Zagora in Northeast Pelion

With spectacular views, a delicious local cuisine, and breath-taking beaches, Zagora makes for an incomparable vacation.

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Are you in Greece right now? Bet you anything the apples in your fruit bowl come from Zagora. Pelion’s biggest village is the apple capital of Greece and, because of its orchards, it does not have to rely on tourism for its income. Although guidebooks give it but a passing mention, it is every bit as beautiful as the peninsula’s better known attractions. The fact that its streets contain more pickups and tractors than SUVs and Jeeps may even make it more appealing to some.

But don’t be misled. Despite its lack of souvenir stalls and cute boutiques, Zagora still possesses all of Pelion’s inimitable trademark charms. It boasts not one, but four, spacious squares with spreading plane trees, picturesque cafés and slate-roofed churches. Agios Georgios is the most central, and from there you will find another Pelion speciality: a splendid view of the mountain sloping down to the sea – in this case, the white beach at Horefto. Moreover, the white snows of Agriolefkes, the ski resort, are only 25 km away.

Around the square are two of those handsome mansions (archondika) that are so typical of Pelion. They have both been converted into comfortable pensions. Neoclassical in style, the Drakopoulos pension is run by the Women’s Cooperative, which has its workshop/kitchen on the premises, where they make jams and sweets with neither preservatives nor additives. Opposite, the Gayannis pension will remind you of a fortress. Built in 1780, it harks back to the days when Zagora’s wealth was based on silk rather than apples. The new owner, Nikos Gayannis, has recently restored the incredible mansion with dignity, grace, and meticulousness. Its nine centrally-heated guest rooms are redolent of antique furniture and tiled fireplaces. The rooms on the first floor have low, molded ceilings, while those of the second floor boast stained glass skylights. Breakfast is served in the kitchen around a 200-year-old double oven.

Just outside Zagora, on the road to Horefto and close to the famous Rigas Ferraios school, is another small pension with a superb view and central heating: Villa Horizonte. As recent construction, each of its six rooms is decorated in a different style, but the emphasis is on old-fashioned hospitality. The entire structure is grounded in and centered upon its roaring living-room fireplace. Owners and long-time residents of the area Wolf Keil and Ingrid Brink will tell you all about Pelion herbs and vegetation over a copious breakfast by the fire. They will recommend scenic walks replete with breath-taking views. They have planned special dinners for Christmas and New Year’s eve, something to bear in mind if you’re hoping to celebrate with more than a hot bowl of fasolada (bean soup). Reveillon is a custom that has not caught on in every Pelion taverna.

Pelion food is neither haute cuisine nor Greek light. Most tavernas offer heavy village cooking, the perfect finish to a bracing walk in the woods or stroll along the windswept beach. At Horefto, Kyrios Yannis keeps his restaurant “Delfinia” open all year round, serving delectable mezedes with tsipouro and fresh fish in a very pleasant atmosphere. But don’t miss Kyria Stathoula’s performance at Maki’s restaurant in Kissos, up the hill and further south. She prepares all her dishes before your eyes, including the phyllo for her magical pittes, plus other treats not found elsewhere in Pelion. Wild boar, a local speciality, will be simmering enticingly, but vegetarians need not worry; they will be greeted with plenty of options

Back in Zagora, Petros’s taverna on Ag. Georgios square is a must for grilled kid, while Meidani towards Pouri also keeps customers coming back for more. The Theoharis café within Pouri itself, a tiny hamlet 5 km north of Zagora, will take you back to a Greece you thought had vanished. Everything the couple serves is homemade with meraki or “true love,” and if you want them to prepare a real, old-fashioned meal, Villa Horizonte will order it for you.

Villa Drakopoulou, tel. 2426 023566
Villa Gayanni, tel. 2426 023391
Villa Horizonte, tel. 2426 023342, website

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