The sunny peninsula of Halkidiki is a magnet for travelers from all corners of the globe. It is referred to as the «Trident of Poseidon» and the «pearl of Northern Greece,» and is full of fantastic stories. One of the peninsulas — Kassandra — was once called Pallini, the mythical mermaid beloved by Seton and Athos. Centuries later, king Kassander renamed it in his honor. Even before these times, giants lived on the westernmost «finger» of Halkidiki. Gaia wanted to use their help to avenge Zeus for the defeat of the titans, but it didn’t come to pass, as Hercules came to the rescue and the Olympian gods were victorious.
Kassandra is a stunning peninsula with awe-inspiring beaches and gorgeous nature, divided from the main peninsula by the Potidean Channel. This artificial waterway links the Toronian and Thermal bays of the Aegean sea, making it convenient to move between both sides of Kassandra without bypassing the peninsula.
A few historical facts: the Potidean Channel goes through the isthmus of Kassandra a bit north of Nea Potidea. This town has been around for nearly 100 years and stands on the site of the old city of Potidea, which was crucial to the Athenian union and took part in the Plataean battle. Nowadays, Nea Potidea is a coastal resort village with access to the Toronei and Thermal bays.
The construction date of the canal is a mystery, but, as ancient historians state, it is believed to have been erected in the 4th century bc. It may be that the Potidean Channel was built around the same time as Kassander’s reconstruction of Potidea in 315 bc. The first definite record of its existence was written by Strabo in the 1st century bc.
At the start of the 15th century, the canal was reconstructed and fortifications were constructed on its southern side. In the subsequent decade, the venetians captured the Potidean Channel and Thessaloniki, and it was later taken over by the turks seven years after. During the reign of the Ottoman empire, there is no record of how the canal was utilized.
The liberation war for greek independence in 1821 saw the restoration of the canal and the fortifications from the byzantine period, yet the rebels were defeated. The ottoman empire’s army drove them back to the walls of Kassandra, and then, by throwing bundles of sheep wool into the water, the turks were able to cross the obstacle and inflict a devastating defeat on the rebels. During the first Balkan war, there was no battle inside the canal.
In 1930, a turning point in the annals of the canal happened: it was reconstructed to run from east to west. For a time, a ferry was employed, then a 18-meter road bridge was constructed. At the dawn of the 21st century, another road bridge was erected beside it, thus forming a four-lane traffic.
Navigating the Potidean Channel is not for large vessels, as its width and depth are only 40 meters and 3.5 to 5.5 meters respectively, changing slightly due to the tide. This limits its use to smaller vessels, like those used by local and regional fishermen to travel between bays. At 1,100 meters long, the canal is still a great asset to the area.
From atop the bridge, the sights are truly breathtaking. But if you rent a boat, you can appreciate the beauty of the place as you drift down the canal.
To get from Thessaloniki airport to Nea Potidea, take a bus to K.t.e.l Halkidiki. From there, there are buses to Nea Potidea.
If you don’t find public transport suitable, you can turn to a taxi, rent a car or get a transfer to comfortably reach your desired spot.
The Nea Potidea canal’s bridge is a great spot to snap some awesome photos and selfies, and you will never be disappointed with the panoramic views. But, be aware that walking across it is not the best idea, as the sidewalk is very narrow and the fence is quite low.
Hikers will be delighted with a stroll down the canal, taking in the well-worn trails. The lush natural scenery of the woods and the cobalt color of the canal, combined with the crimson hue of the riverbanks, make a stunning, vibrant view.