Greece, being less than 3 hours away (only slightly longer than a road trip between Beirut and Jounieh), is one of the most common summer travel destinations in Lebanon. However, when we think of Greece, our mind wanders to Athens and the islands of Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Oia, etc. Wild Discovery ME has opened our eyes to a new Greek destination this time, and hosted a 3-day press trip to the captivating peninsula of Kassandra in Halkidiki, Greece.
–> I wasn’t able to attend it personally as it conflicted with my trip to Montreal so my good friend and long-time blog contributor Rachel went on my behalf. Rachel has been helping out with blog material for over a year now and she’ll be contributing soon under her own name. Here’s a long and thorough description of these 3 days spent in heaven:
Hello Rachel 🙂
Seeing as it is an uncommon destination from our region, we had to take a 50 minute connecting flight from Athens to Thessaloniki Airport. From there, our first stop was at a Byzantine Tower. Near the tower was a place usually overlooked by passing tourists; what looks like a small chapel from the outside is actually a cave with a narrow 30 meter tunnel that we crawled through to reach a small room dedicated to St. Paul, and a well with what is believed to be holy water given the religious significance of the place.
According to local legend, this is the place that the apostle Paul took refuge from the Romans back in the day, with the help of an angel that guided him there and opened its wings to cut through the rock. Worth a visit if you are not claustrophobic. Thessaloniki itself is known to be a hub for students and a center for nightlife different than that of the resorts; unfortunately we did not have enough time to experience it.
Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort:
The first resort to welcome us was Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort. The resort is 1hr 30 minutes from Thessaloniki airport, and opened its doors for the first time in May 2016. Here’s a small brief:
Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort, is a new luxury wellness resort in Kanistro, Halkidiki. It stretches amphitheatrically across 330 acres of secluded land, facing a magnificent beach of 500 meters, overlooking the Aegean Sea and the peninsula of Sithonia. Thanks to the unprecedented range of facilities and its privileged location, Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort establishes a highly competitive operating business model, which can support the opening of new markets for Greece and extend the tourist season. Spearheaded by its natural hot spring in the subsoil, a holistic spa and the most advanced superyachts marina, Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort constitutes a unique 5-stars hotel, which upgrades the hospitality industry in northern Greece. It features 300 luxurious rooms and suites, of which 48 have their own private pool. Its facilities also, include ten cosmopolitan restaurants and bars, a separate entertainment “planet” for children, advanced conference facilities and exclusive leisure and relaxation zones, such as a small theater, courses, and idyllic gardens. The Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort is the first part of a tripartite investment plan reaching 120 million euros of Med Sea Health SA, a multi-stakeholder company of Greek interests.
The Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort is a very spacious modern resort, with most of the suites overlooking the resort and the sea. The view is exquisite as the resort blends nicely within the area where the small mountains meet the Aegean. The beach there is sandy with some soft pebbles, and the water crystal clear. Just beautiful. The 5 star resort also has its own boat marina.
Given that Miraggio is a new resort, I believe it has excellent potential. The staff is friendly and helpful, but the restaurant waiters are somewhat inexperienced. Hopefully by next season they will have worked on the speed of service at Portofino Restaurant. I had the opportunity to try their special “Water source journey” which is really unlike any other spa that I have experienced. Basically it is an indoor salt water pool and in the middle you have a path to go through in which they have installed underwater pumps that massage the whole body in different places while you walk through it. The infinity thermal pools were a plus to the spa experience where there are 4 pools of different temperatures, and one even had massage beds in the water that you can lie on and tan under the Greek sun.
Miraggio also has childcare facilities making it very family friendly, without making it an inconvenience to couples, groups, or singles. Overall, I commend this place for its comfortable and casual ambiance, its unique spa experience, and its receptivity to families on vacation. Before heading to our next resort, we stopped at the picturesque St. Nicolas Chapel in Xina.
Our next stop, Sani Resort! This resort is only 1 hour away from Thessaloniki airport, and has been a favorite 5-star destination since its establishment by the Andreadis family around 30 years ago. The resort consists of 5 different hotels (Sani Beach – Sani Club – Sani Asterias – Porto Sani – Sani Dunes opening soon). The hotels vary in their level of chic, and each has a different spirit. We stayed at Sani Beach, and needless to say the room had a breathtaking view of the pool and the white sand beach. The room wasn’t as spacious as the one in Miraggio, but the bed was just as comfortable. We were told that they have a wide array of pillows and will gladly change them upon request. The resort is very family friendly, and even has a beach “garderie” for babies and kids.
Sani Resort is a multi-award winning 5* star Luxury Family Resort destination, locatedon the Kassandra Peninsula in Halkidiki, directly opposite Mount Olympus – home of the gods. Developed within an ecological reserve, stretching over more than 1.000 acres of fragrant pine forest, olive groves, golden beaches and crystal clear waters, Sani Resort has been the dream of two men almost 30 years ago, and today ownership remains with their families, who have a stronger than ever commitment to protect the beautiful environment for future generations. A unique holiday experience is unveiled within its 1.000 acres, featuring four internationally awarded five-star hotels each with its own distinctive character and a yacht marina, offering a wide range of leisure facilities and accommodation.
Sani Resort is a complete community, with the whole bay to itself, making it hard to get bored. White sand beaches and crystal clear waters, a marina, award winning restaurants: Water Restaurant which services modern French cuisine and Tomato Restaurant which serves modern Greek cuisine, and a buggy to take you anywhere you want to go. What more could you ask for?
To top it all off, Sani has developed an eco-reserve; Sani Wetlands. A forest of white beach sand and Aleppo Pine trees, and lots of fresh water serves as a pit stop for a huge number of migrating species every year. A lovely place to go hiking and bird watching, and it smelled fantastic having rained 2 days before we got there. Wine is bought from local producers and labeled by Sani (branded).
The resort also has a nice church on site that can host weddings. They also make it easy for people interested in having a civil marriage in Halkidiki. If anyone is considering a wedding abroad next summer, check out Sani Resort on [this website].
The village of Afytos is only 15 minutes’ drive from Sani Resort. There you will find authentic architecture and an old souk with lots of arts and crafts, nice place to pick up your souvenirs. The village is also known for a stone balcony with a gorgeous view of the beach, and mountains on the second of the 3 peninsulas of Halkidiki. Guests and tourists in Halkidiki are mostly British and Russian. It is also a popular destination among neighboring countries like Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia.
Halkidiki is a fabulous destination, and was a much needed dream weekend getaway. The harmonious blend of greenery with the turquoise waters and blue skies instills a spontaneous sense of peace and relaxation very different from what we are accustomed to. Greece’s hidden gem.
More about Wild Discovery:
I’ve already booked several trips with Wild Discovery and have been with them on three media trips and all were positive so far. For those interested, you can check out their holidays packages [here] and the one related to Halkidiki [here].
Wild Discovery is the widest network of travel agencies in Lebanon. We are affiliated to Johnny R Saadé Holdings. We are known as the specialist of Greece, also for quality holidays specially set for couples and families. It is part of our communication to always introduce new tourism regions in the Mediterranean far from the known ones so people discover pearls we have in the region. Last year, it was Costa Navarino in Greece and today The Kassandra Peninsula. Wild Discovery has organized and hosted this press trip choosing the Sani Resort & Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort – two properties to be visited by press. Our objective was actually to boost and enhance tourism to Greece out of Lebanon.
In 2015, Wild Discovery enhanced its offer to Greece by proposing a wide range of quality holiday products in Greece ranging from simple stay to combined holidays blending many islands together. This expertise made this leading Lebanese travel agent the specialist of Greece . Traditionally, Lebanese visitors have been attracted to the country for short vacation breaks. The exceptional weather, unparalleled settings and the hospitality of Greek people and the delicious local food, create an ideal stage on which Lebanese couples can celebrate their special day and of course Greece is a stone’s throw from Lebanon making it easy for families to celebrate with their loved ones.