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Ultimate Northern Greece: Pindos, Meteora and Olympus  The Natural Adventure

Ultimate Northern Greece: Pindos, Meteora and Olympus

Overview

Greece is mostly known for endless beaches and islands; Crete is the most popular destination regarding hiking. Still, mainland Greece’s northern part boasts some spectacular mountain ranges, offering great opportunities for a hiking adventure away from the crowds. This itinerary, unique to The Natural Adventure Company, covers the top hiking regions of Northern Greece: the Astrakas plain in the Pindos mountains, the pinnacles of Meteora topped with ancient monasteries and the magic Olympus, the mountain of the Ancient Greek gods with the highest summits of Greece reaching almost 3000 m.

The tour starts with a walk to the Astrakas refuge in the Pindos mountains’ alpine zone and a walk up to the famous Dragon Lake. Enjoy the Vikos Canyon’s spectacular views and descend the famous cobbled path of Scala Vradetou, built in the 18th century. You then head east to the spectacular Meteora rocks, where you will explore one of Greece’s most impressive sites. Walking around here is one of the greatest travel experiences in Europe. The monasteries appear to be suspended in the air atop of ancient rock pinnacles that have weathered away over time. The last part of the trip involves a three-day hiking challenge to the summits of the Olympus mountain range. From the village Litochoro, the route follows the Enipeas gorge to the old monastery Agios Dionysios. Through the thick forest of pine, eventually, the alpine zone is reached where the mountain huts are located. The goal is to reach the Skolio summit at 2911 m, whereafter the route continues along the ‘Zonaria’ to the Mousson plain. The descent is via the less trodden paths on the eastern slopes.

This is a comprehensive itinerary, suitable for keen hikers, looking for authentic experiences in a lesser known region, full of amazing landscapes and impressive cultural sites.

Highlights

  • The Dragon Lake in the Pindos mountains
  • Beloi Viewpoint over the Vikos gorge
  • Meteora monasteries
  • The highest summits of Greece in Mount Olympus

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Megalo Papingo

After you arrive at Ioannina airport or bus station, a transfer will take you to Megalo Papingo. Depending on your timing, you may walk to the nearby Rock Pools for an afternoon swim. You will spend the overnight in a traditional local mansion in the village centre. We highly recommend booking an additional night in Megalo Papingo, allowing a good warm-up walk to the viewpoints of Kokkino Lithari, Mikro Papingo and the Kolymbithres.

Day 2: Dragon Lake and Astrakas Hut | 8-14 km

Today you depart on a 2-day trek across the high Astrakas plateau. Passing through Mikro Papingo, you gain about 1000 m on an excellent path to the Astrakas Hut. Once you are there, you can stop for lunch and walk further up through captivating alpine scenery until the Dragon Lake, situated at 2 050 m. The “dragon” in the name refers to the many alpine newts living in the lake. On the opposite side of the lake, you will enjoy a breath-taking view over the Aoos Valley, deep down below.

  • Walking for the day (standard route):  8 km, 4 h, ↑1000 m ↓ 20 m
  • Walking for the day (additional route):  6 km, 4 h, ↑400 m ↓400 m
  • Accommodation: Astrakas Hut or similar

Note that today there is no luggage transfer, so you will have to pack what you will need for today and tomorrow (including a sleeping bag liner) until you get to your accommodation in Tsepelovo on day 3, where your main luggage will join you.

Day 3: Crossing the Astrakas Plateau | 13 km

You leave the Astrakas Hut behind and walk across alpine meadows between the peaks Astraka and Gamila. This area is home to chamois. Further south, you descend to the gorge Megas Lakos (‘great pit’) that ends up in the Vikos gorge and measures more than 600 m in depth. A final descent takes you to Tsepelovo, where your luggage is waiting for you. Time to relax at the charming village square.

  • Walking for the day: 13 km, 5 h, ↑400 m ↓1250 m
  • Accommodation: Villa Paroraia or similar

Day 4: Beloi Viewpoint and the Vradeto Steps | 13 km

Today you will make a great and beautiful hike along some of the highlights of this region. You first ascend to a higher plain and then follow an old cobbled footpath to the viewpoint Beloi, said to offer the best views over the Vikos Gorge. In the small village of Vradeto, you find a small square with a traditional café. The village is well-known for its ‘Vradeto steps’, a steep zigzagging paved path between Vradeto and Kapesovo. In Kapesovo your walk ends at the village square where you will be picked up and transferred back to Tsepelovo.

  • Walking for the day: 13 km, 5,5 h, ↑550 m ↓520 m
  • Accommodation: Villa Paroraia or similar

Day 5: Transfer to Meteora and Afternoon Walk | 7 km

A private taxi transfer (2.5 h) takes you to the village of Kastraki, situated just below the Meteora rocks. You may do a 7-km walk in the afternoon to admire the sunset from one of the best viewpoints.

  • Walking for the day: 7 km, 3 h, ↑400 m ↓400 m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Doupiani or similar

Day 6: Megalo Meteoron & Varlaam | 10 km

The ‘floating’ monasteries of Meteora are one of Greece’s greatest sites. While many visit the monasteries each year, few take the time to walk the trails beneath the monasteries to gain a unique perspective on an incredible landscape. There are six main monasteries in Meteora, and each is closed one day a week. Therefore your route will depend on the opening schedule. Today’s planned walk takes you on a scenic loop to Megalo Meteora, or The Great Meteoron, the largest monastery established by a monk from Mount Athos around 1340 AD. With its impressive frescoes and large refectory, the monastery is one of Meteora’s most visited and for a good reason. Return to your hotel on another trail with a changing perspective.

  • Walking for the day: 10 km, 3 h, ↑500 m ↓500 m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Doupiani or similar

Day 7: Loop Walk to Agia Triada | 9 km

Made famous by James Bond, Agia Triada (or “Holy Trinity”) is the least visited yet most dramatically positioned monastery high above the town of Kalambaka. The monastery’s 140 steps from the road are the likely reason it is the least visited because the actual monastery is peaceful with rich decorations in the chapel and one of the most stunning views from its position atop a slender pinnacle. The loop walk reaching the monastery from your hotel goes through the Meteora massif’s base, revealing the rock faces from all angles along quiet trails that are mostly shaded. The route is very steep at times. You may make a small detour to visit Roussanou Nunnery on your way up. The return loop takes you through the old section of Kalambaka, where you can stop for lunch before returning around the front of the massif to your hotel in Kastraki.

  • Walking for the day: 9 km, 3 h, ↑500 m ↓500 m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Doupiani or similar

Day 8: Transfer to Litochoro

In 2 hours, you will be transferred to Litochoro: a picturesque town at the foot of Mt. Olympus from where most hikers start their challenge to the summits. Time permitting, you can go for a stroll through the village and make your last preparations for the hike starting tomorrow.

Day 9: Walk to Hut ‘A’ | 9 or 19 km

Today you will walk along the Enipeas river to the Agios Dionysios Monastery ruins and continue from here to the mountain hut ‘A’. You pass the beautiful cave chapel where the monk Dionysios lived as an ascetic. Continuing on the European E4 route along the river, you pass by several river pools and cross the river many times via wooden bridges or stepping stones. The presence of crystal clear water and the various views make this walk very rewarding. Mind that the walk is very long and demanding, so you may opt to take a taxi from Litochoro to Ag. Dionysios and start your walk at the monastery. The walk is then app. 9 km instead of 19 km.

  • Walking for the day (long option): 19 km, 7 h, ↑2170 m ↓400 m
  • Walking for the day (short option): 9 km, 4 h, ↑1300 m ↓90 m
  • Accommodation: Refuge A (Spilios Agapitos)

Note that you will spend the following overnights in huts, where it won’t be possible to transfer your luggage, so make sure you have everything you will need for four days of trekking. Your main luggage will join you on the last day during your transfer pick-up.

Day 10: Via the Summits and Zonaria to the Mousson Plain | 11 km

This is what it is all about! A hefty ascent through an alpine mountainous area up to the Skala summit (2866 m). From this point, you have a breathtaking view of the Mytikas summit (2918 m) and its climbers. Then over a ridge to our highest point: the Skolio summit (2911 m), where you can write your name in the register and enjoy the surrounding views. Go along the Zonaria to the Plateau of the Muses, where you stay overnight in the mountain refuge Kakkalos nestled among smaller summits.

  • Walking for the day: 11 km, 6 h, ↑1230 m ↓650 m
  • Accommodation: Refuge Kakkalos

Day 11: From the Mousson plain to Koromilia mountain hut | 11 km

After the demanding trek of the past days, today’s walk is easier. From the Plateau of the Muses, you reach the Giosos pass and descend to the small ridge “Lemos” (“throat”). You descend further until you come to the forested area again. You descend still further on shaded paths interspersed with various views, and finally, you reach the Koromilia refuge.

  • Walking for the day: 11 km, 5 h, ↑55 m ↓1675 m
  • Accommodation: Koromilia refuge

Day 12: Descent to Ag. Konstantinos and transfer to Litochoro | 4 km

From Koromilia you descend further to the east via forest trails, sometimes steeply. In between the trees you have beautiful views over the plains to the sea. The lovely spot near Orlias stream is an invitation for a break. From the church of Ag. Konstantinos, you will be picked up by taxi and taken to Litochoro, from where you may book a private transfer to Thessaloniki or Litochoro train station or stay for an extra night in Litochoro.

  • Walking for the day: 4 km, 2 h, ↓735 m

What to Expect

Accommodation

The accommodations are a mix of cosy and authentic guest-houses and mountain huts surrounded by magnificent landscapes. In the Zagori area, you will spend the overnights in traditional mansions, built from limestone and usually with the characteristic slated roofs. Some hotels are housed in buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th century. All rooms have private facilities. in most places, there is no balcony, but the accommodation mostly offers a nice shaded terrace to enjoy your afternoon pre-dinner drinks. In Meteora, the hotel has excellent views on the Meteora rocks and offers a superb breakfast. The mountain hut Astrakas and the huts on the Olympus are all with shared facilities and with bunk beds (make sure you bring your own liner). We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour. 

Click to view default hotels

Saxonis Houses, Astrakas Hut, Villa Paroraia, Hotel Doupiani, Xenonas Papanikolaou, Refuge A (Spilios Agapitos), Refuge Kakkalos, Koromilia refuge

Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

The overnights are on bed & breakfast basis. Every morning you enjoy a traditional breakfast with ingredients from local produce. Characteristic for this area are the pies, usually with wild herbs and feta cheese. Items for lunch are on purchase in the local mini-market in all villages. In most hotels you can order a packed lunch; discuss with the hosts what they can make for you and what you like and pay for your lunch on the spot in cash. Occasionally there is a possibility for a tavern lunch on your walk as well. Evening dinner can be enjoyed in one of the local taverns or at some of the accommodations where you will stay for overnight.

Difficulty & terrain

We rate the difficulty of this trip as moderate to strenuous: 5-7 hours walking per day, sometimes carrying your rucksack with items for several nights, average ascent/descent per day ranges between 500 and 1000 metres (read more about difficulty grades). The walks are on stony footpaths and cobbled paths (kalderimi). The terrain is quite rough, but the walks are well defined. The walks are not as difficult as you would expect looking at the dramatic scenery. If you suffer from vertigo, this trip is not suitable for you. Some sections of the trails are steep and considerable sections follow old cobbled footpaths dating back to the 17th and 18th century. You have to be sure-footed and experience walking in mountainous areas and route finding is required.

We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to go

This trip is available from mid-June until mid-October.

The best time to travel to this area in Greece is from June to September. Summers can be warm; some walks are partly through shaded forest. On the Astraka plateau, there can be patches of snow until June. On the Olympus, there can be snow until mid-June. The weather conditions around the summits can change rapidly.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

By plane

Our recommended airports for this tour are Ioannina (domestic flight connection with Athens), Thessaloniki, Athens or Preveza Airport.

Inclusions

Included

  • 11 overnights on B&B basis as described in the itinerary: private double/twin rooms with en-suite facilities in the towns and villages, and dorm rooms with shared facilities in the huts
  • Transfer Ioannina-Megalo Papingo on day 1
  • Luggage transfer Papingo-Tsepelovo on day 2
  • Transfer Kapesovo-Tsepelovo on day 4
  • Transfer Tsepelovo-Meteora on day 5
  • Transfer Meteora-Litochoro on day 8
  • Transfer Ag. Konstantinos-Litochoro on day 12
  • Detailed road book and maps in English
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
  • Any items not explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Extra nights along the trail are bookable upon request
  • Airport transfers by public or private transport

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