Back to Greece: de-stress on Volos’ enchanting seashore – World Meanderings (n°91)
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
Volos is a trendy Greek seashore resort set in the heart of the Pagasitic Gulf on the Eastern Greek coast. This antique port was the place where according to the legend Jason and the Argonauts left for their quest for the Golden Fleece. It is the perfect starting point to discover this beautiful region far from mass tourism.
As you may already know we are able to travel back to Greece. Yet respecting the new sanitary measures is essential to make it safely. If you need more information about these measures you can read our last week article at https://b-c-ing-u.com/architecture/back-to-greece-at-last-world-meanderings-n90/ . And don’t forget to fill the mandatory file “PLF” at least 24hours before flying.
Although Volos’ history takes us back to antique times don’t expect to see ancient monuments within the city centre. The town was built in a seismic zone and was almost totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1955. It was rebuilt with straight streets lined with earthquake resistant houses, effective but with little architectural originality. Nevertheless Volos is a very pleasant town stretching along the seashore, bathed in sunshine and an ideal starting point to visit the area.
Satisfy your taste buds in Tsipouradiko
Tsipouradiko, are typical taverns of Volos that serves tsipouro and mezedes. Tsipouro is a pomace brandy made from grapes, a strong distilled spirit with up to 45% alcohol! You’ll drink it diluted in water and deliciously fresh. There are dozens of these small restaurants in Volos and choosing a good one is essential.
Since testing them all to find our favourite one would have been dangerous for our health we led an appropriate investigation and set our sights on “Gianna & Nikos”, a tsipouradiko close to the port of Volos. Here everything is homemade and you can watch Nikos cooking delicious mezedes, these delicious titbits mostly made with seafood such as octopus, prawns, mussels, oysters, little fish, squid, clams… all freshly fished by local fishermen. You actually don’t choose your mezedes. Each time you ask for a glass of tsipouro Gianna puts a drop of spirit, whether pure or anise-flavoured, in your glass and brings you a plate of mezedes chosen by the chef. With each glass comes a new plate of a different kind of mezedes. You just have to water down your tsipouro with chilled water, use your fingers to eat the delicious seafood… and ask for more! Seated on the outside terrace in the shade of beautiful tall trees we slowly sipped our tsipouros, ate our tasty mezedes and had a wonderful time. “Gianna & Nikos” tavern is on Papakiriazi Sq, a small square on Grigoriou Lampraki Bd close to Volos Tourist Office.
After this typical meal have a walk on the long waterfront promenade by far the liveliest part of the city with busy bars and restaurants on one side and many sailing boats, yachts and a replica of Jason’s boat, the Argo, on the other side. There are several Byzantine style churches in Volos worth visiting as well as museums such as the Archaeological Museum that hosts an interesting hall of tomb reconstructions or the “Giorgio de Chirico” Modern Art Centre that was named after this major Italian painter who was born in Volos.
Where to stay in Volos?
Right on the seashore of the beautiful Pagasitic Gulf the “Domotel Xenia Volos” is a modern style 5-star hotel and one of Volos’ best addresses. Just a little further away from the busy seafront promenade but with an ideal direct access to a sandy private beach the hotel is at walking distance of all the places of interest in town. Built in a typical “modern architecture” of the 60’s Xenia Volos Hotel was recently entirely renovated and offers large and stylish rooms with balconies from where you will enjoy spectacular sunset over the gulf. Whether in the rooms, the bar or the restaurants, sunlight floods in through the floor-to-ceiling windows and you just get caught up in the Aegean scenery.
Food always is an exciting experience at Xenia Hotel. Fruits and vegetables are grown nearby in the Pelion peninsula while fresh seafood and fish, are delivered every morning by local fishermen (frozen produce are not to be heard of… except for ice creams). The big breakfast buffet is more than tempting and for lunch and dinner the chef always does his utmost to prepare tasteful dishes. Always nicely and neatly served, his dishes are very appetizing such as the “roasted squid with a spicy chilli marinade”, the “traditional Pelion spetzokai” a local sausage cooked with peppers and tomatoes, the “blue-fin tuna pastrami with quinoa and avocado”, not to forget decadent deserts such as the “Lemon cream with avocado and ginger” moulded in a white chocolate crust in the shape of a lemon. Once again the value for money is more than attractive!
Pelion, an amazing peninsula made in heaven
I guess I fell in love with Pelion! Imagine a hilly land blessed by the gods of Olympus where people live in harmony with nature, where ski slopes are only a 30-min drive from amazing beaches, where vineyards and groves grow next to deep forests, where preserved villages are each as stunning as the next and you’ll have a slight idea of what Pelion looks like. We had a glorious day zigzagging up and down Pelion Mountain bathed in a warm summer light.
The road that goes around and across the peninsula will take you to untouched villages. Of all these typical villages Makrinitsa is my favourite one (my guess is I’m not the only one!). Rightfully called “the Pelion Balcony” it was built on a gentle slope and offers endless views over the nearby mountain, Volos and the sea below. Charming cobblestone lanes, large houses with impressive stone roofs, countless fountains decorated with dolphins, lions or mythical animals, shops filled with local products and most of all the magnificent centuries-old plane trees of the main square, make this village a unforgettable place.
The winding road will take you through forests and groves where, depending on the season, you will see blooming fruit trees, gardenias, camellias or hydrangeas, trees bending under the weight of apples, apricots, quinces, walnuts, chestnuts, olive or many other fruits, or just colourful wild flowers. This is a land of plenty! On the way many other villages will be charming stops: Agia Paraskevi and its tall plane trees, Zagora the apple tree village, Kissos, Pinakates… each one has its own charm and people are welcoming everywhere. If you don’t feel like driving all day long you can get on board the Mountzouris, the Pelion’s steam train that will take you from Milies to Ano Lehonia, going through the forests and over 12 different bridges.
The road also offers breathtaking views over the Aegean Sea and you’ll soon feel like having a swim. Time for a stop on one of the beautiful sandy beaches where the seawater is so clear that the sea bottom is clearly visible even if it’s metres down below! If you saw the movie “Mamma mia”, you might remember the amazing beach shot for the “Dancing Queen” scene. It was actually filmed at Damouhari, one of Pelion “jewel” beaches.
Time to go back to Volos came to soon and one day is just enough to get a glimpse of all the wonders Pelion has to offer. I hope someday we will have more time to fully enjoy it. But even if you go there for a short time you will undoubtedly remember this gorgeous place for a long time.
Aegean Airlines whose daily flights from London have already resumed, propose many destinations through Greece (mainly via Athens) and is expected to have more flight options during this high season from Dublin and later on from Manchester and Edinburgh. It’s a good value-for-money company even if due to this sanitary crisis the on-board service had to be made simpler than before. All infos on Aegean website:
Text & Photos ©Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny