Central Greece’s highest and most majestic mountain, Olympus, is a world in itself. There is much to discover even if you don’t make it to the summit: gentle paths, hidden corners, towering trees, wildflowers and unruly rocks, below and above the clouds. You can explore the foothills by car or mountain bike, but the greatest rewards will go to the hikers on these awesome peaks.
What to do in Olympus
Mytikas, 2,917m closer to heaven
Only birds (and planes) fly higher than Mytikas, the highest of Olympus’ peaks. It and the other slightly lower summits – Skolio, Stefani, Skala and Prophitis Ilias – make up this massive range, often veiled in clouds. But when they part, there is no more dazzling sight than these dramatic natural spires boldly outlined against the deep blue firmament. After all, one of the meanings of the word Olympus has, since Homer’s days, been ‘shining’.
In the realm of the gods
As Homer described the shining palace of the gods of Ancient Greece, “Olympus was not shaken by winds nor ever wet with rain, nor did snow fall upon it, but the air is outspread clear and cloudless, and over it hovered a radiant whiteness.” (Odyssey, VI, 41) This whiteness inspires present-day climbers, too. With the proper equipment (and a bit of determination), any reasonably fit person can reach the top, slowly but surely, one step at a time.
Mythical village-hopping on the slopes of Mt Olympus
National Park and a unique ecosystem
You’ll immediately understand why Olympus is the country’s first and most important national park. Ravines and ridges, gorges and plateaus, deep caves and daunting rocks make impressive snapshots. But they’re not just photogenic. This mountain hosts more than 1,500 types of plant (some endemic), dozens of animal species and many rare birds.
Climbing to the summit
Most hikers start the challenge of scaling Olympus at Prionia, 1,100m above sea level. You can come this far by car but from here on, it’s just you and your legs. The E4 path also passes this way via coastal Litochoro, along the Enipeas Gorge. It’s an average of three hours to the Spilios Agapitos refuge, maybe another three to Mytikas. But you don’t have to do it all in one day.
Hidden gems of Olympus
The Enipeas Gorge: travel to adventure
This path begins the ascent from the gorge formed by the Enipeas River, above the village of Litochoro. After about four hours of walking, you’ll come to the well-known monastery of Agios Dionysios, which has been there since the mid-15th century. With your gaze fixed on its dome, you’ll take courage and continue the climb.
Tête-à-tête with Zeus
Mythology relates that Stefani, the peak shaped like a wreath as its name implies, was where Zeus sat enthroned. Here in the heady atmosphere and rarified air of Olympus, mythology lives on. At dusk, you can just make out a male profile with a hooked nose and long hair in the fading light. Some say it’s the ruler of the gods himself.
The Mt Olympus Marathon
A modern-day marathon has revived the route of the ancient Greeks who, once a year and in honour of their beloved god Zeus, made the journey to the peaks of Mt Olympus. The marathon starts at the archaeological site of Dion, just 5m above sea level, and reaches a height of 2,780m, just below the Throne of Zeus.