The Halkidiki peninsula: finding sanctuary in Greece

Sani Resort on the Halkidiki peninsula is a haven of tranquillity, says Jasper Spires

Sani Resort on the Halkidiki peninsula in mainland Greece sits on seven kilometres of shimmering beachfront. Every evening, I let the waves lap my feet while watching the sun set on the mountains in the distance, twinkling off the water. The country may be best known for its salads, islands and rich cultural heritage, but less well known is the tranquillity to be had in this gorgeous slice of northern Greece.

I stayed at Sani Club, one of the five hotels dotted around the resort. It was the first to be constructed when the property was bought from the local monks at the monastery of Stavronikitas, and guests will be happy to know that the hotel still offers something of a religious experience, albeit of a rather different nature. Floor-to-ceiling windows, soft sheets, a bath almost deep enough to swim in – it is, all in all, an ideal base from which to explore.

From my room, I could see the whole of the beach. The bars and seafood restaurants were buzzing, and at the end of the beach sat the remains of a Byzantine fort. Guests regularly swapped their sun-loungers to meander to its base, to gaze out at the Aegean Sea and the awe-inspiring breadth of Macedonia with its lush greenery. I was surprised to find the landscape so verdant, as if Sani had conjured up a miracle in a country more often characterised for its sun-bleached beaches and rocky islands. The whole area was awash with beauty.

A culinary odyssey

The phenomenal food was more inspiring still. At the resort’s Beach House restaurant, diners enjoyed dishes from delicate aubergine salads with feta cheese and paprika, to steaks in sumptuous gravy and, of course, an endless supply of seafood. The lobster and fennel risotto was a particular treat, and I have seldom seen so many king prawns and curls of calamari in one place – all delicious.

A “Luna Park” was among the more unusual cocktails I sampled – an arcane mix of lime cordial, tequila and candy floss, which I found myself ordering again. It was exquisite.

Exploring by bike

The attention to sustainability is another small marvel. At first this seems at odds with the indulgence, but the restaurants are, for example, careful with food waste. They are eliminating single-use plastics, while the resort as a whole has been certified carbon neutral and no small percentage of its profits has gone to the development and preservation of its associated wetlands reserve, which hosts flocks of endangered birds. You can visit it on a tour.

Lake with flamingos

Birds flock to the wetland reserve

© Sani Resort

For me, however, the standout activity was the recent introduction of Sani’s electric bikes. Off the beaten track lies a network of off-road trails that lead through the forested hills behind the beachfront, which, if rumour is to be believed, were cut by one man alone – the resident cycling guru. However, you don’t have to stick to them, and after renting my bike I immediately sped off to find a secluded beach nearby.

With the wind in my hair and the sun at my back, and the promise of a “Zombie XXII” cocktail at the end (so strong it might as well have been laced with gunpowder), I can think of no better way to explore the shoreline.

The slow ride back to the hotel was equally magical. The sun setting over the Mediterranean is a sight to behold, as it descends through the silhouettes of cliff-side trees and glistens off the water. More than once I stopped in my tracks simply to watch and breathe in the sea air, as a yacht tracked over the horizon.

Jasper was a guest of the Sani Club at Sani Resort. Deluxe double rooms cost €205 a night, see sani-resort.com

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