At the end of the beach, taking pride of place is the 14th century Tower of Andronikos, built by monks to protect the area from pirates. It now houses a museum, which tells of the history of this spiritual area and also displays Christian art.
In front of the tower is the port, full of fishing boats bringing in the catch of the day that you can eat that night in the restaurants. You can also take boat trips from here around to see the monasteries and visit nearby beaches and islands, these excursions will really enrich your package holidays to Halkidiki. The Drenia Islands and neighbouring Ammouliani are well worth a boat trip for their rocky coves to swim around, pristine beaches and quaint tavernas.
Ouranoupolis’ handful of traditional souvenir shops reflects the area’s devoutness by selling religious icons. For more variety in shops, the best place to head to is Thessaloniki, Greece‘s second city, which is an hour and a half away by car or bus.
Ouranoupolis means ‘the city who drives you up to heaven’ and is where pilgrims come before they start their spiritual journey to Mount Athos. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it houses the oldest monastic community in the world, which is the pillar of orthodoxy. From your All Inclusive Halkidiki hotel, you can glimpse some of the 20 incredible monasteries perched on the sheer, tree-lined hills.
Entry to Mount Athos is on a pre-arranged basis and for men only. As the mountain is said to be the garden of the Mother of God it is out of bounds to any other women.
For a closer look, you can take one of the cruises that leave daily from Ouranoupolis along the western Athos coastline to view the monasteries from the sea and to see the stunning scenery of the peninsula. One of the most impressive monasteries is the seven-storey Monastery of Simonos Petras on a sheer cliff 230 metres above the sea.
Or on foot you can see the ruins of the 10th century Libra Monastery. Around half an hour away on the Mount Athos threshold this is one of the oldest monasteries of the community.
In the area
Both nature and history are well preserved in this corner of Halkidiki. If you’re looking for a cheap Greece holiday you can always walk through the nature reserve to the north or head to one of the nearby historical sites, such as the Roman grave at Kokkinohorafo and the nearby ancient water bridge and gallery.
A little further afield, in Olympiada, is the ancient city of Stagira, founded in 655 BC. You can tour the relics and take in this breath-taking part of Halkidiki’s northern coast.
One for families, Aristotle’s Park is an interactive park dedicated to the ideals of the ancient Greek philosopher and scientist, Aristotle. Located in Stagira, there are interactive physics instruments dotted around the site for curious minds to test out, including a compass, telescope, prism and sun clock.