Climbing Mount Olympus in Greece (Experience, Tips & Advice)

Climbing Mount Olympus for the first time

Climbing Mount Olympus in Greece is an incredible experience to have. This mystical mountain once considered to be the home of the Greek Gods is located in northern Greece. Yes it is a real mountain, something I was surprised to learn about myself.

My own experience of hiking up Mt. Olympus was very memorable. I’m sure I can provide anyone keen on hiking this mystical mountain with some valuable tips and advice that will help you reach the top of Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece.

Mount Olympus, home of the Greek Gods

You know you’re in a special place when the highest mountain in Greece is associated with the Greek Gods. If anyone has any doubts about the Greek Gods existing then this is a great place to ponder over it. You see, to have Greece’s highest mountain linked to the Greek Gods indicates that they came first. Why honour any Gods who never existed and why honour them with the highest mountain in Greece?

Mount Olympus Mytikas Peak

Reasons for climbing Mount Olympus?

There must be thousands of reasons for climbing Mount Olympus. It became a desirable goal for me after my next door neighbour mentioned he had climbed Olympus. It really surprised me. I didn’t even think it would be possible to climb Mount Olympus and if it were possible, I definitely would have thought it was out of reach for the casual hiker, however I was wrong.

I would have bet that my neighbour had never even been to Greece, let alone Mount Olympus. Every so often I would hear about a few extremely fit adventurers climbing to the top of Mount Everest, but I had never heard of tourists climbing to the top of Mount Olympus. Now that my neighbour had confessed that he had been to Mount Olympus, I wanted to join the club.

My neighbour mentioned something about staying on the mountain overnight and that made it sound all the more adventurous. One day I met his mother by chance and we somehow ended up chatting about Greece. She mystically told me that Greeks have a twin soul, one West and one East, which intrigued me. Well that sealed my fate, I just had to go to Greece at least one more time and climb Mount Olympus for myself.

How to get to Mount Olympus – Town of Litochoro – Gateway to Olympus

A few years later the day came when my adventure to Mount Olympus began. This was in 2014 by the way.

I caught the early morning train from Athens, the capital of Greece, to the closest stop near the town of Litochoro, situated at the foot of Mount Olympus. It took about 5 hours to get to a train station nearby the town of Litochoro.

The town of Litochoro had been mentioned in my guidebook as a good starting point for hikers attempting to summit Mount Olympus. The train didn’t go all the way to Litochoro, so I decided to jump inside a cab with a few other passengers, after the cab driver told me he’d be able take me to Litochoro after dropping off the other passengers at other destinations. It’s hard to know what to do when you’re in a lone train station with hardly anyone else around. It seemed quite desolate. The taxi fair fee was around €25-30 so I didn’t bother trying to catch a bus into town.

One thing that really surprised me was learning that Mount Olympus had around 52 peaks. The four main summits are Mytikas (highest peak), Stefanie (thrown of Zeus), Skala and Skolio. I had pictured one single giant mountain, like Mount Fuji in Japan, but Mount Olympus had transformed into Mount Olympus National Park covering 92 square miles (238 square kilometers).

My aim like many other hikers was to try and reach the top of the highest peak, Mytikas, at 9,573 feet (2,918 meters). I gave myself 3 nights in the Litochoro/Olympus area with the aim of standing on top of the highest point in Greece.

Olympic View Hotel

The taxi driver dropped me off in what looked like Litochoro’s main square at the end of the main road in the charming town. I walked a very short distance (a few steps) and found myself at the Olympic View hotel (at that time I can only remember it with Greek signage).

I asked a friendly Greek lady for a room price. It seemed very reasonable so I booked a room for 3 nights (€35 a night), thinking I’d use the room for at the least two nights with one night possibly on the mountain. It didn’t really bother me missing one night.

What to bring when climbing Mount Olympus

At that stage I still didn’t know much about what was involved in climbing up Mount Olympus. I wanted to do things serendipitously, not the smartest move.

I talked it over with the Greek hotel lady and she convinced me to buy some hiking shoes because the black dress shoes I showed her were no good. She told me that some people had even attempted the hike in flip flops (thongs), and fully described to me how this had ended in tragic death, with the aid of her hand flipping from vertical to horizontal.

Hiking shoes/boots

My expensive hiking boots were sitting at home. I was thinking about bringing them along to Greece but decided against it due to their heavy weight. My plan was to buy a cheap sturdy pair of hiking shoes/boots in Greece, thinking there had to be plenty of shops in the area around Olympus selling cheapish shoes.

After I found out that roughly one person is killed every year on the hike to the top of Olympus, it made me very wary of wearing any other shoes apart from those best suited for hiking.

I had seen a hiking shoe store in Litochoro and the hotel lady directed me to the exact same place. Early in the morning I went there thinking I would buy some shoes and leave for the hike soon after that. The problem was the shoe store wasn’t open.

I hoped the store would open soon as I couldn’t find any other place in town where I could buy some hiking shoes, or any other strong and sturdy pair of shoes for that matter.

Food and Drink supplies

The other thing I had to do before the journey to the home of the Gods was to buy some food and drink supplies. I bought two 1.5 litre bottles of water, although I should have bought two 2 litre bottles. I thought the extra weight would be a negative.

Looking back take as much water as you can carry. An extra litre or two would have been so valuable during my hike, especially if you’re there in August (peak summertime) like I was.

Chocolate, lollies, a few musli bars and a couple of apples made it into my small black Nike backpack. I also bought a few extra snacks and some cakes and biscuits at the local Greek bakery. Surprisingly, I ate all of the food on Mount Olympus. Actually another couple of chocolate bars would have been great to have as well. Don’t worry you’ll burn the energy in no time.

Meals, snacks and drinks can also be purchased on the mountain at select Refuge (cabin/hut) accomodation, which is good to know. This is perfect for dinner time. Just make sure the hut you’re staying at has food available as some don’t.

Mount Olympus Starting Point

Choose a starting point for your hike:

  1. Prionia – The most popular starting point.
  2. Gortsia – Many say it’s the most scenic route.
  3. Litochoro – For the ultra fit.

The hike from Litochoro to Prionia follows the Enipeas Gorge, the most famous gorge in Olympus. Enipeus was a river god, the son of Oceanus and Tethys. Enipeus rejected the advances of a mortal woman named Tyro somewhere around these parts. This is also considered the place where the musician Orpheus was devoured by the Maenads, the followers of Dionysus.

Mount Olympus Prionia Gortsia Map

 

Choose a climbing route up Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus Map Mytikas

 
Refuge A (Spilios Agapitos – 2100m high) is a very popular place to stay on Mount Olympus.

3 Awesome climbing routes up Mount Olympus:

Route 1: Prionia – Skala – Mytikas (Mid Level)

  • Day 1: Prionia ⇒ Refuge A
  • Day 2: Refuge A ⇒ Skala (via E4 track) ⇒ Mytikas (highest peak)

This is the trail I walked. The advantage of walking the E4 trail route is that you can also visit Skolio peak at the same time with relative ease. It’s a straight forward walk from Skala to Skolio. It looked as if it would take about half an hour to get there at the most.

The only thing you’ll need is the energy, which could be a big problem especially if you’re going to attempt to climb Mytikas peak. After I returned from attempting to summit Mytikas, I really didn’t have any energy left over to want to walk over to Skolio.

Walking to Skolio would be a good choice for anyone who doesn’t want to climb Mytikas and potentially risk falling off the mountain. It’s a great choice for families, kids and risk averse hikers.

Route 2: Prionia – Kakkalos – Louki – Mytikas (Advanced)

  • Day 1: Prionia ⇒ Refuge A ⇒ Refuge C (Kakkalos Refuge – 2648m) or Apostolidis Refuge
  • Day 2: Refuge C or Apostolidis Refuge ⇒ Mytikas (highest peak)

I think I was talked out of hiking this route due to the steep ascent, rock avalanches and the recommendation that everyone has to wear a helmet. Watching climbers on videos on this route does look quite frightening. It looks like a much more challenging/fun way to reach the top though, provided you get to make it home alive.

You can walk from Prionia to Refuge A in the morning, and then make your way from Refuge A to Refuge C in the afternoon. As an alternative you could also depart Refuge A on the second day and make your way to Refuge C (Kakkalos), then attempt to summit straight after that on the same day.

Route 3: Gortsia – Plateau of Muses – Louki – Mytikas (Advanced)

  • Day 1: Gortsia ⇒ Refuge C (Kakkalos Refuge – 2648m) or Apostolidis Refuge
  • Day 2: Refuge C or Apostolidis Refuge ⇒ Mytikas (highest peak)

This hiking route is often considered the best option in regard to scenery. The added advantage is that you’ll wake up in the morning with a much shorter hike/climb required to make it to the top of Mytikas.

If you’re wanting to go to Refuge C or Apostolidis Refuge, then I’d probably suggest this route, starting at Gortsia, because it’s the fastest and most scenic way to get there. Average hike time is around 6-7 hours.

I hope you’re not afraid of heights if you’re going to attempt the climb up to the top of Mytikas on this route, because the cliff is near vertical.

That’s why the first option is great for anyone not sure about attempting to reach the top of Mytikas. It leaves you with the pretty good option of walking to Skolio peak.

Being close to Refuge C however will let you traverse over the Plateau of Muses.

Advice on climbing Mount Olympus

Luckily the footwear shop opened a bit later on in the morning. I asked for the cheapest pair of shoes available and found out that no such thing existed. The prices were way higher than I had hoped to pay. I should have bought some in Athens, otherwise if I’d known about the high prices, I would definitely have brought my own pair of hiking shoes to Greece. Thinking that the shoes could potentially save my life, I reluctantly purchased them as an investment.

I started talking to the sales guy about the hike. He soon realised I had no real plan of what to do. His recommendation was that I make my way to Refuge A from Prionia after lunch. The recommendation being that I should ideally get there an hour or two before dark, to avoid getting bored, because there wasn’t much to do up there.

Apparently there were several main routes to the top, but I didn’t take much in, after my mind had been paralysed by the price of the boots, 120 Euro.

I took on board the suggestion and decided to wait a while, before starting the hike after lunch in town. I thought I’d be able to get some more advice while at the Refuge.

The shoe store guy told me that early the next day I could summit to the top and after that come down. I assumed it would be a short hike to the top in the morning with a much faster descent being downhill, so I assumed I would be staying on the mountain range for only one night.

Advice from the hotel lady on climbing Mount Olympus

Back at the hotel I showed off my new pair of hiking boots to the hotel lady. She asked me how much they were, but I felt way too embarrassed to let the price slip out.

She let me know that I could sign one of the log books on one of the peaks (Mytikas or Skolio), and also suggested that I visit an old Monastery on the way back, so I could have a drink of some holy water, or dip my sore feet in the water, can’t remember.

My own advice when climbing Mount Olympus

  1. Bring a small LED head lamp (as cabin lights can turn off when you least expect it, and it may actually be very helpful if you’re caught out with some trekking still to do at night)
  2. Bring cash and book a cabin for at least one night prior to arriving, especially if you want to stay in Refuge C, as they only have the capacity to sleep 22 people. Refuge A can sleep over 100 and so can Apostolidis Refuge, but in summer even these places can fill up.
  3. Get a map (photo or paper copy) and study the route.
  4. Make sure you bring a warm jumper, pants, socks, beanie, warm gloves, even if it’s boiling hot during the day. It can get very cold up there in the evenings. I was shivering at certain times. Thermals would have been a God send.
  5. Bring two big water bottles (at least 3 litres in total). I recommend 4 litres. Therefore two, 2 litre bottles. You’ll get very thirsty especially if the weather is hot during the day. I went in August (mid summer) and when descending back towards Refuge A, I was desperate for more water. I should have bought a couple of cans of cool drink as well.
  6. Make sure you fill up all of your water bottles at Refuge A before leaving to go to Mytikas. The colder the water the better.
  7. Bring sunscreen and wear a hat.
  8. Wear light-weight hiking shoes. Heavy boots make walking harder and less enjoyable.

Litochoro to Prionia

I left the town of Litochoro around 1pm and caught a taxi (€30) to Prionia, the highest starting point for hikers that can be reached by car.

A few keen hikers even walk to Prionia from Litochoro. You have to be very keen to do that in my opinion, but if you’re extremely fit, why not? It does add another 4-5 hours to the journey, which for an unfit hiker could turn into 8 hours, so I don’t advise it unless you’re a fast walker. If you’re a slow coach, you might want to do this on another day. You can always walk back from Prionia to Litochoro if you have time.

Prionia (1100m altitude) has a small wooden cabin restaurant and a carpark next to it. The drive distance between Litochoro and Prionia is about 18 km. The taxi driver gave me his business card and told me to call him at the Prionia cafe/restaurant when I returned. A whole fleet of Mercedes cabs were in town. They obviously made a small fortune driving hikers to Prionia and back down to Litochoro. Many hikers have been known to hitch a ride to save a bit of money.

Distance between Prionia and Refuge A – Approx: 5 km (3.1 miles)

You’ll want to step inside the Prionia restaurant/cafe and have a bit of a look around before making your way to Refuge A. The trek up to Refuge A (Spilios Agapitos), where I thought I would likely spend the night seemed to go on forever, probably because my fitness level was really bad.

It took quite a lot longer to hike to Refuge A than the three or four hours suggested (some say it can be done in 2.5-3 hours). One guide recommendation I’ve seen suggested between 5-7 hours. I think I might have taken close to six hours as I was dawdling along, resting in scenic spots and catching my breath quite regularly. The views in the forrest and mountain range were quite good along the way.

Arriving at Refuge A (Spilios Agapitos) on Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus Refuge A

Finally I arrived at the cabin (known commonly as Refuge A). This is where it first hit me that numerous routes existed through Mount Olympus National Park. A giant map on the Refuge wall clearly showed the key routes to the highest points. The highest peak “Mytikas” at 2918m high, seemed to be the the holy grail.

I talked it over with a girl working there and asked about the easiest way to reach the top. She gave me her advice. One popular route to the top sounded difficult since it sounded much steeper, though it had the advantage of allowing a climber to ascend quicker.

It required helmets for safety conscious hikers due to falling rocks, often caused by other climbers. You could get a helmet from a higher Refuge, but this route sounded like the most dangerous of the two options. I didn’t want to risk it because most people on Mount Olympus had been killed on this steeper ascent. I chose what sounded like the safer option.

My first view of Olympus showing itself.

Mount Olympus Peaks

 

Staying at Refuge A

Meals – Good

Meals were catered for in refuge A. They seemed to offer some hearty food.

Beds – Crappy

Staying the night on Mount Olympus felt really chilly. During the day it had been really hot, but as soon as the sun disappeared the temperature fell dramatically. Luckily I had brought along some pants and a jumper, but thermals would have been great. Even while sleeping, extra clothing would have made things much more comfortable. I was shivering much of the night and didn’t get much sleep.

It’s freezing cold at night

The sleeping arrangement is pretty basic. Bunk beds, one blanket and a pillow and that’s it. I ended up scrounging up another blanket because it was freezing cold at night. I slept with all of my clothes on while wearing my beanie and gloves as well.

During the day, wearing shorts and a t-shirt was all I needed to wear, but at night it was freezing. Don’t skimp on clothing thinking you’ll be ok. I’m pretty sure staying overnight at a higher Refuge would have been even colder.

Make sure you fill all your water bottles when you leave a Refuge

Early morning I filled up my two 1.5 litre water bottles and departed on the hike to Skala via the E4 route. The climb felt pretty strenuous since it went up and up through numerous pathways with the hot sun pelting down at you. The sweat poured off of me.

Skala Peak

Eventually I came close to a mountain ledge which looked like it was the end of the line. It didn’t look like it was the top because I could see another peak in the distance that looked higher. What, I couldn’t see how anyone could reach the top at this point. A few other hikers enlightened me.

I had made it to Skala summit. If you wanted to go to Mytikas, you then had to descend through a narrow rocky corridor and make your way around a mountain face.

One lady hiker told me how she had turned back after feeling really exposed on the mountain ledge. I wanted to at least give it a shot, even though I was exhausted at that point.

After a little rest I proceeded through the corridor. Then you had to crawl around a mountain face. The heights were pretty scary and it did feel as though one slip up could cost you your life. I slowly managed to get around the mountain face and that’s when Mytakis showed itself in all its glory.

Meeting the Greek Guys (Gods?) on Mount Olympus

It was only the beginning. After that you have to climb up another mountain face straight towards Mytikas and the Greek flag at the top.

A couple of guys were coming down while I was making my way up dodging big rocks. They started a bit of a rock avalanche and yelled out a SORRY or WATCHOUT! Something like that. I could hear the rocks falling down towards me and noticed a few of them flying past.

We spoke once we were closer together. I assumed they were American Greeks, possibly brothers, after talking with them. We talked for a little bit and I told them that someone attempted the hike to hike Mount Olympus in flip flops (thongs), and that they had been killed as a result. One of them exclaimed, What a Malaka!

I asked them about the top of Mytikas and was surprised when they told me that they hadn’t been to the top. I couldn’t believe it. The Greek flag was at the top of the highest peak and these two Greek guys wouldn’t get a coveted photo. The top of Mytikas is where you can sign the visitor book as well.

I suggested that maybe it would have been a better climbing the other route up Mount Olympus. One of them quickly replied that you had to be a goat to climb up the other way up. I still could’t understand how they could be so close to the top and not stand on the very top of Mount Olympus.

Well when I ascended to a certain peak plateau, a little lower than the very top of Mytakis Peak, I fully understood why. The way to get to the top looked like a death wish. You had to go around another cliff face peak, which had ropes dangling around it. What was scary was the humungous drop, it went straight down. Death was assured if you fell.

I looked around and gave up pretty much straight away, thinking the Greek Gods would never want me up on top of Mount Olympus anyway. Maybe they even sent an envoy to tell me I’m a Malaka.

By this time I had nearly run out of water anyway and needed to conserve some of the precious liquid for the return journey. I took a few photos and regretfully contemplated my descent.

Mount Olympus Highest Peak in Greece

Climbing Mount Olympus Home of the Gods

Greek Flag on Mt OlympusHow would I respectfully face my hotel lady now? Yeah, sure I got pretty close. Here’s a zoom in from a photo I took. You can see the Greek flag on the left and the visitor log book on the right, that triumphant hikers who’ve successfully reached the highest Mt. Olympus peak can honourably sign.

The views were pretty spectacular all round but it was a big disappointment not making it to the very top of Mt. Olympus.

Mount Olympus View

Here’s what it takes to get from Skala to the top of Mytikas, the highest peak on Mount Olympus.

Iris, sends me a message

By the time I returned to the narrow entrance corridor back to the rocky dirt pathway, time had vanished. I only had a tiny bit of water left, maybe half a litre. I had aimed to get off the mountain entirely by the end of the day. Now I’d be lucky to get back to the same Refuge (cabin) by nightfall.

I could have gone to Skolio summit, a straight forward walk in the distance and signed a log book there, but I decided to head back after dying of thirst while trying to conserve the little water I had left. The water had turned hot after a hot day inside my black backpack, so it made quenching my thirst even more difficult. Most hikers had disappeared by this time and to piss me off the Greek Gods sent me off with a light shower of rain.

I left Skala when out of nowhere a rainbow appeared. Were the Greek Gods trying to tell me something? The Greek Gods were definitely against me. See my other post on how the Greek Gods got my attention.

Rainbow over Mount Olympus

Hiking Mount Olympus National Park

Were the Greek Gods trying to tell me something, like go to hell you Malaka!?

Staying on the mountain for another night wasn’t something I wanted to do. Once I reached Refuge A, light had faded from the sky. I felt exhausted and I could see myself stumbling through darkness if I tried to make it all the way down to Prionia. Plus what if I physically couldn’t do it. Thus I decided to stay at Refuge A for another night. It wasn’t pleasant, believe me. It was another really chilly night.

Bye-Bye Olympus

The next morning I departed early and arrived back to the Olympic View hotel just before I had to checkout, like 20 minutes before.

When I arrived I was cheerily greeted by one of the hotel lady’s two young daughters. As I was walking towards the lift I saw the hotel lady washing the outside of the window next to the lift. We waved to each other. After a very quick shower and shave, I managed to checkout right on time.

The hotel lady asked me if I had reached the top. No, I replied.

She asked me if I went to the Monastery. No, I replied.

She asked me about my next destination. Sky-ath-os, I replied. She corrected me with the correct pronunciation, Skar-thos, in regard to the Greek island of Skiathos. You will go swimming and relax on the beach, she suggested. Yeah, I answered.

How long should you plan to stay on Mount Olympus?

If you want to climb Mount Olympus, plan for a minimum of 3 nights in this beautiful part of Greece. You may only want to be on the mountain for 1 night, but you might find that 2 nights is required. Some hikers choose to stay even longer.

2 Nights on Mount Olympus

Spend the first night in Litochoro, and allow for 2 nights on Mount Olympus.

Most fit hikers only need one night on Olympus. If you take the Skala (E4) trail, it’s possible for casual hikers to make it back down to Prionia after summiting Mytikas, especially if you only go to Skolio, but don’t waste time sitting around for too long admiring the views.

Consider going back down via a different route, so you’ll experience a variety of scenery. Spending time on the Muses Plateau sounds like it would be a great experience.

1 Night on Mount Olympus

Take the Gortsia route (or the Prionia to Refuge A to Refuge C route) and stay high up on the mountain range for the first night. The following morning take the Louki route to the top of Mytikas. By midday, you’ll be able to start your descent down to either Gortsia (the original starting point) or Prionia (for a change of scenery on the way back).

If you can make it up Louki (via the very steep ascent) to Mytikas in the morning, you shouldn’t have a problem going to Skala and then to Prionia in the afternoon.

Starting the hike at Gortsia allows hikers to make the Mytikas ascent earlier. Clouds often move in later in the day, probably by the command of Zeus, so getting to the top earlier is an added incentive for better views.

Great way to finish the Mount Olympus hike

Dion

Make sure you visit the ancient city of Dion while you’re in the area as well, something I missed out on when I visited the area. Dion is the sacred Macedonian city at the foot of the mountain, dedicated to the Olympian Zeus. Dion is located 8 km north of Litochoro.

Bath of Zeus

A dip in the bath of Zeus looks tempting. Apparently this is where Zeus met with a few lovers including Aphrodite. This is a bit of a secret spot.

Mount Olympus Swimming Hole

 
It’s no wonder the Greek Gods had their home at Olympus. My recommendation is to end your Mount Olympus adventure in Skiathos or some other magical Greek paradise. Make those Greek Gods jealous.

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Climbing Mount Olympus in Greece