When I initially thought about going to Greece, my number one bucket list item was to live my Mamma Mia dreams, visit a beach, and swim. Originally our thought was to visit Athens, then island hop before flying out of Santorini. When those plans changed because of the ‘rona, we decided to take a road trip up mainland Greece, and explore the sites we hadn’t previously known about. Saying that, a lot of our bucket list items for Greece changed because of these new plans, but the one that didn’t was swimming in the Aegean Sea!
After spending an amazing couple of nights in Athens and Delphi, we headed up to an area on the East coast called Pelion. The Pelion region is made up of lots of little villages, beaches, hiking trails, and even has a couple of ski resorts for you winter travellers! Getting to Pelion, however, requires driving through tiny mountain roads, with turns, twists, and even the odd cow blocking your path. From the city of Volos it took us about an hour to get nearer to the seaside, where we stayed in a little village called Mouresi.
Let’s go back for a minute to these mountain roads. Have you driven in a rural area? Have you looked over a cliff to see a straight drop? Have you maybe walked a balance beam? Combine these, and that’s how Josh would describe driving on these roads. And although the roads made us nervous, locals were driving normally, and looked very comfortable on the roads! We found that everyone we came across took the roads slowly, only speeding up when they had to. Cars would turn corners slowly, and drivers would wave to say thank you and to ensure that everyone was safe.
In Mouresi we stayed in a little cottage, which was part of Central Gardenia Studios (booked of AirBnB). We stayed in a beautiful little cottage, with a kitchen, big bedroom, and little bathroom with homemade honey-scented soaps and shampoos for us. The owners were incredible, they did laundry for us and gave us lots of recommendations for the area. We called this little cottage home for two nights, and let me tell you that I was not ready to leave!
From that little cottage, we were able to get to two beautiful beaches, called Fakistra and Papa Nero. We went to Fakistra on our first day in Pelion, and saw the bluest waters we could imagine! The beach itself was about a half hour drive from Mouresi, down the coast and through some very winding roads. Once we got to the beach, we hiked for about 15 minutes downhill before seeing the little cove. The beach itself is quite small, as it’s just made up of the sand beneath a large cliff, but was trek to get there was completely worth it!
The water was so blue that when I was underwater that’s all I could see. Which felt quite weird at first, as I expected the water to be clear. The blue colour made the little fish swimming past stand out, and made for an amazing first swim and snorkel of the trip. The cove was also home to some great waves, which meant fun pictures and gorgeous views when we managed to look up from looking for fish! Fakistra was beautiful, and made us even more excited to explore more of Greece’s beaches.
Our second beach in Pelion was almost one we left behind! Papa Nero beach is located right beside the small beachside town of Agios Ioannis, and is adjacent to Papa Nero camping. When walking to the beach, what we first saw was lots of campsites and trailers to be rented. So, as travellers looking for a little more “local” experience, we decided Papa Nero beach wasn’t for us. Well, we were wrong.
On our last day Josh suggested a short swim, as it was so hot and we were about to spend 4 hours in a car. So we changed into our swimsuits, got our snorkels out, and decided to quickly check out Papa Nero Beach. Well. Papa Nero, we discovered, has the clearest waters we saw all trip, and a plethora of fish to go along with that. We saw fish everywhere, from right next to us as we went under to as far as we could see which was very far as so clear. Unfortunately for Josh though, the fish were too fast and did not want to be caught! The beach is also equipped with outdoor showers along the perimeter, meaning travellers don’t need to worry about feeling salty the rest of the day! Papa Nero Beach stole our hearts that day, and our “short swim” ended up being about 2 hours long!
I could go on and on about Pelion: the people, the beaches, but the last point I’ll make here is the food! Walking down the seaside town, Josh and I came across a small restaurant full of locals, with Greek menus, and the staff talking to everyone like they were family. All of these scream “eat here!” to us, so we asked if we could sit down. Only a couple of people in the restaurant spoke English, and the lady who took our order explained what a couple of items were on the menu to us. They all sounded good, so we ordered a couple of plates and waited to see what exactly we would get!
What we ended up with was a wonderful, delicious mixture of foods! A vegetarian moussaka (an eggplant based dish with some sauce, veggies, and potatoes all stacked together like a lasagna!), spetsofai (sausages and peppers in a tomato sauce), calamari, and the house wine. This meal was amazing, so good in fact that we came back the next night and asked for the same thing! The dishes went together perfectly, and we could tell that they were made with heart and care that can only come from a locally owned restaurant.
After eating, we spoke to one of the waiters, who told us that the restaurant had originally been a hotel owned by his grandfather. Now the restaurant was in the family, his brother owned a hotel down the street, and that they had all grown up in Pelion, on the beach. Literally, he had learned to swim at Papa Nero beach (as someone from the suburbs of Toronto, this is crazy to me!) Although the meal was incredible, my favourite part about these dinners was talking to the family, and getting to know more about Pelion and the people who live there.
Finally, now that you want to visit Pelion (because why wouldn’t you!) I’ll tell you about breakfast. For breakfast each morning we drove about 15 minutes to another area of Mouresi, to a small bakery. We got there each day as the bakery opened, and had our choice of pastries, cookies, and juice. One pastry we loved, pictured above on the far right, had a cheese filling that was amazing. Having a warm pastry with cheese in the morning was exactly how we wanted our Greek vacation to be!
Pelion is an area that will forever be in our hearts. From amazing people, to wonderful food, after leaving we immediately wanted to book another trip just to explore that region further. Overall our stay in Pelion was on 2 nights, but it will forever be remembered as my favourite stop in Greece.