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Things to do with kids in Halkidiki

If your idea of holiday heaven is a peaceful base offering interesting things to do with the kids, give Halkidiki a try. This north-eastern section of Mainland Greece is split into three peninsulas, each with a very different flavour.

Most people stay on the western finger of Kassandra, where the choice of resorts ranges from the luxury eco-reserve of Sani to traditional villages and the busier yet still laid-back resort of Kalithea, with fun nightlife.

And when it comes to finding things to do, they're spread across the region, from cruising around hilltop monasteries in the east to visiting caves and cultured cities in the north. Plus, all across Halkidiki you can sample the fine beaches and a host of summer events.

City sights and splashes

Your flight to Halkidiki will likely land in Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city.

Travel the hour back there to see the country's largest church, the Basilica of Sant Demetrios, or head to the interactive Science and Technology Museum NOESIS. Just wandering the cobbled streets of the Upper City is an activity in itself, or browse the shops of Tsmiski Street.

And if the kids are getting restless, you can promise them a visit to nearby Waterland on the way home. As well as all the slides, there's a pirate island and kids' pool, plus even a zoo with a few exotic animals like camels and a raccoons, and a farm animal area.

Beach days and watersports

You can't go far in Halkidiki without running into a Blue Flag beach.

Over on Kassandra's eastern shore the roughly 10-kilometre stretch of shore between Kalithea and Polichrono has no fewer than six beaches prized for their facilities and pristine conditions. For a different vibe, Sithonia's northerly beach of Trani Ammouda is delightfully quiet.

But if it's the action of watersports you'd like, try Hanioti for windsurfing, water-skiing and parasailing, as well as pedalos to take the kids out on. And on a western prominence in the centre of the Kassandra peninsula, Possidi's shores provide ideal snorkelling conditions due to clear blue water with lobsters and fish floating about.

Going on a summer holiday

Adding an extra vibe to your summer holidays are a range of festivals held throughout July and August. Both the Kassandra Festival in Siviri and Nea Moudania's Sea Festival lay on musical, dance and theatre performances in open-air amphitheatres.

And if you're visiting Nea Moudania in the second week of July, and have a penchant for the local seafood, the Sardine Festival will get your tastebuds flowing. Stalls serve freshly grilled sardines complemented with local white wine.

Cruise with a view

Although you can stay in Ouranoupolis at the tip of the eastern Athos peninsula, access to the rest of the peninsula is highly restricted.

That's because this is the world's only monastic republic, with some 2,000 monks living in 20 ancient monasteries that perch on the cliffs. But never fear, you can hop on a boat for an interesting guided tour around the Holy Mountain.

Other options for boat trips in Halkidiki waters include a galleon cruise on a traditional vessel or dolphin-spotting excursions. And most trips allow for stop-offs to swim and snorkel, as well as supplying a delicious Greek picnic.

Underground archaeology

If you want to end your trip with an educational adventure, this will be just the ticket. Sitting north of the Kassandra peninsula, about 15 minutes' drive from Nea Moudania, are the Petralona caves.

A warren of underground chambers, The Great Hall has some seriously impressive stalagmites, and younger kids will love the stone bear and cavemen sculptures dotted about. They depict some of the animal and human fossilised bones found in the caves by archaeologists.

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