Dedicate a weekend in Pieria and you’ll uncover a stunning — and unknown — region of Greece sitting at the foot of Mt. Olympus and the shores of the Thermaikos Gulf.
Pieria in Macedonia, Northern Greece
Where is Pieria exactly?
Pieria is right at the foot of Mt. Olympus, and the landscape sweeps effortlessly into a coastline of the turquoise waters of the Thermaikos Gulf.
The area is a one-hour drive from Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki. It’s a four- to five-hour trip north from the capital of Athens, depending if you’re driving or taking the bus or train.
Why go to Pieria?
Pieria is a beautiful destination, the fabled land of the nine muses and the Olympian gods.
When I caught sight of Mt. Olympus for the first time, I had to tweet that I understood why the Greek gods decided to live there.
The region also boasts excellent food and wine. Another reason to go? Not many people know about it!
Things to Do in a Weekend in Pieria
These were the top things to do during my weekend in Pieria. Locals showed me the way as I toured the region with other journalists and Travel Bloggers Greece bloggers.
We spent a little bit of time in Pieria’s capital called Katerini, a small city center with a large pedestrianized way full of shops and cafes. Have coffee or a great meal there. Enjoy a traditional Greek dinner at the renowned Boukia and Goulia.
Visit the Archaeological Museums
As the sacred home of the Olympian gods, you can imagine how the region reflects the fascinating culture of ancient Greece. In the town of Dion, the most critical battles in antiquity between Greeks and Romans took place in the region. Many turned to Christianity when the apostle named Paul visited Methoni in 50-51 A.D., on his way to Athens. The area later fell under Ottoman rule like the rest of Macedonia.
Dion turned out to be just the place to learn about the region’s history up close. We spent time at the Archaeological Museum of Dion and the Archaeological Park of Dion which were in close proximity to each other.
Archeological Museum of Dion
The museum housed numerous artifacts and objects from the archaeological site of the town. Some important works included the marble statues of Dionysus and the family of Asklepios, statues of Aphrodite and Isis, and very beautiful statuary from the baths.
On the second floor of the museum, I admired the gorgeous mosaic floor from the Villa of Dionysus that depicted Medusa’s head in a circular frame. The basement floor featured a children’s learning section.
Archaeological Park of Dion
The Archaeological Park of Dion was a pleasant surprise for me, a beautiful leafy garden steeped in ancient relics.
Pretty trees manicured the grounds. Fresh little streams gurgled as big fish swam through them and charming ponds simply glittered. Among it all, some remnants of ancient Greece stood including city walls, a small odeon, a bathhouse with some good mosaics, mansions, temples and the altar of Zeus and a temple of Isis.
Tip: Every summer, the Olympus Festival takes place with all types of drama performances, concerts and parallel artistic events throughout Pieria. Enjoy performances under the stars in the park’s marbled ancient theater.
Visit Litochoro Village
Litichoro was a unique place to learn about, a mountain village with a nautical history! Visit the Nautical Museum of Litochoro to learn why.
In Litochoro, I enjoyed the ambiance and cuisine of one of the best restaurants in Greece. Talented local chef Andreas Garvis opened Gastrodromio and since then has claimed Louis Vuitton city guide selection status and won Greek cuisine awards several years in a row.
Tip: Stop by the delicious Patisserie Liagas for amazing desserts and coffee.
Visit Palaios Panteleimonas Village
I love beautiful Greek villages. If I wasn’t working, I’d be happily skipping through one all day long. Palaios Panteleimonas gave me that feeling.
The village was built down a steep mountain slope and lined with wood-beamed houses, artisan shops and small stone paths that stray cats enjoyed darting across every so often. It was the perfect place to simply wander.
Two beautiful towering old plane trees and the church of St. Panteleimonas took center stage at its lovely square which was also lined with traditional cafes and tavernas.
I had an all-natural product shopping spree at Beauty Cooking shop, where Eleni Kartsioti sold her own fantastic handmade beauty products and so many local products like jam, honey and handmade chocolate.
Evastron café boasted the best café seats in the village. The cafe’s wooden balcony opened up to a sweeping view of the Thermaikos Gulf below.
Visit a Local Winery
We toured the lovely little wine cellar of Ktima Kourtis winery hidden in a hidden village called Rachi. I enjoyed the beautiful warm and inviting spaces and tasted excellent local organic wines.
Tip: Other local wine producers to seek out include Grammatosi Winery, Ktima Pieria Erateina, Kelari Adamou and Ktima Ksiromeriti.
Visit a Greek Orthodox Monastery
Discover the Greek Orthodox culture at the beautiful 16th century St. Dionisius Monastery, tucked all by itself in the mountains. The monks and priests paid us a warm welcome, where they live and spend time organic farming and producing local cheeses, honey and eggs. We also visited a small ecclesiastical museum and library.
Relax at an Olympus Riviera beach
If it was summer, I would have definitely carved time out for a swim. Pieria boasts 70-kilometers of coastline called the Olympus Riviera, much of it lined with long stretches of sandy beaches.
Choose from 16 organized beaches along the Olympus Riviera, some of the most popular include:
- Northern Pieria Beaches: Methoni, Agios Giannis, Makrigialos, Pydna, Alikes Kitros
- Central Pieria Beaches: Korinos, Paralia, Olympic beach
- Southern Pieria Beaches: Kalivia Varikou, Gritsa, Plaka Litochoro, Leptokarya, Skotina beach, Panteleimonas beach, Platamonas, Nei Pori
Other Top Things to Do in Pieria
Get Active around Mt. Olympus
I didn’t have the chance to hike or ski but I could tell it was a great destination for the active traveler. Piera would be great for the adventurous to:
- Hit the Slopes: During the winter months the Elatohori Ski Center hosts all kinds of winter sports.
- Go Hiking: Check out Eco-Tourism Greece’s site for a rundown of some of Pieria’s most popular hiking trails.
- Water Sports: Along the coastline, facilities open during the summer for water sport aficionados including wind surfing, sailing, diving and more.
Hike Platamon Castle
The 10th century medieval castle was an imposing landmark to see from the road in the region’s town of Platamon. I didn’t get to walk up to see the view for myself. I had just enough time to snap this pic across the way.
Travel Tips in Pieria
- Rent a car to get from place to place.
- Consider staying in the mountain villages like Palaios Panteleimonas for a different kind of Greek vacation atmosphere.
- Stay at the beach hotels for a classic sandy beach resort experience.
- For more information on Pieria visit the website (in English and many languages): www.visitpieria.gr
How to Get to Pieria
- Driving time from Athens to Pieria is four to five hours. Drive time from Thessaloniki to Pieria is just under one hour.
- The KTEL bus from Athens links to all cities of Macedonia. In Athens: Take the Athens – Katerini line. Useful number KTEL Athens: +30 210-831 7059. The journey is approximately five-six hours and € 50 with return.
- In Thessaloniki: Take the Thessaloniki – Katerini line. Useful numbers: KTEL Thessaloniki Station: +30 231 059 5428 KTEL Katerini Station: +30 235 102 3313. The journey lasts less than one hour and € 15 with return.
- Thessaloniki is the closest major city to Pieria. Thessaloniki is linked to Athens, Ioannina, Hania, Heraklion, Limnos, Lesbos, Rhodes, Skiathos and many cities in Europe.
- There are rail services linking Pieria with Athens and the towns of Macedonia and Thrace. The journey from Athens is one hour and € 15 with return.
- From Athens, take the Athens – Katerini line. The journey is four and a half hours. Tickets are approximately € 30-40 with return.
- For all timetables visit: www.trainose.gr
Where to Stay in Pieria
Mediterranean Village Olympus Riviera is a five-star, cozy yet modern hotel right on the beach. Great buffet breakfast and lovely staff. If you didn’t want to leave and see the sights, you could just spend the day enjoying the beach and the view and relaxing at the hotel spa… but Pieria is too pretty to stay indoors.
That sums up what to do in a weekend in Pieria, a gem in northern Greece’s Macedonia region. I could’ve easily stretched it all into a more relaxing week away.
Have you been to any great destinations just outside of Thessaloniki? Have you ever spent a weekend in an off-the-beaten path location in Greece or Europe?
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