Mount Olympus


For the tourist to Greece, there are many beautiful attractions but very few can beat the magnificence of Mount Olympus

Mighty Mount Olympus was the heavenly home of the gods in ancient times and still inspires thousands of visitors who flock here from all over the world to tackle the tough trek to the highest peak in Greece. The entire area was declared Greece’s first national park in 1937 and consists of eight peaks including the “Throne of Zeus” at 2909 metres and Mytikas which has the highest summit at 2919 metres. You don’t need any special climbing experience to take on Olympus but you do need to be fit, properly equipped and have a good head for heights!

Not just an abode of gods, Greece Mount Olympus is the venue for lighting the Olympic flame every four years. Olympic torch relay, which began with 1936 Berlin Olympics, is initiated at the Temple of Hera in Olympia. Priestesses clad in white gowns light the Olympic torch by reflecting the sun rays with the help of a parabolic mirror. The torch thereafter is relayed through the participating countries before finally reaching the host city. This flame stays burning till the end of the Olympic Games.

The park is located 100 kilometres to the south west of Thessaloniki. The main base for hikers is the village of Lithoro, on the eastern border of the park. Regular bus services connect the village with Athens and Thessaloniki and there’s a train station nine kilometres outside Lithoro. Most Greek travel agents arrange excursions to Mt Olympus with accommodation included (a hotel bed in Lithoro and a basic bunk in the mountain refuges that provide welcome overnight pit stops for hikers). Climbing Olympus has become such a major attraction that if you pitch up without a reservation in July or August you may have difficulty finding a bed for the night.

Once you take to the mountain trails you’ll quickly realise why the ancients believed this was the sacred home of Zeus, the king of the gods, his wife Hera, brothers Poseidon and Hades, sisters Demeter and Hestia and children (Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Athena, Hermes and Hephaestus). This magnificent mountain range is home to around 1700 plant species, many of which are unique to Olympus. The mountainsides are cloaked in dense forests of pine, beech, oak and cedar trees which harbour various wildlife including wolves, bears and lynx. The slopes are buried beneath two metres of snow in winter and only accessible to the most experienced climbers – even in July the snow lurks in shadowed corners and crevices.

Attracting many thousands of visitors throughout the year, Mount Olympus is one of the most sought after attractions of Greece for many reasons. This majestic of mountains, Olympus not only lures the intrepid climber, keen to tackle or even conquer, the highest peak in Greece, it has a magical pull for those seeking to sense the ambience, redolent of the ancient Gods of Greece and share their ancient religion.

There is an abundance of flora and fauna to tempt the visitor to this unique area of Greece. Cloaked in dense forest of pine, oak, beech and cedar trees, Mount Olympus has over a thousand different species of plant, some of which are unique to this part of Greece and for those travelling the ancient paths, watch out for the wolves, bears and lynx who inhabit this lovely Park.

For the keen hiker, there are exciting treks from one mountain village to another where they will find a warm welcome and their hunger can be assuaged when tasting the wonderful cuisine of Greece in this traditional area in Olympus.

When visiting Mount Olympus it is essential for the energetic traveller to head for the mysterious area of Zagoria where they can climb to the highest village and see amazing stone arches and bridges dating back to distant Centuries denoting their long and ever developing history of Greece.

Ordinary mortals shouldn’t attempt to reach any of the peaks outside the months of June to October and even then poor weather conditions can make hiking extremely hazardous. But in good weather and armed with a strong constitution, sturdy walking boots, high protection sun cream, snacks and water you’ll be able to conquer Mytikas with a couple of days of hard hiking. Many young backpackers and super-fit types dash up and down in a day but you really need at least two or three days to take in the full beauty of the mountain range.  You can hike along a number of alternative trails all of which are attractive. An estimated variety of 32 mammal species, 102 bird species, and 23 plant species can be viewed in Mount Olympus.

Along your trek have traditional Greek food and wine in the forested villages. It is an everlasting experience. From the summit the sight of azure blue Aegean Sea will leave you hypnotized. Be in this place in August when the Olympus Festival is held. You will be awed by theatrical performances in the restored ancient theatre.

Visit the EOS (Greek Alpine Club) office in Lithoro for details of trails, mountain refuge reservations and advice about weather conditions.

While you’re in the area take the time to visit ancient Dion at the foot of Mt Olympus, just north of Lithoro. New discoveries are still being made at this fascinating archaeological site where sacred sanctuaries of the gods, superb mosaics, an ancient theatre and a vast public bath complex have been uncovered. Musical and theatrical performances are held in the restored theatre every August during the Festival of Olympus.

Litochoro is a town and municipality located in the southern part of the prefecture of Pieria at the base of Mount Olympus. The town is about 90 km from Thessaloniki, on the western shore of the Thermaic Gulf. The first recorded mention of Litochoro is in an account of a visit by Saint Dionysus to Mount Olympus. The town is a popular destination for those wishing to climb Mount Olympus as almost all climbing routes begin to the southwest of the town.

Litochoro is located 22 km S of Katerini, 90 km SSW of Thessaloniki, 58 km N of Larissa and 420 km WNW of Athens, on the eastern slopes of Mount Olympus, of mythological fame as the home of the twelve gods of Olympus. Pine, cedar and fir trees of the forests of Mount Olympus lie to the southwest and northwest. Much of the land around Litochoro, in particular to the South, remains uncultivated. Farmland is predominant to the North. Litochoro has several restaurants and cafeterias.

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