Petralona Cave was discovered not long ago – only in 1959 and became famous in 1960 after they discovered the famous fossilized skull of the oldest European man. The age of the skull which was found is 700 000 years old and was discovered among the traces of fireplace, which is considered to be the ancient evidence and significant site of using fire in Europe. You will be excited seeing with your own eyes the stalagmites and stalactites of all shapes and sizes of Petralona Cave and as an advice, do not forget to take warm clothes, as the all year round temperature inside the cave is significantly low. There is an Anthropological Museum near the Petralona Cave where you can see the finds of the excavations. These findings presented there were found mainly from the Cave, but also from other parts of Greece. There are different sculptures of the animals in front of the museum, with which children take pictures with great pleasure.
Natura 2000 Network 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:
1. Holomontas Mountain
Rough valleys and rocky canyons characterize the site of mountain Holomontas. The verdant forest of Holomontas, usually covered by snow during the winter, offers incredible chances for sightseeing. Pine, fir and oak trees are alternating with chestnut and oak trees while there are plentiful brooks and springs. The air is so clean that takes the breath away. The diversity of forms of mountain’s forest is partial to a large number of preys, wild animals and birds. The ecological system of Holomontas is characterized as an important area for reproduction of predatory birds. Mountain Holomontas offers each time of the year a chance for alternative forms of tourism but also a chance for environmental and ecological education. Stamped old paths, mapping of new walking horse-riding paths, mountain bike paths, areas of controlled hunting, and climbing are few of the reasons why each year more and more visitors are attracted from Holomontas.
2. Itamos Mountain
The mountain Itamos (also known as Dragountelis) with the highest peak, the Astrapokameno, in 811 m, took its name from Itamos, a tree with a diameter of 1.2 m and age perhaps 2,000 years! It’s a protected area of 200,000 acres integrated in Natura 2000. There are fantastic trails that lead to wonderful landscapes of oaks and pines, and also Itamos is the “house” for deer, wolves, wild boars, foxes and many bird species. Today, we will suggest some picturesque routes for trekking and hiking, perfect for clearing your mind and knowing some hidden landscapes in Sithonia!
3. Stratoniko Mountain
The Stratoniko Mountain is ejected through the village of Stagira, which is the birthplace of Aristotle. In Stratoniko, there is a variety of amazing oak groves, beech trees, chestnut trees and lots of other representantives concerning the thick flora. You can always try the sparkling fresh water coming out from Stratoniko Mountain, while it is also a great refresh for every mountaineer who will choose its paths for his hiking excursion! Moreover, the majority of wildlife features can be found in this mountain, such as roebucks, hares, woodcocks as well as many birds and insects that use the trees and the bushes as their permanent shelter.
4. Mount Athos
Mount Athos is situated in the entire third, eastern and most beautiful peninsula of Halkidiki, called the peninsula of Athos. It is the only place in Greece that is completely dedicated to prayer and worship of God. For this reason, it is called the Holy Mount.
The Holy Mount is about 50 kilometres in length, 8 to 12 kilometres in width and it covers an area of about 350 square kilometres. The borders of the monasterial city are defined on the ground by an imaginary line that starts from the location named Fragokastro in the west coast and reaches the cape named Arapis in the opposite end. The natural beauty of the peninsula is extraordinary. The highest point of Mount Athos is like a huge cone, reaching 2033 metres in height. It’s a naked, treeless crest that seems to lance the sky and its slopes are fully covered by ancient evergreens. All these help to create an area of incomparable natural beauty.
1. SANI Wetlands
Sani Wetlands are a large land area of 110 hectares, home to over 200 species of birds, many of which are rare and endangered. The 34 species or 16% of the species recorded in the Sani wetlands included in the three main categories of the Red List. At the same time, 93 species fall into three most important categories of protection at European level (SPEC), as defined by Birdlife International.
2. Agia Paraskevi Thermal Springs
Agia Paraskevi is located in the inland of Kassandra, surrounded by a pine forest. The settlement Loutra (Thermal Springs) was named after the curative springs, lies five kilometers south of Agia Paraskevi, in front of the sea. The baths are located in the southern edge of Kassandra peninsula, in a magnificent spot, at the top of a hill with a viewto the sea. The sea, the pines, the amazing natural scenery of the area compose a unique picture of beauty. The thermal springs of Agia Paraskevi have several therapeutic indications such as ailments of the bones and joints – muscles as well as skin ailments such as dermatitis and eczemas.
3. Varvara Waterfalls
Near the village of Varvara there are two amazing waterfalls in a forest full of taxus, alders, lindens, beeches and wild hazels. Both the location and the feeling of calmness and serenity will make you feel like you have discovered a small paradise. The water leads to Mavrolaka, a river that is the boundary between Olympiada and Varvara. You will see the first waterfall from above, whereas in the second one you will feel its momentum even in the summer. It takes a short walk (5-10 minutes) to discover this wonderful place. Both the wooden bridges and the proper marks on the path contribute to the enjoyment of the unique scenery. It is ideal for families with kids who will be thrilled!
The University Forest in Taxiarchis, in Chalkidiki, is a publicly owned forest estate. It covers an area of 58,000 hectares on the southern and southwestern slopes of Holomontas mountain. In Taxiarchis you will find traditional taverns, traditional stone houses, guesthouses many churches and a beautiful square, where every year at the beginning of September, the feast of mushrooms exist. Taxiarchis is being visited by many tourists all seasons of the year in order to make rural tourism and to go hiking in the mountains. In the area you can go mountain bike, or horse riding as you will find farms with horses which you can rent. In addition, the flora of the area includes beech trees, black pine trees, brutian pine trees and Aleppo pine trees, as well as other ligneous plants, such as Quercus ilex, Erica arborea (a plant of beekeeping interest), holly oak trees, arbutus trees, fraxinus trees, plane trees as well as willow trees.
The island of Ammouliani (also known as Amoliani) is located in Halkidiki between the Sithonia and Mount Athos. Nowadays, in the island live about six hundred inhabitants and its size is 4.5 square kilometers. Moreover, ferry transport is very frequent during the summer season, with a ferry departing every half hour from Tripiti’s little port. The voyage is very short since the mainland is only approximately 3.8km away. Furthermore, Ammouliani is one of the most beautiful islands of Greece with well-known beaches like Alikes, Megali Ammos, Faka, Saint George which are characterized by their turquoise-color waters. The island itself is very well organized and tourists have access to clubs, bars, restaurants, retail shops, super markets, tavernas and many other facilities.
The Donkey Islands, also known as the Drenia Islands, are constituted of 6 beautiful small islands filled with incredible sandy beaches on a picturesque ‘’Greek summer’’ setting. Only one of them is inhabited. The Donkey Islands are an oasis of 6 spots of land placed upon the vast big blue of the world-renowned Greek seas. Their folklore name is attributed to the legend that locals used to bring their very old donkeys to the islands in order for the animals to die in a magnificent setting. Furthermore, the greek alias concerning the Drenia Islands is “Gaidouronisia”.
Diaporos Island is the largest island in the archipelago of nine islands that belong to Sithonia. These islands are closest to the town Vourvourou, obscure it, thus enabling the islands to always have calm waters. Diaporos Island is less known to our tourists, but so many tourists from all over the world come to Sithonia only because of the turquoise waters and beautiful beaches that this island offers. 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. Recommended for Halkidiki beginners.
The Island of Kelyfos is located just opposite Porto Carras, the most touristic part of Halkidiki, which features luxurious tourist facilities such casino, heliport, marina for large and small vessels. Kelyfos’ forestation is mainly pine trees and has olive trees on the eastern part. It has two natural harbors with sufficient depth for large vessels and for the creation of a deck. The island of Kelyfos supports the construction of a heliport. There are two natural pebble beaches and clear blue waters.
Around Neos Marmaras, there are many small and scenic ports, beautiful isolated beaches and a group of small islands named Spalathronisia. Visitors may reach the beaches either by boat or by car/motorcycle and there enjoy the clear and deep blue sea under the golden sun. It is a cluster of three islets and although they are very close to the land, they are isolated enough for private visits. The most private you have ever imagined!
The Aristotle’s Park, a unique theme park of Halkidiki, is located at an altitude of about 500 meters, in the historical village of Stagira, beside the remains of Machalas, the capital of Mademochoria. It is worth visiting for its interesting instruments and the great view to the gulf of Ierissos. The park preexisted and the wonderful location was chosen in 1956 to host the statue of Aristotle, made by sculptor Nicholas, in honor of the great philosopher who was born in Ancient Stagira.
The unique interactive instruments were placed there in 2003 by the Municipal Corporation of Stagira-Akanthos. They are experimental instruments, operating by rules of physics that are mentioned in Aristotle’s textbooks and especially in the one called “The Naturals”. With this addition, the park has become a favorite destination for every visitor and school, since it combines recreation, entertainment and education. It is estimated that has more than 15.000 visitors during the summer. The tower of Madem Agas is also located there, with the house that was the administrative center of Sidirokafsia mines.
Olynthos, the most important cultural centre in Chalkidiki during the Classical period, was built in an area that was first inhabited during the Late Neolithic period (3000-2500 BC). It was the leading city of the Bottiaians from the 7th c. BC until its destruction by the Persians in 479 BC, when it passed into the hand of the Chalkideans. From 432 BC, Olynthos was the seat of an alliance of 32 cities in Chalkidiki, and for a century played a leading role in the political life of the region before being comprehensively destroyed by Philip II in 348 BC. The city of ancient Olynthos spreads over two hills. The pre-Persian settlement (before 479 BC) is on the south hill, and the Classical town, built on the famous Hippodamean system, lies on the north hill. Streets and avenues in a chess-board pattern create building blocks, each of which contained ten houses, between which ran a narrow, stone-paved passage that led off rain-water from the roofs. Most of the houses of Olynthos are of the type with a pastas (portico) on the north side of the internal courtyard. Access to the house was either directly from the street, or by way of a corridor in the internal courtyard, which was either in the south part or middle of the house. In the courtyard, which was stone-paved, were wells, and clay or stone drainage conduits. The pastas was usually roofed, had 3 or 4 columns, and opened on to the diaiteteria, 3 or 4 residential and reception rooms in the north part of the house. The mosaics of Olynthos are the earliest known in the ancient world. Other rooms in the houses of Olynthos include the optanion (kitchen), the oikos for everyday activities, the bathroom with its clay bath and carefully planned drainage system, and the storerooms, workshops and shops. The presence of a second storey has been detected here and there. The city on the south hill was laid out according to the natural configuration of the terrain, and the houses were not all identical. There were basement storage pits beneath the streets and in the area of the agora, which was located on the ridge connecting the two hills. The city was protected by a brick fortification wall. The presence of the river Olynthios to the west of the settlement afforded further protection. The three cemeteries of Olynthos were located outside the settlement. Remains of a Byzantine tower have been discovered on the south hill.
Ancient Toroni was one of the most significant towns of Chalkidiki. After the Persian wars, it joined the Athenian League and was captured by the Spartans and the Athenians respectively during the Peloponnesian War. Many ruins of the ancient city were preserved up to the late 19th century, but they were destroyed so that their granite building material could be used for road surfacing in Thessaloniki and Constantinople. Today, only remains of ancient Toroni, south of the village, are still preserved. Traces of the big round tower in Anemomomylos as well as parts of the acropolis fortification walls on Vigla summit, also stand there. Toroni is situated after Marmaras and before Porto Koufo. During mythology, Toroni was wife of Protea, son of Poseidon. Traces of prehistoric settlements of the 3rd century BC and many other ancient remainders, ancient Christian and Byzantine temples, castles and others is evidence that the area is inhabited constantly from the Neolithic era. Ancient Toroni was founded by the Halkidi’s settlers of the 8th century BC. During the 5th century BC Toroni was one of the most significant cities in Halkidiki. Having its own currency and was part of the Athenian alliance. Thucydides resides that in 423 BC it was taken over by Vrasidas from Sparta. In 348 BC the city was taken by Phillipou the 2nd. In 168 BC the Romans invaded and the city decayed. In the Byzantine era the land belonged to Agio Oros monasteries. Its strong walls and other buildings were destroyed in the 19th century, when the Turks used the granite stones they were built of to cover the central roads of Constantinople and Thessaloniki.
Ancient Akanthos used to be a greek city on the Athos peninsula. It was located near the modern town of Ierissos on the north-east side of Akti, on the most eastern peninsula of Halkidiki. Strabo and Ptolemyerroneously place Acanthus on the Singitic Gulf, but there can be no doubt that the town was on the Strymonian Gulf, as is stated by Herodotus and other authorities: the error may have perhaps arisen from the territory of Acanthus having stretched as far as the Singitic Gulf. The name of the ancient city (derived from the acanthus bush) is due to the thorny nature of the area or to the thorny nature of the town’s foundation. During the visit you attend, the walls of the acropolis, main parts of the city’s fortification, ruins of walls, an impressive part of the acropolis, and scattered architectural parts and structural ruins of the Hellenistic period, public buildings, houses and the foundations of a temple –probably of Goddess Athena- on top of the hill and many more sights that will leave you breathless!
Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. in Ancient Stagira, a city by the sea. The city was a colony founded by Andros residents around 665 B.C., but Chalkideans settled here. Originally, the city was called Orthagoria. Stagira residents became Athenian allies, but later took the Spartans’ side, which displeased the Athenians, who arrived here under Cleon in 423 B.C., besieged Stagira, but did not manage to conquer the city, which was later conquered by Philip, in 349 B.C., who destroyed all Chalkidiki colonies following the fall of Olynthos. Archaeologists arrived at this small promontory just in 1990 and started excavating the native city of Aristotle. The most impressive part of the city is the strong wall that can be seen on the top of the first hill (the South one) built during the classical era; we can still see the various manners of construction using such big stones. This wall defines the western limit of the city; the rest of it is surrounded by sea. Beautiful round and square towers and ramparts were connected with heavy staircases to complement the powerful fortification of the city. Excavators have done a wonderful job so that at the feet of the hills there is a discreet footpath to allow for a comfortable tour of the ancient site. At the end of the promontory, we can see what is left of the wall that was built after the city was destroyed by Philip, when Stagira was reinhabited for the sake of Aristotle. Right below, there was the Stagira port named Kapros (just like the little island across the water) to honour the wild Kapros (boar), which was the sacred animal of the city. Every summer, there are musical and artistic events held on the site; these events, called “Aristotelia”, have been organized since 1996 to revive ancient celebrations and to better use such a lovely spot.
The Archaeological Museum of Polygyros, located in the central square of the town, has been functioning since 1970. It hosts archaeological artefacts that represent findings from all over Halkidiki, ranging from the Bronze Age to the Roman periods. They are arranged into two areas of the museum and include: (1) Prehistoric findings (pottery, tools, fly-wheel of a spindle) from Olynthos, Saint Mamas and Molyvopyrgo, (2) Reliefs and inscribed monuments from the Classical and Hellenistic periods, including columns and contracts, inscribed on stone surfaces, recording the sales of houses and vineyards, (3) Local Ceramics and adventitious information from the archaic and classical eras, (4) Metal Products (weapons, jewellery) of the post-archaic and the classical eras, in particular, the artefacts discovered buried in tombs from all over the region of Halkidiki, such as those at Kastri, Afitos, N. Marmaras, Plana and Pyrgadikia, (5) Myrtle, ivy and oak wreaths of outstanding beauty decorated with lead crown, copper and gold plated leaves and stalks, and gold-plated clay fruits and flowers. These date back from the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd century BC, (6) Items of daily use and worship from ancient Olynthos, depicting the life of a city during the 4th century BC (women’s clay busts, figurines, ceramic tiles with representations of gods, etc.), (7) Clay Parts of the church roof from the temple of Zeus Ammon of ancient Afytios, in the present day town of Kallithea. The relics represent fragments of vessels, with their markings restored, and are exhibited along with a marble head of Dionysus, (8) An Unfinished Kouros (male youth statuette) found in the sea just off Olympiada (ancient Stageira), (9) Two Marble Statues from Potidea and two from Stratoni, dating to the 1st century BC. The Archaeological Museum of Polygyros also exhibits the archaeological collection of I. Lambropoulos which includes about 800 objects (pottery, bronze vessels, weapons, funeral gifts, etc.).
The History & Folklore Museum of Arnaia is located in the town of Arnaia in Halkidiki, belongs to the municipality and it is located behind the National Bank in the town centre. It is housed in a two-storey town-house of the eighteenth century, which was owned by Konstandinos Katsangelos and used to house the folklore collection put together by the Arnaia Cultural and Educational Association. After being renovated it has opened as a museum in the summer of 1999. The purpose of the museum is to display artefacts of the popular culture of Arnaia and the surrounding area. As one enters the building, the first hall contains typical examples of the architectural heritage of Arnaia, and the second traditional folk instruments. Apart from this, on the ground floor there is a display of agricultural implements (for sowing, reaping, threshing), bread-making equipment (millstones, kneading boards, proving troughs, bread-stamps), bee-keeping equipment (hives, frames, an extractor for centrifuging the honey from the cells, skeps), carpentry equipment (vices, moulds for rooftiles and bricks, files, planes). On the mezzanine floor is the wherewithal for preparing and serving coffee, and on the first floor weaving equipment (a loom, a distaff, cards, a spinning wheel, carding machines), and tools and utensils for everyday use (cooking utensils, receptacles for carrying water, cauldrons, washing troughs, a brazier). One particularly important exhibit is the Arnaia fire-engine, which is 200 years old and based on the force-pump invented by Ktesibios (285-220 B.C). Its basic operating principle is the piston, and it consists of bronze receptacles fitted with two pistons, between which the water passes and is stored in the receptacles.
The Museum of Fishing Vessels & Equipment is already known as a forty-year unstoppable effort by Stavros Kovrakis, a true legendary collector of sea treasures all over Greece, while there is also great support by the Yacht Club of Moudania in Halkidiki. The most important impact of this Museum is on the educational and research areas, while there is also foresight about the local identity and characteristics by keeping these features alive in Moudania during the years. The displayed items are mainly ancient anchors, fishing nets, fishing rods and hooks, compasses, beacons, lamps, torches as well as many other intriguing exhibits. Moreover, there are some 3D recreations of a wide range of fishing techniques, by explaining how the different kinds of vessel and net are used, with replicas of former fishing boats and a prosperous archive of old documents and fishing illustrations. The most notable item in the Museum of Fishing Vessels & Equipment is the boyiandes, a traditional fishing vessel previously seen in the Sea of Marmara, introduced to Greek Seas by the refugees from Asia Minor. Last but not least, the Museum offers a glorious insight into the weird and supernatural world under the sea level, with its vast range of plant and animal life.