Tour of mountain Halkidiki
Apart from its fabulous coastline of golden beaches and little bays and coves, with crystal clear waters, Halkidiki also has a mountain hinterland, with winding roads through thick stands of oak and beech, picturesque villages with cobbled streets and wonderful hiking trails through the dense greenery of the forest.
Start from Thessaloniki and take the road to Polygyros until you come to the turning to Palaiokastro (55km). Here you should leave the main road and turn left, drive through Palaiokastro and then uphill along the winding road through the forest. After 9.5km you come to a junction: the road ahead takes you to Taxiarchis (4km) and Polygyros (12km).
Just before you get to the right turn down to Taxiarchis (+3km) you can stop at the little rest area, where there is a chapel and some wooden benches for forest picnics. There’s a path starting here which takes you 800m to the little Chapel of Agia Paraskevi.
Just below the main road is the forestry office and the facilities of the Forestry Department of the University of Thessaloniki. Over the way is Jimmy’s taverna and guesthouse**. The road to the right at the junction leads to the centre of Taxiarchis, to the left the road goes to the villages of Riza and Palaiohora, and the beautiful location of Agios Panteleimonas with its little chapel. Straight on, the road heads up Mt. Holomontas, ending at another very pretty village, Arnaia (+16km).
At the junction there is a wooden sign pointing the way to the Panagouda Chapel, a wonderful walk of 360m through the forest.
Leaving Taxiarchis behind (and taking the junction as our starting point for measuring distances) we set out on a magical mountain drive. After 1.5km we come to Psili Rahi, with a café and taverna, and then after 2km the Chapel of the Prophet Elijah, scene of a local festival on 20 July, attended by people from all the villages around. There are two tavernas here. As we drive farther on, there are signs pointing to mountain trails and paths through the forest.
After 9km we come to a rest area, ideal for picnics. All along the route the trees grow close to the road; the forest scenery is magnificent at any season of the year.
Total distance from here to Arnaia is 16km.