Everybody loves Greece. Tourists from all over the world flock to its ancient ruins and sun-soaked islands. However, even experienced travelers don’t know how beautiful the Greek mainland is. The continent is as stunning as the islands but with fewer crowds. We discovered Pelion Mountain on our way to Skiathos and Skopelos Islands. The steep mountain is next to the port city of Volos. Our main base was Makrinitsa, to us the nicest village in Greece!
Makrinitsa blew our minds. We spent a couple of nights in Portaria and walked there the next day. Since we liked it so much, we decided to book a hotel in Makrinitsa and spend a couple of days there. What a brilliant decision! Set on a slope of mighty Pelion, Makrinitsa still preserves its ancient heritage and unique ambient. We also realized there are tons of things to see and do in the area. As usual, we didn’t have enough time.
- 1 Things to Do in Makrinitsa
- 2 How to Get to Makrinitsa
Things to Do in Makrinitsa
Wander about the Main Square
Makrinitsa’s main square will take your breath away. Plateia Eirinis or Peace Square is a large pedestrian plaza perched on a cliff overlooking Volos and the Mediterranean Sea. The views are so memorable that the prominent Greek politician Eleftherios Venizelos named the square the Balcony of Pelion. No wonder the name is used today for the entire village of Makrinitsa. Be sure to come at all times. As the sun moves, the views change! Sit at any of the bars and taverns, sip your favorite drink, and enjoy epic views.
Several unique buildings and monuments on the square are worth your time. The impressive early 19th century Immortal Water Fountain is in the center of the plaza. The water comes fresh from Mount Pelion. The Byzantine Museum of Makrinitsa and the 19th century Saint John the Baptist Church stand next to the fountain. Don’t forget to check the famous Theofilos café with its large painting by renowned Greek artist Theophilos Hatzimihail nearby. Giant plane trees, some of them centuries old, complete the feast.
Learn About Local History in a Museum
Don’t let Makrinitsa’s size fool you. The small village of some 700 people is home to two museums. The Byzantine Museum of Makrinitsa has over a hundred post-byzantine icons and woodworks from the 17th to the 20th century. The marble reliefs, vestments, banners, epitaphs, and other religious objects are superb. Besides, the building is an attraction in itself. It’s an ancient house on the plaza, next to a beautiful tree.
Even more impressive is the Museum of Folk Art and History of Pelion, in the Topali mansion. The building stands in the middle of a beautiful garden, under the main plaza. The delicately restored house dates back to 1844 and is one of the best examples of traditional Greek architecture. We loved it! Go inside, and prepare to be dazzled. The museum holds over 1500 pieces of jewelry, books, weapons, tools, clothes, icons, and Turkish writings. No wonder Pelion’s handicrafts are famous all around Greece.
Discover Outstanding Architecture
Makrinitsa has the best of both worlds: pristine nature and superb architecture. Gorgeous white houses line its cobbled streets. Huge ancient trees provide shadow, while lush green hills offer outstanding views. Makrinitsa came to be in the early 13th century, around the monastery with the same name. The monastery fell into disrepair in the 17th century. However, its stones were used to build the Assumption Church of Virgin Mary that stands today on the same spot. You will recognize the church by the tall clock tower next to it.
Once you are done admiring the Church of Virgin Mary, you have nine more churches in and around Makrinitsa to discover. The only one you can go inside is St. John the Baptists Church, on the main square. Though much newer (from 1806), it boasts magnificent stone reliefs by renowned folk sculptor Theodosios. The Saint John Theologist Church and the Saint Gerasimos Monastery are to the east of the village. The rest of the churches are in an area known as Koukourava, west and southwest of the main square.
Stay in an Archontiko House
The traditional old houses that dot Makrinitsa and Pelion Mountain are called Archontiko, or mansions. Done in Ottoman style, these two or three-story buildings have thick stone walls. The upper floors protrude above the lower ones and have several windows. Look out for the rich decoration and wooden details of the upper floors. On the other hand, the lower floors have fewer doors and windows and almost no decoration.
The best place to stay in Makrinitsa is an authentic Archontiko house. We spent a couple of nights at the superb 1822 Makrinitsa Suites, the best hotel in Makrinitsa. Since the hotel is on a steep hill, the views are unforgettable. The suites are spacious, tastefully decorated, and comfortable. The home breakfast is delicious, and the service is impeccable. You won’t want to leave! Since hotels in the area are small, they tend to be fully booked. Do not worry: you will find the one you like. Makrinitsa has other fantastic historic hotels. We recommend the Selina Centavrus Pelion, the Traditional Mansion Evilion, and the Archontiko Melanthi.
Try Delicious Greek Food
You cannot leave the village without trying delicious Greek food. Surprisingly enough, Makrinitsa has restaurants for every taste and budget. You can even have lunch in the historic Theofilos café. Since no one seems to understand their opening times, be sure to check! For the best views, have lunch or dinner at the Main Square. The restaurant on the square is pretty good and offers views that will take your breath away.
Peliades Eatery & Drink has it all: the best food in town, outstanding views, and a charming host who knows every corner of Makrinitsa. Try their mushrooms with pomegranate sauce; you’ll lick your fingers! Another great place with magnificent views is the Art Café west of the main square. They pride themselves on traditional homemade desserts.
Buy Local Products
As soon as you enter Makrinitsa, you will find yourself in a charming pedestrian cobbled street. Shops, cafés, and guesthouses line this wonderful street. Since we travel with hand carry-ons, we usually don’t buy things on our travels. Besides, we believe we should all consume less. However, in Makrinitsa we couldn’t resist the smell of the local products prepared with care. Since the area around the village is full of fruits, herbs, and vegetables, you cannot leave without trying some.
You will find a lot of local products to choose from, including souvenirs, food, and drinks. Makrinitsa is famous for its Hilopites, a traditional pasta made from flour, eggs, milk, and salt. You can also buy local honey, liqueur, sweets, herbs, and jams. Our recommendation goes to sugar-pickled fruits. If you are into herbal tea, you’ll love the hand-picked local herbs.
Hike to the Top of the Mountain
Makrinitsa is the perfect place for great mountain hikes. The village lies on the slopes of Pelion, stretching from 300 meters to 850 meters above the sea. Thus, if you want to visit the whole place, you’ll have to walk up and down for quite some time. Views are different on every corner, and there is beautiful scenery all around.
We believe you should spend at least half a day hiking in nature. Our favorite route goes all the way to the Monastery of Agia Paraskevi at 850 meters above the sea. To get there, start at the parking lot, pass by the Saint John Theologist Church and then walk on the narrow paths until you reach the monastery. You will stumble upon several natural springs and the occasional domestic animal. If you have more time and energy, go all the way to the Prophet Elias Church. Outstanding views guaranteed.
Organize a Day Trip to Portaria
Though Makrinitsa is the nicest village in Pelion (and perhaps in all of Greece), there are several nice ones nearby. Portaria is one of them. Though it feels a bit more like a town, it hides several true gems. Thus, spending a day in Portaria is a great idea. If you have more time, consider staying in one of the Egyptian-style houses and soaking up the town’s unique atmosphere. We stayed at the sophisticated Archontiko Naoumidi, a luxurious and authentic mansion with a splendid pool.
An absolute must in Portaria is the famous Centaur’s Path. A 1.4 km long trail that starts at the end of the town and goes all the way up the hill, crossing streams in the middle of a lush green forest. According to Greek Mythology, Centaurs were half-human and half horses that lived on Mount Pelion, thus the name. Other places you should not miss are the late 13th century Panagia Portarea Church and 19th century Saint Nicholas Church next door.
How to Get to Makrinitsa
Makrinitsa is only 3 kilometers from Portaria and 15 km from Volos. Since the village is at the end of the road, no buses go through. Instead, several daily buses connect Makrinitsa to downtown Volos via Portaria in 45 minutes. There are seven daily buses during the week. On weekends and holidays four buses cover the route. In Volos, buses stop at Venizelou and Kartali Streets. In Makrinitsa, the bus stop is some 400 meters from the village. The journey is an attraction in itself, so be sure to grab a window seat.
You can go to Volos by plane, train, and bus. In summer, planes connect Volos Airport with several European cities like London, Paris, and Amsterdam. There are no direct trains from Athens or Thessaloniki to Volos. You have to take the train to Larissa and then transfer to the regional train that takes you to Volos. The most convenient way to get to Volos is by bus. There are half a dozen daily buses from both Athens and Thessaloniki. Finally, you can also rent a car and explore more of Mount Pelion.
You can check local bus schedules HERE
MAKPINITΣA = MAKRINITSA
ΠOPTAPIA = PORTARIA
BOΛOΣ = VOLOS