The big trip

Skiing by the sea in Pelion

In winter, when there are far fewer people, this Greek peninsula is outrageously romantic

British people dream of holidays on “sun-baked” Greek islands, said Dana Facaros in The Sunday Times. But during their long summers, Greek islanders themselves often dream of Pelion: a lush, mountainous peninsula jutting into the Aegean 200 miles north of Athens, with its bucolic woodlands, springs, waterfalls and orchards criss-crossed by cobbled mule paths.

“In summer, the Pelion and its gorgeous cliff-backed beaches get very busy; in winter, when there are far fewer people to share it with, it’s outrageously romantic.” For some Greeks, it’s the only time of year they come. “Tendrils of mist curl up from gurgling streams; fog, something they hardly ever see in the cities, adds a veil of mystery.”

Most of all, winter visitors hope for snow – and thanks to the “Aegean effect”, when cold air moves over warm water, it’s more or less guaranteed. Up to 16ft falls annually on the Pelion’s higher altitudes. At only 1,471m, the local ski resort is “hardly the Alps”, but it has wonderful views of the sea. Pelion’s 20-odd villages are also “some of the most beautiful in Greece”. They are usually overlooking the sea, with a “beautiful stone-flagged square”, a pretty late-Byzantine church and a huge plane tree or two.

A “perfect winter day in Pelion” might start with a morning in the village of Makrinitsa, the “Balcony of the Pelion”, to take in the amazing view from its main square and a coffee at the Theofilos Café. Followed by an afternoon on the ski slopes, or walking along one of the mule paths. As darkness falls, you might return to the hotel to put your feet up by a crackling blaze while sipping a rakomelo, the Greek version of a hot toddy.

Finally, to dinner at one of the peninsula’s “superb family-run tavernas” to eat the Pelion’s “spicy speciality”, spetsofai (fried green peppers, aubergine, goat or lamb sausage, and tomatoes). 

Seven nights’ b&b at Santikos Mansion in Vizitsa from £696pp, including flights to Thessaloniki and car hire (sunvil.co.uk).

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