Halkidiki is a region in Northern Greece that is home to three beautiful peninsulas and over 1000 beaches. It is Greece’s longest coastline, covering over 550 kilometres. The region is also filled with beautiful pine trees so it often feels like a giant forest with lots of beaches.
Halkidiki doesn’t really do giant long statement beaches like Brazil or Australia. Instead, it has many smaller, charming beaches and lots of little coves. As the region has so many of these little beaches no matter what time of year you visit Halkidiki you’ll be sure to be able to find a spot on the type of beach you like.
Of course, I wasn’t able to visit all the 1000 beaches in Halkidiki. I did get to quite a few but I also asked the locals I met as well as the tourism boards to tell me their favourites. This article is focussed on that advice, what I saw, as well information I was able to gain about facilities, sand type, etc etc.
Beaches are wonderful but you still need to be fed and the weather can change. So I’ll also cover some of the best things to do around the beaches of Halkidiki and share some great restaurant and hotel recommendations.
Halkidiki Beaches – The Set Up
Table of Contents
- Halkidiki Beaches – The Set Up
- Blue Flag Beaches
- Kassandra Peninsula
- Kassandra Beaches
- 1. Afitos/Athytos Beach
- 2. Kallithea Beach
- 3. Kryopigi Beach
- 4. Pefkochori Beach
- 5. Hroussou Beach
- 6. Loutra Beach
- 7. Skala Fourkas Beach
- Things to do in Kassandra
- 1. Visit the Byzantine Tower in Nea Fokea
- 2. Visit a foodie vineyard that doesn’t produce wine
- 3. Explore the extremely cute Afitos
- 4. Visit the Sanctuary of Zeus Ammon
- Kassandra Restaurant Recommendation
- Where to Stay on Kassandra
- Sithonia Peninsula
- Sithonia Beaches
- 8. Nikiti Beach
- 9. Elia Beach
- 10. Karydi Beach
- 11. Rodia Beach
- 12. Kavourotrypes Beach
- 13. Kouviou Beach
- Things to do in Sithonia:
- 1. Visit a pop up art exhibtion
- 2. Explore the Old Town of Nikiti
- Sithonia Restaurant Recommendation
- Where to stay in Sithonia
- Don’t Miss Things to Do in Halkidiki
- 1. Athos Boat Cruise
- 2. Have lunch in Ouranoupoulis
- 3. Visit the Birthplace of Aristotle
- 4. Enjoy the Famous Mussels of Olympiada
- 5. Have a genuine boutique hotel stay
- How to Get to Halkidiki and Get Around
The Halkidiki region is in the northeast of Greece. The inland of the region is home to some magnificent mountains and it is very popular amongst hikers. However, Halkidiki is best known for its three “fingers” or peninsulas.
Like the rest of Greece, Halkidiki has low tides. This means that they are quite limited due to the country’s location. The effect of this is that the size of Halkidiki beaches is fairly consistent across the day.
The first finger is the peninsula of Kassandra. This is the region that is closest to Thessaloniki and it is the most developed of the three. If you’re after lots of facilities, nightlife or a busy social beach holiday this is the region for you.
The second finger is Sithonia. The heart of Sithonia is Mount Itamos and it has a much slower pace than Kassandra. This is where to head if you’re after a quiet and regenerative type of beach holiday.
The third and easternmost finger is the beautiful Athos, home to the stunning Mount Athos. There are beaches and towns at the top of the Athos peninsula but far fewer facilities. However, the majority of the peninsula is a separate religious state which women are prohibited from entering. More about this later!
To really get the most out of the region do hire a car. It is very easy to get around and there is lots of parking.
Blue Flag Beaches
The Blue Flag is a universal eco symbol that is recognised all over the world. In order to become a blue flag beach 13 different criteria much be achieved. These range from water quality to toilets to accessibility to hospitality.
There are over 90 Blue Flag accredited beaches in Halkidiki.
Halkidiki’s most bustling westernmost peninsula, the beaches on the east side of the peninsula are more developed and have far more facilities than those on the west. The tip of the island is mountainous with a small number of beaches.
Beaches on the west coast of the peninsula are not as glossy as those on the east but they get beautiful sunsets and they’re still nice beaches, especially Loutra. Most of the water at the beaches is quite shallow so this is a popular area for families.
1. Afitos/Athytos Beach
The charming stone village of Athytos has two beaches, one on each side of the village. They are both small with beautiful clear blue water. Both have restaurants and taverns.
2. Kallithea Beach
Kallithea has a beautiful white sandy beach in front of the town and lots of facilities. Zeus Ammon is next to the beach (more later on this site).
3. Kryopigi Beach
This beach sits on top of a hill and consists of a number of small coves with white sand and turquoise water. The town is also home to Trizoni, one of the best fish restaurants in Greece or for something more casual try Anthoula’s Tavern.
If you’re heading south from Kryopigi the next two beaches, Polichrono and Hanioti, are very busy and popular with tourists. Hanioti in particular is great for families and those seeking an active beach day.
4. Pefkochori Beach
This is a sand and pebble beach so it isn’t the softest. However, it does have a nice strip of cafes etc and loads of restaurants. Mamalouka has a good name – it’s the summer version of a successful Thessaloniki restaurant with a boho Greek chic feel.
5. Hroussou Beach
This was my favourite beach in Kassandra. It’s s small cove of light golden sand. It comes with beach chairs and umbrellas but doesn’t feel overly done. The area around it is set up for holiday camping.
6. Loutra Beach
This is a beautiful beach with the best views of the Aegean Sea. If you are coming from the west coast at the bottom of the peninsula there is a viewpoint just before you get to Loutra beach not to miss.
Loutra also has a hydrotherapy centre, Agia Paraskevi Thermal Spa, with indoor and outdoor pools using seawater as well as sauna and steam bath facilities. The water comes from the depths of the earth and has a unique combination of chemical elements.
7. Skala Fourkas Beach
A lovely sandy beach on the west side of the peninsula with some nice looking seafood restaurants. A good spot to watch the sunset.
Things to do in Kassandra
1. Visit the Byzantine Tower in Nea Fokea
Nea Fokea is a bustling resort town with a very picturesque harbour. It is also home to Agios Pavios, a Byzantine Tower that was built on a hill in 1407. The tower is 17 metres high.
After you’ve gone up high go down low and visit St Paul’s Holy Water. This tiny chapel will require you to literally bend over to visit its 20 metre long corridor that ends with a small basin where the holy water was collected.
2. Visit a foodie vineyard that doesn’t produce wine
As a wine lover, I wasn’t too sure about visiting a vineyard that didn’t produce wine. But I was very wrong! The lovely Marianna’s Vineleaves is a fully organic operation that covers 150,000 square metres and was first planted in 1988.
This family business uses everything in the vineyard. The leaves are hand-picked in April and May and are sent all over Greece and the world to help make perfect dolmades.
But it is the leaves on the top branches for which Marianna’s Vineleaves is best known. These branches and leaves are pickled and become ntolmadakia. This pickled leaf provides a fantastic flavour and textural contrast in salads.
The grapes are picked in August and September and sold as fruit at local farmer’s markets. They then move on to grape syrup, ouzo and brandy. Grappa is made at the end of November and branches from the vineyard are used on bbqs to provide a unique flavour. And don’t leave without trying the delicious spoon sweets.
Marianna’s Vineleaves is located near Nea Gonia, not far off the main road slightly inland between Thessaloniki and Kassandra.
3. Explore the extremely cute Afitos
Little Afitos is built on a rock and filled with cute houses made from local stones and amazing views of the Toroneos Gulf. It may well be the prettiest village in Kassandra and even all of Halkidiki. This is definitely where to shop in Kassandra as there are loads of lovely boutiques.
Plus head down to Afitos beach and you’ll see a whole strip of beautiful seafood restaurants with awesome views. I also loved the olive oil cans that the town has turned into their own street art – they look like little flower pots.
The delightful main square of Afitos is home to the town’s Cultural Museum. This charming museum recreates a home in the area from the late 1800s. Specifically, the house dates back to 1889 when it was owned by three brothers.
The detail of the recreation has been done incredibly well. This may be because every single thing in the museum has been donated by locals. Amazing!
4. Visit the Sanctuary of Zeus Ammon
This archaeological site was literally stumbled upon when the ground was broken to build a hotel. That hotel is now next door. The Sanctuary of Zeus Ammon is the closest to the water of any archaeological site in Greece. The location plus the ruins found suggest that the site was some kind of health spa/hammam or even hospital of sorts.
The site dates back to the latter half of the 4th century and was one of Ancient Greece’s most important sanctuaries dedicated to the father of the gods. There are some stunning views out to the sea from the top of the site.
Kassandra Restaurant Recommendation
For a fantastic seafood feast with an amazing view head to Kavouras seafood restaurant in Kallithea (Kavouras means crab). The owner is a fisherman and he literally heads out into the lovely waters of Kallithea with a spear and then brings back what he catches. If you ask he’ll even show you!
We enjoyed a classic Greek feast at Kavouras. Slim ovals of zucchini lightly fried, grilled octopus, lightly fried squid and then a rather large and very delicious sea bream (sea bream is common in the area). We also had one of the best salads I had eaten in a while. The dressing appeared to be some type of balsamic cream or glaze and was sensational.
Where to Stay on Kassandra
The Blue Bay Hotel in Kassandra is located just south of the town of Athytos and has fantastic views over Athytos beach and the Aegean. Like many of the hotels in Halkidiki, it has a lot of space for enjoying the outdoors as well as easy access to the beach. There are two large pools and a beautifully situated outdoor restaurant.
The rooms at Blue Bay are a fantastic size – particularly the large bathrooms with their attractive textured tiles. The bathrooms also feature toiletries from the Greek brand Apivita. I am a big fan of Apivita and encourage you to try them out.
Most rooms come with an outdoor balcony area and most of them face the Aegean. This also means you are in the perfect spot to potentially watch the sunrise in the morning from bed. Even better the rooms have Nespresso machines so you can enjoy a coffee with your sunrise from the comfort of your large bed!
Personally, I preferred Sithonia Peninsula to Kassandra but I’m a boutique adventurer that doesn’t travel with kids and am no longer 19 so understandably the less developed Sithonia appealed to me. Sithonia is larger than Kassandra and it has a mountain, Mount Itamos.
8. Nikiti Beach
Yes, it is the new town of Nikiti so a bigger beach but still very lovely. Lots of light golden sand and loads of restaurants, bars and facilities.
9. Elia Beach
A narrow beach with pine and olive trees. The Anthemos hotel is connected to Elia beach and if you have lunch at Boukadoura (listed below) you’ll be looking at Elia beach.
10. Karydi Beach
Known as the best beach in Vourvourou and perhaps the most beautiful in Sithonia. This lovely little cove has sandy beaches, lots of greenery and Mount Athos is visible in the distance. Or follow the footpath to the right of the beach to the quieter Mikro Karydi.
11. Rodia Beach
Heading south from Karydi you’ll hit Rodia Beach (formerly known as banana beach), which has large plane trees growing right down to the coast and steep rocks.
12. Kavourotrypes Beach
Kavourotrypes is absolutely stunning and was my favourite Halkidiki Beach. Kavourotrypes Beach is a cove with beach chairs and a bar and pine trees that reach all the way to the shore. Stunning colours but best of all are the views of nearby Mount Athos.
13. Kouviou Beach
This pretty sandy beach is on the west side of the island and is a great spot to watch the sunset.
Things to do in Sithonia:
1. Visit a pop up art exhibtion
Technohoros Apothiki or Apothiki Art House has taken over abandoned buildings in Sithonia and used them to run pop up art exhibitions featuring post-modern art. The pop-ups have been running for the last six years and have received more than 100,000 visitors each year.
The exhibition changes each year and runs for the summer season. The current location is in the new town of Nikiti. Check out their facebook page to see what exhibitions are running when you’re in town – and entrance is free.
2. Explore the Old Town of Nikiti
The old town of Nikiti features the typical architecture of Northern Greece from the 19th century and it is a beautiful place. Towns in Halkidiki used to be built away from the sea so as to protect them from pirates. Once tourism hit Halkidiki in the 1970s, the towns started to expand towards the sea and developed areas known as new or nea areas.
Nikiti has a delightful weekly market that features many of the specialities of the area. 40% of all honey in Greece comes from Halkidiki and it is also a big region for olives with its own olive oil. The mountains of Sithonia mean that dairy, cheese mushrooms and truffles are also produced in the area.
Nikiti is also home to one of the most picturesque locations for a cafe/wine bar that I have seen for some time. Don’t miss Barcarolla.
And head to the top of Nikiti to experience its church, one of the most popular in the area for weddings. The church was built in 1870 and has some fantastic views over Nikiti and across to the sea.
Sithonia Restaurant Recommendation
One of the highlights of my trip to Halkidiki was the wonderful lunch I enjoyed at Boukadoura Akti Elias or Mpoukadoura. The restaurant has an amazing location on a cliff edge overseeing Elia beach. It’s a greek tavern gone seaside with its dark wood, lack of walls and light curtains.
The food was outstanding. Dakos salad, smoky aubergine with feta and tomatoes, dolmades filled with shrimp in a light cheesy sauce and grilled shrimp. And then there were the desserts which were on another level. Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts and chocolate salami with vanilla.
Moukadoura is known as one of the best restaurants in the region for good reason – the food is outstanding, the views stunning and the atmosphere easy-going.
Where to stay in Sithonia
Anthemus Sea Hotel could be one of the largest hotels I have ever stayed in. This is a hotel that has everything. Once you check in most guests will need a buggy to get to their rooms as the site covers 38,000 square metres.
There is an underground shopping mall of sorts that also has a spa and kids playrooms so you are covered for all-weather and shopping needs.
My lovely room was also huge – it was a junior suite featuring every mod con you could possibly need including USB ports next to the beds (I love USB ports next to the bed). The design is modern and clean and the bed was absolutely huge.
The highlight of the room for me was the outside balcony that looked straight out onto the hotel beach and sea. The beach is actually inside the hotel rather than having to access it through stairs etc. Plus there are three lagoon-shaped pools if you don’t like salt water.
The main restaurant at Anthemus is Elia. Elia hosts absolutely massive buffets for breakfast and dinner. In addition to the usual bain-marie options, there are stations cooking fresh fish to your liking, fun dessert offers with ice cream etc. And breakfast is just as good with a huge range of options and egg stations.
The staff at Anthemus were also particularly friendly. I had an issue with my PCR test while I was staying and they were extremely helpful. Every interaction with staff that I had at Anthemus was very positive.
Don’t Miss Things to Do in Halkidiki
Halkidiki isn’t just beaches – there are loads of other fantastic things to do – and a few you must not miss.
1. Athos Boat Cruise
If you only do one activity whilst you’re in Halkidiki make it a boat cruise around Athos. Athos is a UNESCO site and home to 20 monasteries and around 2000 monks. This has been the case for over 2,000 years. It is a self-governed monastic state, similar to the Vatican.
Most of Athos is off-limits to women (unless you are the Virgin Mary, to whom the state is dedicated). Men can visit but must book ahead. The area can accommodate up to 100 people a day.
However, if you are male and would like to go to Athos when you are there you will literally have to live like a monk as monasteries are the only option for a bed and meal.
Theoretically, anyone with a boat could sail and moor along the coastline of Athos but this seldom happens as the traditions of the state are respected.
The area is known for the quality of its food. There is no meat but a lot of amazing fish. The monks make their own wine and grow their own vegetables. Whilst the monasteries don’t have restaurants, the cuisine of the region can be enjoyed in towns like Ouranoupolis, the town from where the boat cruises start and end.
Athos is extremely beautiful. The mountain of Athos will be visible in the distance for most of the boat trip if you get the right weather. When I visited there was even a cloud sitting on top of the mountain like a cappucino.
The monasteries of Athos are built into the rock or sit at the bottom of the mountain and are stunning. St Panteleimon Monastery is the largest of all the monasteries and is absolutely stunning with its green roofs. Each of the monasteries is unique and quite magnificent.
About halfway through the cruise, some monks board the boat and there is a little monk market. They sell products from Ahtos like honey and herbs and also appeared to be doing some sort of blessings.
Cruises to Mount Athos leave from Ouranoupoulis port generally twice a day. The cruise takes three hours. I would definitely suggest booking ahead.
2. Have lunch in Ouranoupoulis
The kick-off town for the Athos boat trip is the cute and small town of Ouranoupolis. I would recommend taking the 10:30 cruise and then booking lunch at Lemoniadas for your return. This delightful restaurant sits on the beach and features outstanding local produce from Athos – and local recipes.
We enjoyed tasty grilled octopus with peppers, fantastic Santorini assyrtiko wine and more aubergines with tomatoes and feta. Our main meal was a local speciality – fresh cod cooked in a lemon sauce with vegetables. Dessert was a cake made with local honey and ice cream.
3. Visit the Birthplace of Aristotle
Less than a one-hour drive north of Ouranoupolis is the lovely seaside town of Olympiada. Olympiada is home to the most important archaeological site in Halkidiki, Stageira.
Stageira is 700 metres northeast of the village and is located over the two hills of the Liotopi peninsula. It is not just the birthplace of Aristotle, it is also said to be where his ashes were scattered (99% likely).
Stageira was only discovered in 1990 and it is has been slow going on the excavations due to budget restrictions but there is quite a bit to see here including Aristotle’s burial monument. The area also has some stunning views over the Liotopi Peninsula and directly below the site is beautiful Kefalas beach.
4. Enjoy the Famous Mussels of Olympiada
In addition to Aristotle, this region is also famous for its mussels. It is said that the combination of salt and river water around Olympiada creates a unique flavour and larger mussels. And the place to try them is what may well be the oldest restaurant in Northern Greece, Akroyiali restaurant.
Akroyaliali restaurant opened in 1924 and is still in the hands of the same family. Today, Dimitri runs the restaurant and his sister runs the delightful boutique hotel that you’ll read about next. (If you stay at Liotopi hotel you can book half board and enjoy dinner at Akroyaliali every night).
Everything is made on the premises – even the taramasalata is from scratch. And what a menu! We enjoyed prawns stewed with orzo pasta and seafood broth, lightly fried red mullet, Dakos salad, fried zucchini sticks with yoghurt-lime dip (Kolokithakia), tomato in the pan mixed with feta, olive oil and hot peppers (Bouyiourdi), courgette patties fried with cheese dip (Kolokithokeftedes – particularly amazing), roasted eggplant, smoked with tomato, garlic oil, walnut and feta and sauteed octopus with onion, peppers, tomato, figs, wine and honey (melomeno – my absolute favourite).
We finished our meal with honey cake, spoon sweet and amaretto. Alas, there were no mussels available when I visited. If there are when you visit do email me and tell me what you thought of them.
5. Have a genuine boutique hotel stay
Lovely Liotopi hotel in Olympiada is my kind of boutique hotel. White washed walls decorated simply but with small details everywhere – from the delicious homemade lemonade on arrival to the aperitifs. The rooms are almost Scandinavian in their simplicity and use of soft colours.
However, the highlight of my stay at Liotopi was the fabulous homemade breakfast enjoyed in the back garden. We started with a small skillet of eggs, meat and feta. I am a bit obsessed with greek yoghurt and this is one of the best I have tasted – and was served with home made honey and grilled peaches.
The third course was bourkaza (a greek pie made with layers of filo pastry) with feta. This was washed down with freshly made pomegranate juice. A perfect breakfast in a beautiful setting. And Liotopi may let you leave with some of their homemade delights – I am still enjoying their honey for breakfast most mornings.
How to Get to Halkidiki and Get Around
The nearest airport to Halkidiki is Thessaloniki.
Halkidiki does have a bus system but I would definitely recommend hiring a car to get the most out of your time in Halkidiki. There are so many lovely little beaches to visit – you don’t want to spend your holiday waiting for the next bus on the side of the road.
I drove around the region and found it very easy and straightforward – and it’s the opposite side of the road for me.
Halkidiki Tourism covered all of my on the ground costs in writing this post – thanks Tania! I covered the cost of my flights to and from Greece. As always my opinions are my own. This Halkidiki beaches post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.