Chalkidiki, the island with the three fingers “Kassandra”, “Sithonia”, and “Athos”, is a quiet and beautiful destination in the pre-season. Before the season gains momentum in May and the tourist crowds pour in, you can immerse yourself in real life at the end of March. We traveled for a week using public transportation. Sometimes it can be stressful as it takes a while to figure out the bus system. However, this way you get to know the country and its people from a completely different perspective.

The weather at the end of March can still be very changeable. Temperatures can drop to as low as 6 degrees Celsius at night, but can rise to a pleasant 18 to 21 degrees Celsius during the day. We were lucky overall and were able to carry out all our activities. From our base in Néa Kalikratia, we visited Áfitos and Thessaloniki by bus.

We also used the bus to get to the starting points for our hikes. The longest journey we had was certainly to the mountain village of Agia Paraskeví. Here we spent over two hours on the road and were the last passengers on the bus. From here, we hiked the Kassandra mountain trail to Kassandrinó. Another hike we undertook was from Kriopigi to Kassandrinó.

We discovered quite late that there is a beautiful coastal path starting directly in our village. You can follow this path for about 10 kilometers. It’s a perfect walk for watching the sunset or simply finding a beautiful and secluded beach.

A word about stray dogs and cats. I admit that I didn’t think about this issue before the trip. I didn’t read anything explicit about it in the guidebook. So we were somewhat surprised to encounter both stray and chained guard dogs in Central Macedonia that sometimes really spoiled our hiking enjoyment. Especially on one hike, when we walked from the hotel towards Agios Pávlos (supposedly a wine village), we had some difficulties along the way. These little or big beasts are often found in abandoned junkyards, allotment colonies, or simply on the street. Chaining dogs on properties is actually prohibited in Greece, but who cares? Although the animals sometimes scared us to the bone, we also felt sorry for them. It becomes critical when a pack of dogs moves freely on the street and barks at us. In those cases, we preferred to take a detour.

With cats, of course, it’s a completely different story. Primarily, we felt pity for them. Some of them were really fun, though. Especially the cats that had taken up residence near bakeries, cafes, or restaurants looked well-fed. These little creatures are not stupid and know exactly where to find something to eat. So, the smart animals sometimes help themselves to the leftover chips or nuts from the table.

Our base hotel in Néa Kalikratia was the Secret Paradise Hotel. We booked this accommodation under the mistaken assumption that there would be a garden with sun loungers and a nice spa. Unfortunately, this wish was not fulfilled at all. The spa costs 15 euros per day for guests (20% discount is granted). However, it is a dark basement room with a small (splash) pool, a jacuzzi, and a few carelessly placed fitness bikes and treadmills. There is no garden, and the terrace in need of renovation was not yet open. The rooms were okay, but unfortunately so cold that we had to run the “heating” through the air conditioning in the evenings. However, I can praise the breakfast. It is very tasty and abundant. However, the daily battle for the orange juice press can be a bit annoying. On one day, when more and more tourists arrived, the buffet was almost empty by 9:30 a.m. – nothing was replenished. All in all, it’s a better city hotel, but far from being a “Secret Paradise.”