Hiking Mt. Olympus in Greece: The Happiest Time of My Life
September 2nd, 2016
I always like to plan things out before I do them. Especially with hiking mountains in a country of which language I did not know, it was especially crucial for me to plan things out before hand. I searched online and found close to nothing that would help me prepare for Mt. Olympus. I basically went to Greece with no knowledge of Mt. Olympus so I had to figure everything out on the way. So, hopefully, this blog post will help guide those who wish to hike one of the most beautiful mountains on Earth.
Location: Litochoro, Greece
When you arrive in Greece, it is very common to arrive at the ATH (Athens International Airport). There is a train at St. Larissa* (different from the city named Larissa) St. Larissa is a metro stop on the Red Line.
- Take the train from St. Larissa (Athens) to Larissa (4 hours)
Transfer trains at the train station Larissa to go to Litochoro (1 major stop) (30 minutes)
From the Litochoro train station to the village it takes 5-10 minutes by taxi. (6km)
You can look for the train schedule at www.trainose.gr The trains are rarely full so you can just buy the tickets at the station. The train will stop a couple of times before reaching a major stop. Listen to "Litochoro" (Lih-toe-hoe-roe)
- [Sun protection] Sun hat, Sunglasses, Sunscreen
- [Cold protection] Baselayer (long-sleeve recommended), Midlayer (fleece, or softshell jacket) It can get to 5C
- [Wind protection] Pants, windbreaker
- [Food] Snacks with proteins, fats, and carbs, 500-1000 calories (bring more food if you want to spend less money and vice versa)
- [Water] 1.5L
- [Other] Hiking map with trails, compass, camera, first aid kit
- [Overnight stay] Toiletries, plastic bag for trash, charger, phone charger, money
Note: DO NOT bring only nuts. I basically ate none of it then relied on the food at the refuge. Eating only nuts SUCKS! Bars and bread are much better.
Overnight stay costs 13 euros and the a full meal costs around 10. Also bring money for the taxis.
The Most Common Route
Litochoro - the Small town with a population of 7000 in northern Greece.
The Small Town of Litochoro Mt. Olympus - Tallest mountain in Greece, it is a series of multiple peaks.
Prionia - (1100m) The last place where vehicles can drive to. It has a restaurant, bathroom and water fountains.
Refuge A (2100 m). - One of the Refuges on the mountain. There are multiple Refuges on the mountain, but it is the only Refuge on the way if you take the Prionia route. Refuge A offers a place to sleep for over 90 people a night and warm food and water. They also have a bountiful supply of snacks and other goods such as socks that you can buy. You can charge your phone there as well.
Skala - It leads to either Skolio or Mytikas (2866m)
Skolio - The Second highest peak. (2911 m)
Mytikas - The highest peak. (2918 m) Requires YDS class 3 scrambling
Mytikas from Skala
Even the most experienced hikers will follow this approach to hiking Mt. Olympus.
(You can start the Day 1 Hike anytime you want. I recommend starting it in the morning so it is not as hot and you have more time to adjust to the elevation. More info in the Tips section below.)
@ T 0- Take a taxi to Prionia
@30 min -Begin hike from Prionia towards Refuge A. Follow the E4 trail (basically the only visible trail) and the clear directions towards the Refuge.
http://www.wesleytian.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/IMG_3034.jpg @3hours 30min - Arrive at Refuge A (2100m)
Total hiking time: 3 hours
Stay at Refuge A for the night
6:00 Breakfast opens. Eat breakfast.
7:00 Sun rises, set out for the hike. Follow the E4 trail towards Skala (Ascent) (2.25 hours)
9:30 Arrive at Skala. Take path to Mytikas (Requires Class 3 Scrambling) (45 minutes)
10:30 Reach Mytikas (15 minutes)
10:45 Start climbing down to Refuge A (Descent) (3 hours)
13:30 Reach Refuge A. Rest. (1 hour)
14:30 Refuge A --Prionia (Descent) (3 hours)
17:30 Arrive at Prionia. Take Taxi* back to Litochoro (30 minutes)
18:00 Arrive back at Litochoro.
Total hiking time: 9 hours
There are no readily available taxis so you can either call one at the restaurant or preschedule one.
Can I summit Mytikas and come back down in one day? I'm sure there will be many of you out there who are asking the question. Can I hike Mt. Olympus in one day? I also wondered that and I had attempted to do it. When I got to Prionia that morning, it was raining very hard. My driver told me this was the first time it has rained like this all summer in Greece. Without the rain, it is possible to climb Mt. Olympus in one day. However with the Rain, scrambling to Mytikas is extremely dangerous. Granite is extremely slippery while wet and the falls are easily fatal. The second day only took me 5-6 hours instead of the average 9. The first day took me 2.5. If you get to Prionia at 8, and assuming you hike at a frisky pace, you can make it down by 18:00. Hiking Mt. Olympus in one day is rarely seen and everyone you talk to will not recommend it. As I said, falls from the side of Mytikas are easily fatal and it would be wise to climb with a fresh mind and body.
Will I have elevation sickness? A Romanian guy that I hiked to Refuge A with left shortly after taking a nap there. He said he felt sick in the head and the stomach. Since we arrived at Refuge A around noon time, he could afford to hike down again. If you arrive at night, then the hike down will be more difficult. Hike to Refuge A and see how well you feel. I had a slight headache but it disappeared after a large dinner and nap. The next day, two other people that I met on the mountain also left instead of hiking to Skolio as they had planned because of elevation sickness as well. So plan ahead, and always be wary of your health. Your safety should always be the first priority.
How should I prepare for an overnight stay? Because I had originally prepared to hike Mt. Olympus in one day, I did not prepare for an overnight stay. Things that I didn't bring and should have: contact lenses, toothbrush, toothpaste, phone charger. Although I forgot to bring a charger, there were other people there who were nice enough to lend me one. The people there are extremely nice and friendly and will help you in anyway possible. You, of course, should do the same.
Pants or shorts? I only wore shorts because I thought that it wouldn't be that cold at the top. I was wrong. Wearing shorts didn't kill me but it was quite uncomfortable as 5C and the wind is actually quite cold. Wear pants or even better, bring pants that can turn into shorts.
Will my camera work at such cold temperatures? Your phone may not work at very cold temperatures, as in the case with my iPhone 6s. At about halfway to Skala from Refuge A, my phone would just die even though it had 30% battery left. I had to keep it tight against my stomach and hope that it would heat up enough so that I could take a few pictures. I was able to take a few from time to time, but for the most part, my phone was inoperable. Bring a camera that can withstand low temperatures to prevent these troubles.
Out of all the hikes that I've been on so far, (Mt. Fuji, Half Dome, other less popular hikes) Mt. Olympus has been my favorite experience of them all. First, the people were amazing. The guys that I hiked up the mountain with were extremely friendly and even though two of them did not speak English at all (Romanian and Greek), they were nice and fun people to be around. The people at the Refuge were really good-natured and friendly as well. You will meet people from all over the world and it seems like hikers are just really nice people in general. I became friends with 2 Greeks, 1 Romanian fellow, 3 Austrians, 2 Germans as well as 2 dogs.
The views were absolutely stunning. I finally understand what people mean by 'some views are worth dying for' now. Waking up to the sunrise over Litochoro and the sea was absolutely magical. The hike up the mountain was phenomenal as well. I chose hiking Mt. Olympus over going to the Santorini islands and I think it was definitely worth it. Even though the sights were jaw-dropping, hiking isn't just about the sights, it's about the entire experience that includes the people, the smells, and the feelings that you experience through the hike.
This trip I went to Athens, Litochoro, Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan and out of all of the sights and people I met in those cities, I think the hike to Mytikas will definitely be the most memorable experience of them all. Much better than just going somewhere and looking at historical monuments, being able to climb the "Mountain of the gods" that the Greeks have deemed as the location of their Mythological gods was the most amazing thing that I have done.
If you ever have the chance to go to Greece and have the love for hiking/nature, then you have to hike Mt. Olympus, even if it isn't to Mytikas. (Skolio is much easier but will be just as memorable). If I can convince even one of you to experience what I experienced sometime during your lifetime, then all of this was worth it.