Pelion is a fantastic holiday destination for any season. Verdant and mountainous, and blessed with a beautiful coastline, the peninsula is wonderful for touring around and exploring, no matter what time of the year it is. It is great in the winter, when the mountains are covered in a thick and powdery layer of snow. It is great in spring, when the green is greener, the flowers are more fragrant and birds sing louder than anywhere else in Greece (or at least, so it seems…). It is great in the summer, when the mountains offer relief from the heat to those who don’t want to spend all their time on the many beautiful beaches. And it is great in the autumn, when the colours of the forested mountain slopes are the most intense, while the apple, walnut and chestnut trees shed their fruits.
The traditional villages of Pelion
Pelion is particularly famous for its perfectly preserved villages, marked by their tall mansions, the so-called archondika, constructed during the commercial boom of the 18th and 19th centuries. These are typically three-stories high, their first two floors built out of stone, originally used as storage space and winter rooms, and a third floor for the summer, a larger construction with many large windows on three sides. Many have been converted into guesthouses, varying from plain and simple to stylish and luxurious.
A tour of Pelion
You could drive around most of Pelion in one day, but if you have the chance you should take more time and split your stay between the west side, the east side and the mountains in the north, and explore as many villages as possible. You will enjoy strolling through cobbled lanes past old stone mansions, tiny churches and numerous water fountains, buying local products in tiny shops, and tasting traditional meals on village squares.
Portaria, Makrinitsa and the ski centre
Starting with the north, you should go and see Makrinitsa and Portaria, two villages situated at an altitude of about 600 m, halfway between Volos and the ski centre of Mount Pelion. Easy to reach, blessed with a ravishing setting and magnificent architecture, and offering many different places to stay, they tend to attract a fair amount of visitors. Makrinitsa has sweeping views of Volos and the Pagasitikos Gulf. The main square is a great spot to stop for a meal.
About 12 km after Portaria is the village of Hania (another cute one) and a bit further on is the Agriolefkes ski resort. It is small (five lifts), but it is known for the good snow quality, and it is quite something to ski with a sea view! It also has a particularly attractive trail for cross-country skiing.
Tsangarada, Mouressi and other villages on the Aegean side of Pelion
The eastern (Aegean) side of Pelion features the best beaches and beautiful scenery. Zagora in the north is the largest village; Horefto, set along a long sandy beach, is nice if you are interested in pure beach holidays; a bit further south Mouresi is quiet and charming; Damouchari, a tiny fishing port, is a good choice to stop for lunch.
Further south, you reach Tsangarada, a group of communities set amidst greenery and overlooking the sea. One of those, Agia Paraskevi is known for its magnificent 1000-year-old plane tree (with a perimeter of about 17 m!). Reputedly, it is the oldest and largest in Greece. The communities are linked by cobbled paths – so bring your walking shoes! But bring your beachwear too – drive down to the sea from Tsangarada and you will find some beautiful beaches.
The southern part of Pelion
From Tsangarada, the main road continues down for another 15 km or so, until it bends towards the west taking you to the other side of the peninsula. You could leave the main road and drive further south to Argalasti and Lafkos. The area is not as impressive and mountainous as northern Pelion, but it is green and quiet and there are nice beaches and small seaside communities to explore.
Milies, Vyzitsa, Pinakates, Agios Georgios…
When crossing from the eastern side of Pelion to the western side, you should turn off the main road towards Milies, the first (or last) in a string of villages built along the southwestern slopes of Mount Pelion, overlooking the Pagasitikos Gulf. They are among the most authentic and picturesque villages of Pelion, and popular among Athens weekenders, especially during the autumn and the winter.
In Milies, you can visit the craft museum and the library, though most people come here to have lunch in the taverna at the old railway station. During the summer season, on Saturday and Sunday, you can take a ride on the old train on the narrow gauge railway line (it takes you past breathtaking scenery); if you come another time, go for a walk along the tracks. The road continues towards Vyzitsa, Pinikates and Agios Georgios, one even prettier than the other. Vyzitsa offers most choice in terms of accommodation and places to eat or drink, while the other two are perhaps a tad quieter on weekends. Go and see them all.
Small hotels and other special places to stay in Pelion