Charms of Volos

A weekend in Volos offers the best of Greece- the many charms of Volos come from both the sea and the mountains. These, along with culture, history, and – of course – a well laid table made it one of my favorite destinations.

Colorful fishing boats of Volos

A Perfect Promenade

One of the best things about Volos is that it’s not for show. All its glamour comes from a gorgeous location, and all its charm from a sense of purpose. Driving into town, we pass brickworks- handsome industrial buildings. The area around the bus station is crowded with business selling agricultural supplies.Then as we approach the harbor these give way to stalls selling the freshest catch on mountains of ice. The brightly painted boats some of the catch came in on are just a few meters away, at the promenade’s edge.

Classic Good Taste

The promenade is especially wide and free of cars it makes for a perfect stroll. The whole length is lined with cafes and tsipouadika. In Volos, the cafes do not bow to fashion. They serve 1950’s perfection in the form of creamy profiterole and chocolate cream pastries. As for the tsipouradika- venues for a unique dining and drinking ritual- these are perfect if you want a good time and a good view. But some of the best ones are ticked into a middle-class neighborhood far from the harbor, and the casual visitor. More on these later.

The plateia of Makrynitsa

Mountain Splendor

One of the chief charms of Volos is the variety of experience that nature offers. Two of the most quintessentially perfect mountain villages Greece has to offer are a 20 minute drive up the hill. It looks like you could hit them with a snowball, but the steep slope is full of twists and turns. Even in the blasting heat of summer, the temperatures are quenchingly fresh up here. In the fall, the scent of damp fallen leaves from the plane trees  and wood smoke are beguiling. Portaria and Makrinitsa are just 4 km apart. Although both are charming, Markrinitsa’s town square is perfection. There is a tiny exquisite church, a fountain, and a classic cafe, all under the shade of a magnificent plane tree.

Fall leaves in the fountain of Makrynitsa
Lighting a candle in the church

Centaur’s Path

Between them, just outside of Portaria on the way to Makrinitsa, is the Centaur’s Path, used by locals to reach their olive groves, and by the rest of s to enjoy some fabulous scenery. The walk is an easy one, along side a stream. Along it, visit the Church of Agios Nikolaous.

Pelion is famous for its “glyko koutaliou”

Sweet delights

Of course, such pretty villages will have plenty of shops, but all are in good taste. Some literally: lush green Pelion has excellent honey in exotic varieties- chestnut is particularly bold. But the real star of the region’s sweets is “glyko koutaliou”- spoon sweet. The best of seasonal delights, like sour cherries, fresh green walnuts, and bergamot, are preserved like glistening jewels in a glossy syrup.

The perfect table

Volos Tsipouradika

Of the many charms of Volos, the Tsipouradika top the list. This is a great tradition. Unlike regular tsipouradika and ouzeries throughout Greece, where you decide what you want to eat and drink, in Volos, they decide for you in a ritual of pleasure refined by time. It’s for the best- they really know what they’re doing. The only decision you make is what kind of tsipouro you want to drink. Tsipouro comes in two varieties- with anise and without. Like ouzo, with anise gets cloudy when you add ice and water. Name brand sealed bottles will set you back an additional 20 cents. Try different brands with the first couple rounds so you can pick a favorite. Because of its sweet aroma, it is the perfect balance for the excellent seafood you’ll be enjoying. With every 50 ml bottle comes a new dish.

The waters here are teeming with delicaciesThe proprietors make sure to keep the progression interesting, and of course, as you drink, the dishes get better and better… and better. Not only is the variety of a Volos Tsipouradiko staggering, but the alcohol/food ratio is ideal. You can stay there as long as you have something to talk about, without getting either too tipsy, or too full.