Sithonia is the second “finger” of the Halkidiki Peninsula. Its nature fascinates even experienced travelers. The peninsula has become a popular destination for people, wishing to go away from the hustle and bustle of the city to spend some time within less crowded beaches, admire green landscapes, and immerse into the authentic atmosphere of the coastal villages.
Sithonia perfectly blends a relaxed atmosphere and traditions with developed infrastructure. Travelers choose this place due to many reasons. Families with children appreciate this place for ecology and curative climate. The fans of nature and outdoor activities choose this place for its diverse facilities.
According to Greek mythology, Sithonia was named after Sithon. He was the son of Poseidon and the king of the Odomanti. Some sources claim that Sithon was the father of the Thracian princess, Thyllis.
The Halkidiki Peninsula features a rich history. Sithonia played a considerable role in past events. The second “finger” of Halkidiki was under the rule of many nations. The Romans, Persians, and Turks left their mark within both the history and culture of the peninsula. Centuries ago, Sithonia housed the antique towns of Toroni, Sarti, and Galep.
The artifacts found in Sithonia show that the first settlements appeared here in the Old Stone Age. The Euboean and Eritrean tribes came here in the VII century BC. They were the founders of the first cities the ruins of which are now a subject of archaeological research. The residents of the peninsula took part in the ancient battles, including the fight against the Ottoman rule. Sithonia was a part of the Delian and Athenian League.
In the early 20th century, Sithonia was a quiet and inconspicuous peninsula. Its residents were mostly involved in fishing and agriculture. Modern Sithonia (as well as entire Greece) experienced a big number of historic events, including the expulsion of the Greeks from Asia Minor in 1920. A huge flow of refugees from the territories occupied by the Turks resulted in the establishment of new settlements. Neos Marmaras is one of them.
In the 70s, the peninsula and the entire territory of Greece became a popular tourist destination. Small fishing villages have developed into vibrant resorts. Modern Sithonia is one of the most popular places for recreation in Northern Greece.
The peculiarities of a region
There are a lot of legends depicting the beauty of Sithonia’s landscapes. However, you should better see it once with your own eyes. The peninsula boasts of having green hills, pristine forests, and a marvelous coastline, comprising picturesque sandy beaches. The central part of Sithonia houses Mount Itamos. Its maximum height is 815 meters. The western coast of Sithonia is surrounded by the Toroneos Gulf. The eastern coasts of the peninsula overlook the Siggitikos Gulf and the Mt. Athos Peninsula.
Sithonia is an important place for migrating birds: eagles, golden eagles, and gannets. Most areas of the peninsula in included in the Natura 2000 program, established to preserve the environment. Sithonia is known for its ecology and mild Mediterranean climate. You can easily stand the heat here. Local air is considered to provide favorable conditions for health. A visit to Sithonia will significantly improve your general well-being.
How to get
One of the key advantages of Sithonia is its accessibility. Geographically, it is the second of the three “fingers” of Halkidiki. Sithonia is a connecting link between the mainland area, lively Kassandra, and calm Mount Athos, housing the monastic state.
The Sithonia Peninsula is situated 70-140 kilometers from Thessaloniki Airport. It annually welcomes flights from different countries. Sithonia is accessible from Athens by plane and by bus with a change in Thessaloniki.
Public transport regularly provides transportation between Thessaloniki and Sithonia resorts. After you leave the airport terminal, you will have to find the bus №79. It will deliver you to IKEA station. Next, you will have to get on the bus №36, running to the KTEL Halkidikis bus station. The station provides a diverse choice of busses, running to the resorts throughout Sithonia.
If you want to get to Sithonia from Thessaloniki without making changes, you should order an individual transfer or hire a car.
How to move?
A rental car is the most convenient mode for transportation within Sithonia. It provides freedom and fast access to both local beaches and attractions of the peninsula. You can find car rental offices in Thessaloniki Airport and Sithonia resorts. If you wish to get the most advantageous and appropriate vehicle, you should better book it beforehand.
The bus service in Sithonia is not very well organized. There are 1-2 hour intervals and they go only to/from Thessaloniki. If you want to get to the neighboring peninsulas of Kassandra or Athos, you have to choose a bus to Thessaloniki first. Then change to a bus going to the other peninsula, either in Thessaloniki or in the town of Nea Moudanya. It's closer, but not every bus stops there. We do not recommend traveling this way, as you will spend a lot of time on transfers. Moreover, it is not suitable to explore the beautiful beaches of Sithonia as the route of the bus passes through villages and many beaches are usually outside the settlements.
The taxi service is one more option available for transportation from one Sithonia resort to another. The short-distance trips are rather inexpensive here. On average, you will have to pay from 1,3 euro per 1 kilometer.
Although there is also a disadvantage here: it will be difficult to explain on the phone where you are if you are at one of the many beaches in the region.
So the ideal option for active travelers is to rent a car.
What to see?
In contrast to Athens and Thessaloniki, Sithonia cannot boast a rich choice of attractions. Travelers appreciate this place for the beauty of its resorts. At the same time, you can find a few well-preserved historic monuments as well as sites that were not made by hands.
There are a lot of exciting things in Nikiti. The historic part of Nikiti is a true gem, set on the hills, above the modern part of the resort. This settlement appeared in the medieval period. It witnessed the fall of the Byzantium and experienced Turkish rule.
Nikiti Old Town invites visitors to admire its houses and churches, which date back from the XVIII-XIX century. The oldest construction here dates back to the XVI century. During a visit here, do not miss visiting the Historic and Folklore Museum of Nikiti. It occupies the building of a former school, established in 1870. Its collection includes about 1.500 items, reflecting the eventful history of the settlement.
Sofronios Basilica is one of the most interesting sites in Nikiti. It was built in the V century AD, during the early Christian period. The building was found only at the beginning of the 80s. After that, the archaeologists started excavation works there. At present, the landmark attracts visitors with its mosaics on the floor and the ruins of the columns.
Toroni also has some attractions. Among the most popular sites are the ruins of the Likithos Castle. The part of the ancient city is now set in the sea. Thus, the fans of diving will certainly like taking the underwater tour. From the ruins begins a path to the mountain, which offers a stunning view of the sea and the village of Porto Koufo. It is highly recommended to visit the village of Porto Koufo itself, its scenery will not leave you indifferent.
If you wish to get familiar with Sithonia’s authentic life, then you should necessarily visit Parthenonas. This mountainous village is one of the oldest and most beautiful settlements on the peninsula, which was mentioned by Herodotus in his manuscripts. During a walk, you can see many old churches and houses in it. Some of them are still abandoned, while other ones have undergone renovation. The folk art museum of Parthenonas is a must-visit place for fans of culture and history. A village is an excellent place for hiking as it nestles within the mountainous area and provides clean air and fantastic panoramas.
The major natural attraction of Sithonia is its endless beaches. Lagomandra, Vourvourou, Karidi, Tristinika, Kalogria, and Fava are the most popular beaches in Sithonia. Read more about them below, under What to do.
One also could not miss noticing the islands, which are accessible to travelers. Diaporos Island near Vourvourou is one of them. It sits right opposite the settlement. The tourist vessels from all over Sithonia regularly deliver visitors here. You can also get to the island using a rental boat if there is such a wish. You do not need to have any licenses for that.
Diaporos fascinates with its pristine beauty. The ecology of the island is in a perfect state, which is due to the absence of the influence of civilization. At the same time, it does not mean that the island has poor infrastructure. There are small hotels and villas for rent here. The guests of the island have an excellent opportunity to experience the feeling of being the only people on the island. Diaporos is a place where you can enjoy clean lagoon waters and go in for snorkeling or diving. The fans of the underwater life will find it exciting to explore the reefs right by the coast of the island.
Although Diaporos is small in size, it has its peculiar history. During the Byzantine times, the island was the home for ascetics. Among the landmarks of the island are the ruins of the early Christian basilica of St. Andreas, considered to be the oldest Christian construction in Sithonia.
What to do?
Excursions and outdoor activities
Sithonia provides a diverse choice of facilities for fans of outdoor activities. Vourvourou offers boat and catamaran rental. Regarding the rest of the resorts, almost all of them are suitable for kayaking and snorkeling. The fans of diving can visit Toroni to explore the sea bottom and the ruins of the ancient city.
Jeep safari is quite a popular entertainment for fans of spectacular scenes and trips to the remotest villages in the mountains. Hiking is another great way to spend your time in the peninsula. The hiking trails lead to the hills, on the top of which you can admire the most exceptional views of the Sithonia coastal area and Mount Athos. Among the most popular routes are the trips to the top of Mount Itamos, a round trip Nikiti – Agios Nikolaos – Nikiti, and Neos Marmaras – Parthenonas.
Sithonia is also an excellent starting point for sea excursions. The vessels annually leave from the resorts of the peninsula. Their route goes along the shores of Sithonia, towards the coasts of Kassandra and Mount Athos. The sea tours from Sithonia to Kelifos, Diaporos, and Ammouliani islands are the most popular with travelers. You can go on fascinating excursions on the Greek mainland to Thessaloniki, Mount Olympus, Pella, and Meteora.
Best beaches in Sithonia
Sithonia beaches are the key reason for the tourists’ interest in this destination. They are a visiting card of the peninsula. Sithonia beaches are regularly highlighted with the “Blue Flag” award. The beaches of Sithonia are covered with fine light sands. Their shores are washed by crystal pure sea waters. Here are the most beautiful beaches, you cannot miss visiting:
- Vourvourou are the most popular beaches in Sithonia. They are famous for their natural beauty. It is a peaceful nook for a relaxed family holiday, set far from hustle and bustle. The sea by the shores of Vourvourou is always calm and protected from the waves. The Vourvourou region includes the famous beaches of Karidi and Fava;;
- Karidi is an exotic paradise of Sithonia. This beach is surrounded by greens. The sea is always calm here, which makes it a great choice for family recreation. The vacationers unwinding here are aware of its advantages. That is why the beach is often overcrowded. You should better come here in the morning to find a comfortable place upon your taste;
- Fava is a long sand-and-shingle beach, surrounded with lush greens. You can find many secluded bays, separated from the central coastal area here;
- Kavourotrypes perhaps, is one of the most famous beaches in Sithonia. On a high tourist season, it is often overcrowded. However, this issue does not bother visitors to admire the views. The beach is naturally divided into several separate ones: Paradise, Orange and a couple of smaller ones. The route to Kavourotrypes passes through a pine tree grove. After you reach the coast, you will be excited to see the turquoise sea and clean sand surrounded by white rocks;
- Lagomandra is a well-maintained area, suitable for recreation of all visitors: youth, children, and romantics. Its territory is split into three parts. The central area, near the hotel, has a bigger number of visitors and provides water sports facilities. Two other parts are set on the sides, providing a more secluded environment;
- Kalogria. The beach area is very diverse. In general, the coast is covered with fine, clean sand, but there are also places where the water is covered with smooth stones, pinched by the sea waves, and the sand is mixed with fine pebbles. On the edges of the beach there are small rocks, near which you can often see fans of scuba diving;
- Sarti is a long sandy beach, situated within the area of a lively tourist settlement. Its coast is famous not only for its natural beauty but also well-developed infrastructure. There is a café, shower cubicles, bars, and hotels on the beach. The fans of outdoor activities can go in for fishing, sea trips, surfing, and water skiing there;
- Toroni is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sithonia. Since the beach meets all 33 requirements, it was awarded “Blue Flag”. Its coast stretches for 2.5 kilometers away and is covered with golden sand. There are all the necessary facilities for a comfortable stay on the beach: sunbeds, taverns, water sports, and a beach bar. Nearby are two other popular places: Tristinika and Destenika;
- Sykia is one of the beaches boasting the “Blue Flag” award. This place provides an exceptional environment for recreation. It is covered with white sand and surrounded by the green hills. Sykia stretches for 2 kilometers away. It is famous for its impressive views of Mount Athos. It is a rather quiet destination in the summer. Thus, everyone will find some space to relax here. Nearby are several wonderful bays;
- Kalamitsi has it all for a dream holiday: clean sand, sunbeds, and taverns. Its coast is divided into small bays, which are protected from winds.
Sithonia is one of the most popular destinations for a vacation with a family in Greece. The beaches of the peninsula are ideal for the youngest visitors. The sea by the shores of Sithonia is calm, while the depth is mildly increasing. Regarding entertainment for families, you can take one of the sea trips. Sithonia provides a rich choice of tours.
Recreation of youth
When it comes to the recreation of youth, then it is Kassandra who can offer the best entertainment for this age category on Halkidiki, not Sithonia. At the same time, Sithonia also has nightlife. When the sun sets, the city of Neos Marmaras wakes up. In the daytime, you can unwind at the beach bars. In general, one can hardly compare entertainment on Sithonia with loud parties of legendary Mykonos.
During a vacation in Sithonia, one cannot miss buying some souvenirs. There are hundreds of souvenir shops in the peninsula. The range of items can please the taste of the most demanding buyer and budget: the crockery made of the olive tree, ceramics, icons, traditional fabrics (a tablecloth, napkins), and hand-made jewelry.
If you take a ride to Neos Marmaras and Nikiti, you will find some fashionable boutiques and fur-selling shops. Porto Carras offers the most luxurious shopping. Travelers can not only revamp their wardrobe but also buy fine jewelry.
Festivals and events
Sithonia hosts bright festivals and celebrations throughout the year. They enrich impressions of travelers about the peninsula. At the end of August, Azapiko beach houses an extraordinary festival of psychedelic music “Free Earth.” Its events take place within several stages and attract participants from all over the globe.
Every year, in July, you can observe a swim in the open waters of Nikiti. This event has been held for over 40 years already. Its participants try to cross the Toroneos Bay. It has already become almost a national festival. Apart from a swim, starting in Kallithea in Kassandra and ending in Nikiti, in Sithonia, one holds short distance competitions for children. All that is followed by many events: a festive walk, dancing, and musical performances.
At the beginning of September, Porto Koufo welcomes guests for a traditional festival – the Fishing of the Tuna. It is a great opportunity for travelers to get familiar with the tastes of Sithonia. Porto Carras entertains its visitors throughout the summer. Its eventful program usually includes all sorts of celebrations: from the chess championship and beauty contests up to the festival of Greek gastronomy.
Where to stay?
Sithonia resorts provide a diverse choice of accommodation facilities to all tastes and budgets. This area is rich in apartments and comfortable mini-hotels. A camping site is another popular option for a stay in Sithonia. You can find this type of accommodation in Sykia, Sarti, and Neos Marmaras.
If you appreciate all-round-comfort, then you should take a look at Sithonia 5-star hotels. A luxurious hotel complex of Porto Carras is known far beyond the line of Greece. It consists of luxurious villas and hotels. Acrotel Athena Residence on the coast of Elia Beach and Danai Beach Resort in Nikiti offer no less sumptuous environment for recreation.
If you imagine your ideal vacation only in a villa surrounded by greenery and a stone's throw from the sea, here you will find attractive options. The largest selection is in the area of Nikiti - for example, Selene villa; also Aktis Elias and in Vourvourou. Here you will find different categories: from small townhouses to luxury villas with secluded beaches. If you want maximum privacy, consider Diaporos Island. It is known for its beautiful views and fine golden sand. That's why it has several premium villas for rent.
Each of Sithonia resorts is unique and attracts its type of traveler. West resorts:
Psakoudia – it is a small resort settlement, sitting by the foot of Sithonia. During a holiday season, it turns into a busy spot full of vacationers. However, this issue will not bother you to relax here since the beach is spacious enough to place all visitors. Psakoudia has many hotels, taverns, shops, and beach bars. In general, it is a compact resort, where you will not find loud parties. The area of Psakoudia was formerly known as the city of Sermili in ancient times. It was an important seaport. At present, the settlement is famous for its olive groves and is conveniently located in relative proximity to the airport.
Metamorfosi is surrounded by green hills and considered to be a good choice for a holiday with children. There are many small but comfortable hotels, a drug store, bakeries, and taverns serving home-made Greek cuisine dishes in Metamorfosi. There are a few more reasons why you should choose this place for the next vacation: it is one of the biggest centers of olive oil production. Thus, you can find a great choice of this product here. The local beach provides a rich choice of water sports. The abundance of greens makes the air within the resort clean and useful for health.
Nikiti – it is the biggest tourist settlement in Sithonia. It consists of two parts – the old and the new (resort) one. It is a perfect choice for travelers who want to live in a town with maximum infrastructure. Nikiti has a long history. It perfectly combines traditional lifestyle with a modern way of life of the resort.
Nikiti is famous for its long promenade full of shops and taverns as well as the apiarian traditions: a jar of local honey is one of the most popular souvenirs people usually bring from Nikiti to their home countries. Here you will find a very large selection of places to stay, whether it is an apart-hotel, a cottage or a villa.
Neos Marmaras – it is a lively city that was found by the Asia Minor refugees. Thousands of visitors annually arrive in Neos Marmaras to experience the beauty of its nature and enjoy facilities of developed infrastructure. During a holiday season, the Neos Marmaras population gets seven times bigger.
There are hotels of all categories, restaurants, fish taverns, waters ports facilities, and bars at the disposal of visitors in Neos Marmaras. In the vicinity of the town, you can find a developed hotel complex of Porto Carras. It attracts travelers who appreciate relaxation within a luxury atmosphere. Regarding Neos Marmaras entertainment, you can take a sea voyage on a yacht to admire the sunset.
Toroni – this resort sits on the place of one of the oldest settlements in Halkidiki. In ancient times, it possessed huge resources. It had a significant strategic location, which made it one of the most influential cities in Sithonia. Modern Toroni is known for its beach, considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the peninsula.
Porto Koufo – is a lovely village with an impressive history, which is evidenced by the historian Thucydides. In the V century BC, he regarded it as the safest harbor. The picturesque environment of Porto Koufo attracts thousands of fans of hiking. Local landscapes are different from the rest places within Sithonia. Porto Koufo is surrounded by steep mountainous hills, creating a blue-sapphire lake, reminding of a fiord. The safest harbor is regularly visited by numerous yachts. Porto Koufo provides boat rental facilities, which allows you to go in for fishing or explore the coastline. The fans of gastronomy and new taste are offered to visit local taverns. Every morning, they buy fresh fish from the fishermen.
The east coast of Sithonia houses the following resorts:
Vourvourou – this idyllic location provides picturesque bays with shallow waters. The sea is always quiet here, which makes it’s a great destination for recreation with kids. Vourvourou provides ideal conditions for snorkeling, which allows you to admire unique sea nature. Unfortunately, Vourvourou does not have a city center and a promenade. At the same time, it provides all the necessary infrastructure facilities for a pleasant stay: supermarkets, hotels, taverns, and water sports centers.
Ormos Panagias – it is a precious gem of the peninsula. It is a settlement boasting peaceful bays and fascinating views of Mount Athos. The settlement provides convenient access to Mount Athos and Ammouliani.
Sarti – this settlement was established in 1922 by the refugees from Asia Minor. Its territory is conventionally divided into a new and old part. Old Sarti fascinates visitors with its 100-year old houses and unique spirit of the past epochs. It is a popular location for leisurely walks. New Sarti is a comfortable resort for family recreation. Apart from the beach stretching for 3 kilometers away, Sarti has several famous bays.
Sykia –one of the oldest and biggest villages in Sithonia. Being a popular resort, Sykia beckons visitors with its beautiful beach and tranquility, even at the peak of the holiday season.
What to taste?
Apart from its history and landscapes, Sithonia fascinates travelers with its gastronomic specialties. You can start the first acquaintance with it by trying local honey. It is Sithonia who produces 10% of the total amount of honey in Greece. There are over 200 honey producers in Sithonia – it sounds impressive, isn’t it? The fans of honey will be offered a rich choice here.
The cheese of local production is notable for its eating qualities as well as seafood dishes, served by local taverns. We should not forget the main product of Greece - olives and olive oil. On Sithonia you will find many olive groves, and as a consequence, a great variety of oil and olives.
Greek cuisine is presented in Sithonia at its best. There is always Shrimp Saganaki, moussaka, a famous Horiatiki salad, and mezze on the menu here. You can supplement your dining with some Tsipouro or wine.
If you want a holiday in Sithonia to go well, you should note the following useful tips:
- Although Sithonia boasts a status of being a popular destination for summer holidays, you can arrive here all year through to experience the charm of its colorful mountainous villages, and admire its trails for trekking;
- The holiday season in Sithonia lasts from May to September. Although the local climate is mild, the period from July to August is hot. Thus, if you cannot stand the heat due to some reasons, you should better come here on June and the first decade of September;
- We highly recommend that you rent a car. It will be much easier for you to figure out all the beauty of nature of the peninsula and access the most features attractions of mainland Greece;
- The majority of sunbeds on the beaches of Sithonia belong to beach bars, taverns, and hotels. In most cases, it will be enough to buy a drink to use a sunbed all day long.