It seems apt that, during an Olympian year, we launch a trekking holiday to summit Mount Olympus, Greece’s highest mountain (2,918m). This iconic summit, as myth would have it, was home to the Olympian gods, to whom the ancient Olympics were a tribute. The ancient games were considered to be not only an elite sporting event but also a sacred one and trekking to the heights of Mount Olympus certainly requires both strength and a worship of wanderlust.
Where is Mount Olympus?
It’s the jewel of the crown of Olympus National Park in northern Greece, and part of the Olympus massif which throws its weight nearly all the way to the Aegean Sea. The nearest town is Litochoro, at the foot of Mount Olympus, and the nearest airport is Thessaloniki, about 80km away.
Measuring distance from the Grecian great one is tricky though, depending on what you count as Mount Olympus, as it actually has many peaks. It was home to the gods, after all and, although there were twelve gods and goddesses holding court here, the mountain actually consists of around 52 peaks, the highest being Mytikas, at 2,918m. This peak remains a mystery to many, however, as getting to the summit of Mytikas is a serious scramble. Indeed, it is categorised as a YDS (Yosemite Decimal System) Class III rock scramble, and not one that you should undertake on a self-guided trekking holiday.
Which summits of Mount Olympus can you trek to independently?
On our new seven day self-guided adventure climbing Mount Olympus, you trek to the summits of both Skala (2,866m) and Skolio (2,911m) which won’t feel in any way like you are winning silver instead of gold. You will be co-sharing Olympus’ natural podium with pride when you get up these heavenly heights, a journey that you undertake over seven days, with your summits both attainable on day four of your epic journey. And given that Mount Olympus has a circumference of 80km, you’re never short of panoramic views. You can also include this trek as part of our 12 day Ultimate Northern Greece walking holiday. It’s also worth noting that both of these tours are open to solo travellers too.
How difficult is the trek to Mount Olympus?
Although you don’t take on the scrambly summit on this tour, you shouldn’t underestimate how strenuous this trek is, because Mount Olympus does require training and experience. Walking between four to six hours every day, with a maximum elevation gain of 1,300m, you are also going to be carrying your backpack on some days, as this is a hut-hut tour where luggage transfers are not possible. Also, if you suffer from vertigo and don’t feel sure-footed on sheer slopes, this trek might not be for you, as the stairway to this Hellenic heaven can give you the wobbles. For all of these reasons, we categorise it as a moderate to strenuous trek, so you definitely want to get in training.
“This was an awe inspiring journey. The people were all very helpful and friendly with a special mention to Kostas and his team…the transport was always on time and the accommodation was varied and designed to give you an all round experience of the culture and area…the walking was brilliant and the varied, well selected paths offered a fantastic overview of the regions…I would highly recommend this trip to anyone with a sense of adventure and love of outdoors.” – David and Di from Sydney, Australia on our Ultimate Northern Greece holiday.
When is the best time to take on the Mount Olympus trek?
Our Mount Olympus trekking holiday is available from the beginning of June until mid-October, which may seem hot, but at these elevations, average temperatures can be cooler, ranging from 23-27C. Although it can reach up to 31C in August, so starting out as early in the day is recommended. Before and after these dates, conditions are too risky and changeable to trek up to these heights, with snow, ice, fog and rain making it too dangerous for walkers. In addition, many of the mountain huts don’t open until May. And, as with all mountain terrain, conditions can change quickly on Mount Olympus even in summer, so come prepared.
Where do you stay on a Mount Olympus trekking holiday?
For the first two nights of our Mount Olympus trekking holiday, you stay in a traditional guesthouse in Litochoro, giving you a chance to ramble and revere the massif – a landscape where you feel as if you are literally in the lap of the gods. Each room is ensuite and has air conditioning, and its terrace overlooks Mount Olympus and the sea. As your ascent continues, you spend three nights in mountain huts, known as Mountain Hut A, C and Koromilia Refuge, staying in mixed-gender dorms with shared facilities.
Mountain hut A is your first stop, otherwise known as Spilios Agapitos after the original architect, and it’s a traditional stone building at an elevation of 2,100m. It is also Greece’s oldest mountain hut, dating back to 1930, it sleeps 110 people across 14 mixed-gender dorms, and is owned and managed by the Hellenic Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (E.O.O.A) . Mountain hut A is located on the E4 Path, which takes you through Enipeas Gorge and eponymous river, which you follow for much of the trek to the mountain hut.
The next night you head to Mountain Hut C, or Christos Kakkalos Refuge on Muses Plateau (2.648m). Not only is this smaller, sleeping only 17 people, it’s also a very sweet spot as this is where you sleep after summiting. It’s named after Christos Kakkalos, the Greek mountain guide who led the first recorded expedition up to the top of Olympus’ Mytikas, guiding Swiss climbers Daniel Baud-Bovy and Frédéric Boissonnas in 1913.
Saying goodbye to your Muses, the third night on the mountain is at Koromilia Refuge, which you reach after a trek to Giosis Pass, then descending to Lemos Ridge and finally arriving at this mountain hut, at 1,020m. Even smaller than the last, this refuge only sleeps nine people, in bunks across three mixed-gender rooms. This hostel has an excellent reputation for its cuisine, locally-sourced and made with love and respect for all dietary needs. And those who really want to fill their boots.
If you are new to staying in mountain huts, they come with many traditions and etiquette, but with these, be prepared for a whole lot of climbing camaraderie. For more information, see our blog, Staying in a mountain hut on walking holidays.
Can I trek Mount Olympus as a solo traveller?
Yes you can, on both our Mount Olympus summit trek and Ultimate Northern Greece holiday. As with all our self-guided holidays, you will have the nearby support of our local team and experts, who are always at the other end of the phone or there in person to support you. However, a solo traveller additional charge is incurred, due to the fact that transfer and luggage costs aren’t shared.
The other natural deities around Mount Olympus
The reason that we recommend a seven day trekking holiday to Mount Olympus, and we don’t expect you to race up and down the deity in a heartbeat, is that there’s still so much of the massif to explore on the other days, as you can see below. It’s worth noting that you can also include your trek to the summit on a more extensive walking holiday in Northern Greece and the Pindos Mountains, over 12 days, three of which are spent on Mount Olympus.
This is where your Olympus odyssey begins, a traditional mountain town of the prettiest of proportions, on the eastern side of the massif, where the River Enipeas bisects the massif. You spend two nights in this town, being immediately transported into landscapes of epic Greek proportions, and yet just a few kilometres from the sea. The architecture is Macedonian in style, with parts of its ancient centre dating back to the 14th century, and it’s enveloped by woodland which, if you go in autumn, is leaf peeping paradise. In the town itself, seek out the Maritime Museum, small squares or bairia squeezed in between old houses or just sit back at a taverna and breathe in the mountain air.
You will know that you have entered ethereal territory in this land of the gods, when you hit Enipeas Gorge, on your first full day of trekking in Olympus National Park. Located on the European E4 trail, you come to the entrance of the gorge just at the outskirts of Litichoro. Continue along a trail that takes you across wooden bridges, past waterfalls and transparent river pools, so don’t forget to pack your swimsuit for this one. Apparently the gods and goddesses bathed here too, so that’s some legacy.
Agios Dionysios Monastery
On day two of your trekking holiday, you walk to the ruins of Agios Dionysios Monastery (850m), which dates back to the 16th century but was destroyed by a WWII bomb. This is because it was considered to be a safe haven for Greek resistance fighters. It’s a beautiful trek up through Enipeas Gorge and, if you have time, you can visit its separate chapel of Saint Dionysios, just 20mins’ walk from the ruins, tucked in under a rock with a spring running underneath it.
You can also seek out the new monastery as it was rebuilt in 1950, and is now just 3km from Litochoro. It’s still very much a working Greek Orthodox Monastery, although you can visit its museum, with treasures that were rescued from the ruins. It’s worth noting that, in keeping with the monastery’s Orthodox tradition, women are prohibited from entering certain areas of the ‘new’ monastery, which still adheres to old ways.
With so many jagged peaks and stony terrain all around you, the grassy tableland of Muses Plateau (2,640m) provides a bit of verdant relief as you descend the south-west slope, while also providing panoramic views. You get to take in its greatness staying at Christos Kakkalos Refuge which is poised right on the edge of the plateau. With views of both the Thessalian plain in the south-west and the shimmering Aegean to the east, you may be tired after your ascent the day before, but this is one place where it’s worth getting up to see the sunrise.
Flora and fauna on Mount Olympus
Mount Olympus is not only in Greece’s first national park, but it is also a designated World Biosphere Reserve. This is thanks to its biodiverse terrain of Mediterranean shrubland, beech, pine and oak woodlands juxtaposed with limestone peaks and maquis and montane grasslands. There is little human presence, bar hikers, which means that wildlife reigns. So pack your binoculars and keep an eye out for golden eagles, bearded vultures, chamois and, at night, the endangered Geoffroy’s bat.
We hope you have enjoyed our Olympian odyssey and that it has inspired you to get in training, or to gather a team of trekkers to take it on together. You may also enjoy some of our other blogs on Greece and other Balkan countries, including The best time to go to Greece, Our favourite lesser-known national parks and Bigging up our Balkan holidays.