Mount Olympus, called “Olympos” by the Greeks, at 2917 meters above sea level is the highest mountain in the country and is a place with a truly unique and fascinating history. Since the time of the ancient Greeks, in fact, Mount Olympos was considered the“sacred mountain of the gods” and was a territory not accessible to human beings. This mountain, however, is linked not only to ancient Greece but also to the figure of Alexander the Great, who often visited the city of Dion at the foot of Olympus. Over the centuries this massif has inspired myths and legends and bewitched writers, poets, rulers and soldiers. Now let this land captivate you too and give yourself the thrill of a visit to the legendary Mount Olympus.
The Mount rises in an area north of Greece, between Thessaly and Macedonia, and is part of Mount Olympus National Park, which was established in 1938. Due to its great natural and cultural importance, Mount Olympus was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1981. This territory, in fact, presents itself as a site of extraordinary excellence in which the protection of the natural environment occurs in complete harmony with the social and economic development of local communities. There are numerous villages with an ancient history that have developed at the foot of Mount Olympus and have been able to preserve the appearance of yesteryear by carrying on traditions with a history dating back thousands of years.
The park covers an area of about 120 square kilometers and holds within it a truly unique floral and faunal heritage. In addition to more than 1,500 different types of plants here is a first zone of evergreen broadleaf trees (between 300 and 500 meters) to which are added beech, fir and conifer forests and the unforested high mountain grasslands. In terms of wildlife, however, more than 30 species of mammals and hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, insects and butterflies can be found.
Lovers of hiking in the midst of nature can find a wide variety of trails and routes of different lengths and difficulties here, alongside these are millennia-old archaeological sites, small towns and many sacred places.
There is a large number of churches and monasteries on Mount Olympus, some of which date back to the 11th century and are repositories of a long history. These are a popular destination not only for many praying pilgrims but also for visitors from different parts of the world.
The ancient Monastery of Agios Dionysios is actually composed of two different complexes: an older one that is located at an altitude of 830 meters, while the other that arose in the 1950s houses a brotherhood of twenty-four monks who organize many spiritual and charitable activities.
The oldest monastery is located about 17 km away from Litochoro, inside the Enipeas Gorge. The foundation of the monastery dates back to 1542 by the monk Agios Dionysios who decided to open a monastery and dedicate it to the Holy Trinity.
Unfortunately, during World War II the ancient monastery was almost completely destroyed by bombing and was then only partially rebuilt respecting its original architecture. The tomb of Agios Dionysios still stands inside the restored Catholicon of the monastery.
From the monastery starts a magnificent path surrounded by greenery that in about thirty minutes leads to the Holy Cave (Agion Spilaion) of Agios Dionysios, where there is a spring of holy water.
At an altitude of 2800 meters, Mount Olympus is home to the Church of the Prophet Eli jah, which is known to be the highest church in all of the Balkans. The religious building stands on the plateau of the Muses and was built in the 16th century by the monk Dionysius, who also founded the Holy Trinity Monastery.
The building has a very simple structure. Inside is a small altar framed by icons depicting the saints of the Orthodox Church. The view from up there is truly spectacular so it is recommended for everyone to take the scenic walk that leads up to the church.
Litochoro is a small Greek town that is nestled between Mount Olympus and the Thermaic Gulf on the Aegean Sea. Due to its location Litochoro boasts a very unique climate since a salty sea breeze blows on one side and fresh mountain air blows on the other.
The town has managed to keep its original appearance intact and is characterized by small alleys, houses built according to Macedonian architecture and artisans’ workshops.
Litochoro is considered by many to be an ideal base from which to set out to explore the Olympus area because of its location and the presence of several good accommodations.
Dion is a locality in Macedonia that lies at the eastern foot of Mount Olympus. Considered a holy city of the Macedonians since antiquity, several excavations have been carried out in Dion that have unearthed truly ancient remains. The artifacts found date in particular to the 5th century B.C. when the Macedonian civilization was led by King Archelaus.
The Archaeological Park of Dion includes the Ancient Theater, which is where performances and tragedies are still staged today, the Ancient Livitra, and the burial place of the mythical Orpheus, poet and musician of antiquity. There is also a beautiful Archaeological Museum here that preserves the many artifacts found during excavations carried out in Dion and the surrounding territories.
Not to be missed in town is a visit to Platamonas Castle, one of the most beautiful and best-preserved fortresses in Greece that dates back to the Frankish era.
Holy Monastery of the Virgin Mary Kanalon was founded by two monks, Damien and Joachim, in the 11th century. The site is located at an altitude of 820 meters near the town of Leivithra. Over time the building has undergone several renovations that have allowed it to come down to us almost intact. Now the monastery houses a women’s monastic community belonging to the Holy Metropolis of Elassona.
The Gorges of Enipeas is a beautiful natural site that can be reached by a path through the countryside. It is possible to follow a roughly 9-kilometer-long route (with over 700 meters of elevation gain) that winds within the valley of the Enipeas River. The starting point is the Prionia parking lot while the finishing point is Myloi, a locality just outside Litohoro.
The path immersed in the forest allows you to visit the Enipeas Gorge thanks in part to the crossing of several wooden bridges. Along the walk you pass the monastery of Agios Dionysios and also find a series of natural pools that have arisen from the flow of waterfalls. In these pools it is possible to bathe in cool, clear water, so don’t forget to bring your swimsuit with you.
Within Mount Olympus Park there are several hiking trails, but also scenic walks that lead to the discovery of small villages, waterfalls or ancient monasteries. Among the most beautiful but also most challenging trails is definitely the one that leads up to Mytikas Peak (2917 meters) , which is the highest peak of Mount Olympus. Usually the route is done starting from Prionia, the last village accessible by car, which is located at an altitude of 1,100 meters and from there you can reach the peak in about two or three days. This is a hike for trained people who can walk as much as 7 to 8 hours a day for several days.
A somewhat simple route that can be done in a day is the Agios Konstantinnos – Koromilia – Petrostrouga route. This route provides spectacular views starting from Agios Konstantinos and developing along the forest road from Dion to Koromilia. Halfway through the hike you pass through Kokkinos Vrachos where you will find the most beautiful waterfalls of Mount Olympus since they have a height of 18 meters. This is also for trained people since the route is approximately 9 km long but has more than 1,000 meters of positive elevation gain.
Among the easier scenic walks, on the other hand, is the one that leads to the Church of the Prophet Elijah. The starting point is the Giosos Apostolidis Refuge, and from there in about 1 km (with 150 meters of positive elevation gain) it is possible to reach the church, which is located at an altitude of 2,800 meters and offers views of truly breathtaking panoramas.
Litochoro, Athens and Thessaloniki are just some of the cities from which most people who decide to visit Mount Olympus depart. In these cases, one of the best solutions one can undertake is to avail oneself of a guided tour to discover the area. Guided tours include not only transportation to the starting point for the Mount Olympus excursion (a very important detail if you have not rented a car) but also the presence of an experienced guide who will know how to lead you to discover the main sites of interest.
The car (or the private bus organized by tour operators) is definitely the best way to get to Mount Olympus.
From Thessaloniki it takes just over an hour to reach the town of Litochoro, which is located right at the foot of the mountain. The destination is reached by traveling first along the A1 then along the E75 to the Litochoro/Dion exit. From Athens, on the other hand, it takes approximately four and a half hours to reach the resort by traveling along the E75 as well.
Those who want to travel by public transportation from Thessaloniki can take the train that takes just over an hour to Litochoro; while from Athens it takes approximately four hours to get to Litochoro and it is necessary to change trains in Larissa.
The nearest airport is Thessaloniki, which is approximately 110 km from Litochoro.
The choice of where to stay to visit Mount Olympus is really relevant to avoid losing too much time in travel. Thessaloniki is one of the most popular starting cities for those who want to visit the mountain. This is a location not too far from Mount Olympus that boasts many accommodations of different types, so it is easy to find accommodation that suits your needs.
Alternatively, it is also possible to stay in Litochoro, a small town that lies at the foot of Mount Olympus where accommodation and restaurants can be found.
For those who want to reach the top of the Mount, sleeping accommodations are available in Refuges along the route, but it is always best to book a place in advance.
Mount Olympus, in Greek “Ὄλυμπος,” was considered since the ancient Greeks to be the abode of the gods so much so that it was thought that on its summit was placed the throne of Zeus who was known as “the Lord of Olympus.” It seems that it was the writer Homer who was the first to identify Olympus in his writings as the “home of the twelve Olympian gods.” Its summit was, thousands of years ago as it still is today, continually encircled by clouds that were said to conceal the luxurious dwellings of the god s built by Hephaestus, god of earthly fire.
According to legend Zeus, after ousting his father Cronus and winning the fight over the Titans and Giants, established a new divine order by dividing the world with his other two brothers, Poseidon and Hades. This decision resulted in Zeus becoming god of the sky, Poseidon god of the sea, and Hades god of the underworld.
According to the various accounts that have come down to us, life on Olympus proceeded amidst vicissitudes and quarrels among the 12 gods, these, however, often gathered at banquets where they ate nectar and ambrosia and were cheered by the presence of the Muses. The ascent to Mount Olympus was precluded to human beings, and anyone who attempted it would be lost in the curtain of clouds surrounding the Mount and would never make it back.