Up until the 3rd century BC there were many Greek cities on the peninsula of Athos. Later, for unknown reasons, these cities fell into decline or were destroyed and thus the land was desolate for several centuries.
According to mythology the name Athos belonged to some giant from Thrace. In the clash between the gods and the giants, Athos threw a giant rock against Poseidon, but this rock slipped from his hands and fell on the sea, thus forming the land of present day Holy Mountain of Athos.
Tradition has it that Virgin Mary, accompanied by John the Evangelist, on their way to visit Lazarus in Cyprus, encountered rough seas that forced them to temporarily disembark in the port presently occupied by Iviron Monastery. Marveling at the wild landscape Virgin Mary asked her Son to offer her the entire Mountain as a gift. Then the voice of our Lord was heard saying: “Let this place be your lot, your garden and your paradise, as well as a salvation, a haven for those who seek salvation”. Since then Mt. Athos, the Holy Mountain, is considered the plot and garden of Virgin Mary. Human activity reappeared in the 5th century, when the first monks settled here, frustrated at the futility and boredom of everyday life and finding here a beautiful yet uninhabited place, ideal for them to worship God.
The third, easternmost and most captivating peninsula in Halkidiki, the peninsula of Athos is today occupied by the Holy Community of Mt. Athos. This is the only area in Greece completely dedicated to prayer and the worship of God. That’s why it is called Holy Mountain. The Holy Mountain extends over 50 kilometers while its breadth ranges from 8 to 12 kilometers and its area covers roughly 350 square kilometers. The borders of this monastic state are defined, on land, with an imaginable line beginning at the western coast and location “Fragokastro” (Frankish castle) and reaching the cape “Arapis” on the opposite end. There are many marvelous sites in this peninsula. The Mountain Athos dominating on it is a huge cone with a height that reaches 2.033 meters. Its bare peak appears as if spearing the sky, while its slopes, wooded with perennial trees, lend an incomparable aesthetic beauty to this enchanting area.
Administration: Mount Athos is a self-governing part of the Greek State, politically subsumed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and religiously under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople.
Territorially it has been divided into twenty self-governed territories. Each territory comprises of a cardinal monastery and various other monastic settlements around it [sketae (cloisters), cells, huts, seats, retreats].
All monasteries are coenobiums of a convent nature, namely there are common masses, prayers, housing and nurishment, while all monks share the work. Head of each monastery is its Abbot, elected by the monks of the monastery for life. The Abbots of each monastery convene for the Holy Convention which exercises legislative authority. Parallel on an annual basis each monastery elects its representative to the Holy Community which exercises administrative authority, while the executive power is exercised by the Holy Administration, which comprises of 4 members selected by the 5 hieratically principal monasteries.
In this beautiful land, the sea seems to be tenderly embracing the land, the green seems to be melting in the blue, while the old assorts the new and man converses with the divine. Mornings are fresh and cool, while sunsets are painted in shades of gold and violet, twilights are idyllic and nightfall is illuminated by thousands of stars. The roads open before you shall take you to unique places where you will surely forget your everyday troubles and relax, before you return to the routine of everyday living. There are no bustling cities here, just modern resorts vibrant with life in the summer, picturesque villages and hamlets. The prefecture’s largest settlement and its capital, Polygyros, has a population of just 6.000. All across this area you will see multi-storey modern hotels, large hotel complexes, many rooms-to-let and apartments, as well as camping sites, the result of the rapid development for tourism in Halkidiki after 1960. In order for you to become better acquainted with Halkidiki we suggest that you follow the proposed five routes.
- For the first route you must follow the road connecting Thessaloniki and Nea Moudania. Taking small diversions you shall visit Nea Kallikrateia, the Cave at Petralona, while you shall complete this tour by making a first acquaintance with the beauty that is the peninsula of Cassandra.
- The second route shall take you along the main road to Sithonia. You will make two diversions, one to visit Agios Mamas and another one to visit Nea Olynthos and the archaeological site of ancient Olynthos. You will also pass through Gerakini, visit Nikiti and from there enter Sithonia while your trip will culminate in Agios Nikolaos and Pyrgadikia.
- The third route shall take you to Halkidiki’s inland. Follow the road connecting Thessaloniki and Polygyros. Marvel at the Monument of Captain Chapsas and visit the monastery of Agia Anastasia (just off the main road). Galatista is your next stop and from there it is worth to take the road up to Vavdos. Backtrack and stop for lunch at the famous restaurants in Agios Prodromos where you can taste the local specialty, skewered meat. Polygyros awaits just round the corner. From there you may continue to visit Taxiarchis and take the wonderful turnpike road through the forest of Mt. Cholomon until you reach Arnaia. Continue on the same road for Stageira and Stratoni, located on the coast of the bay of Ierissos. The road continues to Ierissos and ends in Ouranoupolis.
- For this, the fourth route, you will begin your trip on the northeastern borders of the peninsula of Halkidiki. You will visit Olympiada, Ancient Stageira, Ierissos, Ancient Akanthus and from there Nea Roda and Ouranoupolis, the last settlement before Athos.
- Your journey will culminate in the fifth and final route, which is dedicated to the “Garden of the Virgin”, the holy mountain of Orthodox Christians, Holy Mount of Athos.
In the peninsula of Sithonia and specifically in beautiful Vourvourou you'll be able to enjoy the experience of sea kayaking. The region offers a unique combination of sea and lake characteristics, a mountain covered with thick forests and 9 unique islands visible from the beach which makes it an ideal destination for holidays. Made daily trips by sea kayak accompanied by experienced guides from early May until late October. The daily trips provide a perfect opportunity to paddle in the crystal clear waters around the island Diaporos, the largest of the nine islands which is located across the bay where you can swim and snorkel on some of the most beautiful and remote beaches of Halkidiki, like Krifto, Mirsini and Galazia Nera.
An amazing horseback riding stroll in nature, sure to bedazzle you! Wear your protective helmet, ride on your horse and enjoy an unequaled sense of freedom! Follow your trainer’s instructions and you will be taken for a short stroll inside the ranch in order to become better acquainted with your horse and find the right posture for riding. The magic of the green nature waits for you as your horse trots along breathtaking landscapes! A unique experience that you will always treasure!
Mountain bike on beautiful forest routes, passing through plains, by the lake and by and… in the river. Allow 1:30 to 2 hours for biking, depending on the route you will follow. Available are routes of varying difficulty, depending on the distance and the altitude differences. But regardless of which one you choose, the landscapes greeting you and your fellow bikers will be breathtaking and unique!
A superb 2-hour windsurfing experience for 1. Acquaint yourselves with the exiting world of windsurfing in an ideal setting! This unique sport will bring you in contact with the elements of nature and constitutes an excellent exercise for the body and mind alike! Follow your experienced trainer’s instructions and, after undergoing a brief simulation on land, to save you from many uncalled-for dives, enjoy your first sail on your board in the sea! The sea of Halkidiki awaits you! Have a nice time!
The first form of water ski was aquaplaning, where the athlete ‘slides’ on the water, using a board, the aquaplane, tied behind a ‘speedboat’. Such activities were reported in the area of Volos in Greece as early as 1945-46 using Coastguard boats.