29 Aug Greece: Best beaches in Chalkidiki (an almost-local guide)
I’ve spent quite a few summers in Halkidiki/Chalkidiki/Chalkidice/Chalkidike/Χαλκιδική, or whatever on earth you want to call the three-fingered peninsula in northern Greece.
I’ve always been lucky enough to be shuttled around by locals who know precisely where to take me, and considering it has, in my opinion anyway, some of the best beaches in Europe (if what you’re after is sun, sea and souvlakia – and let’s face it, who isn’t?), it seemed selfish not to share my best beaches guide with you.
The great thing about Halkidiki is that it feels like an island, but it’s connected to the mainland. Meaning it’s super easy to get to from Thessaloniki airport, but has many kilometres of coastline and a super relaxed everyone’s-on-holiday vibe. Most beaches have “beach bars”, meaning you find a lounger, make yourself comfortable, and smiley Greek waiters bring iced coffees (frappés), snacks, and beers directly to your seat whenever you please. Some beaches now make tourists pay for the sun beds, but others will just charge you for what you consume while you’re there.
Halkidiki is divided into three “fingers”. Each one has its own stereotype and is suited more to a different kind of traveler. If you’re a woman, you can already kiss goodbye to your hopes of visiting the third finger, ATHOS, as it’s home to many monasteries and is a strictly men-and-monks kinda place. So with that off limits, let’s take a look at the best spots on the other two.
This is the first finger – the one on the left if you look at the map.
This one is known as the party place, and is where you’ll find the vast majority of nightlife (check out Aqua near Kallithea for a mix of Greek pop and Eurotrash and a thoroughly fun night). But during the day, you can hit some stunning beaches, and enjoy some great (but strangely not overly-distracting) music while you lounge.
Pro tip: work out which way the wind is coming from, and head to a spot on the sheltered side for wave-free beaching.
For an authentic Greek family experience
Head to Ayios Mamas in Nea Potidea. It’s a long beach with a ton of beach bars along it. It’s not the most beautiful of the beaches in the area, but it’s quieter than a lot of the others and is mainly full of locals. Some beach bars have souvlaki on the grill, and they’re always cheap and delicious. If you stay around Potidea in the evening, try the Pasxalakis taverna for some of the juiciest meat dishes around.
For stunningly clear water:
Check out Afytos/Athytos (nobody really knows what it’s called, not even the locals). The entrance to the water is a bit rocky, but it’s soft, fine sand after the initial 5 metres, and the crystal clear sea makes this place look almost fake. The water is really shallow, so you can walk about 200 metres out before having to worry about swimming (how un-Greek would that be, anyway?). There are a few beach bars, but the strip of sand is fairly narrow, so get there early if you want to be sure of a seat. Afytos is also an adorable place for an evening wander, dinner, and drinks. Avoid the seafront restaurants if you don’t want to be ripped off, and try the places a little more off the beaten track.
For amazing beach parties:
Drive down to Paliouri. Leuki Ammos (“White Sand”) is one of my very favourite beach bars. Not only is the beach itself a stunner and their sunbeds a level of cosy squishiness that you’d only dreamed of, but the acoustic remixes on the speakers are super relaxing, and their August beach parties are so. much. fun. At around 6pm, the music slowly turns up, and the dancing begins. Get some drinks and bop around carefree in your swimsuit. You’re on holiday after all.
For a VIP experience:
Bousoulas beach bar in Sani is your place. It’s attached to a touristic village, so is a little too full of foreigners for my liking, but the developers did very well to choose the spot they did, as it is a cracker of a beach, and a beautiful place to watch the sunset. It’s not cheap, and if you aren’t staying at Sani you aren’t guaranteed a spot at all, but if you manage to talk the attendents into giving you a space (arriving with a local will help you here!), the cushiony sun loungers will make you feel like you never want to leave.
This is the section of Halkidiki between Sithonia and Athos, but as middle fingers go, it’s very pleasant indeed.
Sithonia is labelled as the spot for nature lovers, but there are plenty of “regular” beach bars alongside the more “camping style” ones, and even if you aren’t usually an outdoorsy type, you won’t be disappointed.
For the Instagram-perfect photo:
Go straight to Kabourotrupes. It is one of the most picturesque places I have ever set eyes upon. Unfortunately, it’s not much of a secret any more, so you’ll have to share with other visitors, but it’s worth seeing for sure. Unusually, there are no beach bars here, and it’s mostly rock rather than sand, making it a less than perfectly comfortable location, but with that water, and that view of Mount Athos, god it’s beautiful.
To see and be seen:
Riviera at Agios Ioannis is the beach bar for you. The entrance to this luxury beach bar is full of designer furniture and slightly overpriced drinks, and interspersed amongst the sun loungers are beanbags for the more hipster beach-goers amongst you. The sea is perfectly nice, but you’re really just here to people watch and sip on a cocktail, aren’t you?
To hang out with the locals:
Two other beach bars, that I’m quite a fan of are Isla and Mango. These are on the same stretch of beach, and are often chosen by Greeks who want a relaxing place to hang out for the weekend. This beach tends to get pretty busy too, so also here it’s worth arriving early. The main reason I like these two is that they’re near to Nikiti, which is not only where a friend of mine has a cute little bar (it’s called Veggera, check it out!), but is also home to a delicious fish restaurant, Kazanis, where you will eat enough taramasalata, octopus and mackerel to fill you up for a year (…and then continue eating, because you’re in Greece, duh).
A recent discovery for me, Manassu quickly became my fave beach bar. The water is awesome, the beds are comfy, there are rocks to climb, and the beach bar even has some shaded matresses just in case you had a long night and need a really comfy, beachy nap. The food at the bar is also pretty tasty, and there are some spots to play raketes, naturally. The road leading down to the little cove is also very Instagrammable. The only downside of this place is that spots are limited – if you can call ahead and book, it’s better.
Best for campers:
Africafé at Platanitsi is the furthest down the second finger we ever
tend to go, but is one of my very favourite places. There’s a view right across to Mount Athos – on a clear day you can even see the monasteries – the beach is long and not too crowded, the water is crystal clear and also nice and shallow, and the fruit salad bowls are to die for. If you like water sports, you can rent various fun inflatable things or jet skis here too. There’s a huge campsite behind the beach, so if you want a wild weekend away from the city, with the added bonus of a beautiful sandy beach on your doorstep, you can pitch your tent here.
Arguably the best thing about heading this far down the coast is that you can stop at the food truck with the loveliest view around on your way back – it’s called Androklis Kantina (I think, anyway!) and it’s just a slightly run-down looking truck serving souvlaki sandwiches which you eat at plastic tables. If you drove past, you’d probably not even think to stop, but the food costs next to nothing, it tastes great, and you get to admire the panorama while you tuck in.
Summer holidays don’t get much better than this Greek paradise.