It is a blessed place, rich in rare natural attractions, with dispersed wetlands and extraordinary fauna and flora, where the blue colour of the sea is marvellously combined with the green colour of the mainland. Here, the magnificent change of sceneries, from rocks to creeks, from beaches to hills, from sand to pine trees, from gulfs to mountains, impresses the visitors.
Halkidiki has a permanent population of less than 100,000 inhabitants but it increases spectacularly every summer. Its largest towns are Nea Moudania, Nea Kallikrateia and the main town of Polygyros. There are several summer resorts on the beaches of all three fingers where other minor towns and villages are located, such as at Yerakini (Gerakina Beach), Neos Marmaras (Porto Carras), Ouranoupolis, Nikiti, Psakoudia, Kallithea (Pallene/Pallini, Athos), Sani Resort and more.
Halkidiki has been a popular summer tourist destination since the late 1950s when people from Thessaloniki started spending their summer holidays in the coastal villages. At the beginning tourists rented rooms in the houses of locals. By the 1960s, tourists from Austria and Germany started to visit Halkidiki more frequently. Since the start of the big tourist boom in the 1970s, the whole region has been captured by tourism.
The third leg, Mount Athos, with 20 Monasteries and 1,550 inhabitants (both monks and civilians), is an independent district, under Greek sovereignty. Only monks are allowed to establish permanent residency on Athos. Women are completely barred from the peninsula.
Halkidiki has a long and turbulent history. There have been organized settlements since 4,000 B.C. In the 8th century B.C., a big number of settlers, mainly from Halkida (hence Halkidiki) and Eretria, arrive at the area. Philip annexes the area to the Macedonian kingdom in 348 B.C. The ancient city of Stageira was the birthplace of the great philosopher Aristotle, born in 384 BC. He was invited by Philip to go to Macedonia and undertake the education of his son Alexander, who was then only 13 years old. He used as his educational "instrument" the Homeric epics. During the Hellenistic period, three big cities were founded: Kassandria, Ouranoupolis and Antigonia. In 168 B.C., Halkidiki falls into Roman hands and starts declining. In 1430 AD, Halkidiki was conquered by the Turks. At the end of the 18th century, all domains witnessed economic growth but due to this prosperity, coastal villages faced several pirate raids. Halkidiki revolted several times but the much desired freedom came only in October 1912. In 1922, a new period of the history of Halkidiki started together with the arrival of thousands of refugees from Asia Minor.
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