Mt. Olympus, the highest peak in Greece at 9,570 feet, is a challenging, yet doable ascent that many visiting hikers welcome. This storied mountain around 80 kilometers southwest of Thessaloniki has long held a place in the imagination, as Greek and Roman mythology made it the home of their main gods and goddesses.

  A visit to Mt. Olympus encompasses much of the best of outdoor Greece: beautiful scenery, challenging terrain, and a fascinating connection to the ancient world. In Greek mythology, Mt. Olympus was where heaven and earth touched — a fitting location for Zeus, the king of the gods, and his wife, Hera, to reign. While the mountain represented more of a symbolic than literal place in ancient myth, the clouds that gather around its peak hearken back to stories of Zeus battling the Titans with clouds and thunderbolts.

  In Greek, “Olympus” means “luminous one,” which may reflect the snow that covers its peaks from November to May. The mountain’s profile is shaped by steep peaks and plunging ravines where the Enippeas River runs. Every year, more than 10,000 hikers try to summit this mountain, where trails begin in dense woods and cross wooden bridges before emerging into an alpine forest and then windswept rocks — and finally, majestic views of northeastern Greece. To optimize the trip, hikers need to prepare well by packing the right gear, choosing an appropriate trail, and, if necessary, hiring a knowledgeable guide. Here’s where to start.


  Mt. Olympus is a Class III climb that involves scrambling over loose rocks and lots of sun exposure. Hikers need to be in good physical condition and have experience gauging weather conditions when deciding whether to ascend the final peak. Some routes have rock obstacles that require additional gear and technical climbing.

  Hikers ascending Mt. Olympus in the summer need to wear boots and durable, layered clothing. They should also take sunscreen, a hat, personal hygiene items, and a sleeping bag in an anticipation of an overnight stay at one of the six “refuges” (mountain huts) on the trails. Hikers will also need food and water, especially energy snacks, while trekking poles and a helmet are optional, but recommended.

  Winter hikers considering one of the more challenging summit trails could need crampons, an ice axe, and winter climbing equipment.


  While the trails up Mt. Olympus are well marked, a guided hike will ensure that you take the best route for your group’s skill level and time available. The prices for a three-day climb start at about $170 and can increase to as much as $860 for longer trips with larger groups. Specialty Mt. Olympus hikes focus on additional physical challenges such as rock climbing along the route or traveling from hut to hut.

  Guides can typically take groups as large as 15, and they will slow down the pace for less experienced hikers, especially through the more difficult parts of the trail.


  There are two main routes up Mt. Olympus.

  1. Leaving from Prionia:

  The more popular of two ascents, this route starts about 20 kilometers outside the village of Litochoro at the Prionia trailhead, where a parking lot and café serve a steady stream of hikers. It’s only a few kilometers inland, promising views of the Aegean Sea as the trail ascends. Hikers start about 1,100 feet above sea level, trekking to Olympus Mountain Refuge A and then Skala Peak on a well-marked trail. The hike is steep at times and traverses areas of loose gravel where it’s easy to lose your footing. After Skala, it’s on to Mytikas, the highest peak on Mt. Olympus.

  The hike to Mytikas from Skala begins with a steep downhill scramble on an exposed mountain face — although there are handholds for hikers to steady themselves. Once you reach the “saddle” between the two peaks, follow the recommended path designated with red and yellow markings. The path soon begins ascending to an uphill scramble to a subpeak on a gravely path; watch out for small rocks rolling down from the trail ahead. The hike will descend into a col before you make the final ascent to Mytikas via the “Evil Staircase” — a relatively easy uphill walk that is possibly named after its craggy gray appearance, rather than its level of difficulty.

  2. Leaving from Gortsia:

  This trail tends to be less crowded, and the hiking is a little less strenuous. However, be sure to pack sunscreen, because you’ll be spending more time on exposed trails. The hike passes by Petrostrouga Refuge D before arriving at the vast Plateau of Muses and Apostolides Refuge B, the highest refuge on Mt. Olympus. Feel free to stop in to hang out with other hikers and take an ice-cold shower. Your trek to the summit will begin from here, and hikers need to gauge their experience and athleticism when choosing a route to Mytikas. A shortcut goes straight to the peak, but it is steep and difficult, while an easier loop hike passes over Skala Peak and then up to Mytikas.

  Most hikers allow at least two days for their summit, spending one night at a refuge along the way. Depending on which trailhead you choose, the hike can take between seven and eleven hours one way.

Maryan Barbara
Maryan Barbara

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