Kassandra is the western-most prong of the Halkidiki trident, the tamest, the most popular and the most heavily populated of all the Halkidiki holiday regions. It is also the closest to the airport at Thessaloniki, although still a one to two-hour drive to most of the resorts.
Kassandra is characterised by white sand beaches and rocky, pine cloaked promontories. The main road runs down the west coast from Thessaloniki to the narrow neck of land that marks the main promontory, then runs down the east coast before forming a loop that follows the whole southern coastline.
Most of the big Kassandra tourist resorts are on the east coast, especially along the coastal beach strip from Kallithea to Pefkohori. In the west, Sani is the biggest resort with Skala Fourkas a close second. Most of Kassandra's fine beaches regularly pick up the annual Blue Flag award for their safety and cleanliness, as do many other beaches on Halkidiki.
As the nearest region to Thessaloniki, the Kassandra peninsula of Halkidiki has been the most heavily developed for tourism. Purpose-built hotels and apartment blocks have swamped once tiny villages, doing wonders for the local Halkidiki economy but little for traditional Greek culture. Restaurants have an American/Italian bias with steak burgers and pizzas the staple offering. Holidays in Kassandra tend to be restricted to the all-in hotel and beach as there is not a great deal to see if you decide to venture inland, just mile after mile of featureless road with the odd tacky Halkidiki cafe or roadside club to attract the eye. he beaches in Kassandra though are splendid and those holidaymakers looking for all-in beach holidays will find few better in the rest of Halkidiki. The Kassandra resort reports start in the north-west and work down towards the narrow neck of land at Nea Potidea. They then follow the east coast resorts down to the southern cape and finally the west coast resorts, from north the south, heading to Nea Skioni.
The first resort area reached out of Thessaloniki is Nea Kallikratia, about 35 kilometres south of the airport on the far north-west coast of Kassandra.
Nea Kallikratia is a huge holiday resort with several good beaches nearby, most notably Vargia beach which hoists the Blue Flag. Golden sand at Nea Kallikratia seems to stretch on forever.
The Nea Kallikratia town beach is packed with holidaymakers and day trippers but there are less crowded spots to be found further along the coast, most of them easy to reach.
The longest stretch of sand is the Geoponica-Mykoniatika, depending on which end you arrive, and also carries a Blue Flag. There is about one kilometre of golden sand on a 30-metre deep beach, backed by summer apartments and pine woods beyond them. The beach is a favourite with young people.
Nea Kallikratia itself has plenty of shopping and a very busy nightlife. There is a cinema, several parks, cafes, bars and restaurants.
The Azure beach is about 800 metres of sand in the central part of Nea Kallikratia near the main public square. This is very much a 'town beach' with all the usual tourist facilities and a pleasant public park nearby.
The resort of Nea Plagia was built by refugees 1924 on the site of a swamp and it has now turned into fertile farmland producing tomatoes, melons, melons, olives and grapes. The village has a population of around 1,200.
Nea Plagia resort has several long, clean and sandy beaches and several small and shady parks behind them. There are the usual ranks of sunbeds you expect on a popular beach and cafes and tavernas nearby.
The Nea Plagia sands are long and very deep and the water shallow, so it's a good beach for families. In the town behind there is every kind of shop, from supermarkets to confectioners as well as the usual bars, cafes and tavernas.
During summer months Nea Plagia village organises several cultural celebrations, with local dancing groups performing in the street and several folk art exhibitions on display.
The village resort of Nea Flogita was founded in 1923 by refugees from Turkey and today has a population of about 1,500, though the numbers swell to ten times that in the summer. It is found perched on the hillside about 45 kilometres from Thessaloniki.
Nea Flogita resort has a long, clean sandy beach stretching more than 1.5 kilometres along the shore and a good 100m deep and with natural shade behind, notably around 100 palm trees. A reef about 50 metres offshore helps keep the sea calm and it is shallow and sandy underfoot, making this popular with families.
There are long, well-paved roads for walks, many quiet family tavernas and dozens of cafes and bars to meet the tourist demand as well as nightclubs, even an outdoor cinema.
There are several archaeological sites within striking distance of Nea Flogita and excursions are organized daily from the village. Bus services are frequent throughout the summer season.
Dionisou is much prettified, purpose-built tourist resort with a long sandy beach located on the north-west coast of Halkidiki about 50 kilometres from Thessaloniki and about 3 kilometres north of Nea Moudania.
Tavernas and bars line the back of the deep, long and sandy beach on the inland side of a paved walkway that is dotted with street lamps, raised flowerbeds and occasional wooden benches. A line of tamarisks between the walkway and the Dionisou beach provides plenty of shade during the day.
The northern end of Dionisou beach curves out to a headland where the sand, and the crowds, eventually peter out. To the south, the beach gets deeper and sandier until the sunbeds eventually give out. The far south of Dionisou beach is ideal for those who prefer it less crowded, but there is little to be had in the way of shade.
Dionisou resort has a couple of large hotels and about 40 apartment blocks. Nearby is a fully equipped sports centre with swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts plus a soccer pitch and go-kart track.
Each evening Dionisou market traders set up stalls selling local farm produce, clothing and some crafts. Festivals in early August have dancing and drinking in the streets. There are frequent buses to Thessaloniki.
Nea Moudania is the main town resort on this stretch of coastline, about 60 kilometres from Thessaloniki and one of the biggest fishing ports in Greece.
About 6,500 people live there and the commercial port does a brisk trade in pilchard while industrial areas on the outskirts have light industrial units and packing plants.
Nea Moudania is wrapped in very fertile farming land and the surrounding plain is covered in apricot and peanut fields as well as the usual olive and citrus groves.
The beach at Nea Moudania is nothing special, just a narrow man-made strip of sand and shingle with rocks under the water. There are watersports galore though and tavernas and cafes line the beach. The rest of the town is stuffed with bars and restaurants so there is no shortage of entertainment.
The main sights at Nea Moudania are the huge basilica of Panagia Koryfini, a modern brick affair. The town has a 2,000 seat open-air theatre on the waterfront that holds summer concerts under the stars. Other interesting local sights include the Zografou Tower, a 14th century Byzantine tower, with a church built in 1842.
Nea Moudania is very much a small Greek town, not particularly geared up for tourists and favoured by those who enjoy a traditional Greek atmosphere in a working town. The commercial centre has retailers selling a wide variety of goods and each Wednesday there is a large outdoor market.
Above Nea Moudania town is an attractive three-aisle church, Panagia Koryfini and good views of the bay. The Archaeological Museum of Olynthos can be found on the archaeological site of ancient Olynthos about 5 km from Moudania.
During the summer Flying Dolphins connect Nea Moudania with Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos and Thessaloniki.
The resorts reviewed above can be thought of as the west Halkidiki area. It is not until the narrow neck of land at Nea Potidea that the Kassandra peninsula proper begins. A channel was cut across the peninsula in 300BC and virtually makes the peninsula an island.
The big Kassandra holiday resorts are concentrated on a long strip of sand and shingle that runs down much of the east coast and linked by the main east coast road. A right turn before Nea Fokea leads to the west coast resort of Sani and another, at Kallithea, hits the west coast at Siviri then forms a coast road loop linking all resorts around the south of the peninsula.
The eastern coastline of Kassandra, below Nea Potidea, has the bulk of the peninsula's holiday resorts. The main road runs down the coast before forming a large loop below Kallithea. It tends to be a bit breezier on this side of the island – not a disadvantage in the high summer – and the water is a bit more choppy. Roads are generally good and well maintained as in most of Halkidiki so it's not a problem if you want to visit several resorts during your stay.
One of the prettiest villages on Halkidiki, Nea Potidea is the first resort on the Kassandra peninsular proper, about 60 kilometres from Thessaloniki, and built where the neck of land is so narrow that a canal has been dug linking the Thermaikos Gulf to the west to the Toroneos Gulf in the east.
The channel at Nea Potidea was first dug about 300BC and fortified in 1426. The current village though dates from 1922 and has a population of about 1,500. In 1970 a decent bridge was built over the canal to replace an old pontoon.
There is a good port here and an attractive harbour area. The large, sandy beach at Nea Potidea has all the usual tourist facilities and there are small strips of sand and shingle along both sides of the peninsula, most of them backed by modern hotel complexes.
Nea Potidea has several good sights apart from the canal such as castle ruins, which are basically a wall about 1.2 kilometres long with square towers at various points. The Church of the Taxiarches dating from 1591 is worth a visit and The Monument of the Destruction of 1821 can be found on a wooded hill to the south.
Head two kilometres north from the east end of the Nea Potidea canal for a large sandy beach that can be deserted even on a busy weekend. Crowds congregate at a couple of beach bars near a watchtower and a track runs along the back of the beach for access to more remote spots.
Nea Fokea is a charming fishing village noted for its fish tavernas and traditional cafes and located about 60 kilometres from Thessaloniki. It is also noted for a remarkably well preserved Byzantine tower and fortress which dates from 1407 and stands on the headland overlooking the beach.
An attractive fishing harbour and pleasant beach add to the mix, which results in the normal population of 1,500 swelling to nearer 10,000 in the summer months.
The Nea Fokea resort is well developed, with visitors offered a wide range of accommodation, from luxury hotels to camping sites, but none of it could be called intrusive, helping the village to retain something of a traditional Greek character despite its 'nea' tag.
Nightlife in Nea Fokea is low key too, just a few music bars and its famous sea-food tavernas along the back of the beach, with views to the Toroneos Gulf.
There are several significant Nea Potidea historical sites besides the Tower, such as the Church of Apostle Paul, which is actually a cave and underground chamber where the apostle is thought to have hidden from his persecutors. There is the Nea Fokea Wildlife Reserve on the local Stavronikitas marshland.
Over the summer there are many cultural events held in Nea Fokea under the auspices of the Kassandra Festival and the village has a small Folklore Museum.
Afitos, or Athitos, is considered the most beautiful village on Kassandra. It's is built on a rock outcrop overlooking the Toroneos Gulf on the north-east side of the peninsula.
Fortunately, Afitos has been spared the attention of tourism developers and this is one of the few resorts that can now be considered pretty much unspoiled. Preservation orders and tight planning restrictions should help to keep it that way.
Cobbled streets of the old-world Afitos village are set on the hillside overlooking a white sand bay. Most of the old stone houses have been renovated and some streets repaved but they still breathe traditional Greek character.
Although Afitos village is ancient, most of the building dates from the mid 19th century, including the Church of Agios Dimitrios in the central square with its wooden-roofed basilica and dome and its rustic stone reliefs over the windows and belfry.
Other notable churches, such Agios Georgios, Agios Athanasios and Agios Nikolaos, date from roughly the same period. The old Afitos village houses worth seeking out are the house of Katsanis, the house of the painter Paralis and the house of the musician Mantakas.
The Afitos resort attracts thousands of visitors each year, mostly day trippers. The beach is relatively small but sandy in parts, rocky in others, with interesting rock formations offshore. There are several small coves around Afitos for those who like to escape the crowds.
Away from the shore, there are plenty of small cafes and tavernas serving mostly Greek dishes and plenty of hotels and apartments, none of them too intrusive. It is quite a trek up the steep paths away from the shore so this may not be the resort of choice for those with mobility problems.
Nightlife in Afitos is low key and relaxed, mostly focused on the few bars and a clutch of traditional tavernas. Those looking for excitement will head for nearby Kallithea. Shops sell local handicrafts and souvenirs.
Afitos has plenty of historical and environmental interest. Many fish come here to spawn, some native pines have their roots in the seawater of the Toroneos Gulf and there are ancient millstone quarries. The ancient quarry at Moudounou is to the east of the Afitos resort.
Kallithea, which means 'nice view', is probably the most popular beach resort in Kassandra. The resident population of about 500 is swamped by the annual intake of holidaymakers to the resort. It lies about 85 kilometres from Thessaloniki.
Pine trees fringe the long sandy Kallithea coastline, which is now liberally dusted with luxury hotels, giant apartment blocks and just about every other accommodation you could imagine, much of it unfortunately now dominating the beach.
Since the advent of package holidays in the 1970s Kallithea has become the most popular destination thanks to the pale sandy beach and clean shallow seas. The usual ranks of sunbeds line a Kallithea beach that offers all the watersports a tourist could wish for.
Built on the hillside, Kallithea not a great spot for those with mobility problems. The resort is heaving with restaurants and tavernas. Pizza, pasta, burgers and chips dominate menus with the occasional Greek dish if you are lucky. There are more bars and cafes a kilometre or so south of the main Kallithea resort.
There is no shortage of discos and music bars that throb through the night until dawn. Holidaymakers can also shop themselves stupid at the endless Kallithea gift shops.
For those more culturally inclined there are organised visits to several archaeological sites unearthed in the area including the 4th-century Sanctuary of Ammon Zeus, with the remains of a temple and altar and to the Sanctuary of Dionysus and the Nymphs, where a stone staircase is carved into a rock with a cave beneath.
The coastal resort at Kriopigi is built on steep hill and slopes around a small bay, about 90 kilometres from Thessaloniki. There are around 12 large hotels and scores of apartment blocks as well as camping.
Hotels based inland at Kriopigi can mean a steep climb down to the beach. There is a tourist train, but the first leaves after 9 am and the last leaves Kriopigi beach at 5.45 pm so early and late sunbathers face a steep walk uphill.
Another long stretch of beach is the main attraction at Kriopigi, although it is very narrow in places and mainly sharp shingle with sand patches here and there. It gets deeper at the southern end with the shallow water that is popular with families.
At the north end, pines sweep right down to Kriopigi beach to provide natural shade. Smaller and quieter coves can be found along the coast.
Again a small, traditional inland village has been swamped by the purpose-built tourist resort along the Kriopigi beach front. There are all the usual activities such as watersports.
Tavernas and restaurants line the long shore serving menus based on burgers and pizzas, although there are small traditional tavernas to be found. Nightlife in Kriopigi is low-key, not a lot to do unless you like music bars staying open late into the night.
The old Kriopigi village is worth a visit. Set on the hillside it has views across to Sithonia. Red-tiled roofs top whitewashed stone houses set in a labyrinth of narrow streets and beyond, on the hillside, are ancient olive groves and pine forest.
There are trips to the cool spring (krio pigi) that gives the Kriopigi village its name and to the ancient remains of an amphitheatre. Day trip boats leave Kriopigi for the Athos peninsula and its many monasteries, though landing passes are strictly limited and men only.
Recent visitors report street rubbish to be a problem in Kriopigi.
Polichrono is yet another mix of old and new, about 95km from Thessaloniki. The original Polichrono (which means very old) village is a little way inland.
Whitewashed houses with wooden balconies and topped with red tile roofs are decked with flowers at every turn of the narrow alleyways. Beyond Polichrono village the low hills are covered in olive groves.
Near the sea is the purpose-built Polichrono tourist resort straggling the 1km pebble and sand beach. The gently shelving shoreline is safe for children and popular with families although it doesn't get really sandy underfoot until you are quite a way out.
The focus is mainly on the long Polichrono waterfront that is lined with restaurants, cafes and tourist shops and when night falls the music bars provide low key entertainment for the visitors.
Near Polichrono is a small lake, a nature reserve of the 'testudinata' turtle, and full of wildlife.
Hanioti is a small, popular, bustling purpose-built, if slightly shabby, holiday resort just north of Pefkohori and about 95 kilometres from Thessaloniki. Hanioti is a favourite of couples and families, with plenty of modern apartment blocks and studios.
Nightlife in Hanioti centres on the main square and the side streets that lead off it. The main square is lined with cafes, bars and restaurants and is often heaving at night.
Street merchants come out at night offering everything from portraits to jewellery and there is usually Greek dancing at weekends. Cars are banned from Hanioti centre in the evenings.
There are plenty of tavernas to choose from as well as the usual bars, clubs and a few tourist gift shops. The Hanioti resort has very pleasant parks and small squares, often with a cafe or two nearby.
Hanioti beach is a very long strip of fine, gritty sand with banks of shingle which slopes quite sharply into the sea. Footwear is recommended and expect to find cigarette butts anywhere. A wide range of watersports is on offer at Hanioti. Many sunbeds are free if you use the local beach bar.
the old Hanioti village dates from the early 18th century and was once centred away from the beach, but tourist development has shifted it. Ruins of the old village and church can still be found.
Recent visitors report litter strewn about the resort and on Hanioti beach, although others have found the beaches clean and clear.
Pefkohori is about 100 kilometres from Thessaloniki and has been popular since the 1970s. There is a small village with a long, narrow sand and pebble beach backed by the pine forests that give the resort its name.
Much of the nearby forest was ravaged by major fires in 2006 and derelict fire-damaged homes litter parts of the Pefkohori countryside.
In Pefkohori resort proper there are several hotel complexes as well as studios, apartments and villas, many of them backing Pefkohori beach, which can be quite stony in places.
Pefkohori beach is about 300 metres long, and sandier at the southern end where there is a picturesque inlet. On some parts of the beach, the apartments are uncomfortably close to the sands. Pefkohori is a popular resort with weekending Greeks so it can get very crowded at times.
Narrow, winding streets link the old village to the new Pefkohori resort. The village has pavement cafes, boutiques and gift shops aimed at the tourist trade.
On the main Pefkohori beach strip, the enormously long palm-lined promenade is dotted with pizza parlours, steakhouses and burger bars as well as tavernas and cafes. At the northern end, a disco caters for those that enjoy late night noise.
Visitors describe Pefkohori as 'tacky' with souvenir shops, arcades and even a fun fair. The busy road behind the beach can be noisy with cars and motorbikes creating quite a din.
Those looking for an even more lively scene can head to Hanioti which is only just up the road. Other points of interest are the Monastery of Agios Ioannis of Rossou and the Glarokavos sea lake.
In summer Pefkohori resort holds sailing-boat races, called 'Itenba' are held here, based at the Glarokavos Marina.
Flying Dolphins and other ferry boats leave Pefkohori daily for the other Halkidiki ports of Ouranoupoli and Dafni.
The southern end of the Kassandra peninsula is relatively uninteresting. There are small coves to be found but swimming can be dangerous in the strong currents around the cape.
Down the east coast, the last resort of note is Paliouri where there is a small sand and stone beach backed by pine woods. There is no village as such, just a hotel complex, a couple of shops and a few villas.
Paliouri is noted for its honey and olive oil and it's very good walking country too with many tracks and roads through those parts of the forest that have survived the recent fires.
Paliouri beach has good sand and it is shallow for a long way out, so it's good for children. There are several small coves along this stretch of the coast for those that prefer solitude. To the north is a small pebble beach. It banks steeply into the sea though and it is notorious for sea urchins.
South, towards Cape Kanistro, are the tiny picturesque villages of Xinas and Agios Nikolaos, with small secluded bays, and the popular golden sand beach of Hrouso with a major campsite nearby.
Kassandra's west coast has fewer tourist resorts than the east. The only major resort is at Sarni but this requires a detour off the main road loop that runs around the island. Resorts, apart from Sarni, tend to be quieter. The west side of the island is more fertile than the east so the landscape tends to be less hilly.
Once a malarial swamp that was virtually unhabitable, Sani is now very much an upmarket resort with pristine beaches and an attractive marina full of expensive yachts. It is found about 70 kilometres south of Thessaloniki. Half a dozen hotel complexes dominate Sani beach which is a long, if narrow, strip of soft sand.
Sani beach is packed with sunbeds, courtesy of the hotels that also keep the sands very clean and tidy. There are the usual watersports and the water is shallow for quite a distance here, making it ideal for families.
Sani has a pretty harbour full of big, expensive yachts that make the place look and feel a little like a Greek Monte Carlo. Tavernas line the quayside around Sani marina, most with expensive menus but, apart from sitting in the tavernas there is not a lot else to do at night. The local hotels offer cut-price vouchers for the various tavernas and bars.
Sani is really aimed at those looking for a secluded, upmarket atmosphere. Some find it a little too quiet and head for Kallithea or Hanioti for a bit more nightlife but they are a fair distance away and Sani is a little cut off from its neighbours.
All kinds of shopping are catered for in Sani, from supermarkets to barbers, and there is an outdoor cinema with films aimed at families.
Since 1992 Sani has hosted a noted annual music festival during July and August. The Sani Festival celebrates jazz, folk and classical music as well as dance and art exhibitions.
Inland from Siviri in the centre of the Kassandra peninsula is the main town of Kassandria where the population of 3,500 swells tenfold in the summer. It's one of the oldest villages in Halkidiki, a settlement since the 16th century.
The town was destroyed in 1821 revolution but since then it has become the main commercial and administrative centre of the area. It has a big market as well as al the usual shops, tavernas and other services you'd expect in a town this size.
Kassandria village is surrounded by green forest and many of narrow streets are packed with quaint houses. Worth visiting are Cathedral of the Birth of the Virgin, the abandoned windmill and the Folklore Museum.
Siviri is one of the smaller and quieter resorts on this stretch of coast, about 95 kilometres from Thessaloniki. Siviri has a huge sand beach and many tavernas, restaurants, bars and shops.
Siviri is a very pleasant spot, surrounded by lush green forest and for a long, sandy beach. It's more of an up-and-coming resort, still a little off the beaten track with several apartments and family-run hotels.
There are several secluded sandy coves to the south of Siviri, although seaweed and underwater rocks can be a problem.
The Siviri resort is well known for its open-air theatres and for the annual Kassandra Festival, with many cultural events, concerts and plays.
The resort at Fourka is south of Siviri, about 103 kilometres from Thessaloniki, and splits quite severely into the old and new. The old traditional Fourka village is about two kilometres inland and a step back in time to whitewashed alleys and flower-strewn streets.
Along the shore, the beach resort at Skala Fourka is another world. Pinewoods and olive groves have been cleared away for a purpose-built tourist resort and a mess of modern hotels and apartments which has become a bit rundown over the years.
The beach at Fourka is quite small but the fine white sand shelves gently into the water where there is no end of watersports, from paddleboats to jet skis. A huge range of cafes, bars and restaurants caters for most needs – almost all aimed at the tourist market, but traditional Greek dishes can be found in one or two tavernas.
Bars provide plenty of nightly noise at Fourka and there is a large disco for early hours party-goers. Recent visitors report problems with packs of stray dogs, potholed roads and rather shabby buildings.
Possidi is one of the lesser known beach resorts on Kassandra it is located off the main south-west coast road about 105km from Thessaloniki, just east of Cape Kassandras.
Don't look for a village; Possidi is a purpose-built resort of hotels and apartment blocks. The most recognisable feature of Possidi is the small lighthouse that sits on the headland.
There is a huge swathe of sand backed by dunes and surrounded by pine trees. The sand at Possidi reaches out several hundred meters into the sea with plenty of room for sunbathing and swimming.
Possidi is a relatively relaxed resort in a peaceful area of the peninsula. Pine trees surround the beach which is backed by low rolling hills. There is little else to do other than sunbathe by the sea or hotel pool.
There is no nightlife to speak of in Possidi other than disco nights in hotel bars and shopping is also restricted to hotel outlets. There are a few cafes along Possidi beach but most visitors take their meals in the various holiday hotels.
The most excitement you can get is visiting the lighthouse which dates from 1864. There is also the remains of the ancient village of Mende with its castle ruins nearby, at the inland village of Kalandra.
Kalandra is nestled in olive and pine trees, with picturesque traditional houses and pleasant cafes. The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary also has very impressive murals.
Nea Skioni is found near the south-west tip of the Kassandra peninsula, about 110 kilometres from Thessaloniki. The resort is built around the large port, one of the best in the area and one of the biggest on the peninsula. It is usually packed with boats and surrounded by excellent fish tavernas.
The main village has only about 800 inhabitants, though this rises in summer as the many hotels and apartments in the area fill up with visitors. There is a small beach of sand and stone.
Worth seeing is the nearby village of Tsaprani and its Church of the Holy Trinity and nearby Church of Virgin Mary Phaneromeni, decorated with wall-paintings dating back to the 16th century.
A forest fire ravaged the area around Nea Skioni in 2006 and there is still plenty of evidence of the devastation to the surrounding woods. Several houses and villas were burnt as holidaymakers had to be evacuated.