Pelion Travel Guide – What To See and Do in Pelion, Greece
Pilio or Pelion is an all year-round destination in the region of Thessaly in Greece tucked between the Pagasetic Gulf and the Aegean Sea. In recent years, Pelion has become a famous destination for Europeans and Greeks alike, with people returning year after year to soak in the nature, relax, and feast on traditional and local products. At 1,624 meters, Pelion is not one of the tallest mountains in Greece, but its natural beauty is ideal for mountain lovers, hiking enthusiasts and skiers as well and its proximity to the beach means you get the both of both worlds.
Pelion has so many charming villages and spots to discover, but even though they are close to each other it is highly recommended you rent a car. Read on for ideas on what to explore in the area of Pelion during your trip.
There are plenty of accommodation options around Pelion to base yourself in for a few days while exploring the nearby area. The most popular villages to stay in are Makrinitsa and Portaria on the western side of the mountain and Tsagarada on the eastern. Our favourite and highly recommended suggestion for your accommodation is, Karaiskos Farm. You will find Karaiskos in Portaria, only a few kilometres away from Makrinitsa and a short 30-minute drive from Volos, the largest town in the area.
Karaiskos Farm is the ideal spot to relax and enjoy nature. It is also a great option for families with younger children, as you will get opportunities to interact with small farm animals like cows, goats, ponies and roosters. You will also get fresh eggs in the morning from the hen house and can explore the herb garden and farm area. Pelion overall is a great place if you are looking to avoid the crowds. An important consideration while we are still dealing with COVID-19 and we need to practice social distancing as much as possible. With the attentive and warm environment that the Karaiskos family have created, the activities on offer and the mountain and nature scenery around you, there is no doubt this is the best place to stay in Pelion.
Pelion has a rich history going back to antiquity but also mythology. It was once known as the island of centaurs and the mountain of flowers. It was also the spot where the demigod and healer Asclepius and Hippocrates, the father of medicine, roamed around. They wrote a lot about the local herbs and their medicinal benefits. A number of scientific studies have researched the medicinal plants of Mount Pelion, and even though most of the ancient knowledge of these herbs does not survive, it remains a rich and biodiverse area.
Things to See and Do in Pelion
A short hike around nature that is very close to Makrinitsa. You will be walking around a pathway that follows a natural spring, with butterflies flying around and some benches to rest. This is also a great picnic spot if you come prepared. According to the myth, the centaurs were half-men, half-horse beasts that lived in Mt. Pelion and roamed around causing trouble.
Milies Train Station
Another local suggestion, that is a bit of a drive away but very much worth it. Railway enthusiasts will be fascinated by the history of this charming train station that first opened to the public in 1896. A fun fact of the history of the railway is the fact that it was designed by Evaristo De Chirico, the father of Giorgio De Chirico, well-known artist and writer. The line linked the mountainous villages of Pelion with the town of Volos but was suspended in 1971 to cut costs.
After a short-lived effort to revive the line as a heritage railway, the station was once suspended in the 1980s. It wasn’t until 1996, that “Moutzouris”, would pass through the villages once again and showcase the natural beauty of Pelion to visitors from all around the world.
At 25 km/h you will have plenty of time to enjoy the view and civil engineer features at play, like the magnificent stone bridges and tunnels, as well as the iron bridge of Milies train station.
The mountains of Pelion are the perfect spot for mountain biking and cycling enthusiasts. There are routes that span from a few hours to days so you are sure to find something to your liking.
From cobbled stone paths, to dirt roads, and ancient trails, the scenery will surprise and delight at every turn. Pelion has some of the best and most well-kept Enduro trails in Greece and it is worth exploring in-depth.
Hikes in the area
Do you prefer to do your exploring on foot rather than on a bike? Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the area and it is easy to see why. Most of the hiking paths in the area follow the “kalderimia”, the network of stone pathways that were used by donkeys to carry food and other supplies into the villages. If you want a short and easy hike to get you started, have a look at the path from Tsagarada to Damouhari. It is one of the best kept trails in the region and only takes a couple of hours to complete. You will start at the village of Tsagarada and descent towards the bridge, passing through old churches and dense chestnut forest. After a quick bite to eat in Damouchari and a quick swim, you can carry on towards the stunning sandy cove of Papa Nero beach and relax by the water.
This is one of the biggest villages in the area and arguably one of the most popular as well. Portaria is also where you will find Centaur’s path for a scenic walk around nature. The village is famous for its beautifully restored historical mansions and rich history. You will find plenty of great restaurants, cafes, local shops and accommodation options in Portaria and it is a great place to base yourself on for further exploration.
Makrinitsa is set amphitheatrically on the hill of Pelion so you can enjoy spectacular views of the gulf. The local architecture is beautiful and together with the stone clad alleyways, create a back-in-time feel that has visitors returning again and again. During the winter months, the village is often shrouded in fog which creates a feel of mystery and allure.
Every Season Activities
Pelion in Summer
Summer visitors will find the combination of mountain and beaches irresistible. According to the locals, the fishing village of Damouchari is a must-see and not only because it was used in the filming of Mamma Mia. Damouchari is a great place for a slow and leisurely lunch, and don’t forget to walk around the bay to discover hidden spots.
You can also day-trip to the island of Skopelos, which was the main location for the filming of Mamma Mia. But even if you stay in the area, the beaches in Pelion can easily compete with the best Greek island beaches that everyone knows about.
Do not miss the cherry trees that line up all the fields. The area is well-known for the amazing variety of local produce like apples, pears, cherries, chestnuts as well as herb and honey. You will also find fresh water spring pretty much everywhere that come straight from the mountain. Most are perfectly safe to drink from, since that is the first exit point of the water.
Pelion in Winter
Is there anything you can’t do in Pelion? The answer is no.
Pelion is one of the best winter destinations in Greece, with its ski center, traditional bed and breakfasts and charming villages. Expect panoramic winter views, snowy mountain peaks, and the smell of firewood keeping you company while you walk from your café to a traditional restaurant for warm stews and local delicacies.
- These are some of our local recommendations for things to see and do in the region of Pelion. Tell us, have you ever visited Pelion?
Rania grew up in Thessaloniki and after some years of travelling around the globe has now settled down in Auckland, New Zealand. When she’s not studying to complete her undergraduate degree she’s either reading, writing or exploring the outdoors.
She loves going on mini adventures, whether it is an impromptu road trip, exploring her local op shops and antique shops or going on multi-day hikes. She is interested in photography and strongly believes that feta should be consumed with every meal.
She also thinks Greece is the best holiday destination and invites anyone that thinks otherwise to prove her wrong.