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Northeastern Pelion

Climbing northeast of Volos, the road bisects the charming suburb of Ano Volos (5 km.), with the steep hill of Episkopi demarching its eastern side. At the nearby villages of Anakasia and Ali Meria, where there are some wall paintings by Theophilos, it is worth stopping to admire the panoramic view of the Pagasetic Gulf and the plain of Thessaly while seated in one of the district's picturesque restaurants.

Continuing the ascent up the slope of the mountain, after Anakasia the road leads to Portaria (13 km.,alt. 600 m.), a lovely summer resort with abundant crystalline water and a number of hotels. The village's delightful main square and the chapel of the Panagia of Portaria with 16th century frescoes are sure to make their impression. From Portaria west a fork in the road winds up at a flat area filled with shady plane trees through which the beautiful traditional village of Makrinitsa (17 km., alt. 750 m.) can be seen. Built amphitheatrically up the side of the mountain, it offers a splendid view of the gulf below. The flag stone lanes link its unique buildings, which because of the steep slope are three story's on one side and only one on the other. The higher facade is adorned with the wooden balconies so typical of Pelion. Some of these old houses have been restored by the Greek National Tourism Organization and are operated as guest houses under its supervision. Try the tasty local delicacies, bean soup and "spetzofai" - a spicy concoction of sausages and peppers- served in the traditional restaurants ("tavernakia") in the square. And if you visit the area on May Day, you may see some wild revels very reminiscent of ancient Dionysian rites.

Zigzagging up the mountainside past a series of stunning ridges, the main road climbs up to Hania (26 km., alt. 1200m.), which has become a winter sports centre thanks to the development of Agriolefkes, where there is a refuge, ski lifts, a big slope for experienced skiers and a separate area for beginners, along with all the comforts of a modern ski resort.

After Hania, the road starts to descend, weaving in and out of forests of oak and chestnut trees to arrive at Zagora (47 km . from Volos,alt. 480m), Pelion's largest village. If you can take your eyes off the fantastic view of the Aegean Sea, pay a visit to the famous school where many of the spiritual fathers of the Greek Revolution studied, the historic library with rare books and manuscripts, and the Byzantine churches of St. Georgios and St. Kiriaki which contain richy carved icon screens. You would be fortunate indeed if you happened upon a traditional Pelion wedding celebrated in one of them. Don't forget to refresh yourself with the sycculent apples of the region.

Horefto (55 km. from Volos), the port of Zagora, lies 8 km. further east, an irresistible spot with shining sea and a lovely beach, while 6 km. to the north the road ends in Pouri (63 km. from Volos, alt. 400 m.). Known as the "Balcony of the Aegean", its three-tiered, three filled square has an extraordinary view; on a clear day you can see as far as Halkidiki. Heading south from Zagora, you come to the village of Makrirahi (46 km. from Volos, alt. 300 m.). A deep dramatic ravine seperates it from its neighbour Anilio (means without sun), a typical Pelion hamlet.

Continuing south it is worth taking the secondary road off to the right to climb up to Kisso (52 km. from Volos, alt. 550 m.), one of the most mountainous villages on the eastern flank of Pelion, drenched in a riot of greenery. Or you might prefer to take the left hand fork and descend to the summer seaside resort of Agios Ioannis (57 km. from Volos), where the green of the mountain blends with the blue of the Aegean. You can swim for miles along its enormous coarse - sandy beach and feast on fish at the tavernas by the shore.

Returning to the main road, you next come to Mouressi (59 km. from Volos, alt. 370 m.), built amphitheatrically amidst apple orchads and chestnut woods. Of interest here is the wooden icon screen in the church of the Vergin Dormition. From Mouressi, it's a simple matter to get down to the pebbled beach at Damouhari. Five kilometres after Mouressi, still driving through thick forest, you arrive at Tsangarada, on the spine of Pelion (54 km. from Volos, alt. 450 m.). One of the most enchanting summer resorts in Greece, it has ample hotels hidden among its plane and chestnut trees. The villages houses, which are divided into four levels, are strung out along the mountainside and covered with lush vegeration. Characteristic features of the village are its many old mansions, flag stoned piazzas, picturesque cobbled alleys and a superb view of the Aegean Sea, not to mention its emblem -the thousand year old plane tree in the main square whose diametre measures 14 metres. Don't miss as well the chance to taste the local specialities, "spetzofai" and "fasolada" (bean soup).

An asphalted road takes you down to Milopotamos, the port of Tsangarada, 8 kilometres away. After following a series of steps cut out of the rocky coast, you come to its sheltered beach composed of lovely smooth round stones. Not far from Milopotamos there is another beach in a bewitching setting - Fakistra.


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