Reasons to hit the road
With the Domotel Xenia Volos hotel as our base, we get to know the mountain of the centaurs through a variety of activities and some amazing meals.
by Eleftheria Alavanou and Nena Dimitriou
THE FIRIKI VILLAGES
The Firiki Piliou is a delicious miniature apple that enjoys EU Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status and is grown on the peninsula of Pilio. It is cultivated in four villages: Milies, Vyzitsa, Pinakates and Aghios Georgios Nileias. You will encounter apple trees everywhere in these areas: next to the road, in village squares, in fields, along the fringes of forests. The landscape is truly magical at the beginning of spring, with all these trees covered in white and light-pink blossoms. Every month, the Esperides Women’s Agritourism Cooperative in Vyzitsa processes about six tons of Firiki apples and packages some 6,000 jars of apple preserve, each containing a whole Firiki. – N. D. Esperides, Tel. (+30) 24230.868.38
No vehicles are permitted to circulate inside the traditional village of Aghios Lavrentios, a flagstone-paved settlement of stone houses with narrow lanes, brooks, springs and much more. As far as horseback riding is concerned, the area in and around the village makes for great terrain. You can mount one of Pantelis Spinas’ horses and take a tour through the village, the forest or even as far as the ski center, depending on which route you choose; options range from one to four hours in duration. In addition, at a distance of only 6.5km from the village of Milies lies the Riding Naturalist Group of Milies (IFOM), an ideal place for young children to become familiar with horses and with equestrianism. The club organizes rides lasting half an hour (for ages two and up); one hour (ages five and up); and two hours (ages 10 and up). All three routes are easily traversed, and a guide always accompanies the children. Parents can take part as well, either on foot or on horseback. – E. A. Pantelis Spinas, Τel. (+30) 697.371.8928 | Riding Naturalist Group ofMilies (IFOM), Τel. (+30) 698.117.6203, ifom.gr
A WELL-HIDDEN SECRET
Although Lafkos in southern Pilio does not enjoy the popularity of Portaria, Makrynitsa, Tsagkarada or Zagora, it is an exquisite village offering many reasons for a visit. Its buildings include fine examples of the traditional architecture of Pilio; it grants views overlooking the Pagasetic Gulf; and it has, astonishingly, three museums: the Folklore Museum, the Radio Museum (one of only two throughout the whole of Greece) and the Fampeio Museum, which hosts the works of the late artist Thanasis Fampas (1922-2011). There is also a huge plane tree in the center of the square, in front of Forlida’s legendary kafeneio (traditional coffee house); the establishment is housed in a building constructed in 1750 that appears untouched by time. There, you can enjoy a Greek coffee with the locals and catch up on the village news. Before leaving Lafkos, do make sure to pick up some scrumptious bread from Yiannis Drositis’ woodfired bakery – it keeps for days. – N. D.
Canyoning is a sport that gives participants the opportunity to discover the most unspoiled places, areas untouched by human intervention. Canyoning is not particularly difficult, and it’s not just for people who regularly take part in sports activities, but those trying it should be in good physical condition and approach the undertaking with confidence rather than fear. The Mountain Escapes center, based in Tsagkarada, has been certified by ICOpro (the International Canyoning Organization for Professionals); it organizes excursions in the wider area, including the canyons of Centaurs (6 hours, suitable for the entire family) and Galanopetra (7-8 hours, for advanced/experienced individuals looking for an exciting route). The choice of ravine may also depend on the season, as some of the canyons are not accessible in winter. Before the fun starts, those in charge will give you some instruction and the necessary equipment (belt, helmet, shoes, shoe-liner socks and neoprene suit), and they’ll guide you throughout the entire experience, too. – E. A.
Mountain Escapes, Τel. (+30) 693.241.8001, mountainescapes.gr
Meintani is one of the oldest tavernas in Zagora. It is, in fact, the village’s first grillhouse, but it’s also the spot where you’ll find local cuisine as prepared by Niki, the taverna’s owner and a keen and knowledgeable cook. Wild greens in a tomato sauce with eggs, and goat roasted on baking paper are among the bestsellers and certainly worthy of a spot on your table. If you’re looking for a more sophisticated experience, try Gefsokratoras in Portaria. Take the cobbled lane that begins near the entrance to the village and it will lead you right to the door of this charming restaurant. Many of the decorative elements found in the interior date from the building’s former function as a grocery store. An original mural by Theophilos (Hatzimichail) is also on view. Owners Sylvie and Antonis Tsolakoudis have given the space a warm and cozy vibe with velvet chairs, a fireplace and soft colors in the dining hall. Try the French onion soup with hand made croutons, the Chateaubriand, the porcini tart or any of their many other excellent dishes prepared using Greek ingredients and French techniques. It also has a notable wine list. – N. D.
Meintani, Τel. (+30) 24260.226.26 | Gefsokratoras, Tel. (+30) 24280.999.19
HIKING AND OTHER OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
Hike Away in Pelion organizes hikes in the eastern part of Pilio that are, in fact, more than just hikes – they’re more like history lessons delivered in natural surroundings. During the treks, Nikolas Melis, Hike Away in Pelion’s director, recounts the area’s stormy history – from the days when pirates roamed the seas to the time when some of the local traders emigrated to Egypt. Among the many options are a small tour around Tsagkarada (3-3.5 hours) and a walk from Aghii Taxiarches to Vigla (4.5-5 hours). If you also happen to enjoy games and/or sports, you’ll be pleased to hear that the company organizes archery and paintball activities (both for ages 7 and up), as well as a mythological treasure hunt complete with riddles about Peleus, Thetis, Achilles and Chiron (for ages 13 and up), all of which take place in the Green Mountain activity area, located in the Tsagkarada forest. – E. A.
Hike Away in Pelion–Green Mountain, Tel. (+30) 693.895.9499.