This is a timed post since right now I should be on my way to Helsinki to meet up an old friend from my home town. She’s one of the most important people in my life but somehow we haven’t seen each other in months, despite living two hours and – if lucky – a two-euro bus ticket apart. Then again I suck at arranging meetings even with friends in the city that I live in. It’s easy to just get caught up always hanging out with the people you see on an almost-daily basis (uni friends) but I should really be more thoughtful to remember to reach out for other friends as well.
Anyway, as you maybe know I visited Greece about two months ago and it was all kinds of spectacular, with diverse landscape, world heritage sites and mountains – and don’t even get me started on my new obsession of cheese pies. I’ve still got a few Greece posts tucked away and waiting for an inspired hand to have a go at writing them, but now I’d like to share some of the pictures I took during the two days Ben and I hiked Mount Olympus.
On day 1 we tackled the trail that goes steeply uphill through Epinea Gorge. It’s a hard track with a lot of steep ascends (but nothing as soul-wrecking as the hike up to Ghangaria in the Himalayan mountain range) but it rewards you with cool views as you make your way across the bottom of the gorge through fairytale bridges and gentle rapids. The 11 km hike finally takes you to Prionia, which is nothing more than an overpriced restaurant and toilets.
Tip: Where to stay? As the small town of Litochoro is the entry point for both the hikes and the road up the mountain, staying there is a good idea. We stayed in a hostel about a ten-minute drive from Litochoro and I can personally recommend The Summit Zero Hostel to any other backpackers around the area. The family who run the hostel are lovely people, it’s located by the beach, plus they’ve got two friendly big dogs hanging around! Cuddles were given. There’s also a nice restaurant right next door that serves delicious grilled octopus, but when we were there it was really quiet so I recommend driving back up to Litochoro for dinner and some live Greek music.
Tip: Start early, because later on the day it will be hotter and there will also be more hikers on the trail. If you’re driving yourself, park your car in the parking lot that’s found behind some restaurants when you turn onto the road that starts towards Mt. Olympus (or, you know, park anywhere – it’s Greece after all). Start the day with a breakfast in one of the numerous little cafés on the high street and stock up on energy bars, biscuits, and fruit or anything else you need to get yourself to finish the trail.
Tip: Don’t want to carry litres of water around with you? Consider investing in a Lifestraw. (No, this is not advertisement – it’s just a product I use myself.) This handy device is small and light, and it’s designed to filter your water so that, virtually, you could be able to drink out of a muddy puddle. While the water in Mount Olympus seemed to be very clean (especially since it was melted glacier water), having a Lifestraw assures that you don’t pick up any funky germs on your hike. I forgot mine at home because I’m an idiot, but I used it on the Himalayan hikes in India last summer and it worked well.
Tip: The trek from Litochoro to Prionia is 11 km one way. Unless you want to hike back, chat to the drivers in Prionia and ask for a lift back down to Litochoro. Most will be happy to help you. We ended up spending a fun few hours with a lovely Greek-German couple that picked us up and treated us to a herbal tea in a roadside cafe on the way down. Oh yeah, do try that tea if you get the chance. Visit the Agios Dionysios Monastery (the first monastery that comes up when you drive from Litochoro to Prionia) to buy some of it to take home with you.
The second day we drove our loyal little Smartcar to the parking lot where we had finished our hike the day before and took the trail leading towards the summit. The path is a lot easier than the one through the gorge, probably because it is so popular and has to be well-maintained. There are very few ascends that leave you dramatically clutching your chest in pain, even though it is almost all uphill and by no means just a casual stroll. The views are well worth it, though.
Tip: Dreaming of ascending the peak? When we visited in early April, the snow had not yet melted and attempting the summit would have required even more skill and gear than it usually does. Go there during the summer or early autumn before the snow has fallen, and prepare to take appropriate gear with you – the climb up requires scrambling over some rocks so it’s not a basic hike.
Tip: Hiking Mt. Olympus in the off/shoulder season? Most refuges will be closed outside of high season (as well as the tourist information booth along the road up then mountain) so make sure you tell someone where you’re going and that you take enough water and snacks with you.
Have you ever been to Mount Olympus and would you like to go?