We all know that when it comes to a European summer getaway, Greece is the ultimate destination – the sun-kissed beaches of Mykonos, Crete, and Santorini have officially taken over our social media feeds.

What you might not know, though, is that what you see online is just a sliver of the wonder that is the Greek coastline and that the true beachy gems of the country are kept hidden far away from the curious eyes of tourists.

Case in point – Halkidiki.

The stunning region that stretches over what locals call “the three fingers” is one of the best places in the entire country to take in both the pristine beaches and that authentic Greek small-town feel that’s been lost in more popular hotspots.

And now that Halkidiki was officially crowned the prefecture with the highest number of Blue Flag Beaches in all of Greece, I figured it was time to tap into my 10+ years of traveling to the region to help uncover this hidden gem of a destination for good.

A Region Filled With Movie-Like Beaches

I’m not here to knock down the incredible allure of places like Mykonos and Santorini – they’re both worth a visit.

Mykonos, Greece

But as far as beach quality goes, neither of these places holds a candle to Halkidiki, which is where most Greeks choose to spend their summers instead.

Just like I mentioned, the region is divided into three “fingers,” and for most first-time visitors, the first peninsula, Kassandra, is the best choice.

Here, you won’t only find some of the liveliest cities (more on that below), but also some of the best commercial beaches in the country – in comparison, Sithonia and Mount Athos, the two other “fingers,” are quieter and more off-the-beaten-path.

Aerial drone view of Port Glarokavos, Halkidiki, Greece

Glarokavos, Paliouri, and Sani Beach, in particular, are must-sees for all beach enthusiasts, and the good news is they’re all driving distance from one another.

For those of you willing to get adventurous, Kavourotripes Beach in Sithonia and Ammouliani Island near Mount Athos would be the best picks, though be warned that getting there isn’t as easy.

Taking In That Authentic Greek Town Charm

I’ve always been the kind of traveler who looks for a good mix of pristine shores and lively cities when traveling during the summer, and in Halkidiki, I’ve managed to find just that.

And while there are a lot of places throughout the region that fit the bill, if you’d ask me to name my favorite, it would be Pefkochori.

Beach in Pefkochori, Halkidiki, Greece

The beaches look like something straight out of a postcard, the town itself is lively but still filled with that authentic Greek charm, and there’s a Lemonis Bakery (one of my all-time favorite places to get desserts) right near the center square.

A close second would be Nea Moudania.

The beaches here, while stunning, lack a little something compared to Pefkochori, but this one’s a proper city and Halkidiki’s biggest municipality, so there’s more to do and see here.

Nea Moudania, Halkidiki, Greece

And if you don’t mind a quieter summer retreat, I’d highly recommend making the 11-minute drive to Nea Poteidaia, a stunning seaside town where the locals are friendly, the beaches are one-of-a-kind, and the bougatsas are to die for, especially if you get them at Μπουγάτσα Kαφές Yammy-Yammy.

A Budget-Friendly Mediterranean Getaway

There’s a reason why so many Greeks flock to Halkidiki during the summer instead of the overpriced hotspots we get bombarded with on our social media feeds – they get the same exact views and experience for a fraction of the price.

Let’s start with accommodation.

Most places in the region are either boutique hotels or family-run guesthouses that charge anywhere between $40 and $70 a night, and the overall experience is unlike anything you’d find at your run-of-the-mill hotel.

Guest making a card payment at a hotel check-in desk

Last year, I booked a 2-bedroom, 2-balcony apartment in Nea Poteidaia for $65 a night, and the hosts, a lovely elderly couple, went above and beyond, going as far as to leave a homemade cake and a bottle of Raki behind.

Sure, the amenities might not be the same as what you’d get in a 5-start hotel, but the value-for-money ratio is insane.

The food is pretty reasonably priced, too.

Greek souvlaki with tzatziki and fried potatoes

Quick meals average $5 per person, while going for a two-course meal at a sit-down restaurant might cost you something closer to $15-$20 per person, and let me tell you, I’ve never had a single bite of food that was anything less than amazing.

The Perfect Place For Those Who Want To Explore As Much Of Greece In As Little Time As Possible

Not only is Halkidiki famously close to Thessaloniki, which is one of my favorite cities to visit, but traveling within the region itself is remarkably easy, too.

I’d highly recommend getting your hands on a car, though.

Two women driving in a car

Driving, especially in Kassandra, is doable by almost everyone (urban streets are very well-maintained and parking is a breeze), and you can get from one side of the peninsula to the other for under an hour – that gives you plenty of opportunities to see everything I talked about so far and more.

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