The pinnacle of the Greek gods: how to conquer Olympus
Would you rather conquer all of Greek Mount Olympus – all three of its most prominent points at once? The altitude ranges from 2905 to 2917 meters above sea level. Certainly not Mount Everest, but you can see ethereal beauty from above! There is a reason why the gods lived on Olympus. You have to choose the route – a simple, medium difficulty or for the most experienced.
Olympus is not just the highest and most divine peak of Greece! This place is rich in flora. On the slopes there are 1700 species of plants, more than 20 of which are unique. And what a fauna there! The mountain is fond of 100 species of birds, 18 species of reptiles and 30 species of mammals. It is no coincidence that Mount Olympus and its surroundings became a national reserve of Greece in 1938.
Olympus is located 263 km from Athens. From Thessaloniki is a quicker way, only 78 km. The trip will appeal to lovers of outdoor activities. Here you can go canyoning, rafting, and rock climbing. Local organizers of jeep safaris, as well as mountain biking tours. Naturally, the tourist must be in good physical shape.
Mountain climbing, of course, occupies a special place in the list of “entertainment”. You will be offered to conquer the trails of varying difficulty level. Olympus has more than four dozen peaks, but the most famous and highest are Mitikas (2917 meters above sea level), Scolio (2912 meters) and Stefani (2905 meters).
Photo: by Antonis
Litochoro – Golna – Kastana spring – Litochoro. The nearest town to the reserve is Litochoro. However, it can hardly be called a town: no more than 7000 people live in small houses. You can easily get to Litochoro by car or train. Lodging options abound here! In addition, the accommodation is good and inexpensive. Litochoro is the starting point for day trips, excursions around Olympus and to the peaks. One of the easiest routes is as follows: follow the signs to the church of Agios Ionis, then turn right to the temple of Elijah the Prophet. It is considered to be the highest in the Balkans: 2800 meters above sea level! However, you don’t have to climb that high. You can walk a small part of the road (it takes about an hour), and you will have a view of the beautiful gorge of Enipea. Next, head northwest on the trail that climbs to the E4 road. This path connects Litochoro with the village of Prionia. The round trip will take about four hours. You will reach an altitude of 960 meters.
The town of Litochoro. Photo: shutterstock
Prionia – Agio Spilleo – Monastery of St. Dionysius. Park your car in the village of Prionia. And go ahead, on the E4 road leading to Litochoro. Your destination is the monastery of St. Dionysios. Follow the signs and you will see the ancient monastery, built back in 1542. A few minutes away, the waterfalls of the Enipei Gorge are overflowing. It’s an inspiring sight! Take in the sights, walk across the wooden bridge over the canyon, and return to the E4. Soon you will reach Agio Spilleo, the place where St. Dionysius lived. The result is a two-hour walk through the holy sites and an ascent of 1,100 meters.
Krevatia Vrontus – Papa Aloni – Agia Triada. The route resembles a roller coaster: you have to go down, up, then down again and up again. The highest climb will be 950 meters, and below 400 meters you will not go down. The start is Krevatia refuge (Vrontu area, 900 meters above sea level). Here you can spend the night and refresh yourself. Then follow the old path to the monastery of Agia Triada. You will find complete tranquility: unspoilt nature, forest coolness and the murmuring of water. Then there is a river; cross it, and come to a fork in the road. Here you have to take the left turnoff and walk along it for 40 minutes until you reach the Papa Aloni Pass.
The trails are of medium difficulty.
Lithohoro – Prionia. The road from point A to point B takes five hours, provided that you start the ascent from Milli (400 meters). Prionia is located almost four times higher, at an altitude of 1100 meters. The E4 route with signs will help you. A special feature is the numerous wooden bridges over the Enipei Gorge. Passing Agio Spilleo, you reach the cloister of St. Dionysius. Be sure to look at the waterfalls of the Enipeia (we mentioned them when describing the route Prionia – Agio Spilleo – the monastery of St. Dionysius). In words, it’s easy. But it will take stamina to conquer the seemingly endless descents and ascents. The reward will be the beauty of Mount Olympus: steep slopes, crystal clear springs, extraordinary vegetation.
Photo: shutterstock Photo: shutterstock
Gorzia – Petrostruga – Plateau of the Muses. If you have already traveled the Litochoro – Prionia route, it will be a little easier to orient yourself. At kilometer 14, on the right side of the road, you will see a narrow path. You can come here by car and leave it on a special parking. From here you can walk on foot. You will have to walk for at least six hours, and maybe more! The road will lead you to the plateau of Muses and to two shelters, “Christos Kokkalos” and “Yossos Apostolidis”. The second is located at an altitude of 2700 meters, the first – 50 meters below. Before hiking stock up on drinking water, as there are no springs along the way. The starting point is the Barbas Plateau. From there you walk to the reservoir through the beech forest. Then you get to Petrostruga, where there are centuries-old white pines. Step by step, you will reach (or crawl through) the top of Skurt: 2,485 meters! It won’t be easy to walk along the narrow ridge, but the winding path takes you to the famous Moose plateau. There the road splits. The left path is to the refuge of “Christos Kakkalos”, the right path is to “Yossos Apostolidis”. To get to them on foot, you need to spend 30-40 minutes. Then, if you have the strength, walk from the shelter “Christos Kakkalos” to the peak of Tumba (2801 meters). And closer to the refuge “Yossos Apostolidis” is the peak of Profitis Ilias (2803 meters).
Photo: by Voreas
Sanctuary “Spilios Agapitos” – Rock – Mytikas. Recall that it is Mytikas – the main summit of Mount Olympus (2917 meters). The starting point is Sanctuary C, or “Spilios Agapitos. This, by the way, is 2100 meters. According to the calculations of experienced climbers, it takes three hours to conquer the top. Walk up to the right turn onto the Zonaria trail. Continue to the fork in the road leading to the monastery of Agios Antonios. Stop at the top of Skala (2866m). Mytikas is very close!
Difficult and dangerous trails
Xerolakki – Naum Creek – Moose Plateau. By car you can drive along the forest road of Petra-Kokkinoplu. At the 5th kilometer there is a small clearing with a metal bar at the entrance. You go that way! Another 10 minutes of the way, crossing the creek Naum – and the car journey ends. Leave your car on the bank of the creek. In Kazania you will find yourself on the road. You can take the old road under the high peaks or the new trails, which are marked in yellow. The latter lead to Mount Portes (2700 meters). The route is very difficult and dangerous! It requires special training.
Photo: shutterstock Photo: by_Chris Firth
Plateau Moose Peak. The starting points are the shelters “Christos Kokkalos” or “Yossos Apostolidis”. You need to take the trail that leads to the summits of Portes and Stephani. The isthmus offers a view of Mytikas. The red arrows are clues: they will take you to Mytikas in 30-40 minutes.
How we climbed Olympus
A photo story about our ascent of the enchanting Moose Plateau on Mount Olympus in Greece.
By that point, we had already been traveling around Greece for three weeks. Athens and Crete were behind us, and ahead of us was the most interesting part – the hike to Olympus.
We loved hiking in the mountains, so I was excited. The highest peak of Greece was waiting for us. And not just any peak, and the legend! The name of this mountain is known to everyone from the earliest years. Hell, everyone knew about Everest and Elbrus even later than about the famous dwelling of the Greek gods headed by Zeus the Thunderer.
How could two tourists, who adore ancient culture and mountain climbing, miss such a place? Yes, I’m ready to forget about the wonderful beaches of Crete along with the delicious Greek cuisine, but certainly not give up the trip to Olympus (fortunately, I did not have to choose). So straight from Crete with Renata we fly to Thessaloniki, where we immediately take the car and without any delay drive to the foot of Mount Olympus. No, no, no, on the way we still had time to look at the magnificent royal tombs in Vergina, where Philip II, the great king of Macedonia and father of the famous Alexander has been buried. To miss such an important place is also unforgivable.
The golden casket with the ashes of King Philip II of Macedonia, which can be viewed at Vergina on the way to Olympus from Thessaloniki.
Choosing your route on Olympus
Olympus is not a mountain, but a mountain range, and it has many peaks. The highest peak is Mytikas (2917 m).
On the slopes of the mountain there are plenty of hiking routes of varying degrees of difficulty and at different altitudes: there are the easiest and shortest at the bottom, there are long and tedious at the top. Unfortunately, the ascent to the summit requires a two-day hike with an overnight stay in the mountains, and we had no such opportunity. In addition, by early November, the shelters where you can stay overnight had already closed for the winter season. Moreover, this trekking requires good boots and poles, because the way, especially at the very end, is not the easiest. We had no such good things at our disposal (we had just usual urban sneakers), so we sensibly evaluated our capabilities and chose the feasible trek to the Moose Plateau (2700 m).
When I first saw the pictures of the plateau I fell in love with it at once. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful place on Mount Olympus! There you can find not only charming and soft landscapes with alpine meadows, but also the best view of the Throne of Zeus, as they call Mitikas Peak. It is so close that it seems that you can reach it with your hand, but the distances in the mountains are always deceptive and the trails are winding, so that the way to the summit, which is only 200 meters above the plateau, would take another hour.
So, I chose the route to the Moose Plateau as the most interesting, moderately difficult, but still affordable for a day hike without equipment. We had to walk 24 km and gain 1600 meters of elevation (from 1100 to 2700 m).
You can go to Olympus with this excursion from Thessaloniki, it has the best reviews and rating on Tripster. Of course, the ascent will not be, but the guide will show all the interesting places at the foot of Mount Olympus, will tell about the gods, ancient and modern Greece. There is also another tour.
By the way, I should note that the climb to Mytikas Peak and the descent down seems to be possible even in one day (I met this report on the network). You need good physical training, experience, correct footwear and ability to keep up the ascent at a fast pace. In summer it is easier to make such ascent because the daylight hours are longer. We climbed on November 8, when daylight length would not be enough. Although, a couple of well-equipped Europeans set off with us at dawn. They overtook us quickly, and their confident pace told me that the guys were aiming for the summit. We didn’t see them again; therefore they definitely went somewhere else, not to the plateau.
The night before we arrived in the town of Lithohoro, nestled at the foot of Olympus at 300 meters above sea level. We rented for three nights a cozy apartment for 45 € per night, with a balcony overlooking the main summit of the mountain of the gods. First of all we asked the host about the route and got a lot of valuable information, and then we hurried to the big supermarket to stock up on provisions for the upcoming ascent. We got water, coke, sweet tea, bananas, chocolate, cookies, eggs, cucumbers and lots of cashew nuts and almonds. We ate dinner, did laundry, packed our backpacks, charged all the batteries for the camera and went to bed in anticipation of tomorrow.
View to Litochoro and Mount Olympus. Photo: E.asphyx / wikipedia.org / CC BY 3.0.
Up at 4am, breakfast, coffee, packing and leaving the house. We start and warm up the car, get out and start climbing the winding road leading to the beginning of the hiking trail. We left the house in the dark, and when it started to get light, we found that we were already above the clouds. For the sake of such beauty it’s a pity not to spare a minute or two to enjoy the view.
Above the clouds.
But we can’t linger, we have to hurry up to the starting point and start climbing up, otherwise we would have to come down in the dark. We go further. The road winds through the fabulous autumnal forest, and we enjoy such beauty.
The road through the forest.
After half an hour the serpentines brought us to the Prion parking lot at 1100m. In the summer season there is a cafe, but now it’s empty except for two good-natured dogs the size of teenage bears. We leave our car in the parking lot. The rest is on foot.
It’s 7:15 on the clock. Let’s start climbing!
Back and forth.
First two or three kilometers we walked by rustling with fallen foliage, which was covered with everything here. It was beautiful! But it was uncomfortable: dry leaves are slippery in themselves, and when the smooth stones were hidden under them it was too bad. So we, hiking on the main mountain in normal running shoes, had to be alert and weigh every step. However, the charm of this fall forest was more than offset by all the inconveniences. We went and enjoyed it.
We began our ascent to Olympus in a fabulous forest.
After three quarters of an hour we reached the first resting place. There was a gazebo waiting for us and the only place on the route where we could refill our water supply (keep in mind). We had a drink, a snack and went on our way.
We keep raking the thick layer of fallen leaves with our feet. Leaves everywhere!
After an hour, we reached the conifer belt. The fallen leaves were gone, the sun had risen high enough in the clear sky, and the landscape had completely changed. It got hot, and we were left with only the lightest of clothes.
A completely different forest!
In many places, good views began to emerge.
Both up … and down.
In these clouds I saw the curtain that hides the world of the gods from the world of man (and vice versa). Well, it’s curious to be on the other side. The curtain, by the way, would hold its place all day, and later, on the descent from the mountain, we would cross it again.
We had lunch, rested and went further.
At an altitude of 2100 m we met the first shelter of several buildings, where in the summer season you can stay overnight and have lunch. After the shelter there was a tricky fork where we didn’t notice our turn to the right and went straight ahead to the left. Thanks to the GPS and the map we lost our way and helped us to find the right one.
Gradually we reached an altitude where the forest was thinning.
The height was around 2300 meters.
Then there were only stones and stunted grass. At one point we had to walk along a very narrow path winding up along the perimeter of a stony slope.
The path can be seen in the upper left corner.
The gaping chasm below and the chamois (wild goats) galloping nervously above added a pinch of spice to the passage. These not endowed with much intelligence animals, flustered by our appearance and rushing about in a frantic indecision, now and then rocks jumped out from under the hooves – just time to dodge.
We climbed higher and higher.
At the top, an unexpectedly cold wind hit us in the face. I recognized it at once: only thin air can be so clear and light, gliding over the glaciers and snow-covered mountain peaks. A few more steps, and the source of this cold is revealed to my eyes – the icy bulk of the three hundred meters high Throne of Zeus. It is monumental and gloomy. Very appropriate for the thunderer Cronidus.
Tiny Renata and the huge Throne of Zeus.
And after six hours we pass the last dozens of meters of elevation, take the height of 2700 meters and we are at the goal.
We are on the Moose Plateau!
Hooray! The gentle lines of the landscape on the Moose Plateau contrast strongly with everything we have seen before on Olympus. In some places there is snow. But the sun is shining brightly.
After enjoying and watching, we sit down for lunch. Definitely, such delicious “Snickers”, nuts and bananas you can not eat anywhere but in the mountains.
On the plateau we spent only an hour, which flew by during lunch and rest. I wanted to stay longer, but it was time to start the descent, because it would be dark in three hours, and it would take at least four hours to get back in our slippery shoes and without poles. It was obvious that we would have to walk in the dark through the forest for at least an hour, and we didn’t want to lengthen that period at all.
We began the trek back. A keepsake photo next to the throne of the Mighty Man. And we went down.
And then we began to rewind – Throne of Zeus, path on the slope, chamois, stones, return to the forest, first coniferous, then deciduous. Just there, at the border of the two forests, we were caught by sunset. And twenty minutes later the last patches of gray light melted and we turned on the flashlight.
The night forest was enchanting in its silence. There was no breeze, no creaking of trees, no flapping of wings, no chirping of insects-absolutely nothing but cautious footsteps and the rustling of leaves underfoot. Olympus saw us off in silence.
For an hour we wandered through the silence of the night forest. Mysterious shadows flickered in the periphery of our vision, and a bottomless starry sky stretched over our heads, dotted with innumerable scatterings of lights, some of which fell from time to time. For the sake of such a sky it was definitely worth lingering in the mountains until dark.
As a result, we hobbled to the car on unbending legs, admired the stars for a minute, and began a half-hour descent from Mount Olympus back to the world of people.
What I liked most about the hike to Olympus was the vivid change in scenery and atmosphere. It made it such a multifaceted, layered experience. First we crossed the boundary of clouds, leaving the human world far below, behind a solid veil of white clouds of vapor, then we drove and walked through a magical autumn forest, as if illustrating a fairy tale, then we walked along the green coniferous belt of Olympus, which also varied depending on the altitude, Then we climbed the stony slopes between the abyss and the frolicking wild goats, whose hooves constantly dropped rocks, and then we finally reached the alpine meadows of the plateau of Muses, where in some places, though still uncertainly, nestled the snowfields, and above us was a huge frozen Throne of Zeus, which reeked of scalding cold a mile away. But at the same time, the sun above our heads in the rich blue mountain sky sparkled with white light, not November’s searing sun. And after all that, we crossed those belts again on the descent back. On top of everything else, a night walk in the woods and a starry sky awaited us at the end of the trip. That’s how much one day at Olympus can offer. I think it’s pretty generous.
It was also a great fortune to spend the entire day in the mountains without crossing paths with other hikers. We had Olympus all to ourselves and enjoyed the gift. In the summer, you can’t even dream of such an experience.
We were lucky with the weather, too – the conditions for the ascent were ideal. But if that day or the day before had even light rainfall, the hike would have been abandoned.
I should mention that on that day we broke our previous maximum altitude record in one-day ascents. Earlier we had climbed Marapi Volcano in Sumatra from 1500 to 3000 meters.
Wonderful mountain, great hike, perfect day!