Pelion
Pelion, Magnesia, Thessaly, Greece (Credit: Leontaras on Pixabay)

Pelion a dreamy peninsula combining mountain and sea

A beautiful place of pleasure and attractions good enough for gods, goddesses and mortals

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OVERVIEW

With its charming cool mountain villages, blissful beaches and picturesque fishing ports, Pelion, located halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki, is a unique place to visit all year round. Rich in history and blessed with glorious nature, interesting sites, welcoming locals and delicious food, Pelion in Thessaly region, was the favorite summer resort of the 12 Olympian Gods and and home of the half-human, half-horse centaurs. The most famous of centaurs was Chiron, tutor of many ancient Greek heroes, such as Jason, Achilles, Theseus and Heracles. The myth says that Jason and the Argonauts set off on his ship Argo from the harbour of Volos, the closest big town to Pelion, to find the Golden Fleece. The ship Argo allegedly was built of wood from the mountain Pelion’s trees. Formed by a dramatic mountain range, collectively known as Mt Pelion, the Pelion hook-like Peninsula curves south and east from Volos, between the Pagasetic Gulf and the Aegean Sea. The largest part of the peninsula is not tourist developed and keeps a lower profile, perfect for those who prefer to go exploring off the beaten track. 

AT A GLANCE

Pelion comprises of two municipalities: Zagora-Mouresi and South Pelion. Seat of Zagora-Mouresi municipality: Zagora Municipality Area: 150.3 km2 Municipality Population: 5,809 Seat of South Pelion municipality: Argalasti Municipality Area: 368.5 km2 Population: 10,216

ADMINISTRATION

Each municipality has several municipal units. Zagora-Mouresi’s municipal units are: Zagora and Mouresi. South Pelion’s municipal units are: Afete, Argalasti, Milies, Sipiada, Trikeri. Municipalities websites: https://dnpiliou.gov.gr/ https://www.dimos-zagoras-mouresiou.gr/



HISTORY

In Greek mythology, Mount Pelion took its name from the mythical king Peleus, father of Achilles. Pelion history begins almost together with the creation of the ancient city of Demetrias in 294 BC by the king of Macedon, Demetrius “The Besieger” from whom he took his name.  Dimitrias developed into a major trading port until 168 BC, when the Macedonian kingdom was conquered by the Roman Empire and was an unimportant provincial town during the Byzantine Empire. In 1393 the Ottoman Empire occupied Thessaly. The Ottoman occupation of Magnesia was unusual in that it did not extend into the eastern, inaccessible portion of Pelion; as a result, the coastal towns were abandoned in favor of the remote mountain villages there. During the years of the Greek Revolution, the well-known clergyman and scholar Anthimos Gazis from Pelion tried to raise the national spirit of the area and paved the way for the struggles towards independence. Zagora was the seat of the revolutionary government of the insurgent regions and Milies was the first community of Pelion which saw the Greek War of Independence of 1821. Pelion eventually won its independence in 1881, when Thessaly was integrated into the Greek Kingdom.

Pelion, Magnesia, Thessaly, Greece
Volos view from Pelion (Credit: leontaras on Pixabay)

POINTS OF INTEREST

Tsagarada: The village lies 500m above sea level  and has four distinct neighbourhoods (Agios Stefanos, Agia Kyriaki, Agia Paraskevi, and Taxiarches full of  impressive architectural examples.
Portaria: Located at the foot of Mount Pelion, is one of the most modern villages, boasting charming hotels, cafes and restaurants. Zagora: Situated on the eastern slopes of the mountain, unfurls panoramic vistas of the Aegean Sea. Makrinitsa: Traditional Pelian architecture stone-paved alleys, enchanting fountains, and stunning great views to Volos and the Pagasetic Gulf. Vyzitsa: Majestic mansions, lush greenery, and stone fountains. The villages of Pinakates and Mouresi also boast spectacular views. Agios Ioannis, Horefto, Platanias, and Milina are ideal for summer holiday makers. Lafkos: The village boasts museums, spaces showcasing art, ethnographic treasures, and a unique collection of old radios.

Public Historic Library of Zagora: Founded in 1762, it has contributed to the spiritual development of Greece. The library’s collection contains over 10,000 books and magazines, as well as 3,500 old and rare books.

House in Makrinitsa, Pelion (Credit: Luu, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Tsagarada’s Nanopouleio and Achillopouleio School: Two impressive architectural landmarks, both exceptionally well-preserved.

Pelion Steam Train “Moutzouris” (Smudgy): The legendary old steam train that crosses the green slopes of the mountain, connecting Volos with Milies. The design and supervision of its construction were entrusted to the Italian engineer Evaristo de Chirico, father of the famous surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico, who was born in Volos. Due to the morphology of the area, it is one of the narrowest railway lines in the world (60 cm). (For the time being and until further notice, the operation of the well-known little train (4-wagons) which delights tourists and locals alike has been suspended due to flooding phenomena and their consequences. You can contact https://www.hellenictrain.gr for more information.)

Pelion “Moutzouris” train (Credit: ©2008 K. Krallis, SV1XV, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Theofilos cafe: Located in a beautiful square in Makrinitsa, the traditional coffee house is famous for an impressive naive mural painting by Theophilos (1870-1934), the Greek folk painter.

BEACHES

Fakistra, Pelion (Credit: AntyHoc, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons )

Mesmerizing beaches are found on the eastern side of the peninsula and are famous for their exotic blue water. Such beaches are Agios Ioannis, Mylopotamos, Papa Nero, Fakistra, Damouchari (where they filmed scenes for the film Mamma Mia!). Each time you dive into the crystal clear water and relax on the pristine beaches you will understand why Pelion was the Ancient Greek Gods’ preferred retreat. During the busiest months (July and August) these beaches can be overcrowded so if you prefer crowd-free holidays we suggest you visit them at the end of May till early/mid June or even in September, the weather is still fine.

Agios Ioannis, Pelion (Credit: Holger Casselmann, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

GASTRONOMY

Pelion is a heaven for food lovers. Traditional, delightful tavernas run by families serve home-cooked local delicacies. Try “spetsofai”, a spicy sausage in red sauce, taste rabbit stew. Discover seaside restaurants where excellent seafood dishes are served like fried calamari, stew of squid and onions, crispy fish and “mezedes”, a variety of appetizers that go perfectly with the local distillate drink of choice called “tsipouro”. Volos is famous for its tsipouradika-type of tavernas that serve tsipouro- the main gathering place for the local residents. You will also find a wide selection of wines. For vegetarians,”tsitsiravla” is a great vegetable dish of pickled tender leaves.

(Spetsofai traditional dish from Pelion)

SHOPPING

Zagora, world famous for its apples, is home to one of the oldest agricultural cooperatives in Greece. The Agricultural Cooperative of Zagora-Pilio (1916) , produces apples of high quality, certified with the qualification of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). The Women’s Agrotourism Cooperative of Zagora  (1993) is the oldest women’s cooperative in Magnesia. Its products are pure, made exclusively from fruit and herbs of the region, without preservatives. Taste the most famous fruit of Pelion, the “fyriki” which is a type of small apple. Buy wildflower honey, spoon sweets, jams, liqueurs and traditional pastry sweets. The Women’s Agritourism Cooperative in Vyzitsa is also famous for its products.

Zagorin Apples Pelion

FEASTS, FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Portaria: Every year the village holds a traditional Pelion wedding in the main square. The Pelion wedding is a series of rituals that indirectly propose and demonstrate the communion, the full participation and identity of guests – the whole village with the newlyweds. There is also a specially designed space to exhibit local farm products and offer complimentary local wine and raki.

RELIGIOUS SITES

As Christian monks came in search of retreat, it is no surprise that Pelion is dotted with monasteries, some still thriving, some dating to the time of the Crusades. In Argalasti, the monastery of Saint Nicolas provides views of the town. In Agios Lavrentios village, you will find The Byzantine Monastery of Agios Lavrentios (established 1378 on the ruins of an older monastery) which played an important role in the Greek War of Independence. There are also beautiful Greek Orthodox churches across Pelion. In Zagora, you can visit Agios Georgios church (built in 1765), Agia Kyriaki (built in 1740), Agia Paraskevi  (built in 1803), Metamorphosis or Sotira (built after the original church burned down in 1887). Other notable churches are Agios Taxiarchos in Milies (built in 1741 without a bell tower) where frescos depict scenes from the bible. It was here on May 17th, 1821, that scholar Anthimos Gazis raised the Greek flag of Revolution. In the village of Mouresi, you will find the Agia Triada church, while in Tsagarada, the church of Agia Paraskevi. In the village of Lafkos, the all-white Prophet Elias chapel is located at the highest and most scenic point of the village.

KEY MUSEUMS

The Greek Museum: The oldest school in Pelion, also known as the “Greek Museum” is the old school where the famous leader of the revolution against the Turks Rigas Valestinlis-Feraios, was attending. Located in Zagora, it was founded in 1777, and was also the school of other famous Greek personalities, including  Anthimos Gazis, Grigoris Konstantas, and Kallinikos Lapatis, Patriarch of Constantinople.

Komboloi (Worry Beads) Museum: Housed in the former Old Portaria Bakery in Portaria, Komboloi Museum offers a unique opportunity to explore a wide variety of worry beads, an important part of Greek culture. The first worry beads that seem to have been used in the Greek area can be found in the monastic state of Athos. The monks of Mount Athos tied knots of a thick thread at short distances to measure their prayers. These “prayer ropes” paved the way for the Greek komboloi. Nowdays, worry beads come in different sizes, styles and designs.

Museum of Folk Art and History of Pelion: Built in 1844 and housed in the historic Topali Mansion in Makrinitsa, the museum showcases over 1500 objects related to the folk culture and everyday life of the region as well as a collection of early 20th-century photographs and a collection of seascapes painted by local folk artist N. Christopoulos. The three-story building is constructed in a wonderful style typical of Pelion’s architecture.

Fabei Museum: Opened in 2005 inside Lafkos’ old municipal school, in honor of Lafkiotis sculptor and painter Thanasis Fabas, you can see his works created with white Pelion marble.

ACTIVITIES

Pelion has a ski center in Chania village

Thanks to its high elevation, Pelion receives enough snow to have skiing facilities. In Chania, a small ski center offers snow-lovers the joy of skiing and snowboarding. Skiers can go down the slopes enjoying the view of the Pagasetic Gulf on one side and the Aegean Sea on the other. Pelion is also ideal in the spring when colourful flowers cover its mountain slopes, which are full of fir, chestnut, oak and beech trees. Take long walks in the forest, try horse-riding and bike-riding. Hiking lovers and mountain climbers will not be disappointed. In autumn, the foliage is impressive as the trees turn red and yellow. Like in spring, this is the perfect time for long walks on the Pelion trails. The hiking trails vary in difficulty and most of them do not need guides, as they are signposted. The enchanting Centaur’s Trail leads you through the realm of the legendary Centaurs. Damouchari-Mouresi-Tsagarada circular walk is also rewarding. In the summer, you can enjoy sea activities like sailing, kayak, SUP, and plenty of other watersports.

Centaur’s path in Pelion, Greece, (Credit: Spyros L., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

ACCOMMODATION

In Pelion you will find a wide range of accommodation options, from traditional charming guesthouses to stylish hotels for a pleasant, comfortable and unforgettable stay meeting your requirements in full. The properties range from budget-friendly to more luxurious ones, featuring high-end amenities.

TRANSPORTATION

How to get there: By air: The closest airport to Pelion is Nea Anchialos Airport, just 35km from Volos. By car: Volos is 3,5 hours from Athens and around 2,5 hours from Thessaloniki. By bus: There are regular bus services (KTEL buses) from Athens and Thessaloniki to Volos. How to move around: By car: You can rent a car or use local taxis. By bus: There are buses from Volos reaching villages of Pelion. By steam train: The traditional steam train connects Volos with Milies, crossing stone bridges and the amazing nature of Pelion. Each railway station is an architectural gem.


TO DO & TO GO