Visiting Greece for summer vacation has become a given for me. Since I live in the Netherlands for the last seven years (and counting), it has become a tradition and a necessity to visit the homeland. Not only to see family and catch up with friends but also to visit the breathtaking sceneries and swim to the bluest of seas.
This year I visited mountain Pelion, next to Volos city, 330 kilometers north of Athens and 220 kilometers south of Thessaloniki. Pelion forms a peninsula between the Pagasetic Gulf and the Aegean Sea, which makes it is a popular destination for the summer! However, Pelion attracts visitors throughout the year, since its many skiing resorts and spa hotels are a beloved choice during the colder months of the year. Since visiting Pelion is possible both during the winter and summer months, you will get the chance to visit or stay at some of the “archondika”, old mansions that are now renovated hotels and boutiques. Their architecture is very distinct, and you can find them overall on the mountain.
September is soon ending, but the summer mood still lingers. Pelion is a great destination to visit during summer and autumn, especially in the seaside. You can visit either the Pagasetic Gulf, the one closer to Volos city, or the Aegean side. If you want to go from one side to the other, you need to cross the mountain with the car (approximately 50 minutes). That is why I recommend to either choose one side or spend half your days on the Aegean side and the other half on the other side. You can combine visiting the mountain and the sea, enjoying in this way the freshness of the forest, but also the soft breeze of the coast.
Even if summer has ended for the most of us, this short guide is to inform you of the choices you have in the area, how to access certain places and what to choose to make your vacation as relaxing and enjoyable possible.
How to reach Pelion: If you are flying to Athens or Thessaloniki, you will need to rent a car or choose public transportation to reach Volos. Having a car is always more relaxing and easier than having to depend on Greek public transportation, but the choice is up to you. Driving on the mountain can prove to be challenging for the inexperienced driver, but with patience and caution, it can be a rewarding experience and a great part of the trip. You might notice that Greeks share a certain driving behavior, especially when it comes to parking. There is only one rule: park wherever it is convenient. You will notice that they park in the middle of a busy street or on a big turn in a small mountain village. As I said before, some extra caution is necessary! Extra tip: Choose a car with gas (if possible), since it is cheaper.
As for the accommodation, there are countless places to choose from because the area is touristic, yet again not as touristic as the Greek isles. You can find an expensive villa up the mountain, an affordable hotel in a village or an apartment next to the sea. It all depends on your budget. Prices from 40 to 100 euros a night for a hotel/apartment are common. Be careful though, if you are planning to visit during high season (July-August) book beforehand because prices get higher as summer approaches. Whatever you choose, my tip is to choose a nice view to the sea. You will love it!
As for my experience this summer, I must admit it was a blast. We had the pleasure to visit Agios Ioannis, the biggest village located on the Aegean side. Agios Ioannis is full of cozy and affordable restaurants and has a vibrant nightlife. The village is next to the sea which means long evening walks in the small boulevard, visiting the small local shops and enjoying (numerous) cocktails! You can enjoy the Agios Ioannis beach and also visit the two beaches located on both sides of the village; on the right side, Papa Nero, is a 20-minute walk from the center of Agios Ioannis, while the other one, Plaka, is located on the left side and it is also a 20-minute walk. Be aware that the path for Plaka is a bit rough, meaning you need to cross many slippery rocks.
Pelion has many activities to offer throughout the year such as skiing, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, climbing and many more. Since our vacation goal was to swim, lay in the sun and eat, we didn’t indulge in any of those. Who knows, maybe next year!
Where to go swimming: Damouchari is this famous beach where Mamma Mia was shot. The beach has white pebbles and it is surrounded by rocks. You can enjoy the beautiful beach view by choosing one of the few cafes the small village has to offer. A must-see is the famous Fakistra beach. The Guardian ranked it 7th in the list with the most beautiful beaches in the entire world! Fakistra beach is located very close to Tsagarada village and it is a 30-minute drive from Agios Ioannis village. To reach the beach you must cross a 15-minute steep path, but it is certainly worth it! Surrounded by cliffs and wilderness, Fakistra beach has white sand and pebbles with crystal clear waters. You can swim for hours and by the end of the day, you will not want to leave.
There are many other beaches and small villages you can visit, but the truth is you cannot visit it all, you need to be picky. Mylopotamos is also another great choice, as is Tsagarada village, where you can enjoy the shadow of one of the oldest trees in the area.
Weather: the weather is warm (25-35 °C) during the day but there is always a fresh breeze at night. Even during September, the temperature ranges between 20 – 25 °C during the day and doesn’t drop below 18 °C at night. Storms are also frequent during summer. You might notice that your throat is hurting while staying at the mountain, but don’t get alarmed, it is quite normal.
Whether you visit Pelion during the summer or winter months, the choice is yours! But who can say no to a vacation full of sun and blue seawaters? Hopefully, this short guide can be useful in your next adventure in Greece! For further information or any questions you might have, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
Photos: Minolta Dynax 7000i (AF 35-105mm). Kodak Ektar Film 100 and LomoChrome Purple, 100-400, 35mm film and Samsung A5 (2016).