Halkidiki Greece sights
There are a lot of “Halkidiki activities” to do. If you are a traveler that choose this part of Central Macedonia in the North of Greece, you will be rewarded by the stunning natural beauty, the delicious local food, nightlife, and friendly Greeks to have a very memorable experience as a tourist. As everywhere in Greece ancient historical sites are all over the place.
And of course, the beaches of Halkidiki are some of the best in the world. Not only of the beauty of nature but great modern beach bars, 5-star Resorts in front of some of the most transparent sea water you can find anywhere.
However, there are some activities regularly promoted as “a good idea by hotel staff and travel agents that make the local Greeks wonder why are we trying to make life miserable for our guests. So let’s have a list of thing not recommended to do in Halkidiki, at least if you want to have a great trip.
Halkidiki activities. What NOT TO DO when on holidays in Halkidiki
The famous Mt Athos tour
Mount Athos, the third “leg” – Peninsular of Chalkidiki is renowned around the world. It is a religious sanctuary not found anywhere else governed by the same rules since mid-evil Byzantium around 1000 A.D. The most known rule forbids women to step in to “Virgin Marie’s garden”. There is a significant number of Grand monasteries there as well as smaller “Skites” for 1 or a few Monks and pilgrims. Especial on the west side, the leeward side there are a few 1000 years old Monastery large buildings Built like towers to be able to be defended from the pirates (slight problem with piracy since ancient times in the Aegean). Visit even for men heavily regulated to 50 persons per day for all the peninsula, and you need a special permit and guide to go.
The tour by tourist ship starts in the morning from Ormos Panagias or Ouranoupolis and will take you to the south-west right under Mt. Athos peak. The scenery is dramatic. The huge buildings are hanging from almost vertical cliffs.
However the ships cant go closer than 500m from the shore, and some monasteries are as much as a kilometer or more inland. The boat is moving. Not very fast, but still you get about 2-3 min for each structure. Of course, they look interesting, you will be wondering what historical treasures have been preserved in there, but you cant go close enough to enjoy it really. Is like watching the Eifel tower from a km away and never taking the lift to the top.
You should do it. It’s an experience. Choose a fast ship that takes less time, preferably with air-con and guides. But don’t expect the religious experience your agent is making it sound. Titles as Cruise “Holy Athos”, the “Holy experience”, etc. are just misleading you.
On the other hand, if you have the budget for it chartering a motor yacht for a private day trip you will go very fast at the south tip of Mt Athos, slowly see all the monasteries, stopping to enjoy any one you like, and then tour around the heavenly beaches and coves of Halkidiki islands of Amouliani and Diaporos for swimming, relaxing, stop to a taverna for fresh fish and generally have the best day of your Halkidiki vacation.
Sailboat trips in Sithonia are an unbelievable experience. Not from Fokea or Afitos or Sani, one of the worst Halkidiki activities.
A lot of the 5-star resorts in Halkidiki are located near the North part of Kassandra near Potidea, Sani, and Fokea. So if you decide to go sailing the urge is to look for a nearby port. Usually, this would be a good idea. The thing is that this way you will be cheated of visiting and sailing some of the most beautiful areas of Kassandra and most importantly Sithonia. You will be taken to see cliffs, and to the same beaches, you can go swimming by car because simply there is nothing else to see in the area. It’s densely touristically developed. Fokies and Potidea are not exactly the most traditional villages in Halkidiki and Sani it’s just the resort. Don’t get me wrong, you will probably have a nice day, but you could make a plan for sailing from Neos Marmaras, Ormos Panagias or even Pefkochori or Miraggio and go to actual secluded hidden coves and beaches that are unreachable by car at Sithonia. Its a far more rewarding experience.
This is the reason that our affiliates have chosen Neos Marmaras and Miraggio at Kanistro as starting points for their Daily Halkidiki sailing trips.
Once you are going to get in the car and drive from Sani to Fokea to take the boat there is not really much difference instead of driving for 10 min and looking for parking for another 10 min, to drive to Miraggio 25 min away (with the new highway to Kalithea) and take a yacht for a day from there. I guarantee the experience is going to be much better in every level. Boat trips from Kalithea Halkidiki are the same, even more, accessible as you are in the middle of the distance. Even better take your rental and drive to Neos Marmaras, enjoy the fantastic ride through the forest of Sithonia and go sailing to Kelyfos island and the famous Porto Carras secret coves.
One more thing to consider is the sailing. You want to go on a sailing boat to do some sailing! Right? The problem is that the same everyday sea beeze that around Southern parts of the Halkidiki usualy is a healthy 10-12knots (2-3 beufeurts just right for smooth easy sailing) it drops to less than 5 near Fokea and Potidea. The closer you get to inland the less wind you usualy have. So usualy no sailing, only motoring near Potidea, Fokea and Afytos.
Sail boat trips from Sani
From Sani, you have the same problem. There is nothing exciting to see from the sea, at least nothing you can’t drive to with your car. As for the prices, a dare you to go and ask!
Book your hotel in Halkidiki
I am not even going to bother with this one. It’s on the other side too far away from everything else. Maybe if you are coming every weekend with your car from Bulgaria, try to go once. Anyway, we are not famous for our waterfalls in Greece, the reason being we have only a few small ones. So just strike it from your to-do list of your Chalkidiki holidays.
Interestingly Viator for Halkidiki has only activities at Thessaloniki. And Meteora (read below). Maybe they will fix this strange issue.
Nope, Thessaloniki has no aquarium. Only aquarium shops for people with fish tanks.
Day trips on large pirate looking wooden traditional “kaiki ” boats
60 persons on wooden kaiki! Or 150 person wooden ship! I guess its a budget option to go out at sea. So the service you get is pretty good for the very cheap ticket. Again you will have, a nice day maybe. Before being persuaded to take the “Night cruise” or “Poseidon day cruise’ or something like that be sure to find the boats to TripAdvisor and read the reviews especially the not so flattering ones.
Look through the bottom ships
Hoards of coastal fishermen, amateur fishers, and speargun divers have long decimated any large fish. You are not going to be amazed by the beauty of the bottom, Mediterranean fishes and bottom critters are dificult to spot anyway. Glassbotom as a Halkidiki activity for your holiday is not going to be what you expected or have seen in some troic island. Not very memorable. Again a cheap alternative to swimming from a ship with 50-80 other persons. You get what you paid for.
Halkidiki rent a boat
What an excellent idea. Surely it can’t be that difficult to drive one for the first time, after all, you can rent a fast 30Hp dinghy boat at numerous places in Halkidiki with not license to drive power boat. Legally. What can go wrong? Right? And it’s cheap! A couple of thoughts. The sea is to be respected and venturing out on a boat without really knowing what you are doing is no show of respect.
There others like you out there that don’t know what they are doing and you are going to have to avoid coalition with them (has happened)
Almost every day there is a sea breeze coming from the south that goes up to force 3-4 and 1 m waves. Having to do the 6 Nm from Kelyfos island back to Pefkochori with the waves on your side is not fun (has happened a lot, maybe the guy that rented you the boat and told you “don’t go to the island,” was trying to help you)
Going near the rocks is not a good idea unless you want to call and report a problem with the engine (left the bottom part on the reef and now I have to pay for it, oops this day become extremely expensive suddenly) (has happened)
Beaching the boat not a good idea, I just destroyed the propeller (oops costly mistake)
And lastly, you have to avoid hitting the swimmers, (why the skipper of this sailing boat is screaming to me to slow down?). Last year a motorboat cut the leg off, of a swimmer.
“Darling we got pretty badly sunburned yesterday cruising the boat with the tiny tent. we have to stay in the room today and see the hotel doctor.”
So if you know about boats, listen to what the charterers are telling you to be careful about and enjoy the sea and the sun. If you don’t, your holidays are not the time to learn. Hire a boat with a skipper instead, learn and enjoy. Not to mention that the Skipper knows the area and will take you to the best places at the right time.
RIB rend with skipper
Excellent idea. Just make sure it’s for 4 hours max as the sun is powerful, and on a RIB you are every exposed. Buy a good sun protection spray.
“Greek Night” by tour operators or Resorts just for tourist
It’s a fun party but has nothing to do with how the Greeks have a party these days. Musicians and dancers may not be Greek but Albanian or Bulgarian. Don’t be afraid to try to go to a Greek club on your own. It’s going to be way better. After all these shows are the same everywhere in the world. Wana see how the greeks party go to any “respectable” beach bar after 7-8 in the evening especially on a Saturday when the party starts.
Halkidiki activities by bus from Chalkidiki (seriously are you going to give up the sun to spend your day/days in a coach?)
Corfu from Halkidiki
Corfu is wonderful. It has a lot to see, and I would recommend to come back next year to Greece and stay in Corfu for a week. It is far far away from Halkidiki. I am sure your idea of holidays does not include 5 hours in a bus and 1:30 ferry to get to a place that has a lot of things to do, only to spend a day and then do another 1:30 ferry and 5 hours by bus to return to your primary Holidays. That’s two days lost in transfer! Just ask a lot of questions to your travel agent when proposes that and make sure you know precisely in what an adventure you are getting into.
Meteora pilgrimage from Chalkidiki
Well, again Meteora is an unbelievable site. And as many strongly religious people want to see the monasteries of Mount Athos, also they want to do to visit Meteora. And you can actually visit some of the monasteries at Meteora. However, its a minimum of 5 hours drive to go and another 5 to come back. You are on holidays; you are supposed to relax not roam the mountains of Greece (yes part of the way is on mountainous, curvy roads). The only viable option is to do an overnight stay but then it means two days on the road, and I am not sure its worth it.
Halkidiki to Athens
If you want to visit Athens, plan your holidays in Athens and Saronikos gulf islands don’t come to Halkidiki. All areas of Greece are beautiful, come back next year for more to a different area. Day trips from Halkidiki to Athens is absolutely the worst idea possible.
Chalkidiki to Bari (Avia)
Wana visit Italy? By all means, do, but it’s a different country and a different experience.
Loutra in Arideas (Ariadaeus) and Edessa
That’s a great trip in the spring. You don’t have to go so far about 2 hours away to get to excellent hot baths in volcanic water; you can go to Loutra Agias Paraskevis at Cassandra, Halkidiki instead. They are famous for healing powers. Edessa is a lovely small town with its waterfalls. Nice. It is just that during your holidays you want stunning, not nice, right?
Petralona caves in Halkidiki is an internationally significant archaeological and paleontological site. The “Petralona Man” has been a somewhat controversial discovery for since it was discovered in 1959 by a local shepherd.
The Petralona cave is a fantastic cave. And next to it there is a pretty good museum. The main find is a human skull belonged to a human, of 700,000 years old, presenting its own Paleolithic culture, not to mention the earliest traces of fire ever kindled by a human being. So we are talking about first signs of humans in Europe. You should spend a couple of hours and visit together with Ancient Olynthos.
If you like this short of history explorations!
Visit a mall in Halkidiki activitiy
The only mall in Halkidiki is the “Enigma Shopping Center”. You have to keep in mind that in Chalkidiki all shopping is directed to the tourists so by definition the prices are high. You could visit one of the open markets that are arranged once every week in many of the villages of Halkidiki for a more genuine Greek shopping experience and get your spices, herbs and fresh fruits from there.
However, when we are talking about shopping, I would suggest the center of Thessaloniki market. Infinite more options than any mall and because it’s not focused on the tourist market instead to the locals and because of the recession in the Greek economy, you can find unbelievable bargains. No to mention cafes and restaurants for stops between shopping. You can park your rental to one of the downtown parking and start browsing the market. Just 35 min more drive than Moudania
Halkidiki water park. A Halkidiki activity not in Chalkidiki
There is no water park in Halkidiki. It’s not one of Halkidiki activities. There is an aqua park in Thessaloniki, “Waterland”. Don’t know anything about it as I have never been there. A lot of people from Thessaloniki go there instead of driving for another 1 hour to get to the closest Halkidiki beach. Whatever it is, it’s still public pools. Something you can enjoy near your home. On the other hand, the white sandy beaches and crystal waters of Halkidiki you cant find easy. I would prefer to do some yachting instead. I suppose it could be an option for the kids. No direct bus from Halkidiki to the Thessaloniki water park that I know of, you ‘ll have to change a couple of busses to get there.
Avoid the tourist traps
Like everywhere in the world that tourism has been attracting a lot of tourists there are some things to avoid. Use good judgment and ask a lot of questions to make sure what adventure you are getting into with any paticular Halkidiki activitiy. There are a lot of things to do that are remarkable experiences in this not well known Geek paradise. Halkidiki is large and I would recomend renting a car to get around. A small one would be better as you will drive and find easier parking in the small villages.
Read more about what you can, and should do in Halkidiki in our next post
Here is an excellent list of the “other” Halkidiki best beaches!