Halkidiki, Greece

Central Halkidiki, with its craggy mountains and swathes of sand, is flanked by the three smaller areas of Kassandra, Sithonia and Mount Athos. Between them they host some 550 kilometres of award-winning beach. This is a coastal mainland Greece where you’ll find as many unspoilt villages and protected pine forests as you will strips of hotels and sun-seeking tourists; much of the action takes place away from dry land and out on the impossibly clear water. Set sail from the gulf of Vourvourou in Sithonia and you can dive captivating coral reefs or cross piercing blue lagoons to moor at deserted coves in craggy archipelagos. Elsewhere, the Unesco-protected holy mountain of Athos is dotted with monasteries and a popular day trip from Sithonia’s little port of Ormos Panagias. Despite the inevitable crowds in peak season, it’s easy to find pockets of seclusion in this less-discovered patch of perfection – and as the fierce Greek summer sun ebbs towards autumn, you’ll practically have the beaches to yourself.

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Areas in Halkidiki

When to go

May and June are ideal, as the weather’s warm but room rates are reasonable. July and August are hottest and most popular. Head over in September or October for late sun and a still-warm sea. The islands empty in winter, and getting there and away can become trickier.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Thessaloniki 'Macedonia' International Airport (www.thessalonikiairport.com) is the only viable entry point for Sithonia (the central prong), and is a busy regional hub; there are plenty of budget options from all of London's major airports, as well as direct flights with British Airways and Turkish Airlines. Taxis are available at the airport (though they charge a hefty fee for further-flung resorts), but transfers are easily organised (as a guide, it takes 70 minutes by car from the airport to Vourvourou).
  • Automobiles

    Public transport is patchy, so hire a car – or a moped – if you want to explore on your own. Traffic out of Halkidiki can be heavy at the start and end of the weekend, but driving is relatively stress-free. Once you're on the Kassandra or Sithonia peninsula, roads are single-lane. There are rental depots at the airport. Flaggable cabs aren’t a common sight, so book ahead whenever possible.