Halkidiki

XALKIDIKI


Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos are the three peninsulas that make up Halkidiki. Picturesque villages. Potidea, Olinthos, Stagira, Aristotle's birthplace.

Halkidiki's charming capital (69 km. from Thessaloniki), built like an amphitheater up the foothills of Mt. Holomodas (Holomon).

Kassandra

From Petralona, the road passes through lush valleys before arriving at Nea Moudania. Nearby there are two traditional hamlets, Dionissiou and Zografou, with low stone cottages, peaked roofs and unusual chimneys. Next, after a lovely drive along beautiful beaches, you come to Nea Potidea, built upon the ruins of the ancient Corinthian colony of the same name. Beyond it, more sea, more beautiful beaches and quaint fishing villages Nea Fokea with its Byzantine tower lapped by the waves. the tiny traditional hamlet of Afitos. Then, having seen Kassandria, which boasts the best preserved windmill in the area. you'll wind up at Sani beach, enclosed by a dense pine wood.

Sithonia

Starting out from Nea Moudania, the paved road leads to Olinthos, long ago an Athenian colony of which some ruins remain. From the beach at Nikitas, you can glimpse the chimneys and red roofs of the old houses protruding from the slopes of a pine-covered hill, while just 2.5 kilometers away there is a restored Early Christian basilica erected in the 5th century.

And the parade of villages still hasn't stopped. Next come Sarti, Sikia, Porto Koufo, Neos Marmaras, Porto Carras. Everywhere you will find natural mini-harbors, lovely scenery, small boats, caiques and fishing nets spread out to dry. On the south side of Porto Koufo - at the site of ancient Toroni - you can still see the ruins of the old fortifications dating back to antiquity and continually augmented up until Byzantine times, as well as the ruins of Early Christian basilicas.

Mount Athos

Some 38 kilometers east of Poligiros and after a trip up the slopes of Mt. Holomondas, through forests, vineyards, vegetable patches and flower gardens or along sandy beaches, one comes first to picturesque Arnea, followed by Stagira, Aristotle's birthplace, Ierissos by the sea, and Nea Roda before arriving at Tripiti.

From here the road descends to Ouranoupoli. Men wishing to visit Mt. Athos can board a caique either at Ouranoupoli or Tripiti for Dafni, and from there proceed by road to Karies, the capital of Athos. This is the site of the peninsula's oldest church, the Protatos (10th century), which is decorated with frescoes by Manouil or Manuel Panselinos, the last great painter of the Macedonian School of Byzantine art.

A visit to the Holy Mountain

Mount Athos is a monastic state, which for more than one thousand years has been existing in accordance with rules of life and religion that have not changed since Byzantine times. In its prime there were 40 monasteries here and some 4.000 monks. Today, however, this number has been reduced to 20, peopled by some 1.700 monks. Apart from the monasteries, there are other, smaller monastic residences, such as the sketes, and countless hermits' huts.

Mt. Athos is a veritable museum of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art. As the visitor walks to the different monasteries, he will be astounded not only by the frescoes, but by the richness of the libraries, the mosaics, the valuable smaller works of art, the liturgical vessels and the diverse heirlooms within their walls. Koutloumous-siou, in the vicinity of Karies, bears the name of a Turkish prince who converted to Orthodoxy. To the east of it is Iviron, to the north Esfigmenou, and north of it the Serbian monastery, Hiliandariou; Dohiariou and Xenofonta are located near Dafni.

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Last updated: Monday August 19 2013 10:14:54