and bus stop information is in Greek only. There are plans for a major expansion of the terminal and some say it can't come too soon.
Thessaloniki has services you would expect from a major airport including restaurants, banks, VIP lounges, left luggage, duty free and 24-hour car parking.
There is a 24-hour bus service to Thessaloniki, where visitors to Halkidiki can catch a bus to Nea Moudania or to Poligiros, in Kassandra, where they can travel on to the resort of their choice. Regular bus services also run to both Sithonia and Athos.
The port of Thessaloniki is easily reached from the city centre. Ferries arrive regularly from the Sporades islands (Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos, Skyros), some of the Cyclades islands ( Tinos, Mykonos, Syros, Paros, Naxos, Santorini, Limnos, Mytilene, Chios), several Dodecanese islands (Rhodes, Kos, Kalymnos, Leros, Patmos) and the Greek mainland ports at Pilion, Volos and Piraeus (Athens) as well as Heraklion in Crete.
NEL Lines is the main ferry company operating in Thessaloniki with twice weekly sailings from Lesbos, Limnos, Chios and Samos.
In addition to regular ferries, there are several Flying Dolphin passenger services including Hellas Flying Dolphins A.N.E service to Moudania.
Passengers should bear in mind that ferry schedules can change with many more services during the summer months. Bad weather can also affect services, especially the Flying Dolphin routes.
The Halkidiki road network is generally very good and resorts can be reached easily by car and bus. There are car rental agencies at Thessaloniki Airport and in Thessaloniki itself. The distance to Kassandra is about 78km and it takes about 90 minutes to drive there.
Halkidiki buses Buses for Halkidiki are not in the main Thessaloniki station but located in the eastern part of the city. Buses leave from the KTEL bus station about every hour from 5.40 am to 9 pm with services more frequent in the summer. Buses run to all the main Kassandra resorts, though they thin out in the south. The main resorts with daily buses (in brackets) are Kallikratia (17), Nea Moudania (17), Kassandria (12), Kallithea (12), Paliouri (7).
Most resorts in Sithonia have only one of two buses a day, more in summer. There are services from Thessaloniki and Poligiros to both west and east coast resorts. The main routes are to Gerakini – Metamorfosi – Nikiti; to Agios Nikolaos and then Vourvourou and Armenistis. From Polygyros there are services to Gerakini, Psakoudia, Metamorfosi and Marmaras in the west and to Vourvourou, Armenistis, Sarti, Sikia and Kalamitsi in the east.
Details of Halkidiki bus schedules are on this site with pages in English and Greek. Most resorts in Athos are best reached by hire car or motorbike as bus services are infrequent.
It is usual for most towns and villages in Halkidiki to have one or two licensed taxi drivers, often more. The main taxi centres are at Thessaloniki (231 0266406l) , Poligiros (231 011460) and at Nea Moudania (237 022303). If you need a taxi in the resort you can usually find one locally.
Halkidiki has a huge variety of holiday accommodation for all tastes and budgets. Hotels in Halkidiki tend to be quieter and a little more upmarket than on the Greek islands. Relatively restrained development in many of the resorts also means that Halkidiki hotels and other accommodation tend to score higher for atmosphere.
Kassandra peninsula resorts are noted for sandy beaches and attractive villages. Family hotels are more likely to be found in Kassandra while the luxury hotels are more likely sited on the Sithonia peninsula. The biggest range of cheap hotels is found in Kallithea – the resort with the liveliest nightlife.
Budget hotels and cheap apartments can be found throughout the region and Halkidiki has several well-equipped campsites as it's popular with campers from Germany and Eastern Europe. Camping sites on Halkidiki include Thalatta and Tsitreli camping sites at Kalamitsi. In Sithonia is Camping Melissa and Linaraki Camping on the beach at Sikia and Akti Oneirou between Vourvouri and Sarti while Armenistis Camping lies just a little further south. Nearer Thessaloniki is Kouyoni Camping at Gerakini Beach