Nea Fokaia is a renowned coastal holiday destination on the Halkidiki peninsula, renowned for its iconic medieval tower situated atop a hill overlooking the sea. But, besides this attraction, Nea Fokaia also offers the cave of the apostolic age’s most significant figure, apostle Paul, which draws believers and history enthusiasts alike.
Apostle Paul, although not among the twelve apostles, is considered one of the most prominent figures of the apostolic age. His missionary endeavours, after establishing many churches in Asia minor and Europe, led him to Greece, where he is now held in deserved high regard. He took refuge in a cave located in the territory of today’s Nea Fokaia resort for some time.
There are multiple narratives that have been penned down about the origins of the mysterious cave of Nea Fokaia. One of them states that it was here that the apostle Paul sought refuge from the gentiles, asking the Lord for assistance. Miraculously, the cave appeared in the ground and provided Paul the shelter he needed.
A second version states that the cave existed way before the apostle arrived, and he took refuge in it and discreetly baptized the newly converted locals in a font inside the cave.
The last version claims that the cave may have been the site of an ancient Macedonian tomb.
Throughout the centuries, this cave has served as a shelter for the faithful during times of oppression. Indications of this are the thick layers of soot coming from candles that have covered the walls. It is not known when the admirers of apostle Paul and the sacred spring of Nea Fokaia began their veneration, though it is assumed to have started before the 16th century.
At the front of the cave lies the altar room with its icons adorning the walls. Holy water and candles are available for visitors. The path then continues on a narrow corridor which was once decorated with paintings, now lost due to the high levels of humidity. On one part of the corridor, the path is so narrow that one must almost crawl in order to continue. At the end of the passageway is a pool of holy water coming from the spring. To the right, it is possible to stand upright as the ceiling height increases. In this area lie the remains of a marble font, believed to be where the apostle Paul baptized people. It is thought that he stayed here, spending his days in prayer.
The esteemed tower of Nea Fokaia is a classic example of ancient architecture on the Kassandra peninsula. It stands tall on a hilltop, overlooking the glistening sea and making for a spectacular sight at sunset. In summer, the area around the tower is a prime location for the Kassandra festival.
Nea Fokaia offers visitors the chance to relax in its stunning sandy bays. Tourists can take advantage of the excellent infrastructure of the region, which includes accommodations of all types, camping sites, taverns, coffee shops, water sports centers, shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, and bars with live music.
Nea Fokaia, located 82 km from Thessaloniki on the Kassandra peninsula. There is a bus from Thessaloniki’s northern capital to the Halkidiki bus station, from which busses depart to the resorts on the peninsula, with Nea Fokaia included.
It is not suggested to bring children to the cave. The stairs leading down are quite steep, the light is not bright even with lit candles, and the tunnel is very slim. People who feel uncomfortable in confined spaces should avoid going to the church.
Every year, around the feast of st. Paul, the town of Nea Fokaia celebrates with a procession starting from the cave church.
A fountain is located close to the cavern — you can collect bottles of its sacred water.