Head to mainland Greece for rugged landscapes and beautiful beaches
Halkidiki is probably Greece’s best-kept secret. The region is full of lush mountains, turquoise water, stunning beaches, historical villages and great local food. It consists of three small peninsulas, known as the three legs of Halkidiki. The western prong is Kassandra, the most developed area, then there’s Sithonia, the quieter and more relaxed part, and the protected Mount Athos, a monastery region. Further north from the legs is Thessaloniki, a buzzing place that is Greece’s second largest city next to Athens, and it’s definitely worth a visit.
Where to stay
We stayed at the superb TUI Family Life Blue Lagoon Princess, which is situated in the Kalives area in between the Kassandra and Sithonia peninsulas. It’s a great all-inclusive hotel with the friendliest staff, tempting restaurants, private beach and four outdoor pools, plus another one indoors. The beach is just across a path from the hotel, and it really is beautiful. We loved spending the afternoon here for a spot of peaceful sunbathing – although it wasn’t all peace and quiet when the kids were getting involved with the water sports!
The hotel has a great kids’ club, and there are also separate activities for teens at The Hangout area. The younger children loved the small splash park with slides, and also enjoyed a daily visit from the hotel’s character mascot.
The hotel is spread out, so it rarely feels crowded. For couples, there are plenty of quieter pools, and you can even opt for a swim-up room, so you can really get away from it all. If you want to fully unwind, book a treatment in the spa.
We stayed in a very spacious one-bed suite, which overlooked the beach and sea. The room was ultra-modern and offered two bathrooms, which was a great help after a long day at the beach.
Food and drink
The cuisine is delicious and very fresh in Halkidiki, plus it’s not expensive either. The fish is particularly delicious, and vegetarians won’t miss out with the Greek salads, cheeses and halloumi Greece has to offer. Make sure to try dolmades – stuffed vine leaves – which are made with rice, pine nuts, mincemeat and herbs. Don’t forget to sample the classic moussaka, which can be a meat or vegetarian dish with layers of aubergine, tomatoes and onions.
The Lagoon Princess hotel has a buffet-style restaurant, offering a large selection every night, plus a separate area for children that serves favourites like chicken nuggets and pizza. There are two à la carte restaurants – the Taverna, serving Greek meze-style food, and Green And Grill, which offers barbecue stations where you can grill your own meat and fish. But if you feel like chilling, then the chef is more than happy to cook the food for you. The décor in all the restaurants is amazing, and it’s great to have the choice of al fresco dining, too.
The Sithonia main bar is a great place for a pre-dinner drink, and there’s live entertainment on every night at the outdoor theatre.
Where to explore
Kalives is a lovely, easy-going town, so if you fancy a night out, we suggest you head to the nearby big port town of Nea Moudania. Here you will find beachside tavernas and bars with DJs, and you can even catch a play at the waterfront theatre.
There is also a huge market in the town, and it’s only a ten-minute drive from the hotel. On sale are stacks of olive oil, soaps and hand-embroidered linens – just don’t forget to haggle!
If you fancy designer shopping, then Sani Marina certainly won’t disappoint with its wonderful collection of waterfront boutiques. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Kalives, and provides the perfect opportunity to check out the fancy boats in the harbour.
Need to know
TUI offers seven-night holidays to Halkidiki, staying at the 5T TUI Family Life Blue Lagoon Princess on an all-inclusive basis. Prices from £656 per person when booked online. Price is based on two adults and two children, and includes flights departing from London Gatwick airport on 2 May 2019, plus transfers. To find out more, or to book, go to Tui.co.uk, visit your local TUI holiday store, or download the app