The land of Aristoteles
The east coast of Chalkidiki
- Ierissos - Stagira
- From Stratoni to Olymbiada and ancient Stagira
- Nea (New) Roda - Ammouliani
The road coming from the west, from Polygyros, and the road coming south from Mount Cholomontas, from Arnaea and Megali Panagia, meet at the settlement Gomati. From here the road leads to Ierissos on the east coast of Chalkidiki. The entire east coast is joined with a coastal road.
Ierissos is located in the middle of the vast coastline formed by the Gulf of Ierissos or Acanthius Gulf, named after the ancient city Acanthus located towards the isthmus of the peninsula of Mount Athos.
The boundaries of the gulf are Cape Elefthero on the peninsula enclosing the bay from the north and Cape Arapis on the peninsula enclosing it from the south. The opening at the entrance of the bay is 6 nautical miles and in the interior 12 nm. The distance from the entrance to the shore is 6 nm.
The settlement of Ierissos was built after the destruction of the old village in the area of Acanthus, by the great earthquake of 7 on the Richter scale that shook the region in 1932. The small town has a good street plan, hotels, rooms to let and taverns.
The seaside promenade is nice and in the harbor the many fishing boats remind us that there is a significant fishery production, and therefore fresh fish. There is also a tradition in shipbuilding, as can be seen in the three shipyards south of the settlement.
North of Ierissos stretches its endless sandy beach. The most beautiful region is Kakoudia with a white sandy beach and white rocks, sculptures of nature.
The findings in the area of ancient Acanthus are not much, but the visit is interesting and the walk is nice. Acanthus was founded in the 7th century BC by settlers who came from the island of Andros and evolved into an important port for ore mined from the rich underground of eastern Chalkidiki. It acquired wealth, minted gold coins and had during and after the classic years the fate of the other cities in Chalkidiki; under the rule of Persians, then Athenians, Spartans and Macedonians, and finally Romans.
There are no historical references after the Roman era, although there are Byzantine remains. We can see parts of the wall and the foundations of a large temple.
Stratoniki and Stagira
North from Ierissos the coastal road leads to Stratoni, Olymbiada and the northeastern tip of Chalkidiki. South of Ierissos we reach Ouranoupoli, the entrance to Holy Mount Athos.
To the north at a short distance from Ierissos on the left side of the road is the tower of Krouna belonged to the monastery Chilandariou of Mount Athos. On the right side continues the long beach of Ierissos continues. Further north is the beautiful beach Kakoudia. The road away for a while from the coast returns on shore near the beach Kouri.We approach the seaside settlement of Stratoni. A little before, we take the road to the left towards the mountain Stratoniko. We enter into the heart of the mines in Chalkidiki. The area is a mining center since ancient times.
The highest peak of Stratoniko is at 868 m. After several turns in landscapes with forests, the road leads first to Stratoniki ar an altitude of 460 m and then to Stagira at 510 m. The two settlements are essentially united. Near Stratoniki is Cassandra Mines.
At the entrance of the village Stagira is the Alssos (Grove) of Aristotle. The ruin of the ancient city of Stagira, which was the birthplace of the great philosopher, is located north, near Olymbiada. In the beautiful environment of the park there is a statue of Aristotle. Also the instruments which have been applied to natural phenomena referred in the work of philosopher, as the pendulum, the prism, the spheres of inactivity, the sundial, and more.
During the Byzantine era the area was called Sidirokafsia (something like “burning iron”). In the 15th century, during the Ottoman era, became a center of mining and in the 16th century there was a whole town with 7,000 inhabitants. Its ruins are north of the park on the hill of Aghios Dimitrios. Next to the park are the ruins of the tower of Madem Aga, who ruled the area. ("Mandemi" refers generally to the “ore” and especially “cast iron”). In the end of the 18th century, the exploitation of the mines was undertaken jointly by several villages known as Mandemochoria.
From Stratoni, a port connected to the loading of ore, the coastal road continues through the green towards Olymbiada. To the right stretches the peninsula which encloses the Bay of Ierissos from the north. On its shores are beautiful beaches. In the middle of the south coast is Savridi with sand and turquoise waters; also called Hawaii.In the cove on the north coast is the large beach Zeposand towards the edge of the peninsula the beaches Vasilitsi and Diavorvoro.
Continuing on the main road we reach the sandy beach Gourgourouwith shallow waters. Approaching Olympiada sandy beaches one after another; first Zoungla (Jungle), then Vina, and then Chryssi Ammoudia (Golden Beach); next the beach Kefalas or Pissina (Pool) and then Sykia,near both the ancient Stagira.
A nice beach is also in the settlement of Olymbiada, built in 1924 by refugees from Asia Minor. It has tourist infrastructure and on the pedestrian of the beach are taverns and cafes.
The area is included for its natural beauty in NATURA 2000. South of Olymbiada, on the small peninsula Liotopi is the ancient city or Stagira,the birthplace of Aristotle. At the sea side the site is close to the beaches Kefalas and Sykia.
The city was founded in the 7th century BC by colonists from Andros, who settled in the coastal hill on the north side of the peninsula. Later settlers came from Chalcis and populated the biggest hill on the south side. The agora was located between the two hills.
The city lived the adventures of the cities of Chalkidiki during the classic years. After the Persians and the Athenians, Stagira allied with Sparta and became a member of the Federation of Olynthus. In 384 BC Aristotle was born. In 348 BC the city was destroyed by Philip II, who allowed to be rebuilt for the sake of the philosopher. In the first century BC was deserted. Much later, during the Byzantine period, a small castle was built.
The first excavations took place in the 1960's. The systematic excavation from 1990 brought to light a part of the city followed by restorations. The tour in the archaeological site is a walk in history and nature. The citadel on the hill on the south side, sanctuaries, an arcade of the agora, houses and other buildings have been discovered. There are also remnants of the Byzantine fortifications. Findings are in the Archaeological Museum of Polygyros.
North of Stagira and Olympiada is the uninhabited isle of Capros.According to tradition in this island Olymbias, mother of Alexander the Great, was exiled by Cassandrus. So the area was called after by her name.
South of Ierissos the road leads to Nea Roda on the coast of the Gulf of Ierissos, from there to Trypiti on the other coast inside Singitikos Gulf and from there to Ouranoupoli and to Mount Athos.
Another road from Ierissos goes south on the coast of Singitikos Gulf in the village Xiropotamos; a quiet area and a nice sandy beach with shallow waters.
The settlement of Nea Roda, another village founded by refugees from Asia Minor, is located at the beginning of the peninsula of Mount Athos, at the narrowest point, where in 481 BC the Persian King Xerxes opened a canal to avoid the dangerous circumnavigation of the peninsula campaigning against Greece. According to Herodotus, the canal had a length of twelve stages, almost 2,900 m, and a width to be crossed simultaneously by two triremes. Some of its traces are still visible.
Nea Roda is a picturesque village with a small harbor, hotels and taverns. The walk leads to cobbled narrow streets and houses with courtyards adorned with vines and bougainvillea. In the center of the village is the church of Panagia (Virgin Mary), with the icon of Our Lady of the Roda (Roses) brought by the refugees from their former settlement.
Around stretches one of the nicest areas with sandy beaches and vegetation up to the coast. East from Nea Roda is one of the most favorite beaches, named Komitsa;this sandy beach spreads up to the location Skopos, which is the boundary of Mount Athos. We can also come from Ouranoupoli on the south side.
The island of Ammouliani
From Nea Roda we take the road to the south and at a short distance we arrive in the other coast at the beginning of the peninsula of Mount Athos, where is the port of Trypitistaring opposite Ammouliani, the only inhabited island of Chalkidiki, which has evolved into one of the most beautiful tourist destinations. From Trypiti depart ferries to Ammouliani; it takes ten minutes.
Ammouliani has an area of 7 sq km area, a length of 6 km and a width of 3 km. It was a dependency of the Monastery of Vatopediou of Holy Mountain. Its installations on the northeast coast were used by the refugees who came after 1922 from Asia Minor and created the only settlement. The church of Aghios Nikolaos was built in 1865. There are still the old school, and the “arsanas” in the harbor, a sheltered space for a boat in bad weather.
Ammouliani has many natural attractions and tourism infrastructure; wonderful beaches, turquoise waters, vegetation and rocks in enchanting formations; and accommodations, bars and taverns with fresh fish and traditional cuisine.
Well known for their beauty are the beaches of Aghios Georgios and Alykes. The beach of Aghios Gerorgios is in the bay formed on the east coast with rooms to let and taverns. Near is the beach of Megali Ammos. Opposite on the coast of the peninsula of Mount Athos, we see Ouranoupoli.
On the west coast stretches the beach of Alykes; long and organized with white sand, attractive sea and camping site.
At a short distance of the eastern edge of Ammouliani are Drenia, five islets with beautiful beaches and clear waters. We can go by boat from Ouranoupoli. On the northwest edge of Ammouliani is the beach Karagatsia, and near on the northern coast the beaches Nissakia (Islets) and Faka. Close are three islets called Xiropotamina. Opposite on the shore of the peninsula is the beach of Xiropotamos.
The beaches of Ammmouliani beaches and the small islands around it are also charming destinations for those traveling on their own boat.
From Tripiti the road leads south to Ouranoupoli following the coast, where are small coves with beaches and large hotels.
Ouranoupoli,a declared traditional settlement and a nice tourist area, is the entrance to Mount Athos. From here the men can travel to the monastic city, which remains inaccessible to women. From Ouranoupoli we go to the monasteries on the western side of the peninsula. To the monasteries on the eastern side we can go from Ierissos or Nea Roda, when the weather permits.
Since the 10th-11th century the area was the dependency Prosphorion of the monastery of Vatopedioy, as an impressive and beautiful tower on the beach of Ouranoupoli reminds. In the buildings of the dependency were installed after 1922 the refugees from Asia Minor who founded the settlement that took its name from the ancient city Ouranoupolislocated north near Trypiti.
Ouranoupoli has a long tradition in weavings and handmade carpets. Known are also the honey and olive oil. Alongside, tourism is flourishing. There are hotels and rooms to let, shops and fish-taverns.
The Byzantine Tower of Prosphoriou is the largest and best preserved tower in Chalkidiki. It is located next to the harbor and in front of it lies stretches a nice beach for swimming. Built in the 12th century, is connected with the recent history of Ouranoupoli.
In the tower lived the Loch,a couple who supported the residents in the first difficult years of establishment. The Scot Sydney Loch and the Australian Joyce Nan Kivell,writers and journalists, met in the adventures of the First World War, were married in 1919 and lived in several countries offering where needed their help.
They came to Thessaloniki and in 1928 settled first in Ammouliani and then in the tower in Ouranoupoli supporting the residents, especially during difficult times after the great earthquake of 1932. More over Sidney made designs based on murals of the monasteries of Holy Mountain and Joyce taught women how to dye wool with natural colors.
The women already had the experience of weaving and so the production of carpets flourished and continues until today. The Loch lived in Ouranoupoli until the end of their life. Sidney died in 1954 and Joyce in 1982 at the age of 95 years.
Worth to visit the tower. It is renovated and in its places we can see, among others, models of the monasteries of Mount Athos and objects reminiscent of the Loch. On the upper floor, where there is a chapel, the view is amazing.
In front of the tower is a beautiful beach. Beautiful beaches are also northwest from Ouranoupoli towards Trypiti. In two small beaches to the south we go on foot. North at 8 km, on the other coast, is the sandy beach Komitsa, where we go from Nea Roda, too. Across the region between the two coasts of the peninsula there are wonderful hiking trails. From Ouranoupoli we can take a boat to the islets Drenia opposite or for a sea trip to the coast of Mount Athos.
The Monastery of Zygou
South of Ouranoupolis a coastal road leads to the Monastery of Zygou at a distance of 2 km. It is one of the major attractions in Chalkidiki at only forty meters from the boundaries of Mount Athos.
The Zygou Monastery, dedicated to Prophet Elias, a real castle, founded in the mid 10th century at a location where installations from the 4th century BC existed. At the end of the 12th century the monastery was deserted. After the conquest of Constantinople in 1204 by the Franks, one of their princes settled in the castle and began to plunder Mount Athos until the Pope intervened. Since then, the region was called Frangokastro (Franks’ castle).
Time passed and the monastery complex became ruins, covered by the vegetation of the surrounding forest. The discovery was very important because archaeologists and historians are able to see and study the architecture during the first centuries of Holy Mountain, because, of course, building development never stopped at the monasteries on the peninsula.
The visit is a pleasure. The area is beautiful and the archaeological research has brought to light important findings, along with restoration work. We can see parts of the fortification, the church with two chapels and places where they were the cells and various installations.