What’s absolutely great about the Greek landscape is the combination of mountain and sea, often tempered with astounding vegetation and flora. Pieria is one such amazing place which not only boasts the country’s highest mountain in Greece (Mount Olympus – or simply Olympos), as well as the country’s longest beach!
Obviously, the 12 Olympians – Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, Aphrodite, Athena, Dionysus and the rest – new what they were doing when they chose Mount Olympus as their haunt. Millennia later, the Ancient Macedonians founded Dion, a city which even had its own Olympic games in the 5th century BC.
Fast forward a few thousand years more, and you’ll find Pieria today still as enchanting and beautiful as the gods and the Macedonians believed. You’ll be impressed by the ancient site of Dion which remained glorious until the 5th century AD, some 1000 years after its Macedonian beginnings, until it was destroyed by earthquakes.
Ecotourism on a grand scale
Today the nature of the whole region remains stunningly gorgeous, luring visitors who love the best of the Greek countryside. Eco-tourists will rejoice with the hiking, trekking and mountaineering possibilities offered all year round, while the ski resort of Elatohori keeps snowboarders and skiers happy in winter. The summer in Pieria of course is great for swimming, but also for escaping into the mountains during those hot days. Avoid the more popular beaches like Platamonas if you want a more idyllic and peaceful experience.
More specifically, there are rock climbing possibilities around Olympus and the mountains of Pieria. Near the village of Palio Pantelimona you can embark on a paragliding adventure, while horseback riding can be enjoyed in Palio Elatochori and at Ktima Irakli in Kato Milia. Canyoning enthusiasts will adore the gorges and Olympus, namely those of Orlias-Olympos and Enipeas-Olympos And if you’re a diver, you can enjoy your favorite pastime in Plaka Litochorou, Platamonas or even the capital of Pieria, Katerini.
Adding to the richness of the Pieria region is the Olympus National Park and various wetlands (Agathoupoli, Nea Poroi, Kitros). Protected species in the region include the wild goat, roe deer, grey wolf and golden jackal.
Museums, wineries, and Monasteries to visit
Needless to say, the archeological museum of Dion is a must see, so too is the Museum of Geological History of Olympus. After these forays into culture, treat yourself to some good wine by visiting the region’s several wineries (Kourtis Estate in Rahi, Kitrous Estate in Kitros, Pieria Erateini Estate in Kolindros and Terzi Organic Wines in Aiginio).
There are a number of notable churches and monasteries to visit, such as the Monastery of Agios Dionysios in Litochoro. Significant as well are the Church of Agia Paraksevi in Ano Milia and the Church of Agios Athanasios in Ano Skotina. It is interesting to note that in the Greek sea of orthodoxy, an island of Protestantism emerges strong in Katerini, Pieria’s capital. The sizeable Greek Evangelical Church of Katerini is a proud example of the Protestant community in the region.
Villages that blend nature, gastronomy, archeology and Byzantine wonders
It takes only 45 minutes to reach the coast from the mountain climbing base of Prionia, which opens you to a world of nature, fauna, flora, magnificent landscapes and traditional villages frozen in time. A look at some of these villages will impress: the biggest is the town of Litochoro whose old quarter boasts fascinating Macedonian architecture right beside the Enipeas river gorge, a great spot to start exploring the region.
The mountain village of Palaioi Poroi (pronounced Palyai Pori) boasts gorgeous stone houses from the 17th and 18th centuries, in an area of a lush forest and the wetland of Nea Pori not far off, besides being relatively close to the coast. Palios Pantelimonas is a bit higher and has a gorgeous sea view, in addition to being known for its architecture. Guesthouses, ‘tavernas’ and hiking routes abound here.
You must visit Palaia Skotina for its old churches and walking trails. Also great for hiking is the village of Petra which affords a gorgeous view of Mount Olympus and is home to the Byzantine church (Isodion tis Theotokou) in the old Petra monastery dating from the 11th century! Closer to the coast, archeology enthusiasts will enjoy visiting Leivithra in the middle of a plane forest that’s also perfect for hiking.
Of course the archeological site of Dion near the village by the same name is the main attraction for an impressive trip to Ancient Greece. The remains of the holy city of the Macedonians and the archeological museum will impress, while in summer the Olympus Festival brings the ancient theatre of Dion to life.
Culinary delights in the middle of nature
If you’re a nature lover, visit the village of Skoteina (also known as Morna) surrounded by oak and beech forests. Old stone houses and hiking routes will greet visitors to this village, which is also known for its delectable pork dishes. Another noteworthy village is Palaio Elatochori which is ideal for mountain climbing, with a ski center not far off.
If you have extra time visit the folklore museum of Kato Milia (Lower Milia) and the forests around the traditional village of Ano Milia (Upper Milia), as well as the village of Kolindros with its typical Macedonian architecture and old churches. Lastly, on the Titaro mountain, head to the village of Agios Dimitrios for a good bite at the local tavernas which serve traditional cooked food and delicacies.
There’s a lot of good food to be enjoyed here, superb nature with verdant mountains and blue coasts, and strong sense of history that will keep you enthralled. If you avoid the more touristy beach areas in the warmer months, you’ll find yourself in a piece of paradise that epitomizes the very best of Mainland Greece.