Halkidiki: A Heavenly Place
Kassandra, which is close to Thessaloniki, is also the most popular and most developed of the 3 peninsulas of Chalkidiki. It features beaches of white sand, and many hotels, along with traditional Greek tavernas, cafes, and bars. Kassandra was once called Flegra ("Place of Fire"), where, according to myth, the giants who lived there did battle with the Olympic gods.
You enter Kassandra heading south over the bridge at Potidaea. At about 900 meters this is the narrowest point of the peninsula. The narrow canal at Potidaea effectively turns Kassandra into an island. Potidaea was a colony founded by Corinth around 600 BC. About 10 km north of Potidaea are the extensive ruins of ancient Olynthus, named for the fruit of the wild fig tree. Potidaea has nice beaches and pleasant accommodations.
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Nea Moudania, a bit further south, is a laid-back place of golden-brown sand and olive orchards, but is also a busy fishing port, where you can buy the catch of the day right off the boats.
The waters all up and down Kassandra are exceptionally clear, and there are many inlets and beaches to choose from. Simantro Beach, about 12 km south of Potidaea, is on the quieter west coast of Kassandra and has a beautiful, quiet location with excellent beach and hotel facilities.
Kassandra is the favorite holiday location for residents of Thessaloniki, who often pack the road heading out of the city down to the peninsula on Friday afternoons during the high season. Many have built vacation homes there.
You'll find plenty of accommodation in Kassandra, plus lots of discos and bars and a lively night life in places like Kallithea, its largest and most developed area, about halfway down on the east coast. Kallithea has a wide variety of excellent beaches and hotels.
Just a few kilometers north of Kallithea is the village of Afytos, which sits on a cliff overlooking the sea. Afytos has interesting stone buildings, and plenty of views of Toroneaos Bay and its sparkling waters. Aristotle is said to have visited this ancient village.
Some nice camp grounds on Kassandra include Nea Skioni, on the western shore about 2/3 of the way down this 50 km-long peninsula. On the eastern shore, about as far down as Nea Skioni, is Hanioti, which has, along with Kallithea, the liveliest night life scene on the peninsula.
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Some other interesting sites on Kassandra include the Sanctuary of Poseidon and the lighthouse at Possidi, archeological excavations at Ancient Mendi, Ancient Skioni, and Polichrono, Ancient Sani and its Temple of Artemis, and the Sanctuaries of Ammon Zeus and Dionysus in Kallithea.
The Bousoulas Bird Sanctuary near the beach of Bousoulas near Sani, features an easy hiking trail through woods not far from the sea. The trail goes through an extensive wetlands which has been recognized as a European Important Bird Area, and is also a Natural Protected Area. These wetlands features nearly 200 species of birds, including egrets, swans and various migrating species which use the wetlands as a stopping over place.