Once upon a time, though it was not in my time or your time, or in anybody else's time, there was a land named Magnesia and its mountain Pelion, the homeland of the Centaurs. They were a special race of creatures having a torso of a man attached to a horse's withers. Heroes of various myths, they were shown either as beasts, prone to violence and uneducated, or as intelligent, civilized, having knowledge and skill with medicine as Chiron, the tutor of many ancient Greek heroes.
Once upon a time, but this time, in my time or your time, the Centaurs have gone but Mount Pelion and Magnesia are still there, one of the most beautiful regions of Greece, a combination of tall mountains, numerous springs, rich vegetation, beaches of all kinds and sizes, traditional villages, natural charm and wonderful people. Considered the most beautiful mountain in Greece, Pelion is covered by dense forests of oak, maple, beech, chestnut and platanus (plane tree) and it is a main tourist attraction in winter, having one of the first ski centers to operate in Greece with slopes of 5,000m total length but it provides views over the Pagasitic Gulf and the Aegean Sea, unlike any other ski center.
For the summer months, there are a lot of beautiful sandy or pebbly beaches, large or smaller and deserted, offering a sense of peace and serenity, and it's hard to believe you'll not find one for your soul. Pelion villages still keep a traditional architecture with stone buildings, built on terraces, with abundant painted ornamentation, there are no others like them in the whole Greece. Several buses operate from Volos to different areas of Pelion but the best way for traveling around and discovering the peninsula is by car.
Yes, I know, I could write many things about Volos, the capital of the prefecture of Magnesia, a picturesque city at the foot of Mount Pelion, or about Makrinitsa, the balcony of Pelion, built like an amphitheater on the side of the mountain, a village of infinite beauty, or about Agios Ioannis, the most famous holiday resort in Pelion with a large numbers of visitors and entertainment options, or about Damouchari, a small coastal hamlet surrounded by a beautiful harbor, one of the locations where the film "Mamma Mia" was shot in Greece.
But rather than these, I will write about Platanias, a small fishing village and port, whose name is taken from the plane trees (Greek Platania) that cover this area. From all these beautiful locations in Pelion, how did we get exactly in this village? Well, I don't remember, maybe Yannis was the first who answered at our booking requests. Or maybe Someone Up There wanted us to meet this wonderful family, our best Greek friends, Yannis and Katerina.
Platanias, at 60 km from Volos on a road with many curves and ramifications, where you can get lost easily, is a sleeping beauty lying on the edge of the forest, washed by the sea and scented by the fresh mountain air. Quiet and very friendly residents will quickly integrate you in their community, adding to your holiday the real pleasure of a family reunion.
Every morning has its own sounds and smells. Old ladies wearing black sweeping silent in front of the buildings, fishermen shouting "psari, fresco psari!!" (fish, fresh fish!!) on the little streets, the smell (mmmm) of the just baked bread from fournos (oven) or of a fresh Greek coffee served near the sea... the most pleasant and relaxing way to start a new day.
Platanias has several points of interest: 4 or 5 tavernas and few bars by the seaside, 2 mini-markets, fresh fish in the port, a butcher shop, a bakery (my favorite place because they also sell various pies and cookies) and... that is pretty much it. The beach is pebbly but if you climb the hill or take a taxi-boat, you'll find Mikro, a long sandy beach, one of the most beautiful in Pelion, with refreshing cool waters and Hrisi Akti, the best taverna in the area. Or, if you take the car, you'll be able to find around few other beaches: Kastri popular for windsurfing, Lyri, Katigiogis, Potistika and my very favorite Mourtias, a small bay with strange huge rocks emerging from the deep waters where you can easily imagine the Centaurs walking around. For lunch, you should try Areti taverna in Katigiorgis, Stamoulis will offer you his friendship and will give you the best food money can buy in the whole south of Pelion.
Booking a holiday in Platanias, besides discovering the beaches, you can do a lot of things: take a boat from the village and visit Skiathos with its well-known beaches Koukounaries and Lalaria or take a tour of the peninsula going up to Tsagarada on the east coast, find a wonderful beach as Milopotamos for example, visit Makrinitsa and Volos, go down to home on the west coast and watch the sunset from Trikeri or Agia Kyriaki. There are so many beautiful places to see that I can bet you'll never find enough time to visit them all.
Platanias has many booking possibilities, from camping to simple rooms or big apartments, but we will always go to Yannis and Katerina Basdanis. I believe that they should change their name to Magnet family because that is what they are, once you booked a room or an apartment with them you'll come back again and again for sure. This is what we did for 5 years, but they have guests who came back every year for at least 10 years. The villa is a special and elegant beauty, gathering together the traditional and modern facilities. The fireplace from every apartment, used in the winter, gives a special charm besides the tastefully chosen furniture and all the other small decorations used to warm up the atmosphere. Katerina, a charming lady with a beautiful smile, a very pleasant and continuous presence around the villa and Yannis, an excellent English speaker, are the most friendly and helpful Greek people we ever met and they will do everything possible to make you feel wonderful and help you.
They are also members of "Friends of the Kalderimi", a group with the aim of discovering the natural beauty of South Pelion through laid stone footpaths (Greek kalderimi) dating back hundreds of years, so if you like to discover Pelion in this way, you can join their group. Want an extra image? No matter what you do over the day, when the sun comes down and you go back to your room, you'll find Yannis playing bouzouki. Listening to his music, talking about the essence of life and times, enjoying a glass of local tsipouro, it could be the most pleasant way to finish a holiday evening.
And, as every story should have an end, try Platanias from Pelion and you will live happily ever after.
(for Katerina and Yannis: Thank you, dear friends)