Halkidiki (or Chalkidiki) is located in northern Greece, about 100 km from Thessaloniki. Halkidiki is formed from three peninsulas of Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos. Halkidiki is relatively easy to reach because of airport, ferry, road and rail connections at Greece's second city of Thessaloniki. Most Halkidiki holidaymakers fly in to Thessaloniki airport on package tours and get bussed out eastwards to the various resorts.
Independent travellers can reach Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos by bus from both Athens and from Thessaloniki. The usual route is Thessaloniki by plane, boat or train and then a bus to Nea Moudania or Poligiros and travel from there onto the resort of choice. German and East Europeans often travel by rail or road to Thessaloniki.
Most holidaymakers fly in to Thessaloniki airport on package tours and are then bussed out by holiday firms to the various resorts located on the three Halkidiki peninsulas.
Independent travellers can reach all parts of Halkidiki - Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos - by bus from both Athens and from Thessaloniki.
Thessaloniki Airport (SKG) is the third biggest in Greece and handles around 4 million passengers annually. The airport is located about 14km from Thessaloniki city centre.
It is the main airport of Northern Greece and it not only serves the city of Thessaloniki, the second largest in Greece after Athens, and the tourist holiday resorts of Halkidiki but also the cities of the Macedonia region.
Visitors say the airport is not really geared for tourist traffic - public transport information is difficult to find, the tourist office is often closed and bus stop information is in Greek only.
There are plans for a major expansion of the terminal and some say it can't come too soon.
Thessaloniki has services you would expect from a major airport including restaurants, banks, VIP lounges, left luggage, duty free and 24-hour car parking.
There is a 24-hour bus service to Thessaloniki, where visitors to Halkidiki can catch a bus to Nea Moudania or to Poligiros, in Kassandra, where thay can travel on to the resort of their choice. Regular bus services also run to both Sithonia and Athos.
The port of Thessaloniki is easily reached from the city centre. Ferries from Thessaloniki leave regularly for the Sporades islands (Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos, Skyros), to some of the Cyclades islands ( Tinos, Mykonos, Syros, Paros, Naxos, Santorini, Limnos, Mytilene, Chios) to several Dodecanese islands (Rhodes, Kos, Kalymnos, Leros, Patmos) and to mainland ports at Pilion, Volos and Piraeus (Athens) as well as to Heraklion in Crete.
In addition to regular ferries, there are several Flying Dolphin passenger services including Hellas Flying Dolphins A.N.E service to Moudania.
Passengers should bear in mind that ferry schedules can change with many more services during the summer months. Bad weather can also affect services, especially the Flying Dolphin routes.
Summer ferry schedules may not be confirmed until April or May, and not published until then.
The information here is as accurate as I can make it but note that ferry schedules can change at any time.
The Halkidiki road network is generally very good and resorts can be reached easily by car and bus. Getting out of Thessaloniki can be a problem in the high season and there is often a lot of traffic congestion. There are car rental agencies at Thessaloniki Airport and in Thessaloniki itself. The distance to Kassandra is about 78km and takes about 90min to drive there.
The cheapest way to get to Halkidiki resorts is by bus. The bus station for Halkidiki is not the main station but the one located in the eastern part of the city and, from Thessaloniki airport, the best bet may be to take a taxi. Buses leave from the KTEL bus station in Thessaloniki about every hour. The first bus leaves for Kassandra at 5.40am. and the last one at 9pm. The schedule changes during the season with more frequent services in the summer. It takes about 90mins to get to Kassandra from Thessaloniki.
There are regular buses to all the main Kassandra resorts, though they are not always very frequent and thinning out the further south you go. Here are the main resorts with daily buses in brackets. Kallikratia (17), Nea Moudania (17), Kassandria (12), Kallithea (12), Paliouri (7).
Most resorts in Sithonia can be reached by bus but you have to plan carefully as there may be only one of two buses a say, more in the summer months. There are daily services from Thessaloniki and Poligiros to both west and east coast resorts as well as service between neighbouring villages. The main routes from Thessaloniki are to Gerakini - Metamorfosi - Nikiti; to Agios Nikolaos and then Vourvourou and Armenistis. From Polygyros there are services to Gerakini, Psakoudia, Metamorfosi, Marmaras in the eh west and Vourvourou, Armenistis, Sarti, Sikia and Kalamitsi in the east.
Click here for details of Halkidiki bus schedules from the Organisation of Urban Transportation of Thessaloniki (OASTH) which has pages in English and Greek.
Most resorts in Athos are best reached by hire car or motorbike. Bus services are infrequent and timetables are suited to local workers rather than tourists, with some very early morning starts.
There is a large taxi stand at Thessaloniki Airport and it is possible to take a taxi to Halkidiki is you are heading for one of the resorts in Kassandra. The fare will be hefty though, especially with luggage, and it is best to agree a price before you get in . The fare obviously varies according to the distance to the destination but expect to pay at least €50 from the airport.
It is usual for most towns and villages in Halkidiki to have one or two licensed taxi drivers, often more. The main taxi centres are at Thessaloniki (231 0266406l) , Poligiros (231 011460) and at Nea Moudania (237 022303). If you need a taxi in the resort you can usually find one locally - just ask in the local caf or taverna. If not you can ring the nearest centre above and they will give you the numbers of the nearest taxi.
Halkidiki has a huge variety of holiday accommodation for all tastes and budgets. Hotels in Halkidiki tend to be quieter and a little more upmarket than on the Greek islands. Relatively restrained development in many of the resorts also means that Halkidiki hotels and other accommodation tend to score higher for atmosphere , although this is not necessarily true of some of the more popular resorts especially in the Kassandra area.
Halkidiki hotel nightlife tends to entail quiet waterside tavernas. Kassandra peninsula. resorts such as Pefkohori and Polichrono are noted for sandy beaches and attractive villages. Family hotels are more likely to be found in Kassandra while the luxury Halkidiki hotels are more likely sites on the Sithonia peninsula. The biggest range of cheap Halkidiki hotels is found in Kallithea and this is the resort with the liveliest nightlife.
Budget hotels and cheap apartment accommodation can be found throughout the region and so can camping sites. Several Halkidiki resorts have large and well equipped campsites and the area is popular with campers from Germany and Eastern Europe.
Most Halkidiki hotel have good off-peak deals, especially in spring when the region is covered in wild flowers - one of the best times for walkers. Many Halkidiki hotels also organise bus or boat excursions to popular visitor sights such as Petralona Cave and the monasteries of Mount Athos and even Meteora.
The climate in Halkidiki is typically Mediterranean with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. In spring the area is rich in wild flowers and many consider this the best time to visit. The region has very dry summers with hardly any rainfall. High summer sees 18 hours sunshine daily with about 300 days sunshine all year. Temperatures in the summer months range from 23°C to 34°C.
The autumns in Halkidiki are warm with an average amount of rainfall. The winters are much cooler with more rain than the autumn. The lowest temperatures are recorded in December to February and range between 3.5°C to 19°C. It rarely drops below freezing in Halkidiki except in the more mountainous areas. Chalkidiki's main tourist season is between May and September.
In 2006, the Kassandra peninsula suffered a major forest fire that affected central and the northern parts of the region. Several homes were destroyed along with hotels and one camping site. About 2,000 hectares of forest and farmland were also fire damaged, some areas affected very severely. The fire devastated much of the local economy. Villages most affected were Sani, Nea Skioni and Fourka.