"So saying, Minerva, goddess azure-eyed,
Rose to Olympus, the reputed seat
Eternal of the gods, which never storms
Disturb, rains drench, or snow invades, but calm
The expanse and cloudless shines with purest day.
There the inhabitants divine rejoice
(Homer’s Odyssey Z 14, Translation: William Cowper)
Besides being the country’s highpoint, Olymbos has always held an important role in the mythology and history of the place. It is known worldwide as the “Mountain of the Gods”, as the 12 Gods of the ancient Greek religion, made it their home and fortress when fighting against the Titans (based on Mount Orthri) for control of the universe.
Throughout the Hellenic history, the area around Olymbos changed hands repeatedly. Persians, Romans, Slavs, Gaules, Bulgarians, Turks and Germans took turns in attacking it. The mountain itself, however, has always been free, providing shelter to those fighting for freedom (and thieves avoiding arrest, too).
Although ancient Greeks used to climb up to Profitis Ilias to sacrifice to the Gods, they didn’t dare get close to the highest peaks. Some unsuccessful attempts to the summit were recorded in the 17th and 19th centuries. Finally, in August 2 1913 Swiss climbers Fred Boissonas and Daniel Baud Bovy and the local guide Christos Kakkalos made it to the summit. They named it Venizelos, after the prime minister who has led the country to victory in the Balkan wars, and the one to the north “Zeus’ throne”. Those peaks are today named Mytikas and Stefani.
(2917m or 2918.8 according to the latest measurements).
You can climb it from Zonaria
through its couloir
(200m scramble) or from Skala on a slightly easier but exposed ridge.
Even though there are rock-climbing routes on its north face
, the summit trail moves through easy slopes.
(2909m), also known as "Zeus' throne"
It is climbed by a couloir similar to Mytikas'. The last meters to the peak require a technical move, not so difficult but very exposed.
There is an abandoned weather station on the top, which now serves as en emergency shelter.
A small stone-built chapel of Profitis Ilias (Prophet Elias) has given its name to the peak
There are 46 peaks above 2000m and 47 more above 1000m.
Getting ThereBy car:
Litochoro, the town on the east side of the mountains is by far the most popular starting point. To get there take E75 and turn at the Litochoro exit (75km from Thessaloniki, 425km from Athens). Litochoro is another 5km from the exit. Other starting places are Elassona (west), Karya (south) and Kokkinoplos (northwest).
Nearest train station: Litochoro railway station. (Note: the new station is about 5km away from the town).
Further info: Hellenic Railroad Organisation
buses from Athens or Thessaloniki. The bus from Athens drops you at a bus stop on the E75 Litochoro exit. A local bus from Katerini takes you to Litochoro. From Thessaloniki you go to Katerini and take the local bus from there.
Nearest airport: Thessaloniki International Airport
Olymbos is a national park so certain restrictions apply. Also foreigners who want to spend a night in Refuge B need a permit because it is located in a military area. The permit is necessary for passing through that area on your way to the peaks and can be obtained through Hellenic National Defence General Staff
When To Climb
Climbing Olymbos is possible around the year. However winter ascends are quite demanding as the weather can get really bad in minutes. In the summer it’s one of few mountains in Greece cool enough to climb (you can expect rain or hail even in August). Snowfalls usually start in October and there is still enough snow in June.
There are six refuges on Olymbos. In all of them you can buy supplies (snacks, bottled water etc.) and in most (except B) you can order a meal. In the summer they are open on weekends and in the high season (mid July to late August) every day. In the winter you have to make arrangements with the maintainers to take the keys
Refuge A, “Spilios Agapitos” (2060m)
Build in 1931 and named after the first president of EOS (now known as EOOA, the Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing
) who designed it. It has 100 beds, water from a spring, electricity and a telephone. It is visited by thousants of climbers from all over the world every summer. In the winter the route it is on is not popular.
++30 2352 081800
Added by teochristopoulos
Approaching refuge A in winter is extremely dangerous because of the high avalance risk. there are obvious signs of priviews years (broken trees etc) on the final part of prionia-refuge A route. the whole zonaria area needs attention after heavy snowfall.
Refuge B, “Vryssopoules” (1800m)
It is located in a military area, so foreigners need a permit. It has 40 beds but no blankets. It belongs to EOOA
and is maintained by the EXOS (Hellenic Skiing and Mountaineering Club) of Elassona.
++30 2493 023467
Refuge C, “Christos Kakkalos” (2650m)
Named after the guide of the first ascend, it was build in 1961 on the Muses plateau
and belongs to the EOOA
. It has 18 beds and water from a tank. The new maintainer, Michalis Styllas, an experienced climber and very knlowledgable about Olumpus, has made it the rock climbers' favourite refuge. He is very helpful towards them, providing beta, topos, advice and being always ready to assist in emergencies.
++30 2352 01944
+30 6937 361 689 (send an SMS if unavailable)
Refuge D, “Stavros” (930m)
It belongs to EOS (Hellenic Mountaineering Club) of Thessaloniki. Climbers stopped using it when the road to Prionia was made. Now it attracts non-climbing visitors who drive up to it to eat or have a cup of coffee. It has 30 beds and water from a spring.
++30 231 0278288
SEO Refuge, “Giosos Apostolidis” (2720m)
Built on the saddle between Profitis Ilias and Toumba peaks, above the Muses plateau
. It bares the name of one of the pioneers of Greek climbing, Giosos Apostolidis who was killed in a fall in Mytikas’ couloir. It has 80 beds and water from a tank and it belongs to SEO (Hellenic Mountaineering Club) of Thessaloniki
++30 231 0224710/++2352 082300
A new refuge
in "Krevatia" or "Palioskelia" (1000m). Accessible through an 8km dirt road or a 1,5hr trek from Agia Triada Vrontous. 20 beds and organized kitchen.
Tel: +30 6978278548, +30 6979006208
There is also a small hut in Livadaki and three emergency shelters in Agios Antonios, Megali Gourna and at the end of the Army's ski lift at Vryssopoules. A new refuge is being built at Petrostrouga, on the start of the route to the plateau
. Most climbers protested against a new refuge being built in this environmentally sensitive area, especially since it's location doesn't make it neccessary for climbing the mountain.
Camping is tolerated above the tree line. The Muses plateau
is a perfect camping site. Just remember to pack all your garbage out
In the winter north winds make for a steady weather (but can bring temperatures down to –20ºC). It’s the northwest ones that usually bring trouble.
Avalanche danger is an other thing to consider in the winter.
(in Greek & English, for all Greek mountains with ski centers)
National Observatory of Athens 72-hours Forecasts
General forecast. Check the forecast for Thessaloniki.
Editions Map Olympus in 1:50.000 scale (there seems to be something wrong with the GPS grid. You'd better wait till the new Topo 50 Series map comes out).
Editions Map Topo 25 Series Central Olympus in 1:25.000 scale.
The maps from the magazine Korfes can be obtained through E.O.S.Acharnon club
Maps of the Hellenic Military Geographical Service
might be difficult for foreigners to obtain.