Mountaineering on the abode of the Gods
Mt. Olympus’ wonderful nature of rich flora (over 1700 species, more than 20 of which endemic) and fauna (more than 30 species of mammals, 100 species of birds, 18 species of reptiles) left the modern Greeks with no choice but to proclaim it the first National Forest in 1938.
At 263 km from Athens and 78 from Thessaloniki (Greece’s second biggest city) the area is ideal for the lovers of alternative activities, ranging from trekking to paragliding, canyoning, rafting, climbing, mountain-biking and jeep safari. But you don’t have to go extreme to have your personal Olympian moments. Mountaineering on Olympus is not only a divine experience but also an option covering all levels of difficulty and stamina.
Here are some of the most beautiful trails:
1. Easy trails:
• Litóhoro – Golna – Castana source – Litóhoro
The nearest town of substance and home to 7.000 people, Litóhoro is the starting point for day trips and tours around the area and on the mountain. Very easily accessible by car or train, this cute little town with the traditional houses with gable roofs and wooden gates offers inexpensive and good accommodation. Follow the signs to reach the church of Aghios Yoannis (Saint John) and then turn right heading to the church of Profeetees Eleas (Prophet Elias) which happens to be the highest shrine in the Balkans (at 2.800 metres) and it was first built by St. Dionysus himself in the 16th century. Relax! You are not going as high as that. Just at an hour walk from the turn you’ll be at the area of Golna where you will be able to marvel at the sight of peaks and of the gorge of Enipeas. Go on NW on a trail which climbs down to the E4 path, connecting Litóhoro to Prionia. When you are back in town you will have walked for approximately 4 hours, you will have been up to 960 m, and you will have crossed a part of the Ennipeas gorge.
• Prionia – Aghio Spilleo – Monastery of St. Dionysus
Leave your car at Prionia and start walking down the E4 path towards Litóhoro. Turn right at the hut after the glades and before the old St. Dionysus monastery. You are just minutes away from the waterfalls of Enipeas. Breathe in the serenity and return to the E4 path by crossing Enipeas gorge through a wooden bridge. Before long you’ll find the Aghio Spilleo. Tradition has it that St. Dionysus spent his days of asceticism here. At the completion of your two-hour walk you will have been up to 1100 m and you will have visited some of the most important historical and religious sites of the mountain.
• Krevatia Vrontous – Papa Aloni – Aghia Triada
Despite the alternation of ups and downs, this walk won’t take you higher than 950 m and lower than 400 m, thus being easy to take in the winter too. Start off at the refuge “Krevatia” in the area of Vrontou (950 m). Walk the old path on the descent to Aghia Triada surrounded by the freshness of the forest, and let the gurgle of water exhilarate your ears. Five minutes after you have crossed the river, there will be a fork. Take the path on the left and walk for another 40 minutes to reach the Papa Aloni site. When you go back to the fork you’ll take the other path to get to Aghia Triada. But you can opt for a detour: at 30 minutes after the fork you’ll see an old path on your left. Make sure to discern it and follow it for a matter of 20 minutes if you want to get to the waterfalls. Take a short break before going back to the main path and follow the stream all the way to Spilies (30 mins walk) and then to the end of the stream (35 mins walk) where you can head back to Vrontou.
2. Trails of medium difficulty:
• Litóhoro – Prionia
Starting off at the Mýlli (Myloi) spot (400 m) you’ll be needing 5 hours to get to the Prionia spot (1100 m.). The international and well-maintained path of E4 will make your life easier with its signs and it will lead you through wooden bridges to cross the Enipeas gorge seven times. On the second half of the walk you’ll go past Aghio Spilleo to reach the Monastery of St. Dionysus 20 minutes later. After another 10 minutes, trace the path on your left and follow it to the waterfalls of Enipeas. The continuous ups and downs require stamina, but the sources, the ponds, the geological formations and the sheer slopes around you will be a fair reward.
• Gortsia – Petrostrouga – Plateau of the Muses
At the 14th kilometer on the road Litohoro-Prionia, go up a narrow road on your right hand and leave your car at the car park on its end. That’s the area of Gortsia, as well as the beginning of a wide path leading to the “Plateau of the Muses” and the refuges “Hristos Kokkalos” (or “refuge C”, at the height of 2650 metres) and “Yossos Apostolidis” (the highest Greek refuge at 2700 metres). The two thirds of your six-hour-long walk will be through a beautiful forest, leaving the remaining one third to be done in alpine scenery with low vegetation. Attention: make sure to carry enough water supplies as you will come across no running water on your way. Your first point of reference will be the plateau “Barbas”. Your next one will be a cistern. In between the two you will be walking up a beech forest. At the height of 2000 metres there is the spot called Petrostrouga, known for the age-old white pine trees. Go further up to get to the “Skourta” peak (2485 m.) in the alpine ambience. If you ever have enough of the breathtaking view all around you, continue on the narrow ridge to the Plateau of the Muses. Entering the plateau, the path splits in two. The left part leads to the “Hristos Kakkalos” refuge (30 mins) and the right one to the “Yossos Apostolidis” refuge (40 mins). Take short walks from the former to the peak Toumba (2801 metres) and from the latter to the peak Profeetees Eleas (2803 metres).
• Refuge Spilios Agapitos – Scala – Mytikas
Also known as “Refuge A”, Spilios Agapitos is situated at 2100 metres and your starting point for this three-hour-long walk. Go upwards until you get to the turn for “Zonaria” on your right hand. You are now at 2480 metres. A bit further up you come across another path, leading to Stavraities and Aghios Antonios. But if you follow the main path, E4, you’ll find yourself on a sloppy ridge of sheer alpine gorgeousness. The peak of Scala, at 2866 metres, is just a stop on the way to Mytikas. Attention: this last part of your walk is rather difficult.
3. Difficult to dangerous trails:
• Kserolakki – Naoum stream – Plateau of the Muses
On the fifth kilometer of the forest road “Petra-Kokkinoplou” you’ll see a small road on your left hand with a metal bar at its entrance. Follow it for another 10 mins to cross the Naoum stream. Leave your car there and keep following the path on the side of the stream. Let unique images of wild beauty fill your eyes with wonder. At “Kazania” you will have to choose between the old path passing just under the high peaks, and the yellow-signed new path leading to “Portes” (2700 m.). Let yourself be spoilt for choice. After 4-5 hours of covering 1350 m. of altitude on foot, you just deserve it!
• Plateau of the Muses – Peaks
The refuges “Hristos Kokkalos” and “Yossos Apostolidis” will be your points of departure this time. The trail goes uphill to “Portes” and then “Stefani”. On the neck of land between those two peaks you’ll be able to see Mytikas on your left and Stefani on your right. Follow the red arrows on the rock to get to Mytikas in some 30-40 minutes. Landfalls might add a touch of adventure to your walk, but don’t worry about your adrenaline: you’ll be in ecstasy anyway as you will have set foot on the abode of the Gods.