Pelion, one of the most spectacular Greek mountains, has become a top all-season destination, stunningly beautiful and unique, not just due to the lush nature caused by the richness of its ground that allows all kinds of vegetation to thrive creating a magical landscape, but also due to the unique character of its villages, that are true gems on the verdant slopes that reach all the way down to the Aegean sea and the Pagasetic Gulf.
Argalasti, one of South Pelion’s largest villages, is a lively village that attracts many visitors due to the architectural interest of its buildings, its vibrant trading activity and its strategic location next to some of Pelion’s most spectacular beaches. It can easily be your base for discovering the local wineries, the beaches with crystal clear waters and the picturesque bays that all add to the unique character of this part of the mountain.
A visit to Argalasti inevitably starts with the impressive Agioi Apostoli (Holy Apostles) church, a religious centre of the area, built in 1886, honouring St Peter and St Paul. The tall bell tower that was added in 1913 is a landmark of South Pelion in its own right. This separate, marble structure is 25 metres tall, with a Swiss clock and two Russian bells and it can be seen from every road that leads to the village, while at night, when it’s lit, it becomes even more impressive.
A few steps away from the church, the village’s main square, offers a shaded refuge to the summer visitors who, underneath the centuries-old plane trees, can enjoy a coffee or traditional local dishes at one of the square’s taverns. Look for the Centaur that is carved on the marble circle in the centre of the square’s cobbled floor, and then follow one of the stone paths that lead to the village’s central neighbourhoods. The many well-kept traditional houses, the blooming yards, the verdant, shady gardens and the lovely view of the Pagasetic will amaze you. The architectural style is a mixture of typical, peasant houses with red tiled roofs, some neoclassical buildings, and the unique Pelion style with the stone-tiled roofs, all of which contribute to Argalasti’s charm.
You must visit the beautifully restored stone building of the Old Girl’s School, where the great Greek intellectual and poet Kostas Varnalis taught. Before you leave the village to explore its surroundings, it’s worth buying local products and fresh fruit from the area’s producers – after all this region is known for its fertile land and its substantial farm produce. You’ll find delicious olives, figs, grapes and peaches, while at the traditional grocery shop in the square you can buy local honey, marmalades and spoon sweets made from fruit from Pelion, and also the very good Volos beer Plastigga.
If you’re wine lovers, or would like to learn more about the area, then a visit to the wineries of Argalasti is surely a special experience. On your way to Argalasti from Volos, on your left hand as you enter the village, the landscape suddenly resembles Tuscany! Vines on a low slope and tall cypress trees surrounding a beautiful stone building with two wards indicate the location of the Milea Winery. It belongs to the Karipidis family, one of the best-known organic winemakers in the Thessaly region. At the Argalasti vineyard, at 700 metres altitude, the vines that stretch in front of the winery benefit from the sea breeze that keeps them cool in the summer, while the slope protects them in the winter. You can taste the results if you schedule a tour, quality wines, suitable for maturation. In addition, the lovely garden, with the colourful flowers and the fragrant lavender, is the perfect spot for a short break with a glass of wine.
Another remarkable winery in the area worth a visit is Patistis Winery, at the exit of the village, on a side road off the main road that leads to the Aegean beaches. The second generation of the Patistis family, that has undertaken the task of modernising and upgrading the winery, will greet you with their infectious enthusiasm and take you on a tour of the vineyard, showing you where each variety is grown, speaking of their wines and filling your glasses. The setting is impressive, with 60 acres of vines, where 6 grape varieties are grown around a two-storey house, and a view of Argalasti and the blue waters of the Pagasetic Gulf that is breath-taking. It’s a view you can’t get enough of, especially as you walk between the vines, nibbling the sweet, ripe grapes. Wine-tasting takes place in a cosy, hospitable room partially underground, covered in wood, with small barrels turned into stools as well as vintage objects – a sewing machine, a gramophone – that add a nostalgic flair.
Overall, a visit to the Patistis Winery – as well as to the Milea Winery – will leave a wonderful aftertaste from the well-made wines and the lovely images of the wider area of Argalasti.
What else should be included on the exploration list of the area? Most definitely a refreshing swim in the endless blue that surrounds South Pelion. Which means the time to choose between the Aegean sea and the Pagasetic Gulf has come. The beaches of Southeast Pelion are known for their cool, crystalline waters and their pebbled beaches.
All of them have a relatively wild, authentic beauty, some of them are relatively secluded, while others, even though they do gather crowds, are less loud and crowded than those of North Pelion. Potistika – also known as Xinovrisi, due to the village nearby –, Paltsi and Melani are all around 15 km away from Argalasti and they’re all amazing and impressive. As you drive down the covered in green slope towards the sea, the panoramic view is breath-taking. The same is true as you overlook these beaches from above.
Melani with the deep blue waters is the most secluded, as there are no facilities there. The tall, vertical rocks that emerge from the waters add a dramatic tone to the scene, while the natural clay at the edge of the beach is the reason you’ll see bathers covered in mud. This is a beach ideal for quiet and calm, and it’s a popular choice among the fans of free camping who set their tents next to the surrounding rocks.
Paltsi with the lovely coast of yellow, green and white fine pebbles is magical when there’s no wind. The sea then is calm, and the setting is one of total tranquillity and there’s nothing better than dipping in the clear waters and then lying next to the sea. The amenities here are, thankfully, the bare minimum – just enough to cover the basic – leaving the beautiful scenery unspoilt. You’ll only find one tavern and a few rooms to let, all of them with gorgeous views of the beach. In the evening, the colour of the rocks that frame the beach turns orange as the setting sun reflects on them and the whole setting becomes magical.
Finally, the star beach of South Pelion, Potistika, is certainly the most crowded one. Just 3 km from the village of Xinovrisi, following the winding road among the lush vegetation and the shade of the fruit-bearing trees, you reach this wide beach with the golden, thick sand, the turquoise crystalline waters and the tall, impressive rock that almost divides it in two. This and the many smaller ones scattered in the sea comprise a sort of marine “fun park” for those brave enough to climb on them and jump off in the clear blue waters. When you feel you’ve had enough sea and sun, you can head to the all-day-bar-restaurant Climax that’s perched on top of a small hill overlooking the whole beach. Sitting in the shaded veranda with the colourful cushions, you can enjoy a refreshing cocktail – their amazing mojito is a must – , a matured rum, a freshly squeezed juice, or book a table and try their Mediterranean cuisine. It’s really a special place and the ideal way to end your day on the beach of Potistika.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a less adventurous beach, or especially during the meltemia (Etezian winds) of August when the above-mentioned beaches might even get dangerous, then the protected bays of the Pagasetic Gulf are the ideal choice. Paou and Kalamos are the beaches closest to Argalasti, while a few kilometres further away there’s also Milina and Horto. All these are calm, protected beaches with warm, shallow waters and are great choices for families with small children.
My personal favourite is Kalamos that stands out for being very picturesque and calm. Here too, the view between the olive trees, as you drive down towards the village, is magical. A small white chapel, hidden among the cypress trees and marigolds, marks the entrance of Kalamos, where, behind the narrow beach you’ll find a tavern and many beautiful houses, many of which are available to rent. The place has an old-fashioned charm, a sense of summer carefreeness from past eras, where the bathers leave the beach to have their afternoon siesta and return later for a refreshing swim. The lovely, golden sunset you can enjoy on the beach is the cherry on top.
With so many options for interesting activities and so many lovely areas to explore it’s no wonder that so many visitors choose to travel to Argalasti, and not just during the summer. Visit it once and you’ll see that there are many reasons to return to this beautiful village of South Pelion.