Sani is interesting in that it was once an ancient colony founded by Eretria (which is on the island of Evia about 50km north of Athens), but it is not a modern town or village. It is a very large resort, but still it has some older stuff, too, because the area has a long history. The original colony died out during the Roman era.
About 85km from Thessaloniki, on the northwestern shore of Kassandra peninsula, the area around Sani is reputed to have one of the most pleasant climates in northern Greece. While there is no village to speak of, there is a modern "oikismos," or settlement, called Stavronikita, named after Stavronikita Monastery on Mount Athos which had built a "dependency," a sort of colony, on the site during the Middle Ages.
Sani is a very large (1,000 acres or 4 square kilometers), self-contained grouping of 4 hotels, 17 restaurants, several beautiful beaches, hiking trails, a 250-acre nature preserve, and a very tidy little circular marina 200m in diameter.
Unlike many resorts is Greece, Sani is not owned by foreign investors, who often do not contribute much to the local economy. Not only is it Greek-owned, it is owned by the descendants of the same people who originally developed it after far-sightedly buying the land in the 1960's. In 1955, the only building in the area was the Kassandra Rural Prison. Rural prisons in Greece put their convicts to work in the surrounding fields. When the land southwest of the prison went on the market, a father and son, Leonidas F. Zisiadis and Leonidas K. Zisiadis, along with Anastasios Andreadis, purchased it, plus the surrounding properties, and were given a special dispensation to develop the entire area, including the setting aside of 25% of the land as a nature preserve.
In addition to the hotels there is a large, organized first class camping ground for those wishing a little more direct contact with nature. The campground offers sites for tents, for camping trailers, and also offers well-appointed cabins with sea views.
The resort has a "dine-around" scheme which allows visitors to use their meal allowances to pick and choose from among its 17 restaurants. In addition to traditional Greek cuisine, international cuisine, such as Japanese and Italian, is available. Speaking of food, in May there is the annual Gourmet Festival, featuring world-class chefs whipping up their world-class creations.
The beaches are broad, sandy, and relatively uncrowded because of their great length (7km) compared to the number of visitors who are at the resort at any one time. The waters close in to the shore are shallow, which is ideal for small children. This is no mob of drunken twenty-somethings whooping it up at beach bars which you find so often on some islands and coastal towns in Greece. It is rather a laid-back, family and young couple-oriented place of mostly peace and quiet.
Sani Hill, on a small, low-cliffed headland jutting up from the sea about 500m northwest of the Marina, features a stone watchtower which was built in the 1500's to deal with pirate attacks. The hill was in all likelihood the acropolis for the ancient settlement. The area was referred to as "Tower" during the mid-14th century, since the tower was the most prominent landmark on Kassandra's western shore.
The tower and the hill are host to the annual Sani International Music Festival, held every June and July since 1991. Its goal is to combine the arts with tourism. The spotlighted tower provides a dramatic backdrop for the artists on the stage built for the occasion. There is seating and standing room for several thousand spectators. It's the largest privately organized music festival in Greece, and one of the best known.
Just north of the headland and tower is the large nature preserve, purchased from the Stavronikita Monastery in the early 1960's. A shallow inland lake is a wetland sanctuary for several species of birds, and the area is covered with several hiking trails.
One of these, the bird sanctuary hiking trail, is a pleasant excursion through the woods not far from the beach to the west, providing views of the wetlands to the east. The trees shade the hiker, and if the temperature climbs too high, the sea is close at hand for a quick dip. The large wetland has been declared a European Important Bird Area, which prevents any development from taking place. It is home to more than 180 species, including little egrets, mute swans, and black winged stilts.
For the more ambitious, a longer trail takes you south the coast, 7km to the village of Elani. It's one of the most scenic hikes in Halkidiki. In addition to local outings, busses are available to take you around the peninsula to different archeological sites and museums, or for wine tasting tours. Day trips to places as far away as Thessaloniki and Meteora are available as well.
Unique in its origins, Sani is a self-contained tourist destination, providing everything you might want.