The love affair with Greek holidays shows no signs of abating. Bank of Greece analysts revealed that over 26 million visitors came to Greece in the first 10 months of 2022. 4.48 million of those visitors came to Greece from the UK, 4.35 million from Germany, with 1.76 million travellers making the journey from France. While the pandemic disrupted tourism, all of those numbers are up on their 2019 totals, indicating Greece is becoming a more popular destination than ever.
Greece is, of course, a long-established favourite for holidaymakers. A trip to Greece means many different things to many different people. It could be history meeting the present day in the thronging bustle of Athens. Perhaps it's the family-friendly hotels and endless beaches of Corfu. For some, it'll be partying until sunrise in the clubs of Ayia Napa; for others, it'll be hiking to meet the sunrise in the stunning landscapes of Kefalonia.
If venturing off the beaten track seems tough at first glance, when booking holidays in Greece, it's worth exploring lesser-known destinations. Athens, Kos and Santorini are all beautiful and worth your time, but there are hidden corners everywhere that hold mystery and delight – in fact, there are over 220 inhabited islands in the country! On the mainland, one area that flies a little under the radar is Halkidiki. Situated in the northeast of Greece, the region packs a whole lot into its 1127 square miles.
Halkidiki has been occupied since around the 8th Century BC, with early inhabitants taking advantage of sandy soils and a temperate climate to grow olive trees and grape vines. Philosopher, and tutor to Alexander The Great, Aristotle was born in the city of Stagira in 384 BC, the ruins of which can still be visited. History can be seen all around Halkidiki, whether by exploring ancient sites by car or visiting one of many popular museums, such as the Archaeological Museum in the region's capital Poligiros.
Halkidiki is known for its beaches, boasting over 1,000 on Greece's longest coastline, which spans over 550 kilometres. However, many of said beaches are unspoiled, with pristine sands and small coves being much more common than long stretches. The beaches in Kassandra peninsula, within easiest reach of Thessaloniki (the airport servicing Halkidiki), are unsurprisingly the busiest. Sithonia's beaches appeal to families and solo travellers alike with their clear shallow waters. Even the beaches of small villages like Vourvourou have lifeguards, and over 90 Halkidiki beaches boast Blue Flag certification.
With so many beaches and crystal clear waters, Halkidiki is a paradise for all sorts of water sports. Sea kayaks are available for rent at many beaches, and sailboat cruises are very popular – whether those are to enjoy stunning sunsets or fish for sea bass, tuna and grouper in the Aegean Sea. The hottest month on Halkidiki is July, which averages around 26C, so hiking can be done even in the height of the season. Beginner-level trails are abundant in Kassandra, with the most remote peninsula of Mount Athos providing stiffer challenges for the adventurous.
Kallithea is the clubbing capital of Halkidiki, playing host to nightclubs such as Ahoy Club, Circo and Angels. Sustenance with a sea view can be had at nearby restaurants like Kavouras, while Fregio serves some of the best ice cream in all of Greece. Halkidiki is a land of villages - the biggest town, Poligiros, has a population of just 22,000 - and feasts and festivals are one of the biggest joys of summer. Get traditional with the locals in July at the Feast of Agia Marina in Fourka. The stunning backdrop of Mount Olympus delights spectators at Nea Moudania's Festival of The Sea. Acts have come from Greece and beyond to Sani Festival since 1982 with dance, jazz and classical concerts. Recent acts have been as diverse as British reggae act UB40 through to Norwegian jazz virtuoso Jan Garbarek.
Halkidiki can almost be viewed as Greece in miniature. History? It's all around you. Beaches? Almost too many to count. Good nightlife, great food and friendly locals? Check. So why choose Halkidiki this summer? Because whatever you want from a holiday, it's there for you.