You've got to hand it to the Argonauts

Peace and tranquillity reign supreme on Greece's unspoiled Pelion peninsula. No wonder you'll be hooked

Crystal blue water, a quiet quay, a solitary yacht and the village of Afissos clinging to the stubbly hillside of olive trees and oleander. Several waterside restaurants with their multi-coloured awnings ready for lunch, and yet the only activity is from the local residents seated under the shady plane trees, playing the lottery. The square is bisected by a small stream trickling down to the sea, where, as legend has it, Jason and the Argonauts quenched their thirst before setting out on their long journey to Colchis to capture the Golden Fleece.

Crystal blue water, a quiet quay, a solitary yacht and the village of Afissos clinging to the stubbly hillside of olive trees and oleander. Several waterside restaurants with their multi-coloured awnings ready for lunch, and yet the only activity is from the local residents seated under the shady plane trees, playing the lottery. The square is bisected by a small stream trickling down to the sea, where, as legend has it, Jason and the Argonauts quenched their thirst before setting out on their long journey to Colchis to capture the Golden Fleece.

The hook-like peninsula of Pelion lies in the warm waters of the Pagasitic Gulf, in north-eastern Greece and is perhaps one of the most unexploited, unspoilt and naturally beautiful areas of the country. Its secret lies in its relative inaccessibility, yet for those seeking an alternative to the hustle and bustle of the Greek islands and the Mediterranean in general, it is without a doubt worth the effort.

When to goAnytime from May to October, when the restaurants and bars are relatively empty. The temperature does rise well into the 90s in July and August, tapering off to the comfortable 80s in September. June and September or October would be warm enough without the extremely stifling heat, and those months would be best suited to those who are after a truly peaceful Hellenic haven.

Getting thereUnless you are on a charter flight or package tour (see below) there are no direct flights to Pelion. An alternative is to fly from either Manchester or London Gatwick to Skiathos. Unijet (tel: 0990 114114) and Caledonian (tel: 01293 535353) offer tickets to Skiathos from £210. Then you can take the Pelion hydrofoil, which runs from mid-June to mid-September.

The hydrofoil stops at Platania, Agia Kiriaki and Palaio Trikeri island (approx 50 minutes) and then continues to Volos, (one hour, 15 minutes) the fourth-largest city in Greece. Reservations for the hydrofoil can be made at the main booking office of Minoan Flying Dolphins (tel: 0030 428 0001).

Where to stayThe Lost Unicorn in Tsangaradha (tel: 0030 426 49930) is a pension with a difference. The proprietor is an English woman who has imported all her English antiques. Enjoy spectacular views over the Aegean while sitting in a chintzy three-piece suite last seen in Surrey. Double rooms from £60 per night with breakfast, £50 without.

Katia Hotel in Afissos (tel: 0030 423 33297/33423) is situated at the foot of Mount Pelion, the perfect base from which to explore the mountain, home of the centaurs. Double rooms from £33.

Hotel Agamemnon in Argalasti (tel: 0030 423 54557) is a traditional Pelion mansion situated in the centre of Argalasti behind the church. Built in 1883 and renovated in 1998 it houses 12 rooms decorated in rustic style, but includes mod-cons such as a swimming pool and fancy restaurant. Double rooms from £30.

Holiday apartments throughout the area are available from Milina Holidays (tel: 0030 423 65020).

What to see and doThe whole peninsula is only 95 km, from Volos to Agia Kiriaki at the tip. It is therefore quite possible to explore the whole area. Auto Europe (tel: 0030 421 23722) has weekly car hire from £95.

From the 12th century Pelion emerged as a monastic haven with vertiginous monasteries around which new settlements grew. Makrinitsa, high up in the mountains in the north of Pelion and Afissos, Lafkos, Trikeri, Agia Kiriaki and the island of Palaio Trikeri in the south are particularly beautiful and remain, architecturally at least, more or less unchanged since the beginning of the century. Palaio Trikeri has a monastery just 10 minutes' walk from the quay.

The Archaeological Museum in Volos, built in 1909, houses an exceptionally interesting and rich collection of artefacts from the Stone Age through to the Hellenistic period. The Folk Museum Kitsos Makris is also worth a visit with Byzantine icons, wood engravings and pottery.

For outdoor activities try horse riding, available in Argalasti at Kentavros Farm (tel: 0030 423 5411131). Horse trekking across Pelion can be arranged from £15. Water sports, such as diving and sea kayaking, are available from Les Hirondelles in Volos (tel: 0030 421 32171). They also arrange walking/trekking and mountain biking.

Yacht charters are available from Sunsail at Milina Base. Call Sunsail in Portsmouth for details (tel: 01705 222 222). Yachts can be hired on a daily or weekly basis, but previous experience of sailing is required. Swimming in the warm, crystal-clear, blue water is a must, and possible from the many beaches that fringe both the Aegean and Pagasitic coasts.

Food and drinkProvided you like Greek food, dining out in Greece is unbelievably cheap. On average lunch, with a plate of tsatsiki (Greek yoghurt with cucumbers and garlic) and one or two other shared hors d'oeuvres, along with a main course, drinks and coffee amounts to the princely sum of £5. For dinner in the evening, add on a few beers and wine and the total rises to about £8 per person.

Stathis, on Milina waterfront, offers traditional Greek cooking with a wide variety of dishes that includes calamari and other seafood. The owner is guaranteed to invite you into his kitchen to pick your own food. Favio's at Milina Base is a little more upmarket and specialises in fish and more international food.

Sokaki in Argalasti is a traditional Greek taverna with the added bonus of good live music. Situated just behind the square, this is Greek cooking at its best.

Skala on the island of Palaio Trikeri is the ideal place for lunch, particularly if you have just sailed in. The owner, Costas, who bears a sharp resemblance to the character of the same name in Shirley Valentine, will readily help moor any boat or will come out in his dinghy to ferry you to the restaurant. He does not generally bother with the menu, but just tells you what he has that day.

Casablanca in Horto is a café/snack bar with the most wonderful decor, a mixture of Moroccan, French and Greek design. It also has a balcony overlooking the bay and a secluded garden to escape the heat of the midday sun. The food is limited to snacks - salads, quiche, sandwiches and desserts - but the setting makes it well worth the visit.

Night lifeSurprisingly enough in this quiet haven there are two nightclubs within the vicinity of Horto. The Reverly in Horto is open to anyone who enjoys loud music and a young crowd. Music changes to suit clients' taste, plus there's free entrance and cheap drinks. Casas in Milina is very similar, with equally loud music and late drinks. The Cuckoo's Port is a bar on the Milina waterfront with a relaxed atmosphere and good music - an ideal place to watch the sunset.

Out of townThere are many excursions around Pelion which cover the northern area around Makrinitsa and Tsangaradha, but also trips out to the Sporades, the islands of Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonnisos. These can be arranged through Milina Holidays, but unless you have unlimited time to spend exploring, Pelion is by far the best option. The islands, and Skiathos in particular, tend to be very busy, even off-peak.

Deals and packagesThere are very few deals and packages, which is the reason why the area has remained unspoilt and undeveloped. Only charters can use the military airfield at Volos on Sundays. The main choice is to go with Sunsail or Sunvil via Skiathos. Nine days in May at the Leda resort, with Sunsail (tel: 01705 222 222) half-board, including flights, transfers and unlimited use of all sailing equipment is £385 per person, based on two sharing.

Sunvil Holidays (tel: 020-8568 4499) has one-week packages in May based on two sharing at the Captain George Hotel for £390 per person, including breakfast, return flights and transfers. Sunvil also has a self-catering package at Catarina's Cottage at £478 per person, per week, including car hire.

Further informationA complete Pelion tourist guide is available on the internet at www.oceanisgr.com. This offers a comprehensive account of the Pelion area, including hotels, apartments, restaurants, excursions, museums, car hire and yacht charters. For other information, contact the Greek Tourist Office in London (tel: 020-7734 5997).

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