Mount Olympus

By mountainsGreece, February 2, 2018

Mount Olympus, with its 52 peaks- including Mytikas, the highest in Greece and one of Europe’s highest in terms of topographic prominence- is the ultimate destination for lovers of nature and heights. Well-preserved paths and rock-climbing routes lure the visitor and set the perfect scene for adventure. The mountains’ shelters are open from spring till autumn, while in winter you can spend the night in their antechambers or at emergency shelters. During the winter months, most hikers stay at Yosos Apostolidis’ shelter, located at an altitude of 2,700 meters.  From this point you can reach the mountains’ highest peaks, Stefani and Mytikas.

Like most mountains, Olympus has its secrets and hidden traps, and it is advisable to find out which routes are considered safest before setting foot at the mountain. Because of the milder Meditteranean climate, the snow is rarely hard on the slopes, posing a risk of serious accidents unless proper equipment is worn. Several lives have been lost on the mountain; caution must be exercised all year long, especially after rainfall.The final section before the top is a rock scramble which can be very slippery. Despite this fact, the climb is considered non-technical and the mountain is frequented by hikers of all ages.

Highest elevation
(Mytikas) 2,917 metres

Distance
419 km from Athens
90 km from Thessaloniki

Shelters
Spilios Agapitos: tel. (+30 23520) 81800 and 81329
Yiosos Apostolidis: tel. +30 2310 224710 and +30 6932 367998
Christos Kakalos: tel. +30 6937 361689
Petrostrouga: tel. +30  2310 310649, 6977 246350, 6948821513
Krevatia: tel: +30 23520 83000 and +30 6978 278548

Recommended routes
Prionia- Spilios Agapitos- Skolio peak: Leaving Litochoro behind us,  follow the signs towards Olympus and Prionia. The drive takes approximately half an hour, through a forest of deciduous and evergreen trees.  The car park is situated at the end of the road, next to a tavern; this is where one of the most frequented mountain paths begins. The route is clearly waymarked and bears no technical difficulties. A spring is located near the car park and it is a good idea to fill your bottles here,  since you will not find another spring along the way. You may, howaver, purchase bottled water at the shelter.

The first section of the trail winds through a beechwood that soon gives way to a forest of bosnian pines. You should reach the shelter in approximately 2,5 to 3 hours. From here onwards, the scenery changes- trees become gradually fewer, giving way to low vegetation and rolling stones that make walking harder. A short while after the shelter, the path divides in two. Take the left branch, towards Skolio; the right one continues to the Muses’ plateau and the other shelters (Kakalos, Apostolidis). Later on, you should come across a sign pointing the way to Skolio, while on your right you will see Zonaria and the path towards Mytikas peak. It takes about two hours and a lot of patience to reach Skolio peak, with a breathtaking view of Mytikas, Stefani and several other peaks in the east and south.

Local history
Ancient Greeks believed that the great gods lived in palaces built on the mountain’s top. Archaeological excavations have revealed signs of human presence dating from the Iron Ages and onwards, as well as several places of worship and sacrifice. Mytikas was first reached in 1913 by Christos Kakalos of nearby Litohoro village and Swiss climbers Frederic Boissonas and Daniel Baud-Bovy.

Nearby sights
The archaeological site of Dion- among the best known cities of ancient Macedonia- is situated only a few kilometers outside Litochoron. Here you will find well-preserved mosaics, statues and remains of buildings, surrounded by an almost untouched natural environment. Visiting the whole site will take you several hours on foot, but is definately worth the effort.

Ski resorts

The only ski center in the area is enclosed within a military area and cannot be accessed without special permission- obtaining it is a beaurocratic hassle and therefore not recommended. Still, this spot is the best starting point for backcountry skiers, as it offers the smoothest ascend to the higher peaks.  From here it is also possible to reach Skolio.

author – photographer: Panos Bampaloukas