Here’s a vlog I made about my trip up the mountain, or you can skip past to read the details:
Mount Olympus, the highest peak in Greece, is cemented in Ancient Greek history as the resting place of the Gods. Back then, Greeks would traipse to the top to honour and sacrifice to Zeus. It’s highest peak towers at 2917 metres, and each year, the Mt Olympus marathon sees hundreds of people run up and back in under four hours.
After climbing to the summit over two days, I can’t imagine running the trail, let alone finishing it in such a short amount of time. It’s a beautiful, winding track up the mountain which passes by rivers, waterfalls, small monasteries, and religious shrines built into caves.
Here’s everything you need to know before setting of on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Where to stay
Litochoro is a town at the base of the mountain where the trail I took started from. There are many Airbnbs and guesthouses there to stay in. If you’re on a budget, Summit Zero is a hostel on the beach that I stayed at, about a 20 minute bus ride from Litochoro. If you’ve got a car, you could stay in the nearby town of Katerini instead. Litohoro has a train and bus station, with regular connections from Thessaloniki and Athens. I came from Meteora (Kalabaka), and caught the train connecting in Parofarsalos.
How to climb Mt Olympus
I took the E4 trail to get to the top from Litochoro. This is the most popular trail and probably the best if you’re not an experienced mountaineer. There are two ways you can do this:
1- Get a taxi (25 Euro), drive, or hitchhike to the Prionia car park, halfway up the mountain. From here, it’s about a three-hour hike to Refuge A, then another two or three hours to the peak. You can come straight back down to the car park in about four hours (so, a 10ish hour round trip with stops), or spend the night at the refuge before climbing back down in the morning.
2- Hike up to the Prionia car park instead of driving. This is what I did because I heard it was a beautiful hike and if I’m going to do it, I may as well do it all. It’s about five or six hours from the town of Litochoro up to the car park, with a lot of up and down. A lot of it is in the shade, and the trail winds beside a river. It’s not easy, but it feels so good to get to that car park. Once you’re at Prionia, you can buy food/drinks, there are bathrooms, and places to fill your water bottle. From here, you can hike the last three or four hours up to Refuge A. I spent the night here, then the next morning I climbed up to the peak, then back down to the car park where I hitchiked back to town. It’s SO easy to hitchhike – I just waited at the car park exit and asked for a lift from the first people to pass.
What’s the refuge like?
For 13 Euro a night, it’s a pretty good deal. The rooms are clean and warm, and pretty modern considering it’s up the top of a mountain. The water is ice-cold so I just didn’t shower. You have to bring your own sheets or buy disposable ones for 7.50 Euro. They have a bar and restaurant, and their giant servings of spaghetti bolognese are exactly what you want after a day of hiking. There’s very slow wifi and power outlets. Be sure to get up to watch the sunrise over the sea and the valley below, the refuge cafe opens at 6am for coffee and breakfast. Coffee was 2 Euro, spaghetti was 7 Euro, and they also sold chocolates, museli bars, and snacks. I recommend you email to book in advance, they were sold out the night I originally had planned to go (it was a Saturday).
Mt Olympus actually has more than 50 peaks. The highest one is Mythikas, but it’s a real bitch to climb up. It’s veeeeery steep, and is basically just small loose rocks. If you slip, you’ll likely fall a long way. You should probably wear a helmet, just in case rocks falls from above.
A lot of people warned me not to climb it, and once I got there and took a look I decided against it. Most climbers ascend to Skala, which has incredible views, and from there you can progress to the other ones. From Skala I continued on the path for another 20 minutes and climbed the second-highest peak, Skolio, at 2911 metres. If you’ve got the energy, I really recommend it. It’s an easy path, and the views are insane.
What should you bring
I had a very small backpack that wasn’t really made for hiking, so I was definitely under-prepared.
- I didn’t bring a towel for the refuge, which I didn’t need, but would have liked. I just dried my face/hands on a shirt and that was fine, and I had a Baby Wipes shower instead of an icy cold water shower.
- Definitely bring a jumper and long pants as it gets cold at night, and a second pair of clothes as you’ll want to change as soon as you get there.
- You should probably carry two litres of water, which you can refill at Prionia and the refuge. Honestly I only had a litre and a bit and it was fine, but better safe than sorry.
- Snacks! I got SO HUNGRY while I was walking. I had a couple of museli bars, crackers, fruit and nut mix, all the normal hiking food. I also got a kolouri (bread ring) from a bakery in town before I set off. There’s a restaurant at the Prionia car park but I didn’t want to fill my stomach and then have to hike four hours up a hill in 30ºC. Snacking every couple hours sustained me just fine.
- Also bring sunscreen, bug spray if you’re bothered by mosquitos, spare socks (oh I wish I’d done this), hand sanitizer, wet wipes.
- If you’re alone, download some Netflix shows or bring a book to read. I met a couple who I hung out with for a bit at the refuge but if there’s no one around to chat to you could get bored. Also I was so tired I just wanted to go to bed at 7pm and watch a movie haha.
Olympus was such an amazing experience, and it’s pretty cool to stand at the highest point in Greece. It’s definitely worth the trip out there. If you have any specific questions, leave them in the comments below or slide into my DM’s on Instagram @jemimaskelley.
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