We’ve said it many times before: Greece is not just about the sun, sea, and great food. The country has many other delights to offer those who will take the extra time and effort needed to see them.
Indeed, the secret appears to be out as ever greater numbers of foreign visitors are discovering Greece’s mountains, lakes, and rivers, leaving the beaches behind them – at least for a short while.
And among the most magical landscapes are those offered by Mount Olympus, the home of the gods.
The E4 European long distance path (which starts in Portugal and ends in Cyprus) begins at the Litochoro village and reaches the site of Prionia in the heart of the mountain at an altitude of 1,100 meters. To hike its entire length takes 5-6 hours depending on one’s speed, and for most it is a moderate, although not overwhelming challenge. The reward is a great variety of gorgeous landscapes, essentially almost untouched by human activity.
The key feature of the trail is the Enipeas river. Cold, fresh water pours out of the mountain at the springs in Prionia, and cascades all the way down to the foothills of Olympus, forming waterfalls, plunge pools and branches and forks where you least expect them.
At times the trail rises high above the river, at others it runs along the water’s edge, crossing over at times to the opposite bank via wooden bridges. Braver hikers will take a dip in the crystal clear plunge pools, although to swim for longer than just half a minute is truly heroic. The rest of us will simply quench our thirst from the river. A friend swore he found the water to be not just refreshing, but a real digestive aid.
In a cave near the end of the trail (or the beginning if you’re hiking down), is the small hermitage of Aghios Dionysios, and further down, if you make a slight detour, you can visit the monastery dedicated to the saint which is located in a stunning setting.
Shortly before the end of the trail, the largest waterfall awaits, begging you to stop for one last break, and to step into the ice-cold shower – if you dare.
An unforgettable experience
Having made it to Prionia, which is also reachable by car, there are several options. You can have a meal at the taverna and take the asphalt road down, you can enjoy a picnic in nature, or you can continue up one of the trails starting in Prionia that head for the mountain’s peaks.
One thing is certain. Leaving the Mountain of the Gods, you’ll be one incredible experience richer. You’ll re-live, and re-tell the story of your hike on Mount Olympos countless times, and likely soon start planning your next trip into the mountains of Greece.
The Litochoro – Prionia trail is 9 kilometers long with an altitude change of about 700 meters (with several dips and climbs). You can make the hike up the mountain, which is quite challenging, or start at Prionia and descend.