Explore hidden caves, stop at a winery in Agios Pavlos to try the local Slopes of Meliton wine and enjoy Greece’s finest gastronomy in Halkidiki, one of the country’s lesser-known holiday destinations.
With its untouched pine forests, sandy beaches and turquoise waters, Halkidiki, in northern Greece, is just as magnetising as the country’s famed islands. It comprises three peninsulas: Kassandra, home to the lively tourist towns and bars; Sithonia, which offers quieter beaches and secluded camping spots; and Mount Athos, a male-only region made up of 20 monasteries. With 71 Blue Flag beaches, the northern region is also home to some of the best sandy shores in Greece. It’s bicycle-friendly, with dozens of routes winding through pine forests, and there are plenty of hiking trails on Mount Holomontas and Mount Itamos to explore in spring and autumn. To help plan your trip, book one of the region’s most charming boutique hotels with Culture Trip.
The jewel in the crown of this B&B is its stone-paved garden terrace, where you can sip your morning coffee and soak up the views of beautiful Ammouliani island. All the rooms have balconies overlooking the village or courtyard, so you’ll feel a world away from the daily grind. When you finally tear yourself away from your tastefully decorated bedroom, Alykes Beach is within walking distance.
Look out for the peacocks as you wander around the Achtis Hotel’s oasis garden, complete with koi fish and ducks. The hotel sits in the picturesque village of Afytos and has 35 rooms, many of which have unique handmade four-poster beds. There’s also a huge lagoon-style pool where you can lounge under the palm trees after a morning on the beach, which conveniently is less than 1km (0.6mi) away.
Greece wouldn’t be Greece without its seafood, and the Tuna Fish Concept restaurant at the Rigas Boutique Hotel takes it to a whole new level. Here, the chef serves up local specialities in inventive ways. The hotel sits on the edge of a steep rock in Afytos, offering incredible views of the deep-blue water of the Toroneos Gulf.
If sipping a glass of retsina on a private beach sounds like heaven, then Sani Asterias in Kassandra will be right up your street. Spacious rooms range from the junior suite overlooking Sani Marina to the three-bedroom deluxe suite with a private pool. Michelin-star chef Mauro Colagreco offers up tasty dishes with a Mediterranean and French spin; don’t miss the tasting menu. However, if you’re looking for romance, you can arrange for an intimate dinner in the privacy of your own terrace.
No getting up at 6am to fight for a sunbed here, as each accommodation at the Eagles Villas comes with a private pool. Some even have a garden where you can watch the spectacular sunsets over Ouranoupolis. There are also six on-site restaurants, including Kamares, run by two-Michelin-star chef Arnaud Bignon. You’re also spoilt for choice when it comes to Blue Flag beaches in the area, with the secluded Tigani close by.
Boasting art and books from around the world, the Art Boutique Hotel has aptly named its 18 rooms after famous artists. Each one is individually decorated with plush bedding and statement walls. The real draw here is the rooftop terrace, with its incredible sea views. The nearby town of Pefkochori is a dreamy mix of white-walled houses, citrus and olive trees, cafes and tavernas, while the beaches are ideal for snorkelling.
There’s nothing quite like fresh produce, and Afitis Boutique Hotel makes sure its signature dishes come straight from the soil to the plate by growing more than 15 types of vegetables in its garden. Additionally, its on-site wine connoisseurs can always recommend the best tipple to accompany the dishes. The hotel, in the ancient village of Afytos, has a private beach, a pool and a spa and wellness centre.
Built from natural stone and wood, this hotel is an ecofriendly little gem that refuses to be a blight on the beautiful landscape of Afytos in Kassandra. You can lose yourself in the organic garden, with its olive and fruit trees, roses and paved paths, and enjoy the incredible views of Mount Olympus. In the morning, you can go swimming off the private beach before tucking into the hotel’s American breakfast, which promises to keep you guessing with regular “surprise” treats and flavours.
Start your day with an authentic Greek breakfast, with Greek yoghurt, honey, fresh fruit, cereals, feta and olives, before you amble into the old village of Polychrono, surrounded by pine forests. Back at the hotel, you don’t need to worry about noisy children ruining the vibe as the Akrogiali has a strict adults-only policy. Book now and upgrade to the double room with a private sauna – it’s ideal if visiting off-season.
With the beach steps away from your room and a spa offering personalised holistic treatments, it’s clear that when the hotel says it provides “barefoot luxury,” it means exactly that. Ekies All Senses Resort is in Vourvourou Bay in Sithonia, surrounded by pine forests, rocky islands, caves, crystal waters and unspoilt sandy beaches. If it’s getting back to nature that you crave, then this is the (idyllic) place for you.
Courtesy of Danai Beach Resort and Villas / Expedia
If you’re looking for a five-star stay, book the Danai Beach Resort and Villas, on the quieter peninsula of Sithonia. Suites are luxurious with private balconies, Bose sound systems and Bvlgari bath products. Larger groups can book a villa, complete with a private pool overlooking the Mediterranean. Spend the morning reading your book from a cabana on the hotel’s private beach before booking a shiatsu massage at the spa. Kids under 12 are well catered for here, with activities ranging from baby yoga to discos and painting classes.
On the third “finger” of the Halkidiki peninsula, in Ierissos, the family-run Gkeea Boutique Hotel awaits you. Modern and sophisticated rooms feature comfortable king-size beds and espresso machines, plus the hotel will welcome you with a complimentary drink on arrival. Start your day with a delicious breakfast in the dining area – expect plenty of fresh fruit, eggs and local cheese. While there is no on-site pool, Ierissos Beach is just a two-minute walk away. This little hotel is certainly a great base for day trips around the region.