The pleasures of the Halkidiki peninsula are manifold, says Nicholas Shakespeare. Take the family to a resort on Kassandra or a lover to secluded Sithonia. But for solitary pursuits, head to holy Mount Athos.
Halkidiki, in short, has been sifted by archaeologists, brutalised by developers and is overrun by tourists from the Balkans, Britain and Germany who converge here in the summer months to enjoy what the place does best: sea, sand, sex and sun. But Halkidiki, with no traffic, and easy to get to and drive around, does possess authentic attractions, even if the locals have not found a way to market these: to seize you by the shoulders and say this is Aristotle’s birthplace; that you must, whatever you do, visit his statue in Stagira or sit in the old village of Nikiti and taste a fresh coffee overlooking the pine forests of Mount Itamos, which conceal the world’s ‘oldest living tree’, or take a walk along Tristinika beach behind Porto Carras, or see the ruins of old Lerissos or Xerxes’s canal. These are pleasures you must seek out for yourself.