Lifestyle & Culture

Christina Hudson in Athens: ‘Pelion is a dream destination you have to see to believe,’ Pt. 2

(Editor’s note: We continue with our exploration of Pelion, a scenic peninsula between the Aegean Sea and the Pagasetic Gulf north of Athens. You can read Pt. 1 here.)

Pelion has what everyone goes to Greece to experience … culture, beaches, food and quaint villiages. It really has to been seen to be believed. This post focuses mainly on the supremely beautiful and unique eastern side of Pelion including a list of the best beaches.

Pelion is a great option for a driving vacation, especially in Covid times. Driving time between Athens and Tsagarada in eastern Pelion is about 4.5 hours, but there are some nice places to stop for a break along the way.

If you stay in one of the villages of the East (such as Tsagarada), there are four great beaches within a 15-minute drive. Some people opt to stay in the beach towns, such as Chorefto or Aghios Ioannis and there are nice accommodations options there too.

The villages of Milies and Vizitsa are slightly inland but well worth the drive.

Milies highlights

Stroll through the village and be sure spend some time exploring the narrow footpaths that lead to some stunning examples of the humble but super-elegant local architecture. Salkimi Restaurant is wonderful place to take a break for delicious savory pies, wild greens and classic taverna fare with a few Asia Minor specialties on the menu as well.

Vizitsa highlights:

Enjoy gorgeous examples of local architecture and world-class guesthouses. Visit the very special elevated square lined with sycamore trees and classic tavernas. Treat yourself to a classic Greek dessert such as a syrupy orange cake at Aggelikon Café.

No visit to Vizitsa is complete without a leisurely visit to the Women’s Coo-op where you can pick up all sorts of mouth-watering treats as well as some beautiful handmade ceramics.

Local specialties and products (limited list!)

~ Rice- and herb-filled zucchini blossoms (Each taverna seems to make their own version—try them all!)
~ White bean soup (Fasolada) (You can order this all year round, even in the summer!)
~ Fresh seafood (grilled fish from the waters of the Aegean is a must.)
~ Spentzofai (Sausage and green peppers in a spicy tomato sauce)
~ Spoon sweets (Sweet fruit preserves served as a treat with coffee)
~ Honey (Lots of local varieties)
~ Apples (Pelion is known for several varieties)

Stunning Aegean beaches

Papa Nero: Family-friendly sandy beach with casual eateries just across a concrete boardwalk … this is a busy beach but sprawling and very nice. Beach-goers of all ages will love crossing the pretty footbridge which leads to Aghios Ioannis, the adjoining beach where you can eat, drink and be merry. Papa Nero also has a very popular campground with a view of the sea.

Chorefto: This is a long and lovely sandy beach, with a swimsuit-optional area over the rocks at the end of the beach.

Agioi Saranta: Easy-breezy beach with laid-back tavernas and beach chairs available.

Milopotamos: A steep walk down quite a few steps from the main road will deliver you to this stunning beach with some dramatic rocks and arch action. (Check out Milopotamos live web-cam to see the wave action the day you plan to visit.)

Other activities

Hiking

For a leisurely 45-minute starter hike, take the grassy footpath from Aghia Paraskevi square in Tsagarada to Taksirarchon Square (also in Tsagarada). Watch out for a few tricky ledges and barbed wire along the way though!

Be sure to stop and enjoy the many special trees, springs and beautiful Pelion mansions you will pass by. For longer hikes (some of which will take you to beautiful waterfalls), ask for a local hiking map which can often be found at local hotels and restaurants. There are easy hikes and challenging ones, long and short ones. Not all of the hikes are marked, so be sure to carry water, a map and a phone just in case.

The Pelion Railway

The Pelion railway is 28 km of narrow-gauge railway that connects the coastal city of Volos (Ano Lechonia station) with the lovely mountain village of Milies. From April to October, passengers can enjoy magical mountain views, Pelion stone bridges, tunnels and more. The train usually runs on weekends and public holidays.

Details are here on the website.

Architecture

Traditional Pelion architecture is unlike any other and blends perfectly with its surroundings. Stone walls, dark wooden shutters, slate roofs…. All of these elements are perfectly set off by the famous flourishing Pelion gardens which are packed with hydrangeas, fuchsias, camellias, azaleas and more.

Hazards

Roads:

The winding mountain roads are not well maintained in some areas, parts on the side have fallen away here and there and some Greek drivers are known for speeding and erratic movements. So, driver, beware! (Winter driving conditions can be especially tricky at times so always exercise great caution.)

Trails:

These are also not well maintained in many places. Watch out for unexpected and unmarked ledges.)

Aegean waves and currents:

The open waters of the Aegean on the eastern side of Pelion are the most beautiful blue but can be tricky at times, especially in August when the Meltemi winds typically occur. For calmer waters, you can always visit the Pagasetic Gulf beaches.)

Travel notes

On your drive, I recommend a nice long stop in Volos, the port city at the foot of Pelion. You can take a leisurely stroll on the waterfront and have lunch and ice cream to prepare for the last hour of driving which is straight up the steep mountainside. 

There is an airport in Volos but, at time of writing, it only has two links for passenger flights — a few flights a month from London and a few from Munich.

There are no domestic links at present, but other flight options can be found at SkiathosKozani and Thessaloniki airports.

dav

About the author:

A Pittsburgher by birth, Christina T. Hudson is also half Greek and has – so far – spent most of her life in Athens, the chaotic but captivating capital city of Greece. She studied Language and Literature at Moravian College and has worked as a teacher, an editor, a writer and a photographer.

You can see more of her work here at A Pixel for Your Thoughts.

You can see more of her posts here.

See more about Greece in Dispatches’ archive here. See our Greece archive here.

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