Home Destination Guides Accommodation 17th June 2019





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Greece 

 
THE PELION PENINSULA
    
 
 
 
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Sailing – Milina, Trikeri
  
Other interestMilies narrow guage railway
  
Map
    
 
GENERAL
 
      If you thought there was no part of Greece that had remained undiscovered, then think again!  The quiet beauty of the Pelion will seep into your very soul as you soak up the spectacular and rugged scenery, with its archetypal mountain hamlets and traditional coastal fishing villages, where local folk earn their living in time-honoured fashion. According to Greek mythology, even the Gods of Olympus chose the Pelion as their summer playground, and it was said to be home to the legendary ‘half man-half horse’ Centaur.
 
     Situated on the eastern side of mainland Greece, the Pelion stretches southwards like a slender, beckoning finger, with an impressive spinal mountain range dividing the peninsular into east and west - both sides having their own distinctive character. In the north of the peninsular the area is dominated by Mount Pelion, rising to a height of 1,600 metres above sea level, with wooded slopes stretching all the way to the coast.  This peninsular is full of natural beauty, the hillsides densely cloaked with oak, chestnut, pine, plane and fir trees, crystal clear waters bursting from underground springs, apple and pear orchards and panoramic views from the giddy heights of mountain roads. However, as the peninsular is little more than 10 miles wide in most places, even in the mountains you are not far from the sea and the coast offers some spectacular scenery of its own, together with some first class beaches.
 
       Back in the Peliot Mountains, the ambiance is made quite unique by the distinctly different architecture to be found there. The terracotta roof-tiled, blue and white painted houses to be found in coastal areas and reminiscent of the Greek islands, gives way to traditionally stone built house, with overhanging upper floors, wooden supports and grey slate roofs.
 
       This whole area is perfect for nature lovers, ramblers and ornithologists, as well as die-hard Grecophiles in search of the real Greece.  The Pelion is home to many bird species and being on a central Greek migratory route, migrating birds add to the many different species that can be spotted, including egrets, bitterns, white storks, rock thrushes, kingfishers, scops owls and bee-eaters - among others!  So don’t forget to pack your binoculars.  For tourists (not generally the Greeks), hiking and walking are popular pursuits and the Pelion has its own walking club (Footprints - the North East Pelion Walking Club!) as well as locally organized treks and nature trails, many based upon the Mouresi area. Mostly dis-used stone-paved mule tracks aid the pursuit of hiking throughout the area. In addition, Pelion’s high peaks give the area a versatility that other places do not possess - winter brings an alpine atmosphere and enough snow to keep the ski enthusiasts happy. The Agriolefkes Ski Centre (approximately 18 miles from Volos) is there to accommodate your wintry desires. What is more, the Pelion is now readily accessible during the summer – in the year 2000, charter airlines started direct flights from the UK to the small regional airport just south of the city of Volos – so keep it quiet………ssshhh……….     
 
 
VOLOS
 
    Volos is located on the eastern side of mainland Greece, almost half way between Athens and Thessalonika, beneath the awesome heights of Mount Pelion.  As far as facts and figures go, this sprawling modern town is the fourth largest in Greece, has a large, booming port second only to Pireaus and Patras, has the status of being the regional capital and is the gateway to the Pelion peninsular.   Volos is ideally situated on the northern end of a deep horseshoe-shaped bay in the Pagasitikos Gulf. These sheltered waters have been a major contributing factor to the rise of Volos as a thriving, modern, commercial port and a major departure point for ferries to the Sporades and other Greek Islands.
      
     The town is believed to be built on the site of the ancient city of Iolkos, which was once the home of Jason the Argonaut, and is reputed to be the port from which he set sail on his legendary quest to find the Golden Fleece.  In 1957 an earthquake destroyed a large portion of the town and when reconstruction took place, the building emphasis was more on serviceability than architectural beauty.  However, it is relatively easy to find your way around, as the town was rebuilt on a grid system, similar to that of Thessalonika.  Volos has all the amenities of any large town with banks, supermarkets, cinemas, chemists, doctors, a wide variety of shops selling all types of consumer goods. It also has theatres, discos, nightclubs, plus its own cathedral and University.  There are some excellent souvenir shops if you are willing to hunt them out, selling local artefacts such as woodcarvings, wall hangings, worry beads and attractive decorated ceramics.
 
     Without a doubt, the main attraction of the town is Volos’s expansive waterfront. It has a long wide boulevard and is the town’s focal point, with a bustling ferry quay, new marina and vibrant atmosphere. This whole area is brimming with café bars, authentic tavernas, local restaurants and ‘tsipouradikos’ - the latter being small bars selling tsipouro (a clear alcoholic beverage guaranteed to blow your head off!) and mezes (small plates of food to soak up the alcohol).  The harbour is located in the centre of the waterfront close to the remaining old town and within walking distance of the rail and bus stations (though not with heavy suitcases!).  Both the Town Hall and the Greek Tourist Information office are opposite the harbour.   On the eastern side of the waterfront is the lovely church of Agios Konstandinos and continuing on along the waterfront is Volos’s Archaeological Museum with some very interesting exhibits from the Neolithic and Hellenistic periods.  Particularly of note are the ‘stelae’, beautifully engraved tombstones dating from the 5th Century BC.  Also noted for its tombs dating from the Mycenaen period and a length of Neolothic wall, is the ancient archaeological site of Dimini, located some 2 miles to the west of the town.  Volos even has two reasonable beaches either side of the town for those wishing to spend more than a day here.
 
     Being a regional capital, Volos has excellent transport links to the rest of Greece, on a year round basis as opposed to a seasonal one.  There is a frequent, regular coach service to Athens, operating in excess of 10 times daily, as well as a good rail service to Athens, stopping at Larissa, another major town in central Greece.  In addition there are good links to Thessalonika, by both road and rail, with coach services on a daily basis.  The rail network feeds directly onto the ferry quay in Volos, with the main train station to the west of the harbour and the main coach terminal approximately 200 metres from the train station.  There is a bus service from Patras, the major ferry port on the western Peloponnese, to Volos. Ferry services operate throughout the year (to a greater or lesser degree depending on season and weather) to the Sporades islands and also to Lesbos.   
 
 
EASTERN PELION
 
     The eastern side of the peninsular is particularly precipitous with mountains plunging straight into the depths of the deep blue Aegean. 
    
      Across the mountains from Volos, the road winds precariously down around hairpin bends, to the Aegean Sea and the northeastern coastal resort (or at least the closest thing to a resort that the Pelion has) called Agios Ioannis (St John’s).  Agios Ioannis sits beneath a scenic backdrop of wooded hillsides and the towering Mount Pelion.  This resort is traditional and relaxing - proving popular with Greeks, especially in the high season.  The village itself fronts on to a long stretch of fine beach with a variety of water sports available in high season.  To the south is another stretch of fine sand and shingle beach at Papa Nero and to the north of the village under the cliffs, there is yet another beach to choose from, at Plaka. On the approach to the village there is a small stream, which needs fording in early and late season when the mountain springs gush with water.  Agios Ioannis has an assortment of shops, restaurants, tavernas and coffee bars mostly serving authentic Greek cuisine.  The nightlife revolves around a good meal and good bottle of wine, drunk slowly whilst the sun sets.
 
      Whilst the Aegean Sea on the eastern side is clear and inviting it can be choppier than the more sheltered western side, so it may not be ideal for non-swimmers, but is particularly good for windsurfers and can offer some lively sailing together with cooling breezes in the height of summer.
   
       A few kilometres to the south of Agios Ioannis, the other side of Papa Nero Beach, is the small fishing hamlet of Damouchari.  Damouchari is a car free zone, with a parking area just outside the village, so that locals and visitors alike can wander through the village’s stone walled pathways with no pollution from traffic.  This is a lovely, peaceful place, with a natural harbour used by local fishing boats, a couple of mini-markets and simple tavernas, plus a café bar or two.  There are no other facilities, shops or banks so money should be exchanged in larger villages prior to arriving in Damouchari.   The hamlet has its own sand and shingle beach and there is a pathway across the headland to Papa Nero beach.  This area is perfect for walking and hiking; the coastal path leads on from Papa Nero beach all the way to Agios Ioannis, a walk of approximately 1 hour.  Other walks can be taken up into the mountains behind Damouchari, for example to Mouressi, a traditional mountain village, in the heart of the hillside forests. The distance of this walk is approximately 5 kilometres by road or less if you take one of the old mule tracks.  Mouressi has freshwater springs nearby and is known locally as the Village of Flowers after the colourful blooms surrounding the village, particularly in springtime.  Here you can rest in one of a handful of local tavernas before winding your way back to Damouchari.
 
      Lower down on the eastern side of the peninsular is the small attractive hamlet of Katiorgis, which looks out across the Aegean to the nearby island of Skiathos.  In high season a local speedboat offers a taxi service across to Agia Eleni (better known as Banana beach) on Skiathos (see Skiathos brief), taking about 10 minutes each way.  Katiorgis itself is a fishing hamlet that sits on a lovely sandy beach and is the epitome of the get-away-from-it-all holiday.  There are a handful of traditional beach side tavernas, a café bar, a couple of mini markets and a small collection of private houses, some of which are rented out during the summer season.  Forget public transport because you would need to hire a car from one of the larger resorts or the airport if you wish to explore this area and there are some nice local walks if you feel like being energetic.
 
      A little over 6 kilometres away is the beautifully unspoilt beach at Mourtias known for its fascinating rock configurations that stand in the shallows like strange roughly hewn statues.
 
      As the ‘finger’ at the bottom end of the peninsular bends around, you arrive at Platanias, the largest fishing village of the Pelion. Located on the southern end of the peninsular, it has more great views across the Aegean to Skiathos.  Platanias is a beach lover’s paradise, enjoying some of the best sandy beaches in the area.  The main beach is a long swathe of sand (with the odd pebble here and there), which curves away from the village, and is a mere stroll from the centre.  A coastal path leads round to another superb sandy beach called Mikro Beach and further along is another wonderful beach at Kastri.  Usually in high season there are local water taxis to take you around to Mikro and Kastri beaches and sometimes even on to Katiorgis.  There is a small harbour where the local fishing boats bob up and down and a sample of their daily catch can be eaten in the evening at one of the waterfront tavernas.  As Platanias is so close to Skiathos, day trips are popular and in high season there is a daily ‘flying dolphin’ that goes to Skiathos town in the morning and returns in the evening.  There are also occasional ferries which go across to the popular sandy beach of Koukounares on Skiathos, and some that travel further afield to the islands of Skopelos and Alonissos (see island briefs).   
 
 
CENTRAL PELION and MOUNTAIN VILLAGES
 
To explore the central mountain villages car hire is essential, but do take care, the roads are narrow and winding with tortuous hairpin bends. However, the dramatic views and authentic settlements are truly worth it.
     
     Leaving Volos behind and climbing into the mountains to the north east of the town, the village of Portaria gives you the first taste of a typical Peliot mountain village, with stone houses and lovely shaded squares where the locals drink coffee and gossip the day away.  In Portaria one of the ancient plane trees encircling the central square (or ‘plateia’ as the Greeks say), is reputed to be over 800 years old.
 
    Higher into the mountains, and approximately 10 miles from Volos, is the enchanting village of Markrinitsa, deservedly known as the Balcony of the Pelion.  Perched on the edge of the mountainside, this village has breathtaking, panoramic views over the Pagasitikos Gulf, across the town of Volos and sweeping down to the islet of Trikeri at the end of the Pelion peninsular.  Fantastic!   This village was originally founded by Greek refugees fleeing from Constantinople (now part of Turkey and re-named Istanbul), during the 13th Century and has to be one of the prettiest in the Pelion with traditional stone houses, restored mansions, churches adorned with beautiful frescoes, a monastery and a ruined castle.  The focal point of the village is the lovely central square, adorned with a fountain and encircled with taverna’s, tables and chairs set neatly out beneath the shade of the massive plane trees.  On one side of the square is the Saint John the Baptist church and on the other is the marvellous view that earned the village the name of the balcony of Pelion.  It is no wonder that the village is included on many a day-tripper schedule.  In fact Makrinitsa is such a fine example of cultural heritage that the Greek government has issued the village with a conservation order to protect its cultural identity.  No motor vehicles are allowed into the village and both visitors and workmen must park in designated areas on the outskirts.  Even building materials are loaded onto mules, which ferry goods from the parking areas into the village.
 
     In the northern mountain range, above the coastal resort of Agios Ioannis is Zagora, one of the largest of Pelion’s mountain villages.  Zagora is an old, established village, surrounded by leafy green orchards fed by natural springs and reference has been found in Byzantine texts alluding to Zagora as being the whole of the Pelion peninsular.  Every year, between September and October, the local people are busy harvesting the abundant apple crops, for which Zagora is renowned all over Greece.  As with most of the mountain villages, the focal point is its central square, or plateia, shaded with trees and around which most of the shops, café bars and tavernas are clustered.  This square really comes alive in summer when there is a village Festival, with live traditional music and plays, on a series of dates from mid July through to the end of August.  Zagora also has its fair share of panoramic views over the Aegean Sea and is not far from the beaches of Elitsa and Agios Saranda, just under half an hour’s drive, whilst a little further on you will find the resort of Agios Ioannis. 
      Further south, above the seaside village of Damouchari, the small village of Mouressi nestles into the mountainside and a few miles further on, surrounded by stunning mountain scenery is the larger mountain village of Tsangarada.  With Tsangarada, visitors have the best of both worlds; yet more fantastic views over the Aegean Sea, as the mountain drops sharply towards the coastline, whilst being only a 15 minute drive from the fantastic beaches of Milopotamos and Fakistra and a 25 minute (approximately) drive from the resort of Agios Ioannis on the eastern coast.  Tsangarada is spread out with several village squares, the main one dominated by a massive plane tree, reputed to be over 1,000 years old!  There are lovely old buildings, traditional tavernas, coffee shops, grocery stores and some good mountain walks.
 
     To the west of Tsangarada, in the heart of a network of ancient walking tracks called ‘kalderimi,’ is the wonderful village of Vyzitsa - yet another mountain village protected by the Government in order to preserve its special cultural heritage.  Vyzitsa has some excellent examples of traditional Peliot architecture; many of the old mansions have been restored to their full glory and are now used as guesthouses.  This is another day-trippers’ delight where you can spend a day wandering through the narrow streets and enjoy traditional Greek food at a local taverna.  If you are in the region in high season, Vyzitsa celebrates its festival days on July 1st, August 15th and August 29th when visitors are in for a real treat.
 
     A few miles from Vyzitsa is Milies - named after the plentiful apple orchards and the Greek name for 'apple' which is Milo. Miliesis also well known for having an original narrow gauge railway that used to operate a steam train service across the mountains to Volos.  This railway line is over 100 years old, but was closed when it fell into disrepair, finally reopening in 1997, to take tourists on a picture postcard ride to the village of Lehonia. However, check operating times as the last time I looked, the train was only operating at weekends in high season. Milies is full of cobbled lanes and olive trees, has an interesting Folklore Museum and an historical library containing more than 4,000 rare books.  The drive from Milies to the western coast is approximately 20 minutes.
 
     Also close to Vysitsa is the charming mountain village of Agios Georgios, (St George).  From here there are stunning views over the western coast, across the Pagasitikos Gulf and the nearest beach can be reached within half an hour at Kala Nera.  There is a local village church also named Saint George, which houses an ecclesiastical museum and also worth a visit are the Taxiarhon convent and the village Art Museum.
 
     A short drive into the mountains above Lefocastro, in the centre of the Pelion, is the working village of Argalasti.  Being in a central position means that Argalasti has good access to both the Aegean and the Gulf side of the Pelion and their beaches.  On the Aegean side Argalasti is 12 kilometres (albeit winding kilometres) from the lovely sandy beach at Potistika and only 5 kilometres from Kalamos and Lefokastro on the Gulf side.   Argalasti has a variety of shops, café bars, restaurants and tavernas as well as an ATM machine and a clinic.
 
    
WESTERN PELION
 
     The western side of the peninsular is less rugged than the east, though still quite mountainous and feels more like the island resorts with an abundance of olive trees and some cypresses.  This side faces the Pagasitikos Gulf and is calmer, more sheltered than the east with great views across to the mainland on the other side of the Gulf and south to the island of Evia.  The western coast also has the additional benefit of amazing sunsets in varying hues of orange and red, as the sun sinks slowly behind the mountains on the mainland.
 
     Just under an hour’s drive along the coast from Volos is the small resort of Kala Nera and the neighbouring hamlet of Koropi.  Kala Nera or ‘Good Waters’ takes its name from the wonderful fresh water springs that bubble up close to the village.  It has a good mix of tavernas, shops, mini markets and café bars, most of which are centred along the lovely beachfront promenade.  There is also a chemist, car hire and money exchange facilities and a doctor who visits the village several times a week.  A short drive away, approximately 3 kilometres, is Koropi, a small and very quiet hamlet with a sand and shingle beach, a mini market and a taverna.
  
If you enjoy taking part in running races you might like to know about the 'Centaurs' Mountain Running Race of 67km held each year in the first weekend of May and a shorter race of 23km in mid-March every year. Both races start from the village of Kala Nera and finish at Drakia (email: info@magitsis.gr).
 
     Equidistant between Kala Nera and Afissos is the small hamlet of Platanidia, with a narrow pebble beach, a handful of tavernas and an assortment of private residences.
 
      A little further south is the small but smart resort of Afissos, which is popular with Greek holidaymakers, so can become quite busy in July and August.  Afissos is a pretty village with a lovely taverna-lined waterfront and small fishing harbour.  The local houses are scattered around the hillside that encircles the waterfront and in the village square is a stream where, according to legend, the Argonauts ‘slaked their thirst’ prior to their long journey in search of the Golden Fleece.  There are an assortment of shops, mini markets, café bars and traditional tavernas as well as a bakery, church, bicycle hire and a couple of taxis.  Also in high season small motorboats can usually be hired for exploring the many coves around the coastline.  More importantly Afissos has 3 good beaches to choose from, two pebbly ones at Abovos and Lagoudi, and a sand and shingle one at Kalifteri.  The two beaches either side of Afissos offer sun beds (mostly in high season), plus a selection of water sports in high season. There are some lovely coastal walks around Afissos and an hour’s walk through the olive groves will bring you to the coastal hamlet of Lefokastro (or a 10 minute drive for the less energetic).  This tranquil hamlet has only a string of houses lining the seafront and even in August the peace is not broken.  There is a fine shingle beach, a couple of tavernas and a shop, all of which are usually open from mid June to mid September.  Lefokastro is not far from the main regional settlement of Argalasti; approximately 15 minutes drive into the mountains, where a better selection of shops can be found.  This is good walking country, not as demanding as the eastern terrain, and there is a choice of coastal or inland tracks.
 
     South of Lefokastro is the small hamlet of Horto and its neighbouring village, Milina.  Horto has a small stream running through the middle of the village, where the local fishermen moor their boats.  There is a village shop selling essentials, a couple of tavernas and bars, quiet coves and a strip of sand and shingle beach around the headland.  There is also a local doctor who visits Horto about once a week.  The larger village of Milina, offering more facilities, is only 3 kilometres away and Argalasti, which has an ATM machine, is a 15-minute drive (approximately) into the mountains.  Milina has a greater choice of tavernas, bars and shops than Horto, but is just as relaxing and peaceful.  This village also offers money exchange facilities, a chemist and a visiting doctor several times a week. In this area there are opportunities to various types of watersports equipment on the protected and interesting Pagasitic Gulf - try just south of Milina, opposite Alatas island.  
 
     Set into the hillside above Milina, is the lovely village of Lafkos.  Technically a mountain village but as it is lower than the ones mentioned in the central Pelion section and only a ten minute drive from Milina, we have included it in the western coastal section.  That aside, Lafkos has great views across Milina and the Pagasitikos Gulf.  You can walk to Milina from Lafkos, which will take approximately one hour, but remember that the return journey is uphill, so allow more time for the return walk, or you can cheat and take a taxi from Milina.  Lafkos has become a popular retreat with Greek artists and some Athenians have second homes here, where they spend the hot summers; these factors have helped to keep the village alive.  The central village square, set among the narrow cobbled streets and local stone houses, is the heart of the village; where people exchange gossip around the coffee shop tables set out under the shade of the trees.
   
Trikeri      
 
The final destination of the Pelion peninsular, and the most isolated, is the small island of Trikeri - located just off the tip of the western coast, in the calm, sheltered waters of the Pagasitikos Gulf.  A visit to this tiny island will temporarily remove you from the 21st Century in the time it takes for the small boat to ferry you across the narrow strait.  There is only one village on the island called, yes you’ve guessed it - Trikeri, and the island is yet another car-free zone.  However, it takes only about half an hour to walk from one side of the island to the other, via the old mule tracks criss-crossing the hills.
  
     The main attraction on Trikeri, apart from the soul-satisfying tranquillity, is the Virgin Mary Monastery, which dominates the island from its hill top location.  The monastery is open to visitors, but only during certain times and not necessarily on a daily basis, so visitors should check locally before they go and suitable clothing should be worn (no shorts or bikinis!).
  
     All around the island coastline there are small coves and beaches, some pebbly (mostly those around Trikeri village) and some with sand and shingle, but the walk to get to them is up and down hills, so sensible shoes/sandals should be worn and this is not the spot for anyone with mobility problems.
  
     In the fishing village of Trikeri itself, there are a couple of tavernas and a mini market, but no other facilities.  Any money exchange required should be done prior to arrival on Trikeri.  It should also be noted that there is neither chemist nor any medical facilities on Trikeri and if a doctor is required then he must be called from the mainland.  However, this has not deterred the yachting fraternity who often stop for a night in high season to enjoy an authentic meal and glass of wine at one of the tavernas.  In high season there is usually a ‘flying dolphin’ service operating between Trikeri and Skiathos and it is possible to visit Skiathos on a day trip, but all details should be checked locally.  So if swimming, sunbathing, walking and long, languid meals are your choice, then Trikeri is for you.        
    
 
ISLAND CONNECTIONS
 
      There are many ways to get to the Pelion peninsular.  Package holidays are available from selected Greek specialist tour companies.  There are a limited number of charter airlines flying direct from the U.K. to Volos during the summer months, usually from April to October, but most combine Volos with Skiathos-bound passengers.   Flying time outbound from the U.K. to Volos via Skiathos is approximately 4 and a half hours. The return journey is usually direct from Volos to the UK making the flight time approximately 3 and a half hours.  Transfers from Volos airport can be quite long, approximate drive times from Volos to Zagora/Agios Ioannis area – 2 and a half hours, Damouchari/Katiorgis/ Platanias – around 3 hours, Afissos – 1 and a half hours, Horto/Milina area – about 2 hours and to Trikeri – 3 hours.  Alternatively, if you intend to visit the southern end of the Pelion peninsular it may be just as convenient to take a charter flight to Skiathos, with onward ferry to the Pelion.
 
      Travelling independently, there are year-round flights to Athens. Driving north from Athens to Volos, there is a good motorway connection, and the journey will take approximately 4 to 5 hours.  Alternatively there are flights from the U.K. to Thessalonika from where the drive south to Volos will take approximately 4 hours.
 
     There are excellent ferry links from Volos to Skiathos and Skopelos in the Sporades; departing several times daily in high season, but not so frequently in winter.  Some of these ferries from Volos also continue on to Alonissos and an additional service operates from Volos to the island of Lesbos.  As Skiathos has good ferry links with the Pelion and Volos, it is feasible to fly into Skiathos by charter direct from the UK, take a ferry to Volos and explore the northern region of the Pelion this way.  It should be noted that the existence and scheduling of all ferry options are subject to the vagaries of Greek commercial decisions, general delays and adverse weather conditions, so everything needs to be confirmed locally.
     
     
  
             
 
The foregoing information was last reviewed in August 2007. Things change, and whilst we are often travelling in Greece we do rely to some extent upon others to provide updates in order to keep the site as current and accurate as possible!  If you have updates or information that you think should be included here, please mail the webmaster@aguide2greece.com  - thank you.
           

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