Greece’s hidden gem
Forget the islands – this summer go off the beaten track in Athos and discover mountains, monasteries, and perfect white sand beaches
If you want to experience Greece’s beautiful beaches, ancient culture and fabled hospitality without joining the masses heading to the islands this summer, the mainland region of Halkidiki is the answer.
Why go? A peninsula made up of three ‘fingers’ – Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos – it has more than 300 miles of coastline edging the Aegean sea, and the beaches that go with it are beautiful. Athos being the most remote peninsula and home to the Eagles Palace Hotel is deemed the most exclusive of the three – Kassandra is all about bars and nightclubs while Sithonia has lots of larger family resorts.
Stay at:One of the sea view rooms, garden bungalows or brand new villas at Eagles Palace. From the outside, the family run resort looks a little dated (hello Seventies architecture), but once through the doors you step into another world. The spacious, light and airy reception, lounge areas, bar and library make it evident the resort has been loved and continually updated, most recently the Elemis spa has been given a luxurious overhaul, and will reopen this season along with 40 new luxury villas. Outside, gardens, courtyards and terraces are filled with palm trees, cactus, aloes and fragrant jasmine. Steps take you down to the pool (with swim up bar) and then onwards and downwards to a stretch of beautiful white-sand beach.
The location:After a direct flight from the UK to Thessaloniki, to reach the resort is a straightforward 90-minute drive south, climbing through hills and pine forests, passing just a few small villages and sign posts to the birthplace of Aristotle and King Xeres’s Canal (given how remote it feels, it’s hard to imagine all this action taking place as far back as 480 BC). Arriving at Eagles Palace, it’s clear to see why this was the spot chosen to build Athos’s first five star resort back in the seventies: the white sandy beach lapped by the clear, sparkling sea is really spectacular, and thanks to the east-west orientation is sunny from dawn ‘til dusk. Throw in views across to the small island of Amolunia and left to Mount Athos (home the most spectacular monasteries you will ever see) and it’s hard to imagine a better setting.
Video: Thasos Beach, Greece - Best Travel Destination
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