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September 29, 2015

Olympus Mountain, the Home of the Twelve Olympians

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.


Hiking Trails

• Litóhoro – Golna – Castana source – Litóhoro (Easy)
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.

• Refuge Spilios Agapitos – Scala – Mytikas (Medium Difficult)
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.

• Plateau of the Muses – Peaks (Extreme Difficult)
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.

Source: http://www.visitgreece.gr

Did You Know?

• Myth-Laden Mountain Greece’s highest mountain, Olympus is also the legendary abode of the gods. The favor of the deities gave the mountain an honored place in Classical Greek culture and that mythical status has been passed down through the centuries, across Western civilization.

• Pantheon The mountain’s highest peak, Mytikas, tops out at 9,573 feet (2,918 meters). The ancients called Mytikas “Pantheon” and believed it was the meeting place of the deities. The 12 gods were believed to have lived in the alpine ravines, which Homer described as the mountain’s “mysterious folds.”

• Olympian Games The village of Dion, on the mountain’s flanks, was a Macedonian holy city where King Archelaus (r. 414-399 B.C.) held nine days of games to honor Zeus. Today Dion houses a remarkable archaeological site, where work is ongoing, and an archaeological museum in which much of the region’s rich Classical history is on display. In the summer the Olympus Festival includes performances at the ancient theater.

• Climate Olympus is a Mediterranean mountain; summers are typically warm and dry and winters are wet. High elevations are typically covered in snow for a full seven months (November to May). During any season the climate is apt to change as one climbs—for each 100 meters of ascent the average temperature typically drops by half a degree Celsius.

• Plant Life More than 1,700 plants are found on Mount Olympus—representing 25 percent of all Greek flora. Diversity is high here because of the mountain’s different elevation zones and its proximity to the sea. Deciduous trees and bushes dominate to about 1,640 feet (500 meters), then give way to stands of black pine and fir. Higher on the mountain are cold-tested conifer forests, including the rare Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii). Above the tree line, at about 8,202 feet (2,500 meters), forests give way to low vegetation and, in season, wide expanses of wildflowers.

• Animal Life Larger animals prowling the park include wolves, jackals, wild cats, foxes, chamois, and deer. More than a hundred bird species live in Olympus National Park, including rare and threatened woodpeckers and golden eagles. The park is also famed for the colorful array of butterflies found here.

How to Get There

A primary base for Olympus exploration, Litochoro is 258 miles (416 kilometers) from Athens but just 57 miles (92 kilometers) from Thessaloniki. The town is nestled in the mountain’s foothills, just three miles (five kilometers) from the Aegean Sea. It’s linked by train and bus to Athens and Thessaloniki. Other park entrance points are at Dion, Petra, Karya, and Kokkinopilos.

When to Visit

The region of Olympus National Park boasts a history that is second to none, as well as a vibrant modern culture. A year-round calendar features cultural, religious, and athletic events.

How to Visit

Hiking and climbing are very popular on the mountain and there are routes for all levels of ability and enthusiasm. There are nine refuges for overnight stays; each one sleeps dozens of people and many have kitchens or even restaurants. Some refuges are seasonal so plan any visits accordingly.

Find Out More

Find out more information from the Official Website of Olympus Mount!

Source: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com

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