Traveling to the islands of Greece is by far the most popular way to experience the beaches on the Aegean Sea. But north of Santorini and Rhodes, you’ll find a new way to explore the beaches of Greece on the coasts of Halkidiki, the birthplace of Aristotle. Here, there is no cultural, culinary, back-roads or sea-based adventure that can’t be dreamed up. This is where Greek families head for summer vacation and where a relaxed quest for enjoyment rules.
1. EAT: Eat New Greek Cuisine at the annual Gourmet Food Festival hosted by the 5-star Sani Resort on the Kassandra peninsula. This is where award-winning chefs from all over Greece collect for a ten-day culinary celebration, elevating traditional dishes using modern cooking techniques. All ingredients are homegrown within 100 miles of the event, bringing a helpful boost to the local economy at the same time. This collaboration among local food producers, hoteliers, restaurateurs and foodies of all ages unites traveling food lovers year after year.
Many of the qualities that make Halkidiki so exceptionally beautiful are a direct result of the way that tourism has been handled in the region during the last few years. You could go as far as to say that they are guiding their promotional efforts with a strong moral compass. That is, there is great consideration for the effects that tourism on a large scale brings to a place and Halkidiki tourism has guided their growth efforts thoughtfully in response.
They have created the opportunity to choose their market, instead of letting the market choose them. And from that you get to experience a region rich in tradition without hoards of tourist buses and all of the additional damage that comes with it. What is left is a sophisticated, culturally wealthy and superbly healthy place to visit. So, while Halkidiki is one of the hottest places to travel, you probably won’t see it on every hot list being published each month online and in print. And most travelers agree, that is a really good thing.
2. DRINK: Drink sun-dried wines vinified in wooden barrels in nearby Kalohori, outside of Thessaloniki. Experience the revival of Retsina, traditional Greek table wine that was once considered the wine of the poor. Family-owned Kechris Winery creates both using ancient winemaking traditions. They have been in business since 1911 and are known in the wine world and beyond for consistency and high quality.
For a fresh sip of modern Greek winemaking, look to small producer Claudia Papayianni, who used her business and marketing background to create a thriving company boasting one-of-a-kind blends of old and new world varietals. It’s not all business for Claudia, though; when she began planting vines in 2003, she looked at the surrounding nature, traditions, architecture, life in Arnea and found fullness returning to her family roots. Here, she creates wines for the new-world market displaying artist-inspired designs on the labels named after her son and daughter.
Not into wine? Try Tsipouro, a pomace brandy that is the most traditional liquor of northeast Greece. You can find it anywhere and everywhere and will start many meals by toasting a glass of it.