Olympus National Park has been voted as the fifth best national park in Europe by an independent international agency.
This 92-square-mile park is home to one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world – the 52 peaks of Mount Olympus that were believed to be the home of the gods by the inhabitants of ancient Greece. The village of Dion, which sits on the mountain’s flanks, was a holy Macedonian city where King Archelaus held nine days of games to honor Zeus, several centuries B.C.
Today, it houses a remarkable archaeology site where work is ongoing, along with an archaeological museum which features much of the region’s rich Classical history. The park is also home to numerous animal species like lynx, wolves, fox, jackals and wild boar, along with more than 108 bird species as well as over 1,700 plants that can be found on Mount Olympus, representing 25 percent of all Greek flora.
Olympus is a Mediterranean mountain; summers are typically warm and dry and winters are wet. High elevations are typically covered in snow for a full seven months (November to May). During any season the climate is apt to change as one climbs—for each 100 meters of ascent the average temperature typically drops by half a degree Celsius.
Larger animals prowling the park include wolves, jackals, wild cats, foxes, chamois, and deer. More than a hundred bird species live in Olympus National Park, including rare and threatened woodpeckers and golden eagles. The park is also famed for the colorful array of butterflies found here.
How to Get There
A primary base for Olympus exploration, Litochoro is 258 miles (416 kilometers) from Athens but just 57 miles (92 kilometers) from Thessaloniki. The town is nestled in the mountain’s foothills, just three miles (five kilometers) from the Aegean Sea. It’s linked by train and bus to Athens and Thessaloniki. Other park entrance points are at Dion, Petra, Karya, and Kokkinopilos.
When to Visit
The region of Olympus National Park boasts a history that is second to none, as well as a vibrant modern culture. A year-round calendar features cultural, religious, and athletic events.
How to Visit
Hiking and climbing are very popular on the mountain and there are routes for all levels of ability and enthusiasm. There are nine refuges for overnight stays; each one sleeps dozens of people and many have kitchens or even restaurants. Some refuges are seasonal so plan any visits accordingly.