In Greek mythology, Halkidiki was the battleground between the older Giants and the newly emerged Olympian gods. Legend has it that after losing the war, Enceladus, the leader of the Giants, was buried alive in Kassandra. The peninsula used to be called “Flegra”, which means “place of fire”. At the other end of Halkidiki, Mount Athos was named after the giant Athos who, during the famous battle, threw the mountain at the Gods, as if it were a small stone. Sithonia received its name from Sithon, son of Poseidon.
The myths surrounding Halkidiki give just a taste of its extraordinary history, which stretches back almost 3,000 years. Its early communities were built by settlers who arrived by boat in the 8th century BC. However, following the recent excavations in the cave of Petralona it has been estimated that the history of Halkidiki goes back 700,000 years. According to the paleontologists who studied the findings from the cave, the earliest known controlled fire was lit here, about 700,000 years ago. The scull found here during the excavations is estimated to be 250,000 years old and has given science a new type of man. Many prehistoric settlements have been discovered along the coastline as well as on the island plains. These settlements show that in 4,000 B.C. Halkidiki was already a rich, densely populated area where art flourished and objects of art decorated the people’s everyday life.
Throughout the ages, the area fell under Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and then Turkish rule, until it became part of modern Greece in 1912. Given its rich past, it’s unsurprising that Halkidiki teems with the most stunning archaeological sites: Byzantine towers and castles can be found virtually next door to the ruins of ancient temples. Of special note is Mount Athos, on Halkidiki’s eastern peninsula, a self-governed complex of medieval monasteries known as the ‘Holy Mountain’.
Through the last decades Halkidiki is undergoing a unique economic development with the prospect of becoming one of the model tourist centers of Europe.