Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and is made all the more dramatic because the mountain range of which it is a part rises sharply from a flat plain and juts straight up into the sky. It is less than 20km (12.5 miles) from the top of Mount Olympus to the shore of the Aegean Sea.
Through the plain that stands between Mount Olympus and the sea runs the main Athens-Thessaloníki highway, giving any motorist the chance to stop off and admire the mountains even if they have no wish to set foot on them. As you gaze at the peaks you are looking across the Mount Olympus National Park, home to deer, boar, badgers and the European wild cat, as well as birds of prey and some 1700 different plant species. There are oak and beech forests, and stretches of Macedonian fir, as well as a centuries-old rare yew tree wood near the Monastery of Dionysius.
The entire mountain range is only 20km (12.5 miles) from end to end and is known as the Olympus range, with the highest point being referred to as either Mount Olympus or Mount Mýtikas. This rises to a height of 2917m (9570ft) and was not scaled by man until 1913. The Greek Gods, of course, got there first. It was here that the Battle of the Titans took place, when the twelve Greek Gods led by Zeus defeated the Titans who represented the wild natural forces, tamed by Zeus and the Gods who introduced some kind of civilisation to the world.
Church in a cave on the slopes of Mount Olympus in the National Park
Anyone who is reasonably fit and does some advance planning can get to the home of the Gods, though the 6-hour trek means that at least one night must be spent on the mountain, either camping out or by booking into one of the two mountain refuges. On no account should the trek be attempted by anyone inexperienced, unless you take a local guide with you.
The base for approaching the mountain and the surrounding park is the busy village of Litóchoro, with several hotels and restaurants and a good place for an overnight stop if exploring the region. Here you can equip yourself with maps, guides and indeed any equipment you may have forgotten to bring with you.
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