Last Updated on 01/11/22 by quiltripping
With 100 unique beaches, you could spend three months on the Sithonia peninsula in Greece and enjoy a different beach each day. I had only a short time to discover its many sandy pleasures and I made the most of it as I explored the best beaches in Sithonia.
I was supposed to have two days to explore the beach life and other sights on this undiscovered gem in Greece, but mother nature had other ideas. It rained on my first day there – not exactly conducive to sunbathing or swimming.
Sithonia was my first stop exploring the Halkidiki peninsula, and it was also my first stop on a two week road trip itinerary discovering the Central Macedonia region of Greece.
Halkidiki is a large peninsula in the northern part of Greece. Off this main peninsula, there are three smaller peninsula fingers that jut out into the Aegean. The Sithonia peninsula sits in the middle between Mt. Athos to the east and Kassandra to the west.
I had five days to discover all the best things to do in Halkidiki, and I was starting with Sithonia. Fortunately, on a rainy day there were a lot of other things to do in Sithonia besides beachgoing, especially for a lover of history like me – after all this was Greece, the Cradle of Western Civilization.
Historic sites on and near Sithonia
A short 20 minute drive from my stay at the Philoxenia Hotel was the restored archeological site of Olynthos. The name Olynthos means “wild fig tree”. The area was first settled as far back as Neolithic times and then was resettled “more recently” in the 7th century BC.
Over the centuries, the town grew and prospered despite being conquered by one group or another. The buildings and streets were laid out in the orderly pattern developed by Hippodamus, the ancient Greek architect and urban planner.
I learned that Olynthos also had the distinction of being the first purposely planned “solar city”. Socrates proposed the idea that a house that faces south is more pleasant and comfortable in all seasons. In Olynthos, every house that was built faces south.
All good things come to an end and that also held true for Olynthos. The unfortunate permanent demise occurred in 348 ACE when Philip II (the father of Alexander the Great) conquered this prosperous city, looted it and razed it to the ground and then sold the population into slavery.
Today you can see about 1/10 of the Olynthos city grid reconstructed. Plaques with descriptions in both Greek and English provided a good idea of the layout of the city and the types of buildings I was looking at. There were some well preserved floor mosaics in a few of the buildings along with the remnants of wells and drainage pipes.
There was a small entrance fee to enter and then about a quarter mile walk to get to the archeological site from the gate. A small museum near the entrance presented a nice overview of the history and archeology of Olynthos. You can find information on current operating hours here.
Basilica of Sophronios
Not far from my hotel in the nearby town of Nikiti I explored the remains of the Basilica of Sofroniou . This was an early Christina church which dates from the late 4th century ACE. The reconstructed site was not large, but it provided a very good idea of the size and scope of such an early church.
I found the floor mosaics to be especially impressive. Of all the historic places I visited in Greece, this actually ended up having the best in-situ mosaics that I saw.
The nearby Chapel of St. George was also an interesting stop. This little church is still actively used – in fact, when I was there a local couple stopped by to light candles and give a quick prayer. Outside the current chapel building, the foundations of an older chapel were also on display.
The ancient Castle of Toroni
Near the tip of the Sithonia peninsula I came across the Likithos Castle, which is part of the greater Archeological Site of Toroni. The Byzantine fortress ruins on their small spit of land made a nice backdrop to the bright blue waters of the beach and harbor below with its colorful fishing boats.
Nearby, the UNESCO listed Mt. Athos is perhaps Halkidiki’s most famous historical site. Mt. Athos is a Christian Orthodox religious center with over 20 monasteries spread out across the peninsula. On site visits are limited to 100 men per day, but tourists can see some of the monasteries via local boat tours.
It was about a one hour drive from the Philoxenia Hotel to the town of Ouranopoulis from where I took a boat tour to see the Mt. Athos monasteries. (I was able to fit in this tour on the day I was leaving Sithonia and before heading to the Kassandra peninsula). You can read my post How to Visit Mt. Athos, Greece – Even If You are a Female, to learn all about Greece’s most unique UNESCO sites.
Archeological Site of Philippi
Technically, the UNESCO listed Archeological Site of Philippi is not in Halkidiki, but it was an easy two hour drive through the pastoral Greek countryside from my Sithonia hotel. And while it was raining in Sithonia, two hours away I had partly sunny skies as I explored this vast historic complex.
The extensive display of ruins here span 1300 years of history. The large jumble of rocks, columns, partial walls and other sculptural pieces come from Phillips time in the 4th century BCE, the later Roman conquests and then the eventual Byzantine Christian settlements.
I’ll have a full post about my visit to the Philippi Archeological site soon.
Finding the best beaches in Sithonia
Once the sun came out on my second day, I used the full day to drive the ring road around the peninsula and explore as many Sithonia beaches as I could, as well as other sights along the route. The winding drive was around 95 miles and without any stops, would have taken about 3 hours. I took all day to do the drive and explore this unique corner of Greece.
Sithonia’s crinkled coastline has resulted in many little coves and protected bays, each with it’s own sandy beach. It was difficult not to stop and explore each one, but here are the ones that I discovered.
A short downhill walk from the Philoxenia Hotel where I was staying was a lovely long stretch of sandy beach which seemed to have something for everyone. There were a large number of beach bars where you could rent lounge chairs and umbrellas for the day. There were also quite a few restaurants to choose from for a quick bite.
Beyond the developed part here, the sandy beach extended for seven kilometers and offered plenty of space to drop a blanket and go for a swim without crowds. This long stretch of sand was easily accessible by side roads from the main road that circumnavigates Sithonia.
My drive continued south and after driving through the town of Nikiti and past the popular Nikiti beach, and then checking out the Basilica of Sofronios, I picked my first swim stop. Based on the reviews, I chose Kovious and was not disappointed. The white crescent of sand and crystal clear blue water were a perfect morning beach break.
I was there on a Friday morning in early September and the beach was not too busy yet. Chairs and umbrellas were available for rent, but I chose to just use my towel since I wasn’t planning on spending the whole day here.
Unlike other Sithonia beaches, this beach did not have a local beach bar which may be why I saw so many families with small children enjoying the day. However, the nearby Hotel Makednos has a restaurant for those that were looking for refreshments.
A kiosk on the beach did offer a variety of water sports options for rent, including adorable pedal boats that looked like yellow cabs. The sand was soft and warm and the water not too cold, though the first few yards of entry into the water were rocky, so I would suggest wearing water shoes.
Continuing along the ring road, I decided to check out the northern section of Lagomandra Beach that was set in a small isolated cove. There were no organized services here which made the beach quiet and uncrowded.
Around the spit was the larger Lagomandra beach which had beach chairs and umbrellas for rent along with plenty of natural shade from trees and also plenty of water sports options for rent.
This 2 kilometer long beach seemed to have everything: lots of sandy shoreline for a long beach walk, sections with beach chairs and umbrellas, some beach bars and lots of long sandy stretches where I could drop my beach towel for a while.
The picturesque ruins of the castle of Toroni at the end of the spit added an additional scenic element.
Kavourontripes Beach (or Orange Beach)
From Toroni beach, the road climbed up and up into the mountain ridge. I stopped at Panorama Kalamitsi Restaurant for a drink and a million dollar view looking out over the Sithonia coastline.
The Road then dropped down to the western shore of Sithonia. I made my way to the highly popular Orange Beach along the Kavaourontripes coastline.
It was late afternoon by this time, but the beach (and the large parking area) were still very crowded. The small crescent of sand was packed with lounge chairs and umbrellas, and the Orange Beach bar was serving up drinks and loud music. The beach vibe here had a distinct party atmosphere and definitely seemed to appeal to the younger crowd.
The draw here though was clearly the fantastic rock shapes that decorate each end of the sandy beach. It looked like the rocks were just as popular for lounging and swimming as the sandy area.
With its crystal clear waters, the unique rock formation and the sandy beach, this was definitely a unique setting (though not a quiet one). If you want a more peaceful experience, I suggest getting here very early in the morning.
My final beach stop for the day was further north along Sithonia’s eastern coastline. Karydi Beach is another very popular beach, though at the end of the day when I was there it was not that busy.
The long sandy beach encircled a secluded cove with rock formations on either end. The bay was shallow and good for wading and swimming which seemed to make it popular with families. There were also no beach bars here to rent lounge chairs which means you have to bring all your own stuff. However, near the approach to the beach I passed a restaurant so there were food and drink options nearby.
The rocks on the northern end of Karydi Beach made a perfect spot to see the sunset, and it was indeed a beautiful one.
Pasir Beach Bar
Before driving on to my destination on the Kassandra peninsula the next day, I explored one more beach nearby. In the bay between the Sithonia and Kassandra peninsulas I discovered the quiet and upscale Pasir Beach Bar.
This region of Halkidiki was residential with many vacation homes, beach condos, and villas owned by residents of nearby Thessaloniki, which seemed to make this a quiet and more sedate beach experience.
The Pasir Beach Bar had a large selection of sun chairs and umbrellas for rent for the day. They also offered a nice snack menu and a varied drinks menu, both alcoholic and non alcoholic.
This was most definitely the perfect beach spot to finish off my explorations of the Sithonia peninsula in Halkidiki, before going on to discover the Kassandra peninsula.
Where to eat on Sithonia
There are many, many restaurant choices on Sithonia, but purely by chance, I think I discovered one of the best. Just before Elia Beach I came across Mpoukadoura Restaurant.
This lovely little eatery was right on the water and had outdoor seating and indoor seating with gorgeous open views of the surrounding coastline. The atmosphere was cozy and the service very attentive.
I had a difficult time choosing an entre because so much sounded delicious, but in the end, I picked one of their specialties – squid stuffed with feta, tomatoes and capers. And it was yummy!
Desert was simple yet so satisfying – yogurt with local Halkidiki honey and walnuts – very refreshing on a warm day.
I really loved the overall ambiance of the restaurant and appreciated that along with delicious and authentic Greek food, I also enjoyed beautiful views with a refreshing gentle breeze.
Where to stay on Sithonia
Sithonia has hotels for all budgets and tastes and there are no lack of choices. I spent three nights at the Philoxenia Hotel and its location was ideal for all of the sightseeing that I had planned for this region of Halkidiki. It is also a good value for its location and for what it offers.
The hotel’s location at the “top” of the Sithonia peninsula made it easy to explore all three of Halkidiki’s peninsula fingers: Sithonia, Kassandra, and Mt. Athos.
My room was modern, clean and quite spacious, with plenty of closet space and good lighting. I really appreciated the in-room fridge which allowed me to easily chill my daily water bottles.
The bathroom was equally modern and felt very clean – always an important consideration for me. I also liked having a walk in shower rather than a tub with a shower combo.
The Philoxenia Hotel complex was quite large with two pools and a kids play area. While I was there in early September, school had not yet started and there were still a lot of families vacationing. The clientele was a diverse, international mix as I heard German, Serbian, Romanian and other Balkan languages being spoken.
The hotel’s restaurant offered an extensive buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The many food choices were clearly designed to appeal to a variety of pallets and dietary needs from diverse nationalities.
A short path down hill from the Philoxenia Hotel provided easy access to the sand, beach bars and restaurants on Psakoudia Beach for those that were looking for beach time or for other meal, drink and entertainment options.
Though I only had a little over two days to explore the Sithonia peninsula in Halkidiki, I was able to make the most of my time and got to experience quite a bit, despite some non cooperative weather. I certainly would enjoy coming back here and spending more time discovering other beautiful beaches in Sithonia, Halkidiki.
Please note that my visit to Sithonia was part of the promo campaign “Urban Centers of Central Macedonia, Greece” and my stay was hosted by the Philoxenia Hotel. All content and opinions are my own.
You may also enjoy these other posts about my visit to Greece:
- How to visit Mt. Athos Greece – Even If You Are Female
- My Lovely Two Days on Hydra Island, Greece
- Cruising in Style to the Most Beautiful Islands in Greece
Thanks for visiting.