Most foreign visitors to Halkidiki, a popular destination in the northern Greece, don’t know Ammouliani exists, but for the residents of Thessaloniki in general and Halkidiki in particular, it is a well-guarded secret. The mass tourism has left Ammouliani mostly untouched, its residents are warm and welcoming, and the rhythms of the island have remained humane and calm unlike in busier resorts.
Ammouliani is the only inhabited island of Halkidiki in northern Greece, that charms every visitor since it’s the place where everyone can combine endless swimming in amazing beaches, really good food and sense the absolute vacation getaway in an area of only 4,5 km2.
Ammouliani (“ammos” means “sand” in Greek) owes its name to its beautiful sandy beaches, the turquoise waters, the low vegetation and the numerous olive – trees.
The island is located 120 km from the city of Thessaloniki-the second biggest city in Greece- in the Holly Mountain bay – the most important centre of Eastern Orthodox monasticism, just across Tripiti beach and the Ouranoupoli village. Only about 2 km distant, the island is connected by frequent ferryboat routes that last only 10 minutes from Tripiti.
Up to early 1900s, Ammouliani was a dependency of Vatopedi Monastery of Mount Athos. A handful of monks, assisted by laborers, were in charge of cultivating fields, looking after the livestock and collecting olives on the island.
In 1925, the monastery ceded the island to the state in order to become a settlement for the refugees’ families who had come from islands of Propontis (Gallimi, Pasalimani, Skoupia) after Asia Minor Disaster. The first inhabitants of the island brought with them their precious customs, a valuable gastronomy, the art of fishing, and rare objects exhibited now in the island’s Folklore Museum located in its central square. Because of their knowledge of the sea, they were soon flourishing as a community, reaching nowadays the number of about 550 residents. Walks around the island reveal the traditional houses, the courtyards with fishermen’s nets laid out for drying and running repairs, small vegetable gardens and flower beds in full bloom.
The love and experience of the sea by the inhabitants and the long tradition of extroversion that they carried from Asia Minor make fresh fish, Greek traditional cuisine and generous hospitality certain features of quality, taste and warmth. In an authentic friendly environment, with the highest standards of hygiene, the island’s restaurants are discerned for the quality of the food they serve full of the ‘secret’ recipes that older women brought with them from Asia Minor and passed to the next generation.
Leave your car aside and enjoy a walk in totally green scenery. The settlement of Ammouliani is built amphitheatrically with beautiful tiled roofs, lush gardens and alleys that reach to the seaside. In its picturesque harbor, the colorful boats are reflected in the calm waters of the waterfront, while the old “tarsanas” (a small shipyard that was used to dry-dock and maintain fishing boats and was also used as a landing by the monks during bad weather), with its gothic architecture, recalls of the time when the island was a part of the Vatopedi monastery. Another landmark that has survived from the island’s religious history is the Agios Nikolaos church in the capital, which dates back to 1865. Following the uphill streets, you will reach to the highest point of the village. From there you will enjoy the breathtaking panorama to the Athonite Peninsula and the Mount Athos.
Going on swimming, the best thing you can do is to choose to visit all the island’s beaches even the most isolated ones. Most beaches are sandy surrounded by gigantic rocks that create isolated bays and you can reach them either on foot or by a cart!
The most famous and beautiful is Alykes beach, located on the back of Ammouliani, facing Sithonia and is accessible by both land and sea. Enjoy carefree dives in clear waters, dine at one of the seaside tavernas and do not hesitate to explore the untouched nearby bays for moments of isolation!
Agios Georgios is a sandy beach in the south of the island one mile away from the main town, with many facilities for your comfort.
Megali Ammos Beach is located on the east side of the island just behind Agios Georgios Beach. From here you have a beautiful view of the Drenia islets and the mountains of the Athos peninsula. It is a popular sandy beach with coarse sand and there are several facilities nearby.
Karagatsia or Ftelies Beach lies about 2 km to the west of the island in a small bay. There is a small cantina where you can get something to drink.
Porto Agio is a beautiful, shallow, blue flanked, organized beach in the eastern part of the island.
Tsaska Beach is a quiet little beach in the north of the island accessible on foot by a path. You can find some shade under the trees, as there are no facilities nearby.
Faka Beach is a calm beach located northwest of the capital with no facilities provided –though it is a good place for fishing.
Moussiou Beach is a small, quiet beach, out of the wind, just northwest of the capital. Under the pines at the beach you can find some shade, as no facilities are provided.
A must-seen-and-swim-visit is the complex of 4 rocky islets, 2 km east of Ammouliani, known collectively as Drenia or Gaidouronissia (“donkey islands” in Greek, cause this is where locals used to bring the old donkeys to rest in peace). Feti, Artemis, Penna and Frini form a collection of uninhabited rocks basking in the midday sun being a paradise of hidden inlets, golden beaches and emerald crystal clear waters. In all of them, there are canteens, and you can arrive there either by small boats from Ouranoupoli and Ammouliani, or by renting your own boat from Tripiti.