Volos is one of our favourite cities in Greece so this post is all about showing you what to do in Volos and how to plan an unforgettable trip to one of the country’s best-kept secrets.
The main reason why we love Volos is its diversity. A lively university city with an utterly romantic seafront, Volos is the ideal destination for a city break. However, Volos is also the perfect base from where to explore stunning Pelion. The latter is yet another of the most diverse areas in Greece as it boasts fantastic beaches and gorgeous villages on the mountains alike.
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Table of contents
- How to Get There and Around
- What to Do in Volos in 3 Days: The Essential Itinerary
- Where to Stay in Volos: Chroma Pelion Villas
- Where to Eat in Volos
- Bonus Tip: Cycling in Volos
How to Get There and Around
Volos lies about 330km north of Athens and 210km south of Thessaloniki. Public buses connect Volos to both cities as well as many other destinations. Volos is also connected to many European cities (e.g. London, Amsterdam, Vienna etc) by direct flights. For more information on Volos International Airport check out the official website here.
Once in Volos, you can get to most or all of the places we include in this itinerary by means of public transport. However, keep in mind that buses don’t run frequently on all routes so this could mess up your schedule big time.
The best way to explore Volos and Pelion is by car. Driving gives you absolute freedom not only to plan an itinerary that suits your needs but also to stick to it. That said, keep in mind that driving in Pelion involves hairpin turns, roads with no lights and narrow mountain passes which can get really foggy.
What to Do in Volos in 3 Days: The Essential Itinerary
Volos is a really inviting city with an easy-going ambience. It is a very special destination with an inescapable air of intellectuality. We are never bored of this place. Similarly, Pelion is perfect for either a short or long vacation all year round. In the summer, Pelion boasts some of the best beaches in Greece. In winter, the most adventurous can enjoy skiing on the slopes of Pelion Mountain while everyone can take in the beauty of the most gorgeous traditional villages.
This guide focuses on the city of Volos but we also made sure we included some highlights of Pelion. So, here’s our ultimate 3-day itinerary. It includes a little bit of everything and it is suited to all seasons.
Day 1: Pelion Train & Volos
For us, the ultimate highlight of any trip to Volos and Pelion is the narrow gauge Pelion Train or trenaki (little train) as locals affectionately call it. The 60cm gauge line is one of the narrowest in the world and it offers the opportunity for an amazing half day trip from Volos.
The train runs on a historical railway line operating since 1896 on the route from the city of Volos to Milies Village. Nowadays, the train only covers the part of the route between Ano Lechonia railway station to Milies. The vintage train runs every weekend, on bank holidays and on selected dates. Check out the 2020 schedule here.
The vintage Pelion Train starts its 90′ journey from Ano Lechonia at 10:00 in the morning. It huffs and puffs its way to Milies through the gorgeous Mount Pelion. All along its journey, the train travels among lush greenery while offering superb views to the sea below. The train makes only one stop at Ano Gatzea Village for about 15′. There is a café at the station but the best way to spend your time in Ano Gatzea is by paying a short visit to the nearby The Olive Museum.
Apart from the exceptional natural scenery, riding the Pelion Train is also a unique way to marvel at architectural wonders along the way. The most striking of these are the five-arched stone bridge of Kalorema and the superb De Chirico Bridge.
De Chirico Bridge
If you are fans of modern art, you’ve probably heard of Giorgio de Chirico, the famous Italian artist and writer. What you might not know, though, is that Giorgio was born in Volos because his father, Evaristo, was the chief engineer for the construction of this very railway we are talking about.
Probably the most impressive site on the entire route is named after Evaristo de Chirico. Just before the train arrives at the station in Milies, it crosses a bridge with a unique feature. Although the bridge itself is straight, the railway tracks on it are actually curved. This is the De Chirico Bridge and crossing it either on board the train or on foot is fascinating.
Once the train arrives at Milies, don’t rush to leave the tiny and super cute station or you’ll miss a unique spectacle. Everyone gathers around to watch as people of all ages literally give a hand to help the train’s locomotive turn around on a circular platform in order to start its journey back to Ano Lechonia. It’s quite something! The train arrives at Milies at about 11:35 and it leaves for Ano Lechonia at 15:00. Three hours is more than enough time to explore the enchanting village of Milies.
The walk from the railway station to the heart of the village is quite uphill but the ambience is rewarding. Stone paths, traditional houses, small streams and the occasional super friendly goat make this a stroll to remember.
The village’s main square is absolutely beautiful and home to one of the most interesting and special churches we have seen in Greece. The interior of St Taxiarchis & All Saints Church boasts vivid frescoes that have remained almost intact throughout the centuries.
The most astonishing wall painting of all, though, is the one bearing the 12 signs of the zodiac, which is quite an unusual theme for a church. St Taxiarchis & All Saints Church is considered an acoustic marvel and a rare example of architecture and engineering of the time.
While in Milies, it is also worth visiting the Folklore Museum and the historical Public Library. Last but not least, Milies is home to one of our favourite cafés in Greece. Anna Na Ena Milo may lack in views, as it is located on the main road rather than the quaint square, but it’s a cosy haven offering delicious homemade treats served by its super kind and smiling staff.
Once back from this unique experience on board the trenaki of Pelion, it’s time to explore the charms of the city of Volos itself. And where best to start this journey than the utterly romantic beachfront?
The sea has played an important part in the history of Volos throughout the centuries. It was from Volos Port that Jason set off with his Argonauts on a quest to find the Golden Fleece on board the famous Argo, a replica of which adorns the port of Volos to this day. The only outlet to sea for the entire Thessaly region, Volos Port is nowadays the third largest cargo port in Greece.
Starting from the port, Volos boasts a wonderful seaside promenade lined with cafés, restaurants and shops, some of which are housed in splendid neoclassical buildings. From an architectural point of view, though, the jewel of the promenade is the imposing building of the University of Thessaly. The latter was originally a warehouse of the Papastratos Tobacco Company.
Another thing we love to do every time we visit Volos is to walk along the 1km long jetty. Its length has earned it the nickname Kordoni (string). A stroll along the entire length of the Kordoni offers the unique opportunity to look at the city from a totally different perspective.
The Church of St Constantine and Helen and the adjacent St Constantine Park seem to be the finishing line of this splendid promenade. But, no, there’s more.
The seaside promenade continues up to Anavros Park with its strange looking sculptures of Philolaos. The Athanasakeion Archaeological Museum of Volos is also nearby, whereas the walk officially ends on Anavros Beach. Make sure you are there just in time for sunset. Choose a spot on the sand and get ready for a magical golden hour.
Day 2: Makrinitsa & Volos
By far the most popular of all the villages that dot Pelion Mountain is Makrinitsa. Not only because it is a fine example of traditional local architecture but also because it’s just a 30-minute drive from downtown Volos. A word of caution. Start early if you are visiting during the weekend. Makrinitsa can get really crowded and its small parking lot fills up fast.
The best thing to do at the balcony of Mount Pelion, as Makrinitsa is often called, is to take your time strolling around the beautiful traditional settlement with its gorgeous cobblestone paths, running streams and the utterly picturesque main square.
If you fall in love with the ambience of this tiny Greek village with its superb views to the city below and the sea beyond and decide that you would like to spend a night there, Makrinitsa abounds in traditional guesthouses. Don’t miss the chance to drop by Café Theofilos for a cup of Greek coffee or a shot of local tsipouro. This traditional coffee shop is home to a fresco painted by the famous Greek painter Theofilos himself.
The Tsalapatas Rooftile and Brickworks Museum
After taking in the charms of Makrinitsa, it’s time to head back to Volos. Visiting the Tsalapatas Rooftile and Brickworks Museum is one of the top things to do in Volos. Fascinating for children and adults alike, the Tsalapatas Museum is a rare example of a surviving industrial complex in Greece. The museum is housed in a former rooftile and brickworks factory and it aims to showcase the industrial heritage of the city of Volos.
The Tsalapatas Museum is situated in the district of Palia or Palea (Old Ones) in Volos. Therefore, it’s quite convenient to end your day there. The Palia district is perhaps the most exciting part of the city. As its name suggests, this area is one of the oldest ones in Volos. The Palia neighbourhood enjoys an inescapable air of nostalgia. In the evening, the area is the most vibrant place to be in the city with locals staying up until late at its tasteful and top quality bars and restaurants.
Day 3: Explore South Pelion
Having checked out the best things to do in Volos, we believe that the third and last day on this itinerary should be reserved for a mini road trip to some lesser-known but beyond words picturesque villages in Pelion.
Agios Georgios Nileias
This is one of the prettiest hidden gems in Mount Pelion. Built on two slopes, the village is set within lush greenery and offers unique views to the sea. Enjoy your morning or afternoon coffe at one of the traditional coffee shops at the square before heading to your next destination.
Of all the Pelion villages we’ve ever been to, Pinakates is the one we like the most. In terms of architectural value, Pinakates is the best preserved village in Pelion in the sense that it has retained its traditional character intact. The main square is literally enchanting as it is dominated by a 500-year-old plane tree and a gorgeous marble fountain.
However, wandering around the village’s kalderimia (cobblestone paths) feels somewhat sad at times. Many buildings bear scars of neglect and one can only imagine how splendid Pinakates must have looked like in older times. Before the village lost its people to the comforts and lifestyle of bigger towns.
Vyzitsa is yet another village we absolutely love. Its gorgeous architecture alongside the surrounding natural beauty are irresistible. Vyzitsa is home to some of the most impressive stone mansions in Pelion while relaxing at its main square is one of the best things to do in Pelion.
After spending the day driving from one mountain village to the other, there is no better way to end this road trip than visiting a tranquil and picturesque seaside town as well. Kato Gatzea is one of those places which, without having any special attractions to visit or unique things to do, wins one’s heart over with its laid-back ambience and calmness.
The tiny settlement boasts a quaint seafront with a handful of traditional restaurants and pastry shops which are frequented mostly by locals. Don’t be surprised if by the end of the evening you’ll feel as if you have been visiting old friends rather than just having dinner at a random tavern somewhere in Greece.
Where to Stay in Volos: Chroma Pelion Villas
Volos and Pelion in general are incredibly diverse. But we’ve said that already. Accommodation options in the area are equally diverse. From city hotels to guesthouses in the mountains or villas by the sea, the list of options is endless. However, as far as this itinerary is concerned, the best place to stay in order to explore the area at a leisurely pace is Chroma Pelion Villas in Kato Gatzea. The complex comprises six independent villas which share a common area with a fantastic pool.
We stayed at the White Villa and we loved it. Apart from being an impeccably clean and outstandingly comfortable villa, it also felt incredibly homelike. With all necessary amenities and top quality linen and furniture, the White Villa felt like home from the moment we crossed its doorstep.
We could go on and on about the comforts and facilities of the villa. Yet we decided to stop right here and focus on what we REALLY loved about Chroma Pelion Villas instead. Any guesses? Well, it was the people behind the business. The people who own and run the villas.
Four people whose friendship started in their University years and goes strong for decades on end decided to create this little heaven on earth in Kato Gatzea in order to welcome their clients in the only way they know: as friends. That’s exactly how they welcomed us and we’ll never forget their unique hospitality. The latter is not a given because Greece is the so-called land of hospitality and all. Genuine hospitality is quite rare. Yet for Christos and his friends it comes as naturally as the leaves to a tree.
Where to Eat in Volos
The Traditional Tsipouradika
The word tsipouradiko (plural: tsipouradika) comes from tsipouro, the alcoholic drink which is typical of many regions in Greece but, primarily, of Thessaly. Although many Greek cities claim to have tsipouradika of their own, this phenomenon is traditionally, historically and undoubtedly unique to Volos. The birth of this kind of establishments dates back to 1922. It was then that refugees from Smyrna sought refuge in Greek cities after the devastating catastrophe of their homeland. In Volos, the refugees settled in a district called Nea Ionia.
Back in those difficult times of poverty and social exclusion, it was customary for the male refugee population to have a drink after a day of hard work or, even worse, a day of futile search for work. Nothing was cheaper than tsipouro. Yet nothing was stronger either. So tsipouro was never served on its own. A small meze plate always came alongside the iconic 25ml miniature bottle.
Nowadays, tsipouradika are not limited to a single population group but are cherished by everyone: locals and visitors alike. For the sake of the latter, let us share a tsipouradika 101 here: DON’T ORDER FOOD. When you visit a tsipouradiko, just order your drink of choice (tsipouro, wine or beer, but, come on now, you’re in Volos, try local tsipouro – as long as you don’t have to drive afterwards) and the food will come along.
It will most definitely consist of seafood dishes unless you state right from the start that you prefer meat. Which we don’t recommend. Apart from the fascinating element of surprise that comes with this ritual of sorts, all you have to pay for in the end is your drinks. Amazing, right?
The most authentic tsipouradika are still in their birthplace in Nea Ionia. They are not at all fancy. Some of them may even seem sketchy at first. Yet a place like Tampakis, for instance, is a unique experience in its own right. That said, for a more tourist-friendly option in Nea Ionia opt for Bokos instead.
At Palia, To Filaraki is a great tsipouradiko. There are many good options, albeit trendier and modernised, in downtown Volos as well, like Kritamo. Try to avoid the tsipouradika that line the beachfront. They are overpriced and they serve by far the least appetizing food of all.
Volos Street Food: The (in)famous Peynirli
If you are familiar with Turkish food, then you must know pide, the delicious boat-shaped, pizza-like treat that we Greeks like to call peynirli. The city of Volos boasts the best peynirli in Greece and you can try it at many fast food restaurants across the city. According to locals, you will find the best peynirli at Rainbow.
Even if you don’t do anything else we suggest in this guide, you MUST do this. Have dessert at Minerva Café. The historical café at the promenade opened its doors in 1935. Ever since then it has been creating precious memories for generations upon generations of locals and visitors alike.
The vintage café is so much more than just another popular coffee shop. It’s the history of the city itself. Once you sit at one of its tables, you can’t help but feel that time knows no limit and it makes no difference if the calendar reads 2020 or 1935.
The number 1 reason to visit the café, however, is dessert. Specifically, the superb pasta fournou (oven pastry) and the decadent Chicago ice cream. Don’t leave Volos without trying both and you can thank us later. If you can handle a strong coffee, wash your dessert down with a glass of iconic frappé.
Bonus Tip: Cycling in Volos
Unlike the rest of Greece, which is one of the most bike-unfriendly countries worldwide, Volos has a long tradition in cycling. If you can overlook the awful fact that cars may or may not be parked on cycle tracks, you can enjoy an overall very pleasant bike ride in the totally flat city of Volos.
So, did we manage to give you a clear picture of what to do in Volos and convince you to plan a trip to one of our country’s best kept secrets?
Let us know in the comments!
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Disclosure: We were hosted by Trainose and Chroma Pelion Villas, yet, as always, all opinions are our own.