PELION | MAINLAND GREECE | THESSALY
Magical combination of mountain and sea, wonderful villages that have kept so much of the local colour and traditional architecture.
Ideal for excursions both winter and summer, since the Centaurs’ mountain is beautiful in different ways in every season. Pelion’s villages have kept their character and tourism has not made much of a dent on their authenticity.
PELION IN BRIEF
The distinctive Pelion architecture, which reflects influences from Epirus and the islands, and customs such as the Dionysian revels on May Day or the special wedding rites, show off the rich traditions of the region. The apple, pear and cherry orchards and olive groves on the lower slopes, the wild poplars, plane trees, beeches and chestnut trees higher up, together with the abundance of herbs, have given Pelion the name “healing mountain”. A multitude of springs, a cool climate and superb views are other features of this idyllic spot, where the gods of Olympus spent their summer hoholidays.
In 1423, the most important of Pelion’s villages were founded with the building of the first fortified mansions. Houses tended to be grouped around monasteries, whose monks were able to offer protection to the lay people outside their walls. The cores of what were to become Pelion’s 24 villages were all in existence by the early 17th c. The typical Pelion house is a fortress-like three-storey building. The first and second floors have very few, small openings, while the third floor, which is the summer quarters, is a light construction with large windows, enclosed balconies and wooden beams that support the roof. The stained-glass and painted windows alongside the transparent ones give an unusual look to the overall building. Around the middle of the 19th c., neo-classical features began to be added.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN PELION
The Theophilos Museum in the house of Giannis Kondou is worth a visit; it contains murals painted by the well-known folk artist in 1912.
Built like an amphitheatre along the mountainside, it has been called the “eagle’s nest” and “balcony” of Pelion and its restored listed mansions are still impressive, despite the recent tourist boom. The village was founded between 1204 and 1215 and its residents’ trading around the Balkans was based on their silk-worm production and tanneries. Have a coffee under the plane-trees in the big square, with its panoramic view of the Pagasitic Gulf and its sculptured marble fountain. Pop into the 18th c. monastery of the Panagia tis Makrynitissas and ask to see the famous “secret school” where children studied during the Ottoman occupation. The Topalis mansion housing the Museum of Folk Art and History is fitted out as it would have been in the past.
The “gateway to Pelion”, as it is often called, has plenty of tourists and the facilities to accommodate them. Its wonderful restored mansions, the cobblestone paths and running brooks account for its popularity. Take a look at the church of the Panagia tis Portareas, built in 1273 and then have a drink at Karavos where mini waterfalls tumble out of the mountainside. You could also hike up to Pliasidi peak at an altitude of 1,548 m, a three-hour walk that will give you a stupendous view of Mt Olympus and the Aegean.
The old inns or khans gave this area its name. Situated at an altitude of 1,200 m, this is the highest village on this side of Pelion before the Agriolefkes ski centre.
Pelion’s biggest village with 4,000 inhabitants, Zagora consists of four autonomous communities, Agia Paraskevi or Perahora, Agia Kyriaki, Agios Georgios and Agia Sotira, strung out over 5 km. This is where the Patriarch Kallinikos IV founded the so-called Riga Fereos school, now a folk art museum open in summer. Visit the square of Agios Georgios with its spreading plane trees and beautiful 18th c. basilica, its 15,000-volume library and the church of Agia Paraskevi.
A picturesque village enveloped by greenery with a lovely flagstone square. Visit the 17th c. church of Agia Marina and be sure to look at the gilded icon screen known as the treasure of Pelion.
Spread out down the mountainside as far as the sea, this village has 800 inhabitants, traditional architecture and many facilities for its numerous visitors. It is composed of four, virtually autonomous communities, Agii Taxiarchi, Agia Paraskevi, Agios Stephanos and Agia Kyriaki, which are linked by a network of roads and some 70 km of traditional cobbled paths (kalderimia). The walk between Agii Taxiarchi and Agia Paraskevi is interesting and quite easy. Both churches are impressive, the former built in 1746, the latter with its traditional fountain and thousand-year-old plane tree, whose trunk measures 14m. in circumference. If you can, go down to Damouhari, a seaside hamlet with an enclosed fishing port, a ruined Venetian fortress and a pebbly beach.
The cultural and literary centre of Pelion in the 18th c., with old mansions, olive groves, kalderimia (cobblestone paths) and streams galore. The old school house still functions as the local high school and the once celebrated library has a collection of old heirlooms and valuable manuscripts. The church of Pammegiston Taxiarchon, built in 1741, has a gilded icon screen and wonderful frescoes. The legendary miniature train that used to serve the area has been restored after a 25 year break and puffs its way to Ano Lehonia on the coast and back during the summer. It is definitely worth a ride.
A listed traditional village with imposing tower-houses, marvellous examples of local architecture in tune with nature.
OTHER THINGS TO DO
On summer weekends the miniature coal-burning train starts at Lehonia and makes the 28 km trip to Milies in 90 min passing wooded slopes, ravines, mountain hamlets and old stone bridges.
Information: Tel. 0030 2421096416
Usually one can ski at Agriolefkes from November 20 to April 30, depending on the snowfall. The centre has a refuge, restaurant, snack bar, three parking lots, a first-aid station, two lifts and two tows, three main slopes, beginners’ slopes and a network of cross-country trails through beeches, poplars, chestnut and fruit trees.
By following the web of well-marked, old cobbled footpaths, you can explore the mountain to your heart’s content and discover magical spots accessible only to hikers.
Information: Greek Mountain-climbing Association, Volos, tel. 0030 2421025696.
PELION MYTHS & HISTORY
Memories of many mythical beings and personalities still linger in Pelion. It was the home of the Centaurs, half men-half horse, Asklepios, the famous healer, Jason, the leader of the Argonauts and husband of the sorceress Medea, and Homer’s hero, Achilles.
BEACHES IN PELION
The beaches on the Aegean coast are better — cleaner, but exposed to the north wind — than those on the Pagasitic Gulf, which tend to be shallow, more crowded and less appealing.
ON THE AEGEAN SIDE
Three continuous, enchantingly beautiful, sandy / pebbly beaches. Two of them are separated by a dramatic rock with a natural tunnel through it.
Since there are always waves here, be careful if you’re not a good swimmer.
A couple of good tavernas overlook the beaches.
A summer resort with a pretty, but crowded, beach and tavernas. Analipsi and Vrios to the north are accessible by jeep. The spring at Analipsi makes it popular with campers.
Here too, there are three superb beaches to choose from, Plaka, Papa-nero and Mouressi. They all have sand, clear waters, and lots of people. There are also quite a few attractive, good tavernas.
A lovely sandy beach surrounded by imposing cliffs. You can get here via a dirt road. Access is difficult, so it’s a nature-lover’s retreat.
Pebbly beach with crystal waters, reachable from Tsangarada by road or footpath.
LAMBINOU – KALAMAKI
Wonderful, almost deserted beaches for those who want to get away from it all.
Sand and pebbles near the village of the same name. Clear, clean waters.
ON THE PAGASITIC GULF SIDE
Trees shade this sandy beach, which is next to the village of Kala Nera. Ideal for families with small children.
Next to the village of Horto, this area is filled with little harbours and coves for pleasant swimming.
Sandy beach next to the summer resort village.
PELION TIPS & INFORMATION
HOW TO GET TO ANTIPAROS
Ideally with your own transport or with an organized tour agency.
By intercity bus (KTEL), from Kifissou Station, Athens, Tel. 0030 2105124913
0030 2105124911 or by rail, TrainOse tel. 1110
HOW TO GET AROUND
By private car or rented vehicle. It’s the only way to enjoy Pelion at your own pace.
BEST SEASON TO VISIT PELION
There is no best season, they’re all wonderful. In winter the mountain is spectacular, covered with snow and shrouded in mist, and you can ski. In summer, it’s cool, drenched in greenery, and you can swim. Spring and fall are equally delightful.
BEST BUYS IN PELION
Fresh aromatic oregano (rigani) and various kinds of herbal teas. Local preserves (spoon sweets), jams, homemade noodles and trahana. Woven fabrics, embroideries with traditional patterns, wood carvings.
BEST LOCAL FOOD
Spetzofai, a dish made with Pelion sausages and hot peppers, bean soup with chili peppers, red wine and tsipouro.
PELION USEFUL TELEPHONES NUMBERS
Volos Town Hall 00302421070951-9
Volos Tourist Police 00302421027094
Volos Tourist Bureau 00302421023500
Volos Port Authority 00302421020115
Volos Taxis 00302421024911
Makrynitsa Community Office 00302421099140
Makrynitsa Police 00302421099505
Portaria Town Hall 00302421099128
Town Hall 00302426022520
Tsangarada Town Hall 00302426049238
Tsangarada Police 00302426049222
Tsangarada Rural Clinic 00302426049208
Milies Town Hall 00302423086204
Milies Police 00302423086222
Miles Taxis 00302423086342