Trying to find a somewhat isolated location to spend the holidays, away from the maddening crowd as they say, can prove to be quite a challenge, even for the savviest and most informed of travelers. Still, those looking to give it a shot might as well try one small village off the coast of Chalkidiki, Greece, known as Polichrono.
With a population of merely a couple of thousands, Polichrono relies mainly on tourism for income, which has helped the village perfect the well-known Hellenic hospitality, bringing it down to an art. Situated by the Aegean Sea and just 100 kilometers from Thessaloniki (and within kilometers from other, bigger resorts of the kind, to which it is connected thanks to a good public transportation network), Polichrono is undeniably ideal for a family holiday, especially if we’re also talking children. However, even those who are looking to find the best of both worlds – relaxation and hitting the party circuit – can surely find it a worthy destination for their vacation.
Most tourists take up residence in the many villas around the village, with the price for a room (or a studio equipped with a kitchen, depending on preferences) varying according to the time of visit. Should a traveling agency not provide accommodation before departure, no tourist should lose hope though. Greeks are known for their hospitality and Polichrono is clearly not the place to find people looking to rip you off. As noted above, hotels and villas abound in the region, so finding the right place to spend the holidays is clearly not that difficult as one might initially believe.
Depending on the money you’re willing to spend on the place you’ll be staying, you can find anything from a simple but comfortable room to a fancy suite with everything you need, and then some, right at hand. For the former option, the emphasis is, again, placed on comfort. For instance, simple two-bed rooms at villas like Sarikas or Finicas go for about 90 Euro outside the summer season (before July 1 and after August 31) for a seven-day stay, a price tag that will get you an extremely clean room with the basics (AC, TV, Internet). However, this is just about everything you get, which means you have to do your own cleaning up and see about your meals.
What to eat and drink
Speaking of which, one option for couples without children would be booking accommodation alone. Eating out in Polichrono can be quite an exquisite experience, if you’re not afraid of trying out new things and letting the many flavors of the Greek cuisine take over your papillae. For starters, there’s the Greek “junk food,” although the comparison may be a bit too much, giros and souvlaki. A giro is a Shawarma sandwich-like type of fast food made with seasoned morsels of pork, French fries, tomatoes, ketchup and cabbage, a delicious and filling treat that goes for anything between 1.5 Euro to 2 Euro. Souvlaki is somewhat more sophisticated, being made of skewered bits of pork, with chips and vegetables served on a plate.
Those looking for something more than just fast food (although anyone going to Greece should definitely try the above two) can find sophisticated, intensely flavored dishes at the many restaurants around, which offer a wide range of delicious dishes made with anything from sea food to chicken and pork. Akrogiali Restaurant for one, a chic location (hotel and restaurant) a few meters away from the beach, hidden on one of the many narrow streets leading down to it, is one such good option.
Akrogiali caters to the tastes of even the most pretentious eater, with a menu that includes grilled octopus, chicken fillet in honey and mustard sauce, calamari in breadcrumbs and the most breathtakingly savory deserts (banana cooked in chocolate and wine sauce, ice cream crepe flambee, and the Italian original Panna cotta). Of course, listing all the things that are definitely worth a try would require more time and space than we actually have available at the moment without coming off as boring, but one thing that should get you to at least consider it is the ultimate argument: Akrogiali offers a delicious insight into the Greek and international cuisine at very affordable prices.
The same goes for the Cockney Café also situated at a stone’s throw from the beach, even if seeing all those Brits on the terrace might seem a bit intimidating at first. Clearly, this is a place mostly frequented by the many British tourists coming to Polichrono, but anyone with even the mildest curiosity as to the type of home-made meals folks enjoy back in the UK should consider it at least once. The typical English breakfast, chicken pie or fish and chips are clearly dishes anyone should try if given the chance – and the Cockney Café in Polichrono is just the place to do so, of all the unlikely places in the world one might find.
As for drinks, no one should leave Polichrono, or Greece for that matter, without trying alcoholic beverages such as Ouzo, Sambuca (served properly, flambe with a coffee grain), Myhtos beer, or Retsina, the wine of gods, as the Greeks call it. While there, also try the many varieties of frappé, the caffeinated long drink that originated in this country, as well as Greek coffee. Sweet treats include ice cream (Delta), pastries found at local bakeries, and, of course, fresh natural juices.
Fun activities and things to bring
Polichrono may not seem like a lot at first sight, with its small, chic villas hidden behind large, stunningly beautiful rhododendron shrubs in vibrant colors. Because of its position, all fun activities are mostly focused on the seafront – which is precisely where the Greeks here place most emphasis. The terraces and taverns by the sea offer anything from delicious Greek food to natural and yummy drinks and sweet treats, at prices that, while over what we would pay on an everyday basis, are accessible to most pockets.
Snorkeling, though, is one activity that requires little money and is extremely fun. Equipment for it comes cheap and, for what it’s worth, offers an almost priceless insight into the life of the gorgeous creatures going about their business in the coral blue waters. On this note, one thing for which this small Greek village is famous for is the ability to boast of the cleanest waters around, a blend of vibrant blue and green that makes any photo of the place seem like a postcard from some exotic destination with a name one can hardly pronounce.
So, there is going to the beach at the top of list of to-do things, closely followed by snorkeling. Of course, there are also several other water sports daredevils can indulge in, granted they have the courage and the money to do so. Should neither of the two be in short supply, staying in Polichrono can be an extremely fun adventure, the kind one may end up looking to repeat the next year.
If water sports and tanning are not high on your priorities list, then there’s also the option of booking trips to nearby regions for sightseeing. Mount Athos and Sithonia (the other two peninsulas that make up Chalkidiki) are only a few Euros away, as also is Thessaloniki, arguably the most crowded and busiest town of this part of Europe, as well as one of the best shopping places around. If this doesn’t suit your fancy either, then there’s the option of seeing the nearby resorts, some of which are bigger and, consequently, offer more attractions, including night clubs where the party rarely, if ever, stops.
As for the things you should pack from home, you must remember Polichrono can get very hot, even as early as June. First of all, you need sunglasses and hat, sunscreen and after sun lotion, and plenty of summery, airy clothes. Secondly, you need to buy yourself a beach umbrella (if you don’t wish to use the many sunbeds available from terraces upon order) and a good book to keep you company as you work on your tan. Another word of advice that health specialists never seem to cease to stress: do not stay out in the sun between 12.00 and 16.00. Not only will you get sunburned and suffer the most ferocious kind of heat, but you will also risk developing skin cancer later in life from the exposure.
Polichrono is not necessarily a pensioners’ haven, although it’s often labeled as such. With its many attractions and the wide range of options it offers in terms of spending a vacation in both a relaxing and fun way, it is ideal for families as well, but also for anyone who is looking to break free from the harsh reality of everyday life. With its blue and green waters, its exquisite restaurants and bars, the unmistakable Greek hospitality and the kind of cityscape that you only see on postcards and perhaps movies, Polichrono is clearly the closest thing to heaven on Earth, a tiny piece of paradise that is both attainable and accessible. See the gallery below for more.