Looking for the Greek Island experience without all the crowds? Well, look no further than Pelion, the Greece of Mama Mia!
When watching Mama Mia, I fell in love with the island paradise where Meryl Streep ran her crumbling hotel. “Where is this?” I asked myself.
I thought Mama Mia was filmed in one of the southern Greek Islands like Crete or Mykonos. It turns out Mama Mia was filmed on the mainland in the Pelion Peninsula on the Aegean Sea.
I had never even heard of Pelion and I am not alone.
Most foreign tourists, don't know of it yet.
It is a region of Greece that is often visited by Greek locals and Eastern Europeans, but the West has yet to discover this little slice of paradise.
Most European and North American tourists tend to frequent the more popular Greek Islands like Santorini.
Pelion is an absolutely beautiful location without the hoards of tourists that flock to the other islands and beaches. So instead of the usual, make sure to visit Pelion on your next visit to Greece!
Where is Pelion?
Pelion is a five-hour scenic drive north of Athens en route to another major Greek City, Thessaloniki.
We highly recommend renting a car in Athens and hitting the open road.
Road Trip to Pelion
The drive to Pelion is very scenic so be sure to give yourself a bit of time to take in the views.
We loved driving up the coast of Greece from Athens to Pelion.
Located on the East Coast of Greece, Pelion is a surprisingly mountainous region jutting up from the Aegean Sea.
Thre are many things to do in Pelion especially in the great outdoors.
It was near the end of the season so it was very quiet and relaxing. Yet it was sunny, warm and beautiful.
I'm glad we gave this area a try because we loved it.
Things to do in Pelion
Pelion was meant to be enjoyed outdoors. The mountains offer gorgeous views and hikes take you through olive gardens and farmland.
Our accommodation was in a beautiful yoga retreat in Tsaragada overlooking the bay. It was a good central location to be able to take part in many adventures.
A highlight for us was taking a ride on horseback through the countryside on horseback.
There are several different route options and on one you can ride your horse all the way down to the beach.
Discover Pelion can arrange the ride of your choice complete with pickup at your hotel.
After our horseback ride, we made our way to Milies which is the end-point of the steam train of Pelion.
The train runs through the summer up from Taxiarhe to Milies.
It's one of the narrowest lines in the world with the track running at only 60 cm wide.
Milies is a picturesque village with cobblestone streets and old museums. It houses one of the oldest libraries in Greece and a museum of folk art.
‘Don't be surprised when you sit down at a restaurant and two complimentary shots of Tsipouro (Greek liquorice liquor) are placed on the table for you to savour.
You may also find yourself leaving with gifts of fruit preserves and dessert.
The people of Pelion are as generous as they are friendly.
Volos Greece – Jumping off Point to Pelion
Volos is a beautiful coastal city that is fast becoming a popular stop on the cruise route.
It's not nearly as crowded as the other Greek ports so you will have the opportunity to get a true feeling of local Greek life.
There are no direct flights to Pelion from Athens but there are several direct flights to Volos from different hubs in Europe.
Jason and the Argonauts
Did you know that Volos was home to Jason and the Argonauts? If you love Greek Mythology, this is a must stop!
There is a replica of the ship in the harbour and you can imagine the Greek Gods looking down while playing their game of chess with the mortals lives here.
We stayed at the Domotel Xenia Volos which was located directly on the water.
It made for a great resort stay and home base to explore the area. It was all about the food here and you can stroll the waterfront looking for the perfect Greek meal.
Village of Kissos
A highlight was visiting the traditional village of Kissos located halfway up Mount Pelion.
Mount Pelion is considered one of Greece's most beautiful mountains and is a perfect spot for adventure lovers.
This picturesque village is located up the steep terraces of the mountain and is worth a stroll along the cobbled streets to the square where you can peruse the basilica church of Agia Marina built-in 1650.
As you continue to weave through the mountain road, the next stop takes you to Tsagkarada.
Each village of Pelion has a beautiful square housing ancient platan trees (plane tree) that grow wide creating a pleasant shaded area to enjoy food and drink.
One thing I love about Greece is the outdoor dining and we enjoyed a feast in Tsagkarada complete with Greek appetizers and main dishes
The Greeks are generous souls and the food keeps on coming until you can barely move.
Hiking in Pelion
There are plenty of hiking trails in Pelion that takes you through villages showcasing traditional Pelian architecture with huge trees in the centre of village squares.
They also have many trails lining the coast of the Pagasetic Gulf.
What is the Pagasetic Gulf you ask, well, look at the photo above and see that round gulf? It is formed by Mount Pelion where Deb is standing.
It's an easy hike down the path to the port of Dommouchari with magnificent views of the Aegean coast.
Pelion is famous for hiking and this hike doesn't disappoint.
When you get to the bottom along the coast, it all suddenly looks familiar.
Have I seen this picturesque harbor before? I think I recognize these painted blue buildings.
Sure enough, this is where Mama Mia took place.
You will recognize the scenes from the dock when Meryl Streep's friends arrive.
Plus any other times the cast is down by the water.
Many of the tour companies have capitalized on Mama Mia and you can tour many of the spots showcased in the film.
Damouchari is a typical Greek fishing village with an attractive beach, seaside cafés, and guesthouses.
Dommouchari Beach is as picturesque as it is in the movies.
You can now get married just like Mama Mia in Dommouchari. And local tour companies will help you with your wedding plans.
Agios Ioannis beach is the most popular beach in Pelion in the village of Magnesia on Skopelos.
You can catch a ferry to this Greek Island and make sure to spend a few days here. We took our rental car over and had an incredible time explore a Greek Isle without the crowds.
A visit to this beach is a must if you are looking for that perfect beach holiday.
It is 52km from Volos, but there are plenty of places to stay to make the most of your time.
We took our own boat tour of the area to view the mountain from the water.
You can also kayak out to visit Fakistra Cave but the seas were quite rough so we stuck to a boat tour.
Monasteries of Pelion
Pelion was the summer escape of the Gods. When hiking in Pelion, go the Chapel of Saint Athanasios of Athonite.
Located in the village of Tsgarda, this chapel is located at an altitude of 820 metres and is considered one of the most picturesque spots in all of Pelion.
Sadly it was closed during our visit, but all the more reason to come back!
Shuttle Service for Tourists
Our guide Dimitris put together a genius service for tourists. Tour busses run from village to village giving rides back to different squares.
The villages of Pelion are quite spread out.
If this service wasn't offered, the only way for tourists to get around would be to hire their own car, take pricey taxis, or stay put where they are.
Pelion is a beautiful destination that gives visitors to Greece a glimpse into local life. While places like Crete and Santorini cater only to tourists, in Pelion you slow down and immerse in local living.
So open yourself up to their hospitality, be prepared to explore and change your plans and you will come away with new friends and memories of a different Greece that still appreciates tradition, warmth and kindness.
Map of Locations we visited in Pelion
Have you been to Pelion, How did you like it?
Planning your own trip to Pelion? Here are the important websites to help you get started.
- For car rentals in Greece visit Avis Greece Car Rentals pickup is downtown or at the airport. We suggest renting directly at the airport.
- For accommodation in Tsaragada, you must try the 12 Seasons Luxury Resort
- For getting around Pelion, check out the Pelion Voucher Bus program.
- For your hotel stay in Volos visit the Xenia Volos located right no the water.
- For your Hotel Stay in Athens try the Divani Athens
- Special thanks to Visit Meteora for setting up our time in Pelion.
- Check out our recommendations for things to do in Athens here.