Chalkidiki (also known as “Halkidiki”) is one of the most known summer tourist destination in Greece. It is part of the region of Central Macedonia and its capital is Polygyros, a town situated right in the middle of the peninsula.
Halkidiki is also divided in three peninsulas, Kassandra, Sithonia and Mount Athos, called by the Greeks “legs”. Our hotel, Alexandros Palace Hotel, is situated in the Mount Athos peninsula, just few kilometers far from the autonomous Mount Athos state.
Kassandra is the first leg and it is considered the most developed part, thanks to the tourist facilities and high quality services. Kassandra is the most densely populated leg, hence it offers an extremely vibrant nightlife throughout the year, especially on the east coast, between Kallithea and Pefkohori.
Entering Kassandra is quite an experience: there is just a bridge connecting the peninsula to Halkidiki. The view of the Potidea canal all around the bridge is mesmerizing, especially at sunset. Kassandra is plenty of small villages, if you are looking for something with an old-fashioned feel, you should definitely visit Afitos on the Eastern side and Hanioti on the western. If you can’t wait to dance and have fun untill morning in stylish bars and clubs, Kalithea is the place for you!
Are you adventurous? Do you like sports? If the answer is yes, don’t miss Possidi, a great place for cycling and hiking, it is plenty of ancient ruins too!
What is an holiday without a little shopping? Don’t miss Nea Moudania, the second-biggest town in mainland Halkidiki, just outside Kassandra!
Kassandra is indeed a fascinating place to visit, but what makes it even more interesting is the fact that, according to Greek mythology, this are became the battleground of the fight between giants and Gods, when they tried to ban them from Mt Olympus.
Sithonia (Σιθωνία) is the second “leg” and it lies between the Toronean Gulf, which divides Sinthonia from the Mount Athos peninsula, and the Singitic Gulf, which also reaches Kassandra peninsula’s coast. The name “Sithonia” comes from the name of the son Poseidon, the Ancient Greek God of the sea.
If you are looking for a relaxing vacation in the middle of the nature, Sinthonia is probably the place for you. You will find a wonderful seaside surrounded by the typical Mediterranean landscape: dive into clear blue waters or relax among the pine trees, and you will find peace of mind. And if by any chance you would like to learn something about the history of Sithonia, you can for example visit some of the many old churches, old towns or castles spreaded among the peninsula. Looking for a more active kind of vacation? You will find plenty to do as well: hiking, fishing, mountain bike and water sports are just some of the activities you can enjoy doing there.
Discover the many places and possibilities of this little piece of paradise: you will certainly find what best fits your desires and manage to organize the perfect excursions to the Sithonia peninsula!
Mount Athos is the third “leg” of the Chalkidiki peninsula and it is the peninsula where Alexandros Palace Hotel is based.
A visit in the Chalkidiki Peninsula can not be considered complete without the visit to the Holy Mountain (Agion Oros), placed on the tip of Mount Athos Peninsula.
According to the legend the Holy Mother of God was sailing to Cyprus and shipwrecked to the shore of Mount Athos. Since then the area was consecrated as garden of the Holy mother of God and the entrance is not allowed to women.
It’s been around a thousand year, since the 13th century, when monks decided to take dwelling in this remote part of the peninsula and found their self-governed republic. Monks lives in this space where time do no matter, and days are spent with prayers.
Mount Athos is formed by 20 monasteries, 3 of which are not Greek: one is Russian, one Bulgarian and one is Serbian. The two main centers are Dafni and Karyes. Dafni mainly serves as port of entrance to the Republic of Mount Athos for the ferries coming from Ouranopoli. Karyes is considered the “capital” of this self-governed republic. Together with these monasteries, there are also 12 skytes (cloisters), and 700 among hermitages, monks houses, retreats, cells clinging to the steep cliff overlooking the sea.
To visit Mount Athos it is necessary to request a special entry visa, called Diamonitirion. You can apply for it contacting the Pilgrims’ Bureau in Thessaloniki or Athens. Remember that you have to plan in advance a visit to Mount Athos, especially if you plan to visit this place on peak season, June, July or August. You might have to wait for your turn, since up to 110 people per day can visit Mount Athos, 100 orthodox and 10 non-orthodox. If you are orthodox but not Greek, you have to provide valid documentation that you are orthodox (such as a baptismal certificate). It is possible to spend up to 3 nights and 4 days in Mount Athos, for people over 18 years old. Usually the accommodations are spartan, inside monasteries and free, even if a small offer is gladly accepted.
Mount Athos is a religious retreat and as such has its own rule and it is necessary to respect it to take the maximum out of this experience.
Monks in Mount Athos don’t eat meat, and meat products are not allowed on the soil of the republic. You will find though amazing vegetable dishes accompanied sometimes by local dairy products. Alcohol is not forbidden and it can be freely purchased in loco, but it is considered inappropriate to drink in front of monks.
Treat Mount Athos as you are a pilgrim and avoid all that behaviour that might be regard as “touristic” such as asking too many non-religious questions about the buildings, the monasteries and such, do not walk by with your hand behind you back: you have to keep them in front of you to show respect. Do not listen to high volume music, bath in the sea or engage in any activity that can disrupt the religious routine of monks. Photograph are allowed with some restriction at single monasteries discretion, but do not take pictures of monks during their daily life. Video filming, on the other hand is prohibited.
Dress properly: no shorts or too short sleeves and no white shoes. Non-orthodox can attend services but not the Communion.
How to get here: You have to enter Mount Athos by sea. There is a convenient ferry service to and for Ouranopoli and Ierissos. It is also possible to round by ferry the peninsula without descending: in this way you can get a glimpse of Mount Athos with no need of special permission nor restrictions.
For those you can get the permit to enter the republic, the main activity is visit and attend church services, venerate the relics, walk in the region to go from monastery to monastery. Other hiking paths are Athos Desert (6 hours by foot from the Megisti Lavra and Agia Anna Skete), or climbing Mount Athos (8 hours to climb to top and coming back).
Note that the main purpose to visit Mount Athos is pilgrimage, prayer or study, so please respect this place of worship.