PIERIA: from Mt Olympus to long, sandy beaches
** photos from pieria-hotels.gr and
General info about Pieria, Central Macedonia
Pieria is one of the regional units of Greece located in the southern part of the Region of Central Macedonia, within the historical province of Macedonia, in Northern Greece. The county (or prefecture) of Pieria is bordered by Imathia to the north, Kozani to the west and by Thessaly’s regional unit Larissa to the south and west.
The area combines extensive plains, high mountains and sandy beaches. Pieria is a continuоus сοаstline of 70 km at thе fоοt of Mоunt Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece and throne of the ancient Greek gods from thе Greek mуthοlogy , which is located in the southern part. The Thermaic Gulf lies to the east, to the North the River Aliakmonas, to the South the River Pineios and to the West the Pieria Mountains and Mt Olympus to the southwest.
The main areas of the prefecture are: Katerini, Elatohori, Platamonas, Litohoro, Leptokarya, Korinos, Makriyalos, Methoni, Kolindros, Agios Dimitrios. Most of the population live within the Olympian Riviera (coastal zone), which contains the county’s capital, the town of Katerini.
The number of permanent residents is about 127.000, while Katerini, the capital, has a population of 60.000 people.
The area is fairly developed tourism-wise, with the main focus on the long coastline, where beautiful tourist resorts are located, but also on the Mount Olympus foothills, where excellent options for winter tourism are available. The diversity of the landscape, the harmonious co-existence of mountain and sea, the plethora of spots of natural beauty, the archaeological sites, the historical monuments, the traditional settlements, the opportunities for sports activities and the modern tourist infrastructure, all make the prefecture of Pieria an attractive destination, all year round.
Things to do – sightseeing
Some 17 km from the city of Katerini, is located the archaeological site of Dion, the sacred town of ancient Macedonia. Among the finds are the temples of Dimitra (goddess of agriculture) and the Egyptian goddess Isis, as well as a Greek and a Roman theatre.
The town of Litohoro with its traditional style and atmosphere, and the houses of traditional Macedonian architectural style, the Municipal Park “Katounia” and the picturesque country churches will enchant the visitors. Also worth visiting is the area “Myli”, the gorge of Enipeas River and the fir-tree forest of Ai Yiannis with the church in honour of Saint John. The village Paralia attracts many tourists, offering an excellent beach and an intense nightlife.
Close by, is the well-known vacation resort of Platamonas, surrounded by verdant green vegetation that covers the terrain until the very beginning of the beaches with the crystal-clear waters. You should also visit the picturesque traditional settlement of Palios Panteleimonas, built on the mountain, and enjoy the enchanting view.
Between Platamonas and the beach of Agios Panteleimonas is situated the well-preserved Venetian Castle of Platamonas.
Other poles of attraction in the area are the impressive gorge of Olympus and the drive to the Petra Narrows. South of Makriyalos, archaeological digs have unearthed the ruins of the ancient city of Pydna.
The Estuary of Aliakmonas River and the areas Alyki Kitrous and Nei Pori are three wetland habitats of great ecological importance, as they are home to rare species of flora and fauna.
During the summer season, you can choose from a great number of beautiful beaches. Swim in the crystal clear waters of Paralia, Olympiaki Akti, Makriyalos, Platamonas, Paralia Panteleimona, and, also, the beach of Korinos, which has won many times the Blue Flag environmental award.
History & Culture
At some time before the archaic period Pieria was incorporated in the Kingdom of Macedon (808 BC) when it became the second province of the ancient kingdom. It became part of the Roman Republic after the Fourth Macedonian War, and remained part of the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire. The passage of Christianity through Pieria was an event of historical value. Apostle Paul visited Methoni in 50-51 A.D., on his way to Athens, preaching the new religion to the locals. During the first Christian ages, the region experienced a significant development despite its geographical position. It was later invaded and became a part of the Ottoman Empire. During the Greek War of Independence in 1821, Pieria took up arms along with the rest of Greece, but their struggle failed and Pieria did not join the rest of Greece until the Balkan Wars in 1913.
The county of Pieria is an area rich in attractions of great historical and archaeological interest to the visitor. These attractions range from the wealth of findings at the Neolithic Settlement in Makrigialos through the remains of ancient Pydna to the ruins of the Ancient City of Dion.
Dion, an archaeological site of international repute, the “City of Zeus”, the sacred city of the ancient Macedonians, lies on the northeastern slopes of Olympus. Within the bounds of the archaeological park one can stroll among the finds and visit the nearby museum. Many years of extensive excavations have brought to light a plethora of significant finds. Read all about the Archaeological Park of Dion and the Dion Museum in visit-olympus and experiencepieria (Dion and museum)
Southwest of modern day Makrigialos lies one of the largest prehistoric settlements in Greece dating back to 5.000 BC. At ancient Livithra, located between Palea Leptokarya and Skotina, Orpheus founded a ritual site for the Orphean Mysteries and taught the worship of Dionysus. There are reasonable grounds for believing that, thanks to the Orpheus, was created for the first time in the history of man, the music and the song as we know it and disseminated throughout the world.
Lying south of Makrigialos, Pydna was inhabited for centuries. It was established at the end of the Late Copper Age and expanded during the early Iron Age and the Archaic Period. It continued to expand right up to the Roman Period with the city gradually falling into decline by the Palaeo-Christian period.
Byzantine Pydna, which after the 6th century AD was renamed Kitros, was the most important medieval city in Pieria. The ruins of the castle have been excavated with its interesting fortress architecture and post-Byzantine Episcopal Church.
** check the Pieria Hotels Association website, the visitpieria guide and the pieria-tourism for more information
A perfect first taste of Pieria, is its well-preserved cultural monuments.
Pieria’s most well-known monument is the the Castle at Platamonas; it is considered the most beautiful Castle in Greece and, definitely, the most well-preserved Castle in central-northern Greece. It is a Crusader Castle built on a rocky hill with unique views southeast of Mount Olympus. Ιt was originally built by the Byzantines and was reworked by the Franks at the beginning of the 13th century. Platamonas Castle played a significant role in the history of Pieria due to its strategic position that controls the exit of the Tempe valley, through which passes the main road connecting Macedonia with Thessaly and southern Greece. In addition, The Castle of Platamon was an imposing medieval fortress until the late 19th century. Today the Castle has been restored and hosts concerts and other cultural events.
Monasteries and Churches are to be found in abundance, bearing witness to the extensive history of our area, most notably The Old Monastery of Agios Dionysios, situated at a height of 900 m, some 18 km from Litochoro. In Skotina, visit the post-Byzantine churches of Christ, Kimissi Theotokou (Dormition of Virgin Mary) and the church of Agios (St.) Athanassios decorated by excellent murals.
The coast of Pieria is unique due to its vast expanses of sandy beaches that you can find there. They extend over 70km from the resort of Nei Pori, to the slopes of Mount Olympus, right up to the village of Methoni and the wetlands surrounding the mouth of River Aliakmonas. Wide beaches of untouched natural beauty, rich golden stretches of sand interspersed with pebbles and the cooling shade of pine trees are combined in harmony with the peaceful blue waters of the sea.
16 organized beaches, each with its own different character, stretch out in succession along this distance of 70 kilometers. Here are some of them:
- Korinos: The area of Korinos has many beautiful beaches. Some of them have been awarded the blue flag – a signal of sea cleanliness.
- Makrigialos: This small coastal village has a wide, organized, sandy beach, which gets quite crowded during summer months.
- Beach of Katerini: This beach is located in a small village 8km from Katerini. The village accommodates thousands of tourists during summer months, mainly attracted by the amazing waters, the large market and the nightlife.
- Olympic Coast-Katerinoskala: In the coasts of Olympus, which are the most expansive of Aegean, the sandy and spacious beach is very attractive. Visitors can walk along the beautiful coastline, that is surrounded by groves and pinewoods.
- Gritsa is a standard beach frequented by residents of Litochoro, at the foot of Mount Olympus near the archaeological site of Dion.
- At Plaka Litochoro the visitor will come across alternating natural bays where the classic landscape of golden sand is interspersed by rocks and pebbles.
- Leptokarya, a traditional holiday location, stretches out close to the site of the mythical Orphea.
- Another beach with golden sands at the foot of Mt Olympus is Skotina Beach, near the traditional village with the same name.
- The vegetation sweeps down to the sea at the neighboring Panteleimonas Beach, near the village of Old Panteleiomonas, next to the Castle.
- Nei Pori is Pieria’s most southern beach next to the traditional village of Palei Pori and the endless, picturesque wetlands in the northern area of the Pinios Delta.
- Methoni: a coastal seasonal centre , 30km north of Katerini. One of the most important wetlands in Europe is adjacent to the Aliakmonas Delta, as well as the wetlands of Alikes and Kitros, with an information centre in Nea Agathoupoli.
- Agios Dimitrios: small village, situated in the plateau between Olympus and Pieria; visitors can explore the impressive canyon of Olympus and the Straits of Petras.
- Elatohori / Milia: Elatohori is one of the most beautiful mountainous destinations, with direct access to the large urban centres.
- Litohoro & Leptokaria: these two settlements are a must during summer. Litohoro, a beautiful village, often referred to as the gateway to Mount Olympus and offers various activities. At Leptokaria, there is an excellent tourist infrastructure.
- Platamonas: a well-known seasonal centre with lots of crystal-clear waters, organized and isolated beaches, traditional elements and nightlife for all tastes. In the beach, there is an enormous, well organized, sandy beach; nearby, the traditional settlement of Old Panteleimonas on the mountain and the Panteleimonas Castle.
- Skotina (Morna): traditional mountain village, built on the slopes of Pieria, next to the River Mavroneri. At the end of the 1960’s the inhabitants of Morna mostly moved to the newly built village of Fotina. There are many old stone houses typical of Macedonian architecture preserved.
- Ano Skotina: an old settlement, built on an altitude of 600 m on the southeastern side of Mount Olympus; full of hotels, taverns, restaurants, and offers every form of alternative tourism.
Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece known worldwide mainly for its mythological context, as at its peak (Mytikas, 2.918 m) lived the Twelve “Olympic” Gods according to the religion of the Ancient Greeks. It is also the second highest mountain in the Balkans, but also in the entire region of Europe from the Alps to the Caucasus. The compact mountainous mass dominates the borders of Macedonia and Thessaly, with a series of high peaks that groove deep ravines, around which stretches an area of special biodiversity. To protect this unique heritage, it was declared as early as 1938 as the first National Park of Greece.
Olympus plays an important role in the life – and economy – of Pieria. Every year thousands of nature lovers visit Mount Olympus, to admire the charm of its nature and to enjoy touring its slopes and conquering its peaks. Organized mountain refuges with a variety of hiking and climbing routes are at the disposal of visitors who want to explore its beauties. The classic starting point is the town of Litochoro at the eastern foot of the mountain, 100 km from Thessaloniki, where the Olympus Mountaineering Marathon ends at the beginning of every summer.
There is much intersting information about Mt Olympus, and its Olympus National Forest Information Center. Further more, an imoprtant information point describing the areas’ geological history is the Olympus Geological Museum, with exhibits that follow the evolution of Mount Olympus through geological time (official page).
There are also other excellent sources of information about Mt Olympus, especially the trails (easy, medium, difficult) and all hiking opportunities, and its impressive flora . with 139 plant species.
Three major wetlands cover tens of thousand of square kilometers of Pieria. They are located a short distance from tourist resorts and are of great ecological importance.
The River Aliakmonas Delta covers an area of 40.000 km2 and when taken in conjunction with the mouths of the Galikos, Loudias and Axios rivers, and the lagoon of Alikes, the river creates one of the most important wetlands in Europe. Among its small, shallows lagoons and sand bars, dense shrubs and tall trees live foxes, jackals, badgers, hares, martens, wildcats and even wolves live alongside the many animals to be found.
Undoubtedly the most important aspect of this wildlife is the profusion of birds of every imaginable variety and hue that are to be seen here. 215 different species of birds have been recorded either nesting or stopping off during their migration. These include herons, cormorants, geese and other birds, some of which are in danger of extinction. 12 different members of the Duck family have been seen and other endangered species include the wild pelican and a member of the kingfisher family.
In addition to the bird life, at least 33 different types of fresh water fish have been noted, as well as toads, water turtles and water snakes.
More than 500 plant species can be found here.
Alikes Kitros is an impressive lagoon covering 15.000 km2. The rare species, which it is home to, are food for birds which gather in the area, including the pink flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber). A large population of Mediterranean turtles also lives in the lagoon. Actually, Alikes Kitros is a sandy beach near Ancient Pydna. You can take advantage of the harbour to moor your boat, and immediately next door to the harbour are the salt flats where salt is extracted from the seawater; beautiful fish taverns are there to offer you tasty fresh fish and locally produced oysters.
The Nei Pori wetlands cover the northernmost section of the River Pineos Delta. They are home to 600 plant species, with areas of plane trees, shrubs, reeds and wild flowers. Among the plants live migratory and aquatic birds and legendary birds of prey from neighboring Kato Olympus.
Another natural aattraction is Katerini Municipal Park, an expanse of green of approximately 52 acres, in the heart of Katerini, the prefecture’s capital. It is a well-maintained park with water features, a wide variety of trees, monuments, a kids’ playground, engaging games, an outdoor Theater, and resting benches and tables (read more in experiencepieria).
Local Products & Gastronomy
Regional cooking of Pieria
The cuisine Pieria and that of Macedonia, form an inseparable combination, is typified by all the different sorts of meat produce, cheese products and pies which make up the Macedonian table, which is particularly tasty. As said at the Local Gastronomy section of Northern Greece, Macedonian cuisine is the cuisine of the region of Macedonia . Contemporary Greek Macedonian cooking shares much with general Greek and wider Balkan and Mediterranean Diet, including also dishes from the Ottoman past.
The variety of dishes available has increased with the influx of regional cooking from the Pondos and Asia Minor: Greek refugees from Asia Minor and Constantinople in the early 20th century brought Anatolian and Constantinopolitan elements in the cuisine of the region. Influences in Pieria include dishes of the Anatolian Greek and Armenians, but also Slavic and Sephardi Jewish (since their 1492 immigration from Spain). The mix of the different people inhabiting the region gave the name to the Macedonian salad.
In the picturesque mountainous villages, meat-based dishes, pies of any kind, cheese and vegetable dishes prevail. As one of the richest in flora areas of Greece, the area of Olympus is also the homeland of excellent honey products (Olympus honey), tea and oregano of superior quality, and many other herbs, along with chestnuts and truffle (read more at official Dion Olympus website).
At the beaches, be sure to enjoy some shellfish and fish dishes, as well as fresh fruits such as kiwi, apples, peaches, strawberries, cherries and comels but also grapes. Before you leave and since it’s their season (ie, around August), buy fresh hazelnuts, which are systematically grown in Pieria.
With this raw material, in Pieria you will find:
– Fruit spoon sweets, Jams and traditional fruit compost (Katerini and Ritini)
– Liquor, excellent wine and tsipouro from grapes and juniper berries (in Skotina) or from arbutus (in Panteleimonas)
– Traditional pasta and pasta soups, on the road from Trilofos to Upper Agios Ioannis
– Processed pork in Vria
In terms of sea-food, the area is particularly famous for white-fleshed and tasty murmurs, flatfish, mullets and breams. The mixing of fresh and salty water in the area favors the development of aqua crops and especially mussel farming, which represents approximately 90% of the total production in Greece. Pieria’s cultured mussels are known for their particularly tasty meat and freshness. They are usually eaten fried or saganaki as appetizers, smoked, salted or canned, but also cooked with rice, mussel pilaf or potatoes.
Wine & Drinks
The “Kompologoula” grape was a very special variety which came from the seeds of the wild grapes growing by the “Spring of the Muses” of Olympus, and was one of the very first vines cultivated by man. In the history of European wine, that from Northern Greece was the oldest and the most expensive. The Olympus vineyards of Orpheus have maintained this tradition of quality to the present day, and are among the best wines in Europe.
Nowadays, many vineyards in Pieria produce wine of excellent quality. Pieria is part of the Wine Route of the Olympian Gods, one of the routes of the Wine Routes of Northern Greece. Since 2008 the Pieria vineyard has been producing PGE Pieria wines (Local Wine of Pieria).
Accomodation / Hotels
Hundrends of Hotels and Rooms to Rent are available in Pieria, providing all types and levels of hospitality.
For a range choices of hotels, please visit the Members list of the Pieria Hoteliers Association, our official patner in the area of Pieria, participating in our Project “Local and Branded“, promoting the innovative Greek.food.tour certification mark
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