Affectionately known as the City of the Argonauts, in Greek mythology
Affectionately known as the City of the Argonauts, in Greek mythology, Volos was where Jason boarded the Ship Argo on a quest for the Golden Fleece at Colchis. As a nod to this ancient hero there’s a replica of an ancient Trireme ship berthed at the city’s port. Volos has real history of its own at the Neolithic settlements of Dimini and Sesklo, more advanced than anywhere else in Greece 6,000 years ago.
Dimini is a Neolithic village first occupied around 4800-4500 BC, with houses built from mud bricks on stone foundations.
At Sesklo you’ll glimpse the Sesklo Civilisation, the first Neolithic culture in Europe, with the oldest fragments going back to between 7510 and 6190 BC. The site shines a light on people who lived off agriculture and animal husbandry and had advanced stone and obsidian tools, and pottery-making skills. A constant presence to the north is Mount Pelion, where you can drive to high-altitude villages in leafy forests, and the best beaches on mainland Greece.
Athanasakeio Museum has a payload of artefacts from the Geometric period, from 900-700 BC, a time associated with legends like the Trojan War and Jason and the Argonauts. Many of the finds discovered at the Neolithic settlements of Dimini and Sesklo are here, like terracotta figurines, jewelry and stone tools.
A token for Volos’ industrial development in the 20th century, the Tsalapatas Brickworks Museum was a roof tile and brickworks factory founded in the 1920s by Spyridon and Nikolaos Tsalapatas. At the height of production the factory churned out up to nine million tiles (Byzantine and French-style) and bricks of different sizes each year. After the factory shut down in the 1970s its Hoffmann kiln, trolleys, compressors, clay silos, dryers and cutters were all kept on site, and the museum eventually opened in 2006. You’ll get to step inside the Hoffmann kiln, which used to bake 24 hours a day, stopping just twice; during Greece’s Nazi occupation and following an earthquake in 1955.
At Volos you couldn’t be in a better place to travel the dreamlike landscapes of Mount Pelion. This peak has 24 villages, which, like Portaria, have unmistakeable “Pelian” houses made from green, blue or grey slate and with painted wooden window frames and doors. An easy drive north of Volos will bring you to the lovable village of Portaria on the slopes of Mount Pelion. Facing the Pagasetic Gulf, Portaria was founded around the Monastery of Panagia in the 1200s. The village is wreathed in greenery, abounding with deciduous trees, orchards, gardens and flower pots on its streets. On the slopes are mountain streams and waterfalls that are a spectacle after a little rain. Also part of Portaria’s allure is its architecture, with noble mansions that have colourful window frames and doorways painted in the Pelian style.
Seek out the rustic wooden Monastery Church of Panagia Portarea, which has vivid frescoes from the 16th century. Mount Pelion is steeped in Greek mythology, as the home of Chiron the Centaur (a tutor to heroes like Heracles, Achilles, Jason and Theseus) and the place where Thetis and Peleus were wed, starting a chain of events that would lead to the Trojan War.
With these tales in mind you can pick up the Centaurs’ Path up the slope from the village of Portaria, a short hike over mountain streams crossed by little wooden bridges on green slopes shrouded by beech, plane, chestnut, oak and maple trees.
Makrinitsa nicknamed “balcony of Mt. Pelion” because of its amazing view due to its location (630m above the sea), is a village and a former community in Magnesia. It is situated in the northwestern part of the Pelion Mountains, 6 km northeast of Volos. The picturesque cobbled paths of Makrinitsa are scattered with traditional water fountains. There is a large square with shops and a carved marble fountain, built around 1809 and whose crystal clear waters are called Immortal Water.