Art and Culture Greece Music

Sani Festival: Culture, Fun & Sun

Image by Horia Varlan
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Adventure Idea: Sani Festival
Cultural Fun in the Sun

Kirstie Profile SmallLooking for a music festival this summer that’s suitable for a family? With The Stones gadding about Glastonbury now just a fond memory, and Elton recently swapping tantrums and tiaras for tortured tonsils, maybe you should perhaps look further than the UK for your festival fix. Maybe even combine it with a family holiday? First Choice Holidays tipped us off about a festival in Greece that may fit the bill, especially if you’re a fan of jazz or world music and your kids are 10 and over…

Image by Horia Varlan

The Sani Festival combines a great sunny setting with a diverse festival of international repute.
Image by: Horia Varlan

A musical melting pot in a special setting

There aren’t many festivals that combine jazz, world music, Greek music and Verdi. There aren’t many that also manage to work in cinema and still host it in the open air. On a hill. In a stunning bay. On balmy summer evenings. With views of the Aegean Sea and Mount Olympus.

But the summer festival I have in mind does. And if you like your festivals small and cultural rather than sprawling, beered up and rowdy, then you may want to read on.

Where tourism meets art on a hill

The Sani Festival takes place annually in July and August in the beautiful resort of Sani, on the Halkidiki Penninsula of Greece. It began way back in 1993 as a bridge between tourism and the arts and it still has a mission of bringing locals together with visitors in a cultural encounter. But this is no local festival. Standards are high and to say it’s diverse is something of an understatement. It may have its roots in the organisers passion for jazz, but it has grown to include many sounds of the world and several different strands of musical and artistic activity.

Festivals like this can be real mind expanders, introducing you to new ideas, music, musicians and expressive arts. But while it has the potential to open up your horizons of artistic appreciation, it won’t necessarily empty out your wallet as you only pay for the concerts you want to see. Leaving you the rest of the time to source a suntan and catch up on the latest beach read.

Image by Horia Varlan

Sani Hill: A magical setting for some of the Sani Festival concerts. Image by Horia Varlan

Location, location, location

Ultimately, the best summer festivals are as much about location as they are line- up. And the Sani Festival has a stunner with performances in several venues giving you a chance to get to know the place in different ways. The Festival spreads itself generously around the bay in the golden hours. You can hear the jazz at the natural amphitheatre of Sani Hill; on a peninsular that has its very own mediaeval tower. The Garden Theatre showcases the Greek music, while in mid August short films will be shown in the Cine Orfeas open air cinema.

Thessalonika International Short Film Festival  Logo

For the last seven years TiSFF of Thessaloniki has been screening international state of the art short films and has acquired a reputation for cinematic excellence. Films from TiSFF have even reached the Oscars. But you can say you saw them here first.

Could this be the sound of Greece’s heartbeat?

This year it’s the Sani Festival’s 21st birthday and it has recently changed its logo to represent the beating heart that is still part of Greece throughout its economic trials. And the organisers promise that they are countering the Euro gloom with even more brightness and energy than ever. China Moses, daughter of Jazz legend Dee Dee Bridgewater will be collaborating with Raphael Lemonnier for a special performance dedicated to Dinah Washington. American jazz musician and vocalist Cassandra Wilson is headlining. The festival closes with the homage to cinema shorts and a grand opera gala with the State Orchestra of Thessaloniki. And of course, Greece’s heartbeat will dance to a few authentic or experimental Greek tunes along the way. You can check out the full line up here.

AHMAD JAMAL at Sani Festival Greece. Image Sani Festival

Ahmad Jamal performing at Sani Festival Greece. Image Sani Festival

Who can go?

If you fancy booking a holiday to Greece and taking the family, then you need to be aware that only children aged over 10 can attend the festival events. Kids from 10-12 get free entry but everyone else has to pay full price. But with tickets starting at just €15 (euros), it’s one of the most affordable of all European festivals. And if you check into the Sani Beach Resort, tickets are reduced to €10. First Choice have a number of all-inclusive deals to Greece and there are flights to nearby Thessaloniki, a major international airport with flights from all main UK cities and frequent shuttles to The Sani Resort.

So. Culture and a suntan. Greece and its musical heartbeat. Have you booked your holidays yet?


Halkidiki. Image by Visit Greece

Disclosure Note: This post is brought to you thanks to support from First Choice Holidays. The opinions expressed here are, as ever entirely our own.

Sani Resort and Sani Festival Logo

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

1 Comment

  • Just a couple of the good reasons why Greece is such a fantastic place to holiday. Thessaloniki is quite lesser known, but has so much going on! Plus the Sani fest sounds really nice.

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