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An excellent article by the Telegraph!
Greece: Insider's guide to the northern and central mainland
So much to see and so little time, but in Greece you can do it all. Robin Gauldie looks at the northern and central mainland.
Northern and central mainland
For walkers, beach bums, culture vultures and explorers, central and northern Greece – between the Gulf of Corinth and the country’s northern borders – takes some beating. The high and barren Pindos mountains of Epirus offer the most spectacular high-country hiking, while the lush green slopes of the Pílion peninsula offer gentler walks. The Halkidiki peninsulas have the finest beaches and some great purpose-built resorts. Thessaloniki has urban culture, and there’s a full menu of ancient and medieval sights.
Halkidiki’s beaches are the best on the mainland but the resorts on Kassandra, westernmost of Halkidiki’s peninsulas, are rammed, all summer, with the new bourgeoisie of Russia and Bulgaria, reinforced at weekends by convoys of SUV-driving urbanites from Thessaloniki. Escape them at the semi-private beaches of the Sani Resort complex or head east to Vourvourou, on a shallow, near-landlocked blue lagoon with a long, sandy crescent beach. You need to wade out a good 100 yards before the water rises above your middle, so it’s warm, calm and great for children.
The place to stay is Ekies All Senses Resort (23750 91000; www.ekies.gr ; from £80 per night). With designer-decorated rooms right on the lagoon, you can almost imagine yourself in the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean. There’s a pool, a bar, a superb restaurant, a activities including yoga, and Wi-Fi connectability (at a price). Still further east, the Eagles Palace Hotel & Spa (23770 31101; www.eaglespalace.gr ; from £150 per night) stands in glorious isolation a on its own beach, with water sports including scuba and wind surfing, a private sailing yacht, and motorboats for hire.
Best hills and mountains
The best high-country walking in Greece is in the Zagoria region of the Pindos mountains, among deep gorges, mountain pastures and treeless summits. Mount Olympus is a steep but not-too-demanding hike (you need to allow at least one night in the bunk-bedded mountain hostel on the way up and another on the way down).
The Pílion peninsula offers less challenging walking, along cobbled mule-tracks through semi-tropical, woodlands with a dip in a perfect Aegean cove at the end of the day. Jill Sleeman knows the cobbled mule-paths and lovely villages of Pílion like the back of her hand and leads half-day and longer walks; she also offers tranquil bedrooms in The Old Silk Store, her pretty old mansion at Mouressi, high above the turquoise sea of the east coast.
Perfect days out
Cruise around Mt Athos. Only pilgrims and scholars may visit the Holy Mountain, but its amazing monasteries can be seen on a day cruise from Ouranoupoulis. In Thessaloniki, the extraordinary gold and ivory treasures discovered in the tombs of Alexander’s ancestors are the highlight of the world-class Archaeological Museum, centuries-old Byzantine icons have pride of place in the Byzantine Museum, and the sprawling Modiano and Vlali markets are a feast for the eye, with great piles of fruit and vegetables, weird fish and shellfish, and dozens of different kinds of olive.
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