Khalkidhiki, Macedonia


Birthplace of Alexander the Great, Macedonia is studded with relics of its various stages in history. The cultural evolution of Europe can be witnessed through various attractions here, from a prehistoric skeleton found in the Petralona caves, to ancient Greek monuments, to the tomb of Philip II, Byzantine monasteries and up to modern Greek restaurants and hotels.

There are three peninsulas that protrude from the area like a trident (map). The most developed of these is Kassandra, where the resort of Polichrono (where we stayed) is found. There are few large hotels here, but tourists can choose from a wide range of bed and breakfast or self catering accommodation. There is a bus and taxi service that takes you to similar surrounding villages, and a tour company (Zorpidis – tel: 0374 54 060) that will take you to the many attractions beyond.

The beaches are mixed sand and pebble, and are surrounded by terra-cotta roofed houses, pine filled forests and hills. The transparent water is not as salty as some oceanside sites, but nor is it as warm. Various restaurants line the beachfront, and all are excellent. You may want to try a different one every night, until you find a favourite.

Greek hospitality is famous, and with reason. You will always be given a complementary shot of brandy or ouzo in every bar; locals will ask where you are from with genuine curiosity, and even the many puppies and cats that roam the street are sweet and lovable.

To get around to the many attractions in the area, it is recommended that you stay in Kassandra, then either rent a scooter and go on your own from there, or take a guided tour, which will cost you about $12 for the day, including lunch.

Tours range from shopping and sightseeing in the nearest city, Thessaloniki, to seeing the amazing Hanging Rock Monasteries at Meteora or the Byzantine monastery at Mount Athos (by appointment for men only; women not allowed). A lazy day cruise is another wonderful way to see more of the Khalkidhiki region, sailing around Sithonia and Toroneos Bay, perhaps to pause for a dive at Port Marmaras, or lunch on a secluded beach.

Prices are really low here, and you can expect to pay about $4 for a huge lunch or dinner, and about $25-30 a night for a self catering apartment, with twin beds and a small stocked kitchen.

No matter where you stay in the Khalkidhiki region, echoes from the past will surely call you back.

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