For an authentic Greek getaway, jet off on a holiday to Halkidiki. This peninsula lines up mountain scenery, whitewashed villages and long sandy beaches.
Undiscovered natural beauty
Halkidiki looks a bit like a fork poking into the Aegean Ocean. It's a 3-pronged peninsula in northern Greece, and as holiday spots go, it's got a natural kind of beauty. Supersized white-sand beaches, traditional towns and craggy cliffs are what this place is all about. It's managed to keep its good looks by staying off the tourist radar, making Halkidiki something of a hidden gem.
The western finger, Kassandra, is the most popular and developed of the 3 – though we're still talking laid-back towns rather than bustling cities. Nea Moudania is a classic case. It's a down-to-earth place with huge olive groves inland and a long, white-gold beach on its edge. It's also got one of the busiest fishing harbours in Greece, so it's home to a good few waterfront restaurants and bars.
Sithonia and Mount Athos
That's not to say the other 2 parts aren't worth a look, though. Sithonia is the middle prong, about an hour's drive from Nea Moudania. It's a real back-to-nature place, all pine forests and dinky villages. It's likely to stay that way, too – the whole area is protected by conservation laws. The final finger is Mount Athos, and it's the furthest east. The only people living here are monks and it's been that way for centuries. To get a glimpse, book up for a boat ride along its coast.
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Nea Moudania is an unassuming little place, with giant olive groves and a perfect beach, nestled in the north of the Halkidiki peninsula. To say it doesn't hog the tourist limelight is a bit of an understatement – the place is pin-drop peaceful, and activities will tend to revolve around your hotel. That said, there's a higgledy-piggledy-looking church, a bustling fishing harbour, and a 2,000-year-old amphitheatre to explore.
You’ll find Ouranoupolis at the top of one of Halkidiki’s dangling fingers. Its remote, forest-hidden setting means the dinky village’s still in touch with its traditional roots. It’s not totally cut-off, though – tavernas and shops have popped up to look after the tourists that come here to see the holy Mount Athos.
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