High above the city of Volos is the mountain village of Makrynista. Founded in the thirteenth century by refugees from the Fourth Crusade, Makrynitsa developed in a time when the coast was prone to pirate raids.
The people of Thessaly built these mountain villages as mini citadels away from the dangers of the coast and the fortified mansions, many of them now small hotels, reflect the region’s turbulent past.
Huge wooden doors that can be barricaded shut; gun emplacements covering the entrances; barred first floor windows, positioned so that occupants could pour something nasty down on the heads of intruders – these people were taking no chances!
Makrynista boasts several large, old monasteries, with beautiful marble colonnades and Byzantine carvings. Much of the stone for these churches was plundered from other buildings, and you can spend happy hours spotting column tops, ancient inscription (sometimes upside down!) and the front end of animals, mystical creatures and ancient gods, sometimes minus critical parts.
One of the pleasures of a visit to Makrynitsa is getting lost in winding cobbled back streets but you are never far from an iced coffee or something stronger. For the serious foodie, Makrynitsa is a great place to buy spoon sweets and dried herbs collected from the high slopes of the mountain.
With its spectacular views over Volos, cool mountain air in the height of summer, and the sound of mountain spring water bubbling from marble fountains, Makrynitsa is one of the not-to-be-missed gems of the Pelion.