Hidden amongst the mountains of Halkidiki, lies Arnaia, the region’s most authentic and well-preserved Greek village. People from around the world visit Halkidiki every summer for its unrivaled beaches, but few make their way to central Halkidiki – a mountainous region consisting of sporadic traditional communities along the Holomontas Mountain. Arnaia is one of the twelve remaining historic villages in central Halkidiki also known as the Mantemochoria – the Iron Villages. Once upon a time, these villages were essential to northern Greece’s biggest industries such as the mining, weaving and agricultural industry, however nowadays, they mostly rely on tourism to sustain themselves. Follow along this travel guide to Arnaia as we uncover on of Halkidiki’s secret traditional villages that you must visit!
Architecture of Arnaia
It seems like time stands still in the village of Arania, a small community consisting of roughly 2,300 residents. This enchanting town consists of preserved mansions dating back to the 19thcentury, all maintaining their characteristic Macedonian architecture. Tile-roof stone houses, earth tone colored walls with splashes of purple and vibrant traces of flowers, ornament the streets of Arnaia. A distinctive feature of the layout of this village is the absence of yards or gardens to shield the houses from the cold winters. Serpentine country lanes permeate through the village leading to the town’s main square where locals congregate for a cup of Greek coffee or a scrumptious homemade meal.
How to get to Arnaia from Thessaloniki
Arnaia is located 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) away from Thessaloniki and approximately 38 km (24 miles) away from Poligiros, Halkidiki’s capital. The easiest way to reach Arnaia from Thessaloniki is to take the EO Thessalonikis Poligirou Highway and follow the signs for Agios Prodromos/Arnaia.
Things to do in Arnaia, Halkidiki
Wander the streets of Arnaia
There is no better way to get acquitted with Arnaia than to stroll through the nineteenth-century streets of the village. Explore hidden cobblestone paths, traditional Bed and Breakfast’s, Greek churches and of course admire the Machedonian architecture of the so-well preserved mansions. Make your way to the top of the village by foot for panoramic views not only of the town but also of the whole Holomontas Mountain region.
Enjoy traditional Greek food in the town’s square
After a nice stroll around the town, Arnaia’s town square is an ideal location to enjoy a cup of Greek coffee or a traditional meal at one of the many taverns.
Buy local products
One of the best ways to support the village of Arnaia and help its small economy flourish is by shopping local products. Arnaia is renowned for their beekeeping, cheese making, and textile art to name a few. The small businesses of Arnaia proud themselves in selling homemade honey from the Holomontas Mountain, marmalade, local tsipouro made with honey, dairy products like goat cheese and yoghurt, trahana – Greek traditional noodles, and many more.
Attend a local festival
The community of Arnaia is quite festive and loves an opportunity to celebrate. Throughout the year you can find festivals, exhibitions, concerts and traditional Greek dances to celebrate various cultural events. Some of the most noteworthy festivals are held on July 1st for Saint Anargiroi, July 26th for Saint Paraskevi and December 27th for Saint Stefanos. Bigger holidays such as the Carnival and Easter are also celebrated in Arnaia. Indeed, on the third day of Easter, the community celebrates “Koutsmanis,” a festival consisting of a horseback race, a shooting contest and traditional dances in the town’s square.
Visit Arnaia’s Museums
Strolling through Arnaia you’ll come across a traditional Macedonian mansion that now houses the Historical and Folklore Museum of Arnaia. The museum is divided into three sections, displaying agricultural tools, woodworking tools and everyday household items such as coffee kits, and baking utensils that help paint a picture of how everyday life in Arnaia used to be. Likewise, the Weaving Museum of Arnaia is dedicated to Hariklia Dimitrakoudi, a local weaver and true master of the art. Once an old school built in 1812, the church of St. Stefanos with its impressive bell tower is also a must-visit.
Hike the mountains of Halkidiki
Arnaia not only attracts tourists for its rich history and idyllic setting but also for its diverse hiking trails along the Holomontas Mountain. Starting from the village, nature enthusiasts can make their way to the 5th century ruins of the Neposi castle. The existing ancient wall of the castle stands tall at 4-5 meters and was built upon former structures dating back to 1500 BC. Along the forest, you’ll also come across stunning waterfalls, lush green flora and beautiful views of central Halkidiki, perfect for hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, or just wanting to escaping into nature.
Visit nearby traditional villages of Halkidiki
Just a short drive from Arnaia you’ll find historic and authentic villages where Aristotle spent a portion of his life teaching and creating the foundation of Greek philosophy. The following traditional Greek villages are all located in Central Halkidiki:
Varvara: Perched on the summit of a mountain, Varavara is about a half hour drive from Arnaia. On the way to the village follow the signs to Varvara’s secret waterfalls and thank me later!
Stageira: Combine a trip to Varvara with a stop at Stageira, the birthplace of Aristotle and an ancient Greek civilization, that’s almost completely intact to this day. Beautiful views of the Halkidiki’s beaches and a trip back to Ancient Greek life will truly be a trip to remember.
Agios Prodromos: If you are a fan of souvlakia, then Agios Prodromos is a must! Have a seat at the tavern, Skewers “Miltiades”and indulge in the most mouthwatering and delicious souvlakia you’ll ever have.
Taxiarchis: Known for their large Christmas tree farms, Taxiarchis is a traditional village not too far from Arnaia. Visit the town’s main church and stroll through the cobble stone alleys of Taxiarchis to learn more about this Christmas town.
Poligiros: Poligiros as mentioned above, is Halkidiki’s capital and one of the largest villages of Halkidiki.