The best thing about Pieria is the variety of options it offers its visitors. I can be drinking an ouzo and nibbling on mussels on the waterfront one minute, and in a flash I can find myself sipping tsipouro and getting carnivorous in a traditional mountain villages such as Paleos Panteleimonas. My choice here is usually Taverna Olympos, who also do great things with wild boar.
When I feel like swimming, I head for Neoi Pori Beach with its golden sands or to Platamonas, in the shade of a medieval castle. To stay cool in the afternoon, I might move inland to the foothills of Mt Olympos for bracing dips in the mountain pools in Orlias Gorge.
On the other hand, I could rent a bike in the Pieria Mountains and ride through the forests there. One morning might find me wandering the sacred sites of Macedonia like Dion, with the ancient city and its archaeological museum, while the evening could include a search for cormorants or herons on the waters of the Aliakmon River, whose wetlands are home to a variety of migratory birds. At bird blinds or on the trails in Nea Agathoupoli, you might spot some rare feathered guests.
As for places to eat, this year undoubtedly belongs to the beach-bar restaurant Mandala Seaside Luxury on Katerini Beach. Chef Tasos Albanis and his team, recently arrived from Mykonos, oversee a fusion kitchen with Nikkei influences, and operate an exceptional sushi bar. Here you can start your morning sunbathing on the comfortable loungers or coffee by the pool, and stay into the evening to enjoy seabass with black risotto, lobster sauce and vegetables.
A classic mainstay of the culinary scene, the restaurant Apolafsi near the municipal park in Katerini offers delicious creations from chef Kostis Aïvazoglou, whose excellent network of local producers is reflected in his dishes. If you prefer seafood, at Makrygialos you’ll find the seafood taverna Akrogiali, which serves fresh mussels and other shellfish, juicy shrimp and well-cooked whole fish on a corner terrace by the sea.
There’s great wine to be had in Pieria, too. At Kolindros, in the foothills of the Pieria Mountains where the nine muses were once worshipped, at an elevation of around 450 meters, oenologists Pavlos Argyropoulos and Andreas Pantos have revived the 15-hectare vineyard of Aghios Dionysios Monastery. At the Pieria Erateini Estate, in addition to tasting wines which blend imported and domestic grape varieties – such as Efhes Erateines, which is a blend of Assyrtiko, Malagousia and Chardonnay – you can enjoy unforgettable dinners served in the vineyard. The Chrisostomou Estate at Kitros is also worth a visit, and you can combine a stop here with a stroll through Ancient Pydna.