One of the most spectacular Greek mountains, Pelion, is renowned as a top all year destination, exceptional not only for the wealthy of its blessed nature, with all kinds of trees flourishing here creating a breathtaking scenery, but equally for the unique character of its villages, that stand out like true gems among the rich vegetation of its slopes and spread out to the Aegean Sea and the Gulf of Pagasitikos.
Standing on the North side of Pelion, Argalasti is one of the biggest and liveliest villages, that draws in many visitors due to its architectural interest, its commercial activity and its strategic position for accessing some of Pelio’s most spectacular beaches. You can easily make it your starting point for exploring the area’s small wineries, crystal clear waters and the picturesque bays that form the unique character of this part of the mountain.
A visit in Argalasti would inevitably start at the impressive church of Agioi Apostoloi, the religious center of the area, dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, dating since 1886. Its tall tower bell that was added in 1913 is unmissable and has become a landmark on its own. The impressive, marble structure is 25m tall and bears a Swiss clock and two Russian bells. It’s noticeable from all roads that lead to the village and particularly striking at nighttime, when it’s beautifully lit.
Just a stone throw from the church, the central square of the village offers a shady shelter to summer visitors, who enjoy sitting under the centuries-old plane trees while drinking coffee of having lunch at one of the square’s taverns. Look for the chased centaur in the center of the square’s ground and then follow the narrow stone paths that lead to the inner parts of the village. You’ll be surprised by the plethora of beautiful, traditional houses, the flower covered yards, the shady gardens and the gorgeous views of Pagasitikos gulf.
The architectural style is a mixture of typical village houses with red brick roof tiles, some neoclassical buildings and the unique characteristic Pelion houses with stone rooftops, all adding to the charming atmosphere of Argalasti. Make sure you don’t miss the beautifully restored stone building of the old Girl’s School, where the famous Greek poet Costas Varnalis served as a teacher. Before leaving the main village, it’s worth doing a little shopping and buying fresh fruit from local producers, as the area is well known for its fertile land and significant agricultural production. Olives, figs, grapes and peaches is what you should try, but make also a stop at the traditional shop right on the central square for local honey, jams, fruit preserves, mountain herbs and the very good local beer Plastiga.
A visit to the area’s wineries
If you’re a wine enthusiast or would simply like to explore more of the area, then a visit to the wineries of Argalasti is quite an experience. Driving from Volos, the scenery on your left as you enter the village, suddenly reminds you of Tuscany! A vineyard on a soft slope, tall cypresses and two adjusted stone buildings among them, indicate the position of Milea Winery.
It belongs to the Karipidis family of winemakers, one of the most well known in the area of Thessaly, for their wines of biological cultivation. In the vineyard of Argalasti, on a 300m altitude, the grapes that spread around the building of the winery, benefit from the sea breeze and keep a cool temperature during summer while being protected from harsh winters.
The outcome that you can taste on a booked tour, are quality wines suitable for aging, like the intense Pinot Noir, the rich Merlot and the fragrant Chardonnay or perfect for summer nights, like their fresh Rose. Wine maker Lazaros Karipidis and his wife Suzanne, will gladly explain all about the varieties they grow, while showing you around the winery. The gorgeous yard filled with lavenders and colorful flowers, is ideal for daydreaming with a glass of wine in hand!
Another remarkable winery in the area that’s worth visiting, is the Patistis Winery, set on the village’s exit towards the beaches that face the Aegean Sea. The second generation of the Patistis wine makers that now runs the business, are full of enthusiasm when taking you on a walk around the vines, showing you where each variety grows, talking about their wines and pouring each one they produce, into your glass.
The setting is at least impressive, with 40 decares of 6 varieties planted around a big country house and a breathtaking view towards Argalasti and the blue waters of Pagasitikos in the far distance. It’s a view you can’t get enough of, especially when walking among the vines, nibbling on sweet, ripe grapes. The wine tasting takes place on the winery’s basement, a cozy space, dominated by wood, where small barrels serve as stools and old household equipment gives a nostalgic tone.
The respect the family shows to their land and nature that surrounds them is evident in every sip of their organic wines. And their devotion and trust in biological cultivation is applied in olive oil production too. You will taste that as well, accompanied by freshy baked bread from the local bakery, along with the wines, that vary from single vineyard to blends, and from white to even the new trend of orange ones. Xinomavro, Roditis and Limnio are the local varieties that they’ve been farming since 1980, while Assyrtiko, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are their latest additions in their vineyard.
Altogether, a visit in Patistis winery -just like the one in Milea- will leave you a wonderful aftertaste of the remarkable wines and some stunning images of the broader area of Argalasti.
Take a splash in clear blue waters
So, what should be next on your exploring list? Certainly, a refreshing splash in the endless blue of the seas that surround South Pelion. Which means it’s time to make a decision between the Aegean and Pagasitikos. The south- eastern beaches of the Aegean Sea are known for their crystal clear, cool waters and pebbled shores. They all retain an authentic, rather rough beauty and some are relatively more private. They tend to be popular, but not as crowded and noisy as those on the north side. Potistika -or Xynovrisi as it’s also known -, Paltsi and Melani are all within a distance of 15km from Argalasti and each one most impressive that the other. As you descent the mountain slope towards the sea, the bird’s eye view is breathtaking. And so are the beaches themselves when you reach them.
Melani with its deep blue colour is the least crowded one, as it doesn’t have any facilities. The high, vertical rocks that emerge from the sea give a dramatic tone and a natural clay source is the reason you’ll see many visitors covered in mud! It’s a beach ideal for privacy and popular to summer campers who set up their tents by the rocks.
Paltsi with its shore of fine golden, green and white pebbles and emerald waters is magical when the weather’s not windy. Then, the sea is calm and the scenery relaxing and there’s nothing more refreshing than diving in the transparent water or laying on the cool seashore. The facilities here are luckily only a few, so that the natural beauty of the area remains unspoiled. A tavern and a few rooms to rent are all you’ll find and they all offer amazing views towards the sea. In the afternoon, the colour of the impressive rocks that surround the beach turns orange as the descending sun reflects on them and the setting is magical.
And finally, the star among them all, Potistika, is undoubtedly the most popular of all. Just 3km outside the village of Xinovrisi, following the whirly road that passes through lush greenery of all kinds of fruit-baring trees, you reach this really wide beach, with thick grained sand, turquoise, crystal clear waters and a tall rock that almost divides the beach in two parts. This and many more scattered rocks form a unique sea playground for fearless swimmers who dare to climb them up and dive into the deep, blue waters. When you feel you’ve had plenty of sea and sun, the elegant all-day bar-restaurant Climax awaits you on the hilltop, where you can enjoy panoramic views towards the beach. Sitting in the shady, leafy veranda with the colourful pillows, you can indulge with a special cocktail -the amazing Mohito is a must!-, an aged rum, a fresh juice or book a table to enjoy quality Mediterranean dishes and delicious desserts. It’s a place that stands out and the best way to end a long day on Potistika beach.
If on the other hand, you’re looking for a less adventurous place to swim, or when the August winds known as meltemia make the Aegean Sea wavy and rather dangerous, the protected bays of Pagasitikos seem like the ideal choice. Paou and Kalamos are the ones closer to Argalasti, with Milina and Horto a few kilometers further away. They all have protected from winds small beaches, with warm, shallow waters and are ideal for families with young children.
A personal favourite is Kalamos, that stands out for its quaintness and the sense of serenity and tranquility it emits. Once more, the view towards the small village as you descent among olive groves and fig trees is magical. A tiny white church hidden among flowers indicates the entrance to Kalamos, where behind the narrow beach you’ll find just one tavern and many beautiful houses, which in some cases are available as summer rentals. There’s an old-fashioned beauty about this place, the sense of an easy-going summer, with swimmers leaving the beach for an afternoon siesta and returning early in the evening for another refreshing dive in. The lovely, golden sunset is the icing on the cake!
With so many choices of interesting activities and gorgeous areas to see and explore, it’s no wonder that Argalasti gathers so many visitors and not just during summer months. Visit it once, and you’ll realise you have many reasons to return to this beautiful village of South Pelion.