Thessaly has the largest plain in Greece, a densely cultivated area ringed round by the Pindus, Othrys, Pelion, Ossa, Olympus, and Agrapha mountain ranges. The River Penios meanders across the plain, and to the north, it falls through the celebrated Tempi gorge, a narrow pass above which tower the steep slopes of Mt Olympus and Mt Ossa.
Archaeological excavations in this region have disclosed that Thessaly was inhabited 100.000 years ago. Remains of later periods, the Old Stone Age and New Stone Age, have been unearthed at Sesklo, Dimini, Iolkos, and elsewhere in the region. More than 100 prehistoric settlements were discovered in Thessaly.
The inhabitants ( 3000-1100 B.C. ) were called Aiolians, Aimones, Minyes, Boeotians, Achaioi, Hellenes, Myrmidons, etc. The region of the plain was divided into four districts called Pelasgiotis, Thessaliotis, Estiaiotis, and Phihiotis. There were also mountainous districts like Perraivia, Dolopia, and Magnesia.
During the Classic period, Thessaly tried to be independent of the alliances of other Greek states. It is characteristic that during the Peloponnesian war most of the Thessalian cities became rich by selling agricultural products and horses to the Athenians and Spartans too.
In 352 the king of Macedonia, Philip II, occupied Thessaly. In 197 B.C. the region became a district of the Roman state.
During the Byzantine period, Thessaly was a separate district and suffered the invasions of barbarians. After the occupation of Constantinople by the Franks, the area was divided into fiefdoms ruled by the nobles.
In 1230 it was liberated by the Master of Epirus Theodore. In 1309 it was occupied and ruined by the Catalans and later by the Albanians. In the 14th century, Thessaly became a province of the Servians. From the 14th century, the Turks tried to occupy it, finally succeeding in 1420.
The liberation of Thessaly from the Turks was effected in 1881 except the province of Elassona which was eventually united in 1912.
This mythical mountain, the site of the Palaces of the twelve ancient gods of Greek mythology, is situated in the northeast of Thessaly. It forms a natural barrier on the road to southern Greece and has been a mountain of great strategic importance from prehistoric times.
Olympus has many towering peaks and imposing gorges. Its slopes offer a fantastic area, suitable for winter sports.
From January to mid-March there is usually snow in abundance at an altitude of 1,500 meters. Many times, during the same period, skiing is possible and pleasant at an altitude of 1,000 meters. The skiers usually approach from the west, via Elassona, the so-called Lower Olympus, while the mountaineers reach Upper Olympus from the east, via Litochoro.
Meteora is a strange region filled with outcrops of giant rocks in the form of towers and pinnacles, ranging in height from 100 to 150 meters. Once a flourishing monastic community with 24 monasteries,
Meteora now has only five occupied monasteries. They were first built in the 14th century by monks seeking isolation and spiritual salvation. The most remarkable features of the monasteries are their domed roofs, wooden galleries, and their upper stories which project precariously over the ladders and net hoists. Today they can be reached without effort along an asphalt road or by narrow stony paths hewn out of the rocks.
Of the monasteries that are open to visitors today those of Varlaam, Metamorphosis, Roussanos and Aghios Stephanos are veritable Byzantine museums exhibiting among other things superb icons, old manuscripts, and unique mosaics and frescoes.