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Ouranoupoli Halkidiki

Ouranoupoli Halkidiki – The gate to Mount Athos

The long, winding road comes to an abrupt end 145 km from Thessaloniki and the airport, at the foot of an old tower. This is the end of the road, the border to the unique monastic state of Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain. This is the picturesque village of Ouranoupoli. Approximately a hundred houses huddling around a Byzantine tower, on the north finger of the Halkidiki peninsula in Northern Greece. The gateway to Mount Athos, the port of passage for pilgrims and scholars alike who visit this unique monastic republic. The small village blessed with a mild climate (click here to see today’s weather), a clear blue sea and endless golden beaches.

The most memorable view of Ouranoupolis is from the top of the hill just after the town of Ierissos, at the point where the road crosses over from the north to the south side of the Athos peninsula. Pass the tiny whitewashed chapel of St Paul to the left, then a couple of sharp bends and the bay of Mount Athos unfolds in front of your eyes. To the left lies the village of Nea Roda, the place where Xerxes, the Persian King, cut a canal across the peninsula for his ships to pass. To the right by the shore lies the hamlet of Tripity, and further across the limpid sea the long island of Ammouliani, like a dark green lizard sunning itself. At the foot of Ammouliani are the Drenia Islands, a group of uninhabited islets, some no more than tiny rocky outcrops, charcoals scattered by some giant hand in ancient times. Follow the yellow line of sandy coastline straight ahead, and far in the distance a tower rises from the unruffled blue sea, white houses sprawling away from it, bathing in the early morning sunlight. And even further in the horizon, like a giant background, the grey snow capped summit of Mount Athos appears in the early morning mist.

Because of it’s relative isolation Ouranoupolis has not been effected by mass tourism. It was part of Mount Athos until 1922, when approximately 50 families, Greek refugees from Asia Minor arrived under the auspices of the League of Nations, looking for a new home. The land was provided by Mount Athos and each family was given an one bedroom house, an arid plot of land and ten sheep. More families arrived four years later. Without a road to connect it to the rest of the world the village remained isolated and life was hard. In 1947 the locals took shovels and spades and cut a crude dirt-track road which ended the isolation and brought the very first adventurous tourists to the village.

The promenade on the west side of the village by the port, with it’s restaurants and cafes, is a wonderful place to leisurely spend the whole day, under the shaded foliage, by the sea, and watch the world go by. The little port is busy. Very early in the morning monks in black habits and pilgrims hurry to catch the boat for Mount Athos. Small wooden fishing boats arrive with the day’s catch. Later come the tourists, boarding large boats for the daily tour, eager to see the towering monasteries of the Holy Mountain from a distance. Finally smaller open boats with white canopies, start their regular trips to the islands opposite. Throughout the day private and hire boats leave for every direction, looking to discover a new beach, a deserted cove, to enjoy the warm sun and the clear blue sea. They will be seen again in late afternoon, appearing through a sea of yellow and crimson, while the perfect red disk of the sun lowers itself far in the distance, reflecting a flaming stream on the calm sea. Everybody makes for the restaurants by the sea, to while the evening with friends, recounting the day’s exploits. At night, the lights of the restaurants along the promenade mirror on the limpid sea, forming mysterious flashing patterns. Far in the distance the lights of Ammouliani, the monotonous flashing of the lighthouse, the flickering lamps of the fishing boats, a wonderful, magical world out there.

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Ammouliani village view Halkidiki

Ammouliani, island in Halkidiki

The Ammouliani is the only inhabited island of Halkidiki in size 5 square kilometers. Distance from Tripiti 3.5 km which is associated with vaporettos, the trip takes about 10-15 minutes and 130 km from Thessaloniki.

The current settlement founded by Greek refugees from the Sea of Marmara in 1923. Until then, the island was a dependency of Vatopedi. There are also the premises of the temple, the arsenal, school, club.

Do not miss to do some diving in crystal clear and full of fine sand beaches (Alikes, Saint George) ideal for the whole family and more.

On the perimeter there are small islands (Gaidouronisi, Pan, Mouse) with beautiful sandy beaches. You can rent a boat or from Tripiti Ouranoupoli and take a boat trip around the islands.

There are small taverns with good food and great service. Also apartments and rooms, camping ready to accommodate you.

Worth a visit, you will love.

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Stratoni is located 102 km away from Thessaloniki and 56 km away from Polygiros. An ancient war memorial, which was found in the region (1st century b.c.) and it has impressive statues, tomb, vessels, e.t.c , indicates the position were the city Stratonikeia flourished which is located in the so-called position “Elaionas” of the community Stratonion, where a part of a public roman building has been excavated.

The city was possibly established by Dimitrios Poliorkitis, to honor his mother Stratoniki or his daughter. About 35 years ago a war memorial in Stratoni was researched, that is a tomb –monument, which had two male and one female statues, the well known “Despoina” of Stratoni, which is exposed to the Museum of Polygiros. The inscriptions that found there, show that the monument is dated in the years of Jesus.

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Stagira is the birthtown of Aristotles. It is found built on the foot the Stratoniki Mountain(Strempenikos), at an altitude of 500 roughly metres. At the entrance of the village, visitors can visit the park in which the Statue of Aristotles stands proudly surrounded by monuments such as towers, public baths and the tower of Madem Aga, from the period of Sidirokafsia. Sidirokafsia was the administrative centre of the region,and had its own mint. Further down going to the village, we see the central temple dedicated to the “Birthday of the Virgin Mary”. It is of great historical importance, and was built in 1814 with the help of the Hilandari Monastery on Mount Athos.

Also very interesting is the small chapel dedicated to the “Virgin Mary the Spilotissa” built in rock. In this area the big village feast takes place , on the 8th of September. Visitors can walk in the everygreen paths with a panoramic view. There are about 500 residents that live in the village today and they deal mainly with the exploitation of mining wealth and forests. The beautiful and historical village of Stagira is located above the central road of Thessaloniki – Ouranoupolis approximately 8 kilometres from the sea.

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The natural beauty and the archaeological sites of great historic interest attract the visitors who come to Olympiada for the first time, as they combine sea activities with sightseeing and knowledge.

Olympiada is located on the Strimonikos Gulf, on the northeastern side of Halkidiki and is only 95 km from Thessaloniki, through Stavros.

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Nea Roda

Nea Roda is the biggest refugee village in northern Halkidiki. It was founded immediately after the Asia Minor destruction in a place called “Provlakas” (= before the avlaki = before Xerxe’s Canal ) by roughly 40 refugee families which, after a year of roaming, reached Halkidiki in the summer of 23′ and came to this area. They came from Roda in the area of Propontida near the Marmara Sea or “Sea of the Greek spirit”.In 1901, about 700 Greek people lived in the village. According to tradition they were settlers from Roda. In the village at that time there were also about 100 Turks living here, who had come from Koutali in 1700 , by a Turkish order.

The whole area but also the wider region is presented as paradise: Rich sea and fertile soil. They produced silk from silkworm cocoons, granite in blocks, fish, fruit, olives, grapes, onions and a lot of other products,which they promoted with boats to Istambul. They had three churches (biggest being the church of Saint Dimitris) and an upgraded level of school. Up to 1912 they lived happily. Then things started to change when new Turks arrived. In all the Greek Asia Minor villages, the fear of slaughter and exile prevailed, with the known conclusion of that black August in 1922. The people of Roda fled in two different ways : Two boats left for Mitilini, while most pass over to the island of Aloni and afterwards over to the island of Marmaras. After 20 days the ship called Propontis picked them up and took them over to an area in Thessaloniki called Karabournaki, in order to end up in an area called Saint Barbara in Ano Toumba.There they scattered in small teams.

In 1923 the team in Mitilini is the one that reached this region first, rejecting the place of current Ouranoupolis considering it small and narrow so it resided for a few months off-handedly in Ierissos. There they proposed for their new village to be established after the harbour of Ierissos, but the locals were opposed to this in fear of future union. So they finally selected the place “Provlakas” and gave it the obvious name “Nea Roda”.

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Ierissos is the oldest and biggest village of the Municipality with 3118 residents. It is reported by historians as the continuation of Ancient Acanthus , which was a colony of Andros since the 7th century B.C and an important city of Macedonia The local residents deal mainly with fishing and tourism. During the more recent years,important professional activity related to Mount Athos has also developed.

It constitutes an important harbour for Northern Greece with lots of fishing activity .The fishes found in the gulf of Ierissos are well known for their taste throughout all of Greece.

The sandy beaches as well as the live amusement offered in Ierissos make it a unique place for vacations. The impressive social and cultural activity of the residents roots go back centuries and a sample of this are the many traditional songs that remain alive and are still sang up to today.

A lot of associations have been founded with a variety of activities,incuding the cultural association “Kligenis”, the association “Friends of Environment”, and the music association “Acanthus “. There are also lots of professional associations (fishing, trade, builders association etc)

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Gomati, is a beautiful area with rich natural surroundings and numerous possibilities of utilizing information available. Initiative of the Municipality, Gomati has showcased the beautiful corners, if completed rehabilitations squares, spaces sight, improved roads, rehabilitated waterworks and sewerage (biological treatment) as well as telecommunications network.
The residents of Gomati engaged in farming activities, farming, logging, fishing and mining. Gomati waters are abundant, but there is no organized water supply, leading to run roadside unexploited. If there was a coordinated use of water, combined with the fertility of the soil and the climate, there could be all kinds of crop products. These shortages are a limiting factor for creating agrotourism current.
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Stratoniki is one of the mountainous villages within the Municipality, with a panoramic view towards the gulf of Ierissos and the peninsula of Athos. It is one of the mademohoria and the locals – mainly during the old days – had as main occupation mining. It is believed that the village was built by the king of Macedonia Perdikas,in honour of his brother Stratonikis.

Stratoniki’s big acne began in 1530 during the reign of the sultan Souleiman the 1st. He reorganized the mines of the Ottoman empire, that were known in the region since the Byzantine period such as Sidirokafsia and Siderokava. During that time apart from Greeks,workers of many other nationalities (Bulgarians, Serbs,Turks, Albanians, Jews, and even German as technicians) came to the area in search of work.

The acne of the mines turned Stratoniki into a big and flourishing centre, as there were more than 6.000 workers, in the 500-600 furnaces, scattered in the mountains. All this constituted a small Babel, as many languages were spoken by the the workers of various origins. Greek, Spanish-Jewishand a lot of Balkan languages.

The Jews practised mainly the money-changing profession and it seems that there were many of them because they dominated the market. The Jewish money-changers and Turkish tenants of the mines bought from the miners silver at state prices. It is not therefore by no means strange if Spanish was imposed as the common language of agreement. In any case, Greek and Serbian were spoken by the villagers in the market where they came to in order to sell their products. Thus, when the Jews kept their shops closed, the market would die down so consequently the days off in Sidirokafsia were two, Saturdays for the Jews and Sundays for the Christians.

It has been determined that by the mid 16th century, the sultan took from the mines, minerals valued about 20.000-30.000 golden coins. In Sidirokafsia it is believed that a mint functioned since the period of Murat the 2nd ! (1421-1451).

Source: Official Site of Municipality

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