Spirit of Nature…
The land of Halkidiki is famous for its fruitful soil as well as the variety of its natural scenery.
The west coast is rich in picturesque plants, while the center and the east region count three beautiful mountains, Holomontas, Itamos and Athos. Furthermore, Halkidiki’s three peninsulas dive into the Aegean Sea offering a coastline of about 550 km – the longest one in Greece. When exploring the amazing natural environment do not miss out on the ancient Petralona Cave, as well as the wetlands region protected by the Natura newtwork.
- Geological shapes (Petralona Cave & Rocks on the beach)
- Natura 2000
- Wetlands & Waters
- Taxiarchis forest
- Islands & islets (island hopping)
Near the village of Petralona, at the base of Mount Katsika, one can find the entrance of the Cave of Petralona. It was accidentally discovered in 1959 by a villager. They named it “Red stones” (Kokkines Petres) because of the red earth which coloured the stalagmites and stalactites. It covers an area of 10.000 m2. “The cave is part of an extensive cavern system in calcareous Mesozoic deposits containing large quantities of fossil mammalian bones including horse, cave bear, lion and others” encyclopedia Britannica says.
In 1960 Dr. Aris Poulianos found a complete skull and part of the skeleton of an erect hominid. It belonged to a woman between 25-35 years old. The skull is dated as being 700.000 years old and the traces of fire found next to it, around 1.000.000 years old. It is considered one of the earliest human findings in Europe.
The cave provides a breathtaking spectacle of geology beauty. In the part named “cemetery of Giants”, 14 different types of animal-bones were found. The “Great Hall” has huge stalagmites in white coral-like. The “Hall of Roots” has fine roots above the cave having pierced the roof and formed a net.
There is a Museum near the cave which contains many of the archaeological findings of the cave. The authentic skull is in the paleontological collection of the Aristotelian Museum of Thessaloniki, but there is a replica inside the cave, where it was found.
Rocks on the beach (Sithonia): There is a long rocky coastline on the east side of Sithonia, interrupted by small enclaves of well hidden sandy beaches thus creating an astonishing natural environment especially when explored by boat. (f.e. Karydi beach – Vourvourou, Kavourotrypes beach – Sarti).
Natura 2000 is the centerpiece of EU nature & biodiversity policy. The network aims to assure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats. It is comprised of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and also incorporates Special Protection Areas (SPAs). The protected areas of Natural Beauty and Biodiversity, by the Natura European Network, located in Halkidiki are:
- Agios Mamas Laguna
- Nea Fokea Wetland Habitat
- Paliouri Cape
- Cape Pyrgos - Kypsas Bay - Malamo
- Sithonia peninsula
- Itamos Mount, Sithonia
- Platanitsi - Sykia: Cape Rigas - Cape Adolo
- Cape Elia - Cape Kastro - Ragoula Outlet
- Taxiarchis - Polygyros
- Holomontas Mount
- Athos peninsula
- Stratoniko Mount, Skamni Summit
Mt Holomontas: The central and northern parts of Halkidiki are dominated by the mountain range of Mt. Holomontas, an area of incredible beauty, with breathtaking views in all directions. In ancient times Holomontas was known for the quality of its timber, much prized by shipbuilders. Imposing trees grow high up on its slopes, with oaks on the lower reaches, and chestnut, pine, fir and beech higher up. Every so often the trees make way for a clearing, blossoming later on with wild flowers. Mushrooms are found here, growing alongside wild herbs, mountain tea and oregano. There are also many species of wild animals and birds. (Highest peak: 1165 m).
Mt Itamos (or Dragoudelis): The mountain range of Itamos is the biggest one in Sithonia. In the central forest zone, close to the mountain top, there are some rare old Itamos trees, a unique flora variety –the mountain was named after them. You can reach the top by car, via the hamlet of Parthenon village. The forest offers special trails ideal for walking and biking. From the top one has a magnificent view over Sithonia, Kassandra and Mt Athos. The mountain is covered with a great variety of coniferous trees. It is a protected area with significant flora and fauna. Typical mammal species that live in the mountain are wolves, foxes, rabbits and wild pigs. The locals speculate that there are also deers in the region (Highest peak: 811 m).
Mt Stratoniko: The Stratoniko Mountain is located above the village Stagira, Aristotle’s birthplace. The place is full of astonishing oak groves, tall and old beech trees, chestnut trees and numerous other representatives of the thick flora. Sparkling fresh waters quench the thirst of the lumberjacks, and refresh the thousands of mountaineers who enliven the mountain paths. Wildlife features an abundance of wild boars, roebucks, hares, woodcocks, birds and insects who found a permanent shelter among the trees and the bushes. (Highest peak: 913 m).
Mt Athos: Mount Athos is the mountain and the easternmost peninsula of Halkidiki. An UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. The actual Mount Athos has steep, densely forested slopes reaching up to 2.033 meters near the southernmost tip of the peninsula. The mountain mass is cleft by deep ravines, along which flow deep torrents and countless streams. It is only at the southern end of the peninsula that water is scarce. The whole peninsula is covered with dense vegetation, which harbours numerous ecosystems. There is a zone of Mediterranean evergreen, including pine, holm-oak, cypress, wild olive, lentisk, laurel, arbutus, and heather; higher up are deciduous forests of oak, chestnut, lime, and black pine; and higher still is the low vegetation of high mountain ranges.
Wetlands & waters
Sani Wetlands (Kassandra): Sani company has undertaken an important environmental initiative – studying and protecting the birdlife of the Sani wetlands. The Sani wetlands is a large expanse of land of 110 hectares, home to over 200 species of birds -many of them rare and endangered. 34 species -or 16% of species- recorded in the Sani Wetlands are included in the three most important categories of the Red List. At the same time, 93 species fall into the three most important protection categories on a European level (SPEC), as defined by the Birdlife International.
Mavrobara Lake (Kassandra): The Lake Mavrobara is widely known for its ecological interest and is located 3km west of Polychrono, in a big forest area full of pine-trees. The lake shelters two rare species of water turtles in danger of extinction (Emys orbicularis and Mauremys caspica), which find refuge here. Small benches placed at the area, allow you to enjoy conveniently this land full of canes and nenuphars.
Agios Mamas Wetland (West Coast): Agios Mamas march is a small coastal wetland, located between Kassandra and Sithonia peninsula, an important location for breeding and passage waders. The wetland with the standing water has sand-dunes and reedbeds.
Vourvourou lagoon (Sithonia): Vourvourou is well known for its dense pine forest, the enchanting beaches with clear turquoise waters and the nine scattered picturesque islets. Here lies Livari, a beautiful lagoon which is delimited from the adjacent navy-blue sea by an elongated sandy beach with pine-trees. The whole area is a protected due to the significant flora and fauna.
Agia Paraskevi thermal springs (Kassandra): One of the most traditional villages of the region, Agia Paraskevi is famous for its thermal springs and their therapeutic qualities. The residents revived the village, creating an elegant spa destination offering modern facilities, located in a lush pine forest. The springs, which were discovered accidentally, have important therapeutic qualities due to the water’s special chemical composition.
Varvara waterfalls (Central Halkidiki): Between the villages Varvara and Olympiada, one can find the waterfalls of Varvara. It consists of two waterfalls 15m. high, in a forest full of Itamos trees. The beautiful landscape is really worth a visit.
The University Forest of Taxiarchis is found in the center of Halkidiki and concretely in the Southern and South-western slopes of Holomontas. The unique agriculture found on the Mountain of Holomontas, which can survive at these winter conditions -low temperature, is the agriculture of Christmas trees, which are planted by seed in its fields, (trees are not cut from the forest). After 15 years of growth, the trees are sold, during the Christmas period. There is even a modern unit of treatment of herbs and therapeutic plants, such as tea are collected, drained and sold.
Islands & islets (island hopping)
Ammouliani: It is the only inhabited island of Halkidiki, located 120km from Thessaloniki. It is connected by frequent ferryboat routes that last only 10 minutes to Tripiti, the beach located across the island. This island is an idyllic combination of fine golden sand, aquamarine sea, vegetation and giant rocks.
Drenia or "Donkey islands": Located opposite Ouranoupolis, about 2 miles away from the mainland. The 6 islands present beautiful sandy beaches, amazing blue waters and an enchanting landscape.
Tigani & Pontiki: From Tripiti or from the island “Ammouliani” you can reach these two small islands by boat and enjoy their picturesque beaches.
Diaporos: It is a magnificent island situated on a private bay and surrounded by a natural forest, one of the last unexploited areas of Halkidiki, a fact that explains its astonishingly pure beauty. Diaporos is right across Vourvourou village in Sithonia peninsula. The bay is deep enough for large yachts and the natural beauty of the location is astonishing. Diaporos belongs to a complex of islets together with: Kalogria, Ambelitsi, Kalamonisia (3), Prassonisi, Peristera, Agios Isodoros.
Kelyfos: It is also called the “Turtle island” because of its shape. Kelyfos is located opposite Neos Marmaras. The island is full of wild goats but it is best known for its spectacular seabed.
Spalathronisia: It is a cluster of three islets almost opposite Porto Carras Grand Resort. Although they are very close to the land, they are isolated enough for private visits.
Punta: 9km after Porto Carras Grand Resort, turning left towards the sea, is a very small peninsula which is called “Diaporti”. When the sea pulls away, a sandy path which leads to Punta island is being revealed. Punta has four beaches ideal for swimming.
Halkidiki can boast an amazing 550km of coastline, featuring a thousand different beaches, some offering an endless expanse of golden sand, others rocky. Some beaches are crowded -socialising spots, while others are no more than deserted coves among the rocks. All of them though are blessed with crystal clear waters reflecting the deep green of the pine-tree forests. The Blue Flags that Halkidiki is being awarded every year are rightly deserved.