Little Swallows

Pinakates, Pelion, Greece Book from

High in the profusely green hills of the Pelion peninsula, a stunningly restored village mansion with 9 rooms, a pool and a separate studio
The mountainous peninsula of Pelion is blessedly off the tourist track. Dense with deciduous woodland, lush with apple orchard, olive grove and low shrub maquis, the area is a walker's dream. It is also home to 24 well-preserved villages, some of which are listed and undergoing gentrification. Pinakates, once truly remote, still unspoiled, is our favourite.

Minutes from the cobbled market square is Ta Helidonakia: 'Little Swallows'. In 2002 it was a crumbling ruin; now, after a sympathetic restoration using traditional materials and methods, the imposing 19th-century mansion has opened its arms to guests. Each of the bedrooms is named after a Greek god and has its own decorative touches - a painted ceiling, a stone fireplace. Flemish antique beds, imported by the welcoming Belgian owners Ward and Wies, add character. On the top floor is a huge guest salon with Ottoman daybeds, magazines and WiFi. In summer, breakfast is served on a terrace with a view - all the way to the enclosed seas of the Pagasitic Gulf; for other meals, the village has a clutch of tavernas.


  • Pinakates is a beautiful conservation village with imposing Ottoman-style stone mansions and cobbled car-free lanes
  • Each bedroom has a fabulously comfy antique bed, thick walls and a multi-jet shower (apart from one, which has a tub)
  • The owners provide maps for paths and cycle rides through sun-dappled woods to sheltered beaches, linked (in summer) by a picturesque narrow-gauge train
  • One of the few mansions in Pelion with a pool - and a lovely one at that
  • Here at 600m altitude it's refreshingly cool in summer, and often cloaked in snow in winter


  • No restaurant, but simple tavernas in the village (and fabulous breakfasts at the hotel)
  • Mountainous terrain unsuitable for the unfit or infirm
  • Two buses reach the village a day: you really need a car
  • The area is rainier than the rest of Greece
  • Volos airport is open May-Sept only, while Athens and Thessaloniki are a 3-4 hour drive

Best time to go

The house is open year-round. The hills remain refreshingly cool even in high summer, though it can rain at any time. July-August are ideal, with a flurry of panayiria (saints' day festivals) offering all-night dancing and feasting on the village squares. Greek Easter is another big religious and social event that takes over even the remotest mountain village. Winter (November - March) can be surprisingly busy as Athenians flock here for weekend frolics in the snow. There is central heating and the ski station of Agriolefkes normally operates from December to March.

Our top tips

  • The hotel provides pool and beach towels, so you don't need to bring those - plus a few beach toys for little ones
  • You'll also find plenty of soap, shampoo and body lotion in the bathroom
  • If you're arriving late, ask Wies to warn the village restaurant, so that you can be sure of dinner when you get there!
  • Great for...

    Great Outdoors
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique Guesthouse
    • 9 rooms + 1 studio
    • Breakfast only; restaurants within walking distance
    • All ages welcome
    • Open all year
    • Outdoor Pool
    • Spa Treatments
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Daily Maid Service
    • Towels & Bedlinen


    Each of the simple but elegant bedrooms is named after a Greek god. We stayed in Hestia (goddess of the family, house and hearth) which has, appropriately, a fireplace - a rather handsome one at that - and two ornately carved Flemish beds. These supremely comfy beds, dating from the period in which the house was built (mid 19th-century: Pelion's 'golden age'), are the highlight of this guest house. Another well-named bedroom is Hera (wife of Zeus, she stands as a symbol of family) with a cradle suitable for a younger child. Again, the bed itself is a beauty. Above it, Artemis has a draped four-poster and a small balcony shaded by a huge plane tree. We thought this the most romantic room.

    Walls are painted white, cream, pale terracotta, soft green or canary yellow. Ceilings are timbered, and some are painted in traditional Pelion style; floors are of polished wood, softened by a rug. Aphrodite is distinguished by its elegant brass chandelier and stone fireplace. Chestnut windows are modestly dressed - perhaps just a touch of lace - and have shutters to keep out the light. Silence is total (apart from the occasional dog bark) and we slept soundly until late. Apollo's windows are in recessed arches. Duvets and bed linen are white and beautifully embroidered.

    Just one room comes with a bath (Hera's), the rest have hydromassage showers; all are nicely kitted out with thick towels, hairdryers and lotions. There's central heating throughout, in anticipation of winter (possibly snowy) stays, and a couple of the rooms are in a new annexe.

    50 metres down the lane is a simpler studio for 2-3, with a double bed, a bathroom with shower, a living area with sofa (can be used as child's bed), a wood-burner, and a pine-clad kitchenette with dining table.

    Features include:

    • Central heating
    • Cots Available
    • Fireplace
    • Phone
    • Terrace
    • Toiletries
    • Tv
    • WiFi


    This is a breakfast-only guesthouse, although afternoon snacks are available. On sunny days you eat on the terrace with the wonderful view. If the weather is cool - or if it's raining: it sometimes does here - there's a rustic-walled breakfast room in the converted stables; this also has a real fire for cosy evenings. We also liked the sitting room on the top floor with its line up of Greek windows and sweep of wooden floor. At one end is a long varnished pine table and leather armchairs for board games and cards (bring your own), at the other are low cushioned benches for lazy reading.

    Breakfasts are feasts of cheeses, yogurts, honeys and charcuterie, and promise a different platter of pastries, waffles and sweet Greek delicacies each day. We loved the fresh orange juice, local fruit, perfectly cooked eggs, and the wide choice of teas. As Ward observed: "We only do breakfast, so we try to do it well" - and boy, do they succeed.

    If you're happy with simple Greek food (lots of grills, pies and delicious vegetables), the village's tavernas will fit the bill; we enjoyed grilled sardines with green beans and aubergines at Drossia. You'll find a plane-shaded square with a string of cafés in this (and almost every) village; in neighbouring Vizitsa, Arhontiko taverna comes recommended. For fish dishes you should head for the coast: we enjoyed the simple seafood grills of Giorgos in Malaki (seasonal; tel 24280 94238), whose tables stand practically in the water, but there's plenty more choice in Kala Nera, Afissos etc.

    If you're self-catering in the studio, which has a simple kitchenette (2-ring hob/mini-oven, small fridge, sink), you'll find two groceries in the village for the basics, and a bakery. For further supplies, head for Milies (6km). Breakfast is included in the price.

    Features include:

    • Breakfast
    • Restaurants nearby


    • Wander through the cobbled village lanes admiring the imposing stone mansions, then laze on the hotel terrace with its mountain and sea views
    • Discover the area on foot: there's a fantastic hike from Pinakates across the high, beech-cloaked spine to the scattered hamlets of Tsangarada (5-6 hours, buy Cicerone's "The Mountains of Greece" for directions); and an easier one from Milies to Xourihti following the old mulepath (4 hours, follow red waymarks)
    • Drive or walk down to the sheltered beaches of the Pagasitic Gulf: Kala Nera is the nearest (10km by road, 5km by lovely path), Afissos (16km by road) is popular and sandy, with watersports; tiny Lefokastro has a peaceful bay and picturesque fish restaurant
    • The most turquoise waters are on the Aegean side - try Milopotamos with its famous rock arch, sandy Horefto below Zagora, or the magically enclosed cove of Fakistra, a short walk from the end of the road below Tsangarada
    • Visit Pelion's pretty stone-and-slate villages: Milies (6km) is touristy but worth a wander for its fabulously frescoed church, famous library and speciality cheese pies, while popular Vizitsa (3km) has impressively restored mansions, cobbled streets and a shady central square
    • From the station at Milies a narrow gauge railway takes tourists on a 2-hour trip to Ano Lehonia at weekends, chugging through olive groves and over viaducts with panoramic seaviews
    • You could rent a mountain bike from Kala Nera and explore the myriad forestry tracks, with the help of Anavasi's excellent 1:25,000 map
    • Come in winter for gentle skiing at Agriolefkes, 1 hour's drive away: 3 lifts and 3 easy/moderate runs around 1500m in altitude

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Birdwatching
    • Cycling
    • Hiking
    • Historical sites
    • Horse-riding
    • Mountain biking
    • Sailing
    • Snorkelling
    • Swimming
    • Traditional cultures
    • Wildlife
    • Windsurfing


    The owners welcome children of all ages, but it's really only suited to more adventurous kids. Beaches are beautiful and sandy, but require a short drive. Part of the attraction hereabouts is hiking; reluctant young walkers would not be happy.
    There are 2 triple rooms suitable for families, and a room with a cot, which is free. There's also a self-catering studio apartment that sleeps 3.

    Best for:

    Children (4-12 years)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Cots Available, Family Rooms

    Kid Friendly:

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