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Heaven is Halkidiki; CHARLOTTE DOBSON says never mind the economic turmoil, there's still good reason to visit the Greek Islands.

|There are eight new walks around Ancient Stagira in East Halkidiki, birthplace of Aristotle THE financial crisis in Greece has brought the country's economy to its knees - and it's tempting to think that tourists should stay away.

But the current troubles shouldn't put you off planning a trip to this beautiful country which, for many, is still a top destination for a blissful escape.

Eastern Halkidiki is certainly the perfect place to do just that.

A few sensible precautions should help the trip run smoothly, and the Goverment provides handy up-to-the-minute advice on what those precautions should be.

See for the latest. But with secluded sandy beaches, alpine-like mountains almost touching the sea, and gorgeous local cuisine, you'll struggle not to fall in love with this lesser-known part of Greece.

Situated on a peninsula off Greece's eastern mainland, Halkidiki is unspoiled and free of the huge resorts which blight many neighbouring coastlines.

While its mountainous landscape is fairly remote, it's easily accessible by plane from neighbouring Thessaloniki in the north.

Once you've landed, you can jump in the car and cruise hassle and mostly traffic-free to your next stop.

Olympiada, a small village on the north-east side of Halkidiki, is a great base if you want to sample the Greek way of life - and there are plenty of family run hotels ready to welcome (and feed) you.

You'll breathe a relaxing sigh of relief as you weave around Mount Cholomontas and lay your eyes on the stunning sea views. But this isn't just a quaint seaside spot.

It's actually right next to Ancient Stagira, birthplace of one the most influential philosophers of all time - Aristotle.

From Olympiada you can walk over the two hills of Liotopi to stroll in the footsteps of the great thinker himself around ancient Stageira, where Aristotle would walk, think and teach his pupils.

Here, you'll find ancient ruins from the Byzantine era, which archeologists have been excavating since 1999.

The green-fingered among you, should look and smell the herbs of the Aristotlean mountain, which are not only protected by a European Treaty but also flavour the delicious local cuisine. More on that later.

Virgin from only Pattaya with This area isn't just a hike for history buffs either. It's an ideal way to explore this beautiful peninsula and spot its secluded sandy beaches, which are perfect for a swim or a sunbathe without the crowds.

based on two garden and The more adventurous traveller can head to the hills and go waterfall hunting in the forest, either on foot or on a mountain bike. Although the less experienced hikers might want to get a local guide, or in our case a Greek farmer, to show you the route.

Either way, you can have a great mini-adventure looking for the Varvara waterfalls, which are more than worth the climb in the sun.

After all that walking, you're going to have worked up an appetite and this is where Halkidiki really comes into its own.

The rule of thumb here is if you're in the mountains, eat meat and near the sea eat seafood. And if you're veggie or vegan, there are plenty of fresh dishes to choose from.

The restaurant Bakatsianos ( is a great stop off if you've been out exploring the traditional villages like Arnea in the mountains.

The restaurant is tucked away among the trees and has plenty of Greek delights to try.

Whether it's Greek sausages with lemon or succulent lamb swimming in flavour, the meat dishes are to die for.

But when by the sea you have to try all (and I mean ALL) of the seafood, and here it's about as fresh as it gets.

Take a walk along Olympiada's beach in the morning and you'll sea the locals catching octopus in a bucket, and fisherman throwing out miles of nets.

Be safe in the knowledge that the morning's catch can be on your plate by lunchtime.

Halkidiki's mussels are known for being some of the best you'll taste in Greece thanks to several mussel farms dotted around its coast.

A bit of a steam and a squeeze of lemon is all you need to unlock their gorgeous flavour.

Most restaurants in Olympiada will serve only local produce, so be sure to try everything.

You'll never know how good real Greek feta cheese can taste until you've had it at breakfast with a baked egg at Hotel Germany, where we were staying.

However, what the locals have to drink is not for the faint-hearted.

Olympiadans will crack out the Tsipouro - a fiery liquor - at any time of day.

But if drinking the equivalent of Ouzo at midday is a tad strong for some, the wines produced by monks at nearby vineyards on Mount Athos are also excellent.

For a tranquil Grecian escape with delicious food and delightful beaches, Eastern Halkidiki's the place.

NEED TO KNOW Charlotte Dobson| visited Halkidiki as a guest of Ramblers Worldwide Holidays, which offers seven nights at the Hotel Liotopi, with flights from Gatwick to Thessaloniki, transfers and guided walking routes, for PS899, based on October 17 departure. See Overnight stays at Hotel |Germany start from PS57 for a double or twin room, based on two adults sharing. See


One of the Varvara waterfalls |tucked away in the forests

Aristotle's statue in Stagira
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 6, 2015
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