Pelion – Land of the Centaurs

Unless you’re a hiker it’s unlikely that you’ll of heard of Pelion, most visitors to Greece from the UK are encouraged to stick to the greek islands for a summer break. I was looking for a more authentic greek experience and had come across an article about Pelion on an online travel magazine.

I’ve had a bit of a love affair with Greece ever since my first visit at the age of 14 to the island of Kefalonia. The food, people, beaches, countryside and history just have so much to offer. Pelion is no exception.

About halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki, the Pelion Peninsular has been a favourite for greeks summer breaks since ancient times. It’s known as both the summer residence of the Olympic Gods and home of the Centaurs.

From the top of Mount Pelion to the tip of the penisular, Pelion is an extremely diverse area to explore. The mountains offer fantasic hiking through woodland via a whole host of waterfalls, there’s winter sports in the Chania ski resort, and traditional villages to be found. South of the interior you’ll find beautiful olive groves and vines; the sound of cicadas is almost overwhelming. The beaches of the west overlook the calm clear waters of the paganistic gulf, whilst those in the east are found down steep drops, with wilder seas and white sand; some of the better known ones can get quite busy at weekends as they fill with local families enjoying picnics.

In my 7 nights on Pelion I didn’t meet a single other English person (that was great by the way!). It’s mostly visited by greeks, with a smattering of french and italian visitors. Whilst english isn’t widely spoken, it’s still easy to communicate the need for a room, wine or salad.

Here’s a short account of my journey and why Pelion is a fantastic place to explore.

Arriving to rain and the eerie mountain clouds

I’d took a small studio not far from the start of Pelion, but away from Volos for the first night, ideally situated on the beach next to a taverna. The host was a lovely greek lady who fed me biscuits as a welcome. Such a lovely room for the princely sum of about £30! Unfortunately the weather wasn’t fantastic, being unseasonably cold and wet after a recent storm cleared what had been 40c+ weather a few days before.

The following morning I left early to make my way through the mountains to the west. As I got higher and higher on some very winding (but good) roads, I entered the clouds which made it pretty difficult to drive. Guided by GPS I took a side road and almost immediately came across the sight of chair lifts crossing the road eerily hanging in the clouds. The temperature read 13c… extremely cold for July!

Pelion

This is part of Chania ski resort, which I’m told gets very busy in winter with skiiers arriving from the city to have fun. As I continued down the mountain the sun appeared and the temperature started to rise to a more normal 27c.

West Pelion

I’d been told that Papa Nero beach was a great place to stay, but as I arrived I found I prefered the slightly busier Agios Ioannis which had the added benefit of being able to walk to Papa Nero and another beach called Plaka, which proved to be my favourite. I found a lovely place to stay at the Hotel Kentrikon, where I was offered a choice of rooms on the 2nd of 3rd flight of buildings. Despite the 104 steps (yes I counted), I chose the room on the 3rd flight, which had the most fabulous view from both the bed and the balcony. Kentrikon offered a marvellous breakfast and the staff were lovely and welcoming. I climbed those steps many times over the two nights I stayed, quite exhausting but absolutely worth it for the view.

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The view from my room at Boutique Hotel Kentrikon

Pelion

My room at Boutique Hotel Kentrikon

There are some great tavernas in Agios Iionnis, known for good seafood and greek favourites. The best beaches are Damouchari where one of the scenes from the film  Mamma Mia was filmed, Plaka and Milopotamos.

Pelion

The little harbour at Damouchari where a scene from Mamma Mia was filmed

Pelion

Plaka beach near Agios Ioannis

Milopotamos

Milopotamos

The sand on the beaches was made from small round pieces of quartz!

South East pelion

My route to the south, took me down through olive groves noisy with cicada song, past vines and farmland. I stopped several times to get out and wander through the groves down to beaches and to look at honey bees, busy making the gorgeous golden sweetness. The best places to stay include Melina and Chorto, both busy seaside villages with calm water and pebble beaches overlooking the Paganistic Gulf. I chose to stay just outside Melina in a quiet area where I could see across to the small island of Atlas.

Pelion

Olive grove overlooking the gulf

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Pretty bee hives by the side of the road

There are plenty of tavernas and rooms to chose from as this area has some small hotels used by Sunvil holidays. After finding somewhere to stay I travelled along the coast and found Tzasteni, a sprinkling of cute white houses overlooking a clear bay. Climbing down through a steep path, I had the beach almost to myself as I swam and snorkelled in the clear waters. There was a small boat moored, it’s occupants picnicking quietly on the beach. This has been added to my favourite places in the world. Just so pretty and charming.

Tzasteni Pelion

Tzasteni a gorgeous bay for a quiet swim

Tzasteni Pelion

Tzasteni is also a good stop if you’re boating

The sunsets in Melina threw fabulous colours over the flat water as fishing boats went out for their evening catch. A truly magical spot to stay in.

The Mountain Villages

I was given a list of three must see villages by a greek in Meteora: Portaria, Tsagkarada and Milies. Of these, for me Portaria was too big and views were masked by cloud on the day I went (maybe fantastic of course), Tsagkarada wasn’t as interesting to me. Milies was lovely and I stayed there in Hotel Dryalos which has the most stunning pool overlooking the sea, I also found Pinekates and Agios Georgious Nileras to be very pretty with lots of examples of Pelion mansions.

Hotel Dryalos Milies

I stayed at the welcoming Hotel Dryalos

Hotel Dryalos Milies

The gorgeous pool

The mansions, or castles of Pelion are really stunning, they’re built in a traditional way with storerooms on the ground floor, living areas on the second floor, and summer rooms with lots of windows on the top floor. Many have been turned into gorgeous hotels, it’s well worth staying in one even if just for the night.

Pelion mansion Pelion mansion Pelion mansion Pelion mansion

The Milies small gauge steam train runs once a day in a circular route from Ano Lehonia. you can also take it from Milies at 3pm, but will need to arrange a taxi back to Milies if you leave your car there. Unfortunately  the timings didn’t work for me. But I did take a walk along the track and found a fabulous waterfall and pool. You can find out more about the train here.

Milies Train

The Old Station at Milies

Milies train

Reasons to go

Great beaches, fantastic views, amazing walks…….If you want something different from the greek islands, like hiking or are interested in the greek myths I can’t recommend Pelion highly enough. Yes, it may be slightly more difficult to get to, but that makes it even better in my eyes. Let me know if you have any questions by commenting below, or drop me an email.

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Karen x

 

2 comments on “Pelion – Land of the Centaurs

  1. I have been dreaming of a trip to Greece for as long as I can remember. The tourism situation made me a bit weary about traveling there in the high season, but your blog goes to show that there are still a lot of quieter areas worthy of exploring, away from the popular tourist tracks. Beautiful photos and great detail!

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