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Chalkidiki is a prime holiday or longweekend destination.
It’s not touristpacked, it boasts tranquil and warm seas while the airport provides access at a fingers’ snap. Few, however, know that it is also a culinary destination with Golden Toque-awarded and Greek Cuisine award winning restaurants as well as a host of tavernas serving well-cooked, hearty, home-made dishes.

have recently come back from a ten-day trip to Halkidiki. According to what I’d heard, I was expecting stunning seas, 40 blue-flag beaches, all of which I was able to find, an underwater world of unique beauty, which I dived into, lush green vegetation and 500 km of undeveloped coastlines that I did my best to explore. As I was leaving Halkidiki, I knew I would go back. Not only for its exquisite beaches and hotels, but for its taste too!

So, let’s start … finger by finger.

Food and lifestyle on the first finger

Greek Salad

Greek Salad

Porto Valitsa & Thalassa Gefseon. Located at the tip of the first finger, set among trees, Porto Valitsa Hotel provides accommodation in a small number of wellkept, independent rooms scattered among the greenery.
Thalassa Gefseon (Sea of Tastes) restaurant has a handful of tables arrayed in rows facing the sea and a minimal but homely cuisine. On moonlit nights the views are magical.

Fish at Marina. You don’t have to have big, pricey fish. The humble pike, the cod and the mackerel are grilled to finger-licking perfection. Don’t miss out on crab pasta. Potidaia, tel.: (00 30) 23730 41570.

Touring and swimming on the second finger
What most people think of as Halkidiki is in the Sithonian peninsula, on the second of the “fingers” (in Greek they are referred to as “legs”) comprising the main peninsula, Halkidiki. Here, the region is more heavily wooded with pines than Kassandra, so Sithonia is ideal for lovers of nature and crystal-clear waters. Abundant greenery, aquamarine seas, scarce construction activity in view. Unfortunately, some of the top beaches serve as camping sites and others as free camping grounds. In the summer months the place is tourist-cluttered, so opt for getting there via Polygyros.

Nikiti is definitely not to be missed: you should visit the old village with the traditional stone-built houses having in mind that the east part of Sithonia fronts Mount Athos, affording the most spectacular sunrises. Among the beaches, Kalogria hosts two beach bars and is recommended for families. One of the hippest beaches on the second finger is Elia. To the south, Kavourotrypes (Crab Holes) is a beautiful spot with several small coves.

Look out for a sign reading “Goa” leading to an alternative beach bar. Further to the south, visit Kryaritsi, a gorgeous white-sand beach. Leaving Kalamitsi, take the road around the tip of the finger to Porto Koufo, a sheltered, confined natural bay that resembles a lake. Take a sit at the last taverna (Nikos Fylaktos) for a glass of ouzo and then hit the road again northbound on the west side of the finger. Head in the direction indicated by the sign reading “Tristinika”. Here is Sotiri’s taverna and Ethnic bar on the beach. Follow the route until you reach two bays (the first one confronting you with a steep descent), Paradisos and Areti – thick sand, translucent waters, two of the most outstanding beaches we visited.

I unreservedly recommend taking the narrow country road lining the coast from Tristinika to Porto Karas at dusk. The over 20-km journey is sheer magic.

Relaxing on the third finger
Eagles Palace. Bungalows facing the sea offer ideal relaxation holidays. Breathtaking sea waters lie right at your feet. Kamares restaurant, with glorious views over the sea from its terrace, offers a sophisticated cuisine.
Armyra is another favourite, with its tables set on its deck on the beach just a few feet from the water’s edge. Ouranoupoli Halkidikis, tel.: (00 30) 23770 31047-8, 2310 269421.

Kritikos. An excellent taverna at touristy Ouranoupoli. Try wine-stewed octopus and cod cooked according to the traditional Athonian recipe (wrapped in tin-foil with garlic and lemon). Ouranoupoli, tel.: (00 30) 23770 71222.

Categories: Featured, Holidays

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