Kallithea is much more than a merely popular seaside holiday spot on the Halkidiki peninsula. It is a city steeped in ancient history, evidenced by the ruins of the temple of Zeus Ammon, situated right on the shore.
The story of the sanctuary begins in the 8th century bc when the people of the neighbouring village of Afitos, then known as Evia, were captivated by the beauty of the area and decided to build a temple dedicated to Dionysus and his nymphs, located in a nearby cave. The cult of Dionysus flourished until the 2nd century ad.
At the close of the 5th century bc, the temple of Zeus Ammon was erected in that location. Initially, an altar was constructed, followed by a dorian style temple with a stone superstructure. The romans refurbished the temple, adding bleachers and another altar. With the discovery of early christian baths, it was apparent that the temple was in use during the Byzantine period. However, it was later destroyed and left forgotten for centuries. Nowadays, the remains of the Temple of Zeus Ammon are a vital archaeological landmark of the Halkidiki peninsula. The object was inadvertently found in 1969 during a hotel’s construction.
In the early 70s, excavations at a popular resort town uncovered many exciting artifacts. Sadly, only the foundations of these ancient treasures remain. Nevertheless, there is a unique blend of past and present here that can’t be found anywhere else.
The temple is split into three sections — dedicated to Dionysus, Asclepius, and Zeus Ammon. The ruins of altars and columns, as well as a mini amphitheater, are still visible today. It was here that visitors to the sanctuary once watched the religious rituals.The sanctuary of Dionysus, belonging to Afitos, still holds the places of worship where these ancient rites took place. Close by is a cave full of stalagmites, stalactites, and soothing streams. The beauty of this natural landscape could have been what inspired the building of the temple. It’s hard to imagine a better place to pay homage to the gods.
The remaining ruins of the cult of Asclepius were popular as healing spas in that era, and their restorative power was well known. Items used for treatments have been discovered on the site.
Lying on a white sandy beach, visiting the temple of Zeus Ammon often coincides with a getaway to the Kallithea coast. An observation deck in the middle of the village stands atop the ruins, offering a great view of the temple and the sea. A church is also located nearby the lookout.
Kallithea is famed for the vibrant nightlife, plentiful shopping and dining options. Getting to Afitos, the neighbouring town, can be done in 5 mins by taxi. It is widely considered the most picturesque village in Halkidiki, with traditional stone-built houses, an old temple, a folklore museum and stunning sea views.
It’s a 80 km drive from Thessaloniki to Kallithea, either by car or with a transfer from Halkidiki bus station. When in Kallithea, the Sanctuary of Zeus Ammon can be accessed by a steep descent, following signs with the same name.