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Where?Halkidiki, the three-pronged peninsula thrusting into the Aegean also known as Chalkidiki. Kassandra is the westernmost ‘finger’.

 

kriopigi in brief

Kriopigi is a fairly small village/town, situated roughly half way down the Kassandra Peninsula, on the eastern side with good beaches (Many with EU Blue flags) and has varying levels of accommodation on offer. There are around 15 restaurants, which are mostly geared towards the tourist appetite although there are 2 fantastic establishments in the old part of the village, which are further up the authenticity scale. There are 2 main supermarkets, which will provide all you require. Car and motorbike rental is also available from Hotels or on the main street.

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aegean aparthotel

Probably one the better hotels in Kriopigi from what we saw elsewhere. The complex is set some 5mins walk down from the main road. It's situated in a fairly picturesque setting with most of it's perimeter surrounded by either olive groves or trees which give it privacy from the complexes on the other side of the valley. Despite being 2 years old, the Aegean was surprisingly in good working order although the owners and staff now seem to have transformed from their honeymoon days of being polite into your typical Greek-equivalent Basil Faulty. In all fairness the bespectacled brother seems to try and keep the place going and at least ensured our complaint of the burnt through wiring on our hotplates was dealt with (even though it took 2 days). His brother (probably named Stelios) is an arrogant, angry-at-everyone/everything type of Basil.  The building is L-shaped so that all balconies have views  (glimpses) of the sea and each other - a bit big-brotherish

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The rooms - All rooms had at least some views of the sea and all overlooked the pool area. The best rooms were the ones above the bar in terms of privacy (Noise from the bar was pretty minimal) as all other balconies looked onto one another - a curtain twitchers paradise! Our room itself was comfortable although I wouldn't want to share it with anymore than 1 person. On the bathroom front I can't comment much as far as it had a toilet, shower and wash basin that all worked (there were complaints that there were water cuts but then most package tourists don't realise that many resorts spring up without much planning - this is Greece!). Apart from the bed(s) and bedside units, the bedroom contains a wardrobe, TV, make-up unit and the 'kitchen' area by the front door. The balcony has the usual array of PVC tables and chairs.

Self-catering - Don't expect to cook any exciting or lavish meals. You're not provided with much to be a Delia Smith. At your disposal you'll be lucky enough to have a set of cups, glasses, bowls, plates and cutlery. Your actual cooking weaponry consists of very little. You'll have to succeed in being resourceful with one saucepan, one frying pan (I hope yours isn't mouldy and scratched!), a set of movable hotplates and..well that's it. Not even a tea towel. There is some cockroach poison in the cupboards so don’t bother storing your food in them. The fridge/freezer (no poison scent or cockroaches in there!) seemed to keep things cool.

If only I could tell you to forget any self catering plans you may have with the idea that you can't beat what the local eateries LINK have to offer. Don't expect local produce to be cheap either (44cents for a tomato - though I must admit it tasted better than the varieties found in UK supermarkets. Good quality local produce can be found in the Kassandria market (Tuesday mornings I think).

The clientele - To be honest, the Aegean was better than expected and the biggest annoyance came from our fellow holidayers - the St George-towel-over-railings brigade. Tranquil afternoons by the pool are often not possible. Although the bar was open 10:30-01:00, blaring Limp Bizcuit was kept to a minimum. Seeing the bar had to play music non-stop, it was a pity that the management thought all of it's customers had the memory of a goldfish and had to play the same CD all day long (although we noticed some creativity when they discovered the 'random play' button).

Poolside - The 40 or so sun beds would usually suffice a hotel this size (approx 41 rooms) but as the sun seekers are 99% Brits this means that the 'get-your-towel-down-at-AM' mentality is in full swing by the time most 'normal' people get up. Should you be lucky enough to find a non-towelled bed hopefully you won't have to put up with the occasional sewer smell wafts.  The sun beds aren't terribly comfortable and many have broken slats, which doesn’t help the relaxation, front!

The actual pool is of a fair size (an irregular 20m x 10m) with a smaller kids pool. The larger pool is a badly designed pool with its shallow end proving difficult even for me to stand without the need for a snorkel. The even deeper end was a dive-safe zone of 2.5 metres! So the vertically challenged may find it a good idea to bring along your snorkels.

The bar area is at one end of the complex which has comfortable chairs to sit in when all the sun beds are towelled up! Don't expect much in terms of the microwave snacks etc.

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restaurants and bars

Acropolis - Authentic by name only although it's done it's best on the interior design front, which perhaps has more pillars than it's namesake. It offers good value beers, but this much-touted place was once again a bit grim when it came to its advertised 'traditional Greek food'. My stuffed vine leaves were indeed stuffed but that's where the authenticity slid off the table. The contents resembled Ambrosia rice not Authentic Rice. At least they made an effort with the homemade chips, which were tasty.

Real plates were used for the traditional Greek dancing sesh - the dancing itself will literally stop the traffic when the cortege ends up on the main road! This is as close you'll come to Greek culture whilst in Kriopigi (apart from the electricity and water cuts).

Check your bill by the way as we were overcharged by 50% once, pretty hard to notice when you've has a few to wash down all that authenticity...).

Adonis - Not sure who this place was named after - certainly not the greying obese, England-football-shirt clad waiter. We should have known by his top what the service and quality would be like. Poor to say the least. Next time we'll listen to those voices in your head - "England shirt, sad git - oh...he works here..."  Anyway, the food should have been predictable. Cooked mostly from frozen (probably in the microwave), it consisted mainly of chips with a touch of Greece here and there.

Anogi/’No-name’ restaurants - These are the best restaurants situated in the old part of the village. They both offer authentic Greek dishes in the village square. Many of the tourists seem to miss out on these two restaurants, as they simply don’t realise there’s an older part to the town (Find the alleyway that leads up next to Café Classic Bar and turn left once you reach the church). Both have balconies, although ‘No-name’ restaurant is by far the more pleasant (have a look at the restoration pictures inside). Or both offer seating in the square itself.

Bakeries - Both bakeries in town offer good quality fresh rolls, breads and cakes. Get up early enough and buy them warm as much of it sells by 12. I wouldn't recommend the over-priced cheese pies (1.20euros) from the bakery next to the fuel station. They seemed to have been fried in the forecourt oil from next door.

Café Classic – A cosy place which was untried and untested despite its appeal.Casablanca – Run by a Welsh lady who married one the locals over 15 years ago, this bar offers the usual booze menu. Despite the name, there are no real references to the film.

Cheers – Situated next door to the Casablanca, this bar seemed rather uninviting with it’s display of flags of England, Scotland, Wales and both Irelands in a desperate attempt to pull the in drinkers. But if you want a pool table then this is the place to go.

Cream – The most upmarket bar in town with it’s funky terrace, comfortable chairs and the most expensive prices this side of Athens to pay for it all. It always seemed to be empty.

Nikos - Claims to be the most authentic Greek joint - it's not.  No roof terrace as suggested by the sign that reads 'Roof terrace'. Not terribly atmospheric and the main distraction is the busy traffic. It does not cater for vegetarians. Initially I ordered the only available vege dish only to find that the stuffed peppers and tomatoes contained mince. The only other dish the chef was able to concoct was a creative dish - green beans with the obligatory chips. Christine ordered chicken fillet a la crème: 'nice but very salty'. It was served with chips, which was very disappointing after having this authentic Greek accompaniment served 3 days running.

Nikos has a somewhat small menu with little choice for the healthier vegetarian.

Olympia - Good for the views of Sithonia on the neighbouring peninsula. Not terribly much thought has gone into the interior 'design' front. As for the beer, it's cold and the cheapest in town - what more do you want when it's over 40 degrees? Didn't eat here as the menu was somewhat uninspiring although Greek tourists were spotted here one evening (maybe they were props?).

Zorbas – A scenic place to go for an evening drink as you watch Sithonia disappear in the sunset mist. Usually patronised by Brits, there was a small representation of Greeks eating there, so the food may have been swallowable.

 

things to do

This all depends on your personal preference so you won’t find an endless list – I’m sure you’ll find something to do. Although your hotel will offer the usual tours, I recommend that you have a look at what else is on offer by agencies in town before handing over your cash to the rep (remember they’re often working on commission!). If you’re the independent type I recommend you hire a car for at least a few days as public transport is unreliable.

Thessaloniki, the country's second city, is Halkidiki's gateway. Full of 14th century Byzantine architectural splendour mixed with rather shocking 20th century apartments, tavernas and cafes. That’s ‘progress’ I guess.

Athos, - home to a unique 'Monks' Republic'. One of the oddest places in Greece; not only is it awkward to visit but only half of would-be visitors will never be allowed in - women, and indeed any female animal, have been prohibited since 1060 AD following a Byzantine Edict. Almost as many men simply won't get permission to go; only 10 permits for foreigners are issued each day and summer slots in particular are booked months in advance. So book your ticket now or simply hop on one of the many tour boats that skirt the Athos Peninsula.

Sani Beach – Not to everyone's taste, it has two pool complexes, a marina, decent beaches and a couple of walkers' trails enhance a huge hotel block and newly-built 'village'

Kriopigi Beach - The beach is about a 10-15 minute walk from the main drag in Kriopigi (though most accommodation is situated between the two) and is well worth a splash. If you don’t fancy the steep walk back up to you hotel then there’s a courtesy train for you to catch.

Car rental - If you’re here for more than a week, then hiring a car is probably a must. I recommend you drive around the peninsula as well as neighbouring Sithonia, which is far quieter and less touristy. Bigger hotels in Kriopigi offer car rental (at slightly higher prices).

There are a number of car rental companies in the area although most are situated in the bigger resorts of Halkidiki. In Kriopigi you can book a car from the Acropolis and Vervina Travel. Motorbike rental is available opposite the petrol station.

NB I wouldn’t recommend hiring a moped (especially without a helmet). There is scant regard for mopeds on the road and we witnessed some pretty gruesome accidents. If you’ve never driven in Greece – be prepared for anything!

Kriopigi-Kassandria (Hoteliers Association) walk -  Touted as a wonderfully scenic 4hour return walk was a bit of a disappointment. It's poorly signposted (decent maps are hard to come by) and relatively unscenic. Ensure you take plenty of water with you as well as protection from the sun as it gets hard going in 45C heat! (Apparently there’s a Greek saying “only donkeys and Germans walk” – the midday heat might explain this).

Route directions

1)      Start point is the church in Old Kriopigi. With the church on your right, turn left on the cobbled street and follow this on up the increasing incline. Notice the old ivy covered house on your right (soon to be appearing on one of these 'Place in the Sun' programs!).

2)      Shortly after managing the steep walk out of Kriopigi (which provides some of the better views of Kriopigi and Sithonia beyond). Notice the old ruins through the scrub just on the left before the road veers to the left.

3)      Having reached the top, follow the road to the left (right will take you to some concrete monstrosity.

4)      After a couple of minutes, the road splits into 2: take the right fork (left will take you to Kassandrino - I think!). Notice the typical Greek-island style house on your right, which proves there are still some style conscious developers in the area. Continue following the road, which winds through the olive groves.

5)      After a further 10 mins the road forks again. Both routes take you to Kassandria. Take the western (left)route and this will take you on the back road that the Kriopigi refuse trucks seem to take. Unfortunately the road is lined with fly-tipped rubbish by those lazy Greeks who find the official EU funded refuse tip just 2km up the road simply to far to get to. I recommend you take the eastern route and either walk back the same way or catch a bus back from Kassandria. Whilst much of the western route provides scenic views of the Kriopigi and Kassandria tips and gut-wrenching stench of the roadside filth, those who wish to test their vehicles for next years Rally of Greece also use the road. Take the eastern route for the olive groves, peaceful forest areas and views of Kalithea. Once you see the floodlights of Kassandria Stadium you'll have 30 minutes before you step into town for a well-deserved Greek coffee (or beer).

Read an account of the Guardian’s Ed Douglas’ Ramble in Halkidiki here.

 

Market Day @ Kassandria - The market takes place on a Tuesday which is well worth a visit particularly if you're self catering as many of the prices are as much as 50-70% cheaper. The cherries are great.

useful links

www.aegeanaccess.gr - Info on the Greek Aegean

www.in-chalkidiki.com - Info on Chalkidiki, accommodation, weather etc

www.halkidiki.com - Info on Halkidiki

www.holidaysuncovered.co.uk - Over 14,000 holiday reviews. Check out that ‘deal’ before you buy!

http://pub207.ezboard.com/bholidaytruthscommunity - more holiday reviews

www.blackmore7.fsnet.co.uk/Holiday/Halkidiki/halk_3.html - Holiday account from the Blackmore family. Useful reviews and pictures.

           

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