Mount Olympus Zeus Greece - Ancient Greek Historical Sites
Mighty Mount Olympus was the heavenly home of the gods in ancient times and still inspires thousands of visitors who flock here from all over the world to tackle the tough trek to the highest peak in Greece. The entire area was declared Greece's first national park in 1937 and consists of eight peaks including the "Throne of Zeus" at 2909 metres and Mytikas which has the highest summit at 2919 metres. You don't need any special climbing experience to take on Olympus but you do need to be fit, properly equipped and have a good head for heights!
The park is located 100 kilometres to the south west of Thessaloniki. The main base for hikers is the village of Lithoro, on the eastern border of the park. Regular bus services connect the village with Athens and Thessaloniki and there's a train station nine kilometres outside Lithoro. Most Greek travel agents arrange excursions to Mt Olympus with accommodation included (a hotel bed in Lithoro and a basic bunk in the mountain refuges that provide welcome overnight pit stops for hikers). Climbing Olympus has become such a major attraction that if you pitch up without a reservation in July or August you may have difficulty finding a bed for the night.
Once you take to the mountain trails you'll quickly realise why the ancients believed this was the sacred home of Zeus, the king of the gods, his wife Hera, brothers Poseidon and Hades, sisters Demeter and Hestia and children (Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Athena, Hermes and Hephaestus). This magnificent mountain range is home to around 1700 plant species, many of which are unique to Olympus. The mountainsides are cloaked in dense forests of pine, beech, oak and cedar trees which harbour various wildlife including wolves, bears and lynx. The slopes are buried beneath two metres of snow in winter and only accessible to the most experienced climbers - even in July the snow lurks in shadowed corners and crevices.
Ordinary mortals shouldn't attempt to reach any of the peaks outside the months of June to October and even then poor weather conditions can make hiking extremely hazardous. But in good weather and armed with a strong constitution, sturdy walking boots, high protection sun cream, snacks and water you'll be able to conquer Mytikas with a couple of days of hard hiking. Many young backpackers and super-fit types dash up and down in a day but you really need at least two or three days to take in the full beauty of the mountain range.
Visit the EOS (Greek Alpine Club) office in Lithoro for details of trails, mountain refuge reservations and advice about weather conditions.
While you're in the area take the time to visit ancient Dion at the foot of Mt Olympus, just north of Lithoro. New discoveries are still being made at this fascinating archaeological site where sacred sanctuaries of the gods, superb mosaics, an ancient theatre and a vast public bath complex have been uncovered. Musical and theatrical performances are held in the restored theatre every August during the Festival of Olympus.