Land of the centaurs

Spending time in Athens with my pretty sizeable greek family (where “close family” means grand-parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins’ boyfriends and girlfriends, close friends, neighbours, pets, random passers-by etc.), was A LOT of fun, but we soon got itchy feet again and couldn’t wait to go forth an explore (and why not do some location scouting while we’re at it :-) ) – so we got out a map and tried to cram as much greek amazingness as possible in a four-day road trip…

First stop, Pelio, home of the mythological centaurs – half-men, half-horses:


Pelio is a mountain of fairly respectable size (1610 m) about three hours north of Athens – it’s on a peninsula that stretches out into the Aegean sea, which guarantees stunning views from, well, pretty much everywhere:


 We drove all the way up to the ski resort (yes, there is such a thing as mountain resorts in Greece :-) ) – the place is amazing! How often do you get to ski with a view like that on both sides of the mountain? (i can’t ski to save my life and i really don’t know what the deal is with ski centers so i might be wrong but i’m guessing : not very often…).

Pelio ski center

(oh blue greek sky, i miss you so much… **sigh**)

Coming down over the mountain towards the Aegean side we stopped for a little coffee at the village of Ai-Yiannis – the little village with its shops boarded-up for the winter was a little melancholic but so very pretty, the sunset was lovely over the sea, and the waves were mesmerising (and very surfable – again, i can’t surf to save my life, but i’ll take m.’s word for it!). It’s strange that this place isn’t more of a surfing destination.

sunset in Ai-Yiannis, Pelio

 We drove back over to the other side of the mountain to spend the night in Milies, a nice little village spread on the slope facing the Pagasitikos bay and mainland Greece. The name of the village means “Apple trees” – Pelio is famous for its crunchy delicious apples, including the firikia unique variety of small, very fragrant apples that showed up in Pelio about two centuries ago. They used to be a big favourite in the Greek market, because they are extremely resistant  to diseases and keep very well for a long time – they lost a bit of their popularity when fridges became a household item and people got access to fancier, more glamorous shiny red round apple varieties – but i do believe they’re having a comeback! (side info for lawyers and various other geeks: it’s even a protected geographic designation! how about that).

Pelio’s fruit production doesn’t stop at apples – there is in fact so much fruit that the biggest tradition in the area is jam and preserve making.. Have you ever tried greek “spoon sweets”? They’re preserves that are served as dessert in tiny little plates with tiny little spoons – they are delicious and they will always make me think of my grandma… My favourite is orange, and bergamot, but you can make them out of any fruit – greek sour cherries and figs seem to be the most popular ones. And they’re everywhere in Pelio, delicious and soo pretty! Look at this lovely display in Milies:

jam-tiltshift (2)

Of course, in order to get to them you had to get past the keeper of the preserves (creepy little fella):


 We spent the night at Iliovolo, a lovely guesthouse on the slope, just a couple of minutes walk from the village.


It’s a family business, everybody is sweet, friendly and helpful, and the place looks lovely. Our room was great, and it felt so relaxing after a long day of driving around – we lit a fire, had some nice red wine and were able to unwind completely.

 Did i say that our room was great? It was,  but we didn’t know exactly how great till the morning, when we woke up to this view:

iliovolo view

iliovolo view 2

You can’t really beat that kind of beauty, can you.

Homemade breakfast in front of a roaring fire and looking out to that view is about as good as it gets – especially if you get to hang out with cool dudes like this one:


Meet Mr Fluff, the guesthouse mascot that came over sniffing around as soon as he sensed food was about to happen… He graciously allowed himself to be petted, and shared my toast. 

Milies and Iliovolo were lovely, and i wish we could’ve stayed some more – but, you know, the call of the road and stuff… So much exploring to do, so little time. So we reluctantly hit the road again, driving along the peninsula and into the mainland, that held quite a few surprises for us – but more on that later :-). Here’s one little hint though:

view to mainland greece

See the snowy mountains in the background? That’s where we headed next!


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