The beautiful triple peninsula of Halkidiki to the south-east of Thessaloniki is a popular tourist destination. Every corner of Halkidiki is a paradise on earth, with sunny, golden beaches, picturesque bays and many traditional villages.
Halkidiki has the longest coastline on mainland Greece relative to land area. Its winding coast creates a lacework of superb beaches and tiny coves, with olive groves and pine forests dropping down to the very edge of the crystal-clear water.
The Kassandra peninsula is about 1-1.5 hours away from Thessaloniki and its beaches are a favorite destination. From picturesque villages such as Athitos to cosmopolitan meeting places such as Kallithea, Hanioti and Fourka, this part of Halkidiki can satisfy the most demanding visitor.
The Sythonian peninsula is about 1.5-2 hours away from Thessaloniki and is home to green pine forests. Also famous for its alternative tourism, Halkidiki's second peninsula offers numerous camping sites and sandy beaches to match everyone's desires.
Mt. Athos (Agio Oros)
The eastern peninsula of Halkidiki is in effect an autonomous religious community where a host of Christian Orthodox monasteries, rich in both architecture and works of art, are perched high upon its spectacular cliffs. The splendour of its unspoilt natural beauty is also incomparable.
Mighty Mount Olympus was the heavenly home of the gods in ancient times and still inspires thousands of visitors who come from all over the world to tackle the tough trek to the highest peak in Greece. The entire area was declared Greece's first national park in 1937 and consists of eight peaks including the "Throne of Zeus" at 2909 metres and Mytikas which has the highest summit at 2919 metres. Special climbing experience is not demanded to take on Olympus but one needs to be fit and properly equipped.
This magnificent mountain range is home to around 1700 plant species, many of which are unique to Olympus. The mountainsides are cloaked in dense forests of pine, beech, oak and cedar trees, which harbour various wildlife including wolves, bears and lynx. The slopes are buried beneath two metres of snow in winter and only accessible to the most experienced climbers - even in July the snow lurks in shadowed corners and crevices.
While you're in the area, take the time to visit ancient Dion at the foot of Mt Olympus, just north of Litohoro. New discoveries are still being made at this fascinating archaeological site where sacred sanctuaries of the gods, superb mosaics, an ancient theatre and a vast public bath complex have been uncovered. Musical and theatrical performances are held in the restored theatre every August during the Festival of Olympus.
Winter excursions - Skiing
Unknown perhaps to foreigners visiting Greece, many alternatives are available for weekend excursions during the winter, including a number of good ski centres.
For ski fans the ski resort of Kaimaktsalan lies close by. It is built at an altitude of 1,200 m. With a longer snow coverage period than other mountains, it is in operation from the end of November till the start of May. It lies at a height of about 2050 metres with the ski slopes reaching up to 2480 metres. There are 14 ski trails, of different levels of difficulty, one of which is the only one in Greece that is of Olympic proportions. There is also a ski trail for snowmobiles and a snowboard fun-park for the fanatics.
Other options offered for ski fans are the ski resorts of Seli and 3-5 Pigadia nearby at Naoussa, a 1.5-2 hours drive from Thessaloniki, as well as others further away at Pisoderi near Florina and Falakro close to Drama.