How To Hike Mount Olympus, Greece: A 2-Day Summit Trek to Mytikas Peak
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Getting to Litohoro, the town at the base of Mount Olympus, was like playing a game of “how can we take as many different modes of transportation as possible”. We took a flight from Hania to Thessaloniki, where we then hopped on a bus from the airport to the train station, got on a train, and finally ended up on the outskirts of Litohoro 6 km from the center of town. As luck would have it a taxi happened to be waiting right outside of the train station to drive us into town.
At this point, I am wildly convinced that the Greeks are just the friendliest people on earth, and our taxi driver did not disappoint as he enchanted us with tales of his ultra-endurance running and the many times he has hiked Mt. Olympus. As he his informing us about all the different routes we can use to summit Mitikas, I tell him we are planning on starting from Litohoro, hiking past Prionia to Refuge A on day one, then hike to the summit, and hike down to Gortsia. At this he exclaims “Wow, you know Gortsia, you make my day!” and approved our hiking plan with gusto.
Litohoro is a small town with a very tight-knit community and our driver immediately makes some calls to his friends and sets us up in a hotel right at the base of the trailhead. We settled in, bought some baguettes, local cheese, and chocolate spread (when in Europe) to take with us on our hike, packed our day packs and we were ready for our hike to the summit.
After leaving our luggage with the owner of the hotel, a cute little Greek lady who could be anybody’s grandma, we set off on our trek. Anybody who doesn’t hike either starting from or finishing in Litohoro is absolutely nuts as the scenery is nothing short of stunning. You hike along a gorgeously wooded trail with stunning vistas of the rocky peaks, and serene creek crossings studded with waterfalls. Nothing could have been more different than the tropical mountains of southern China, and it was definitely making us homesick for the Appalachian Mountains back home.
The hike to Prionia took us about 4 hours, including stopping for a bread and cheese lunch at one of the waterfalls. Prionia is the trailhead where most people start and or finish their summit from, and you can’t miss it when you get there. They have a huge gravel parking lot that will most likely be packed with cars as well as I restaurant, bathrooms, and a water spigot to refill your water bottles, important since it is the last spot to get water before you reach Refuge A.
After stopping to refill water we continued on what would now be a continuous uphill climb to the top. It was some serious uphill too, let me tell you. Even switchbacks were not helping to hide the steepness of the mountain. As we climbed we watched the trees change from a green and yellow-leafed canopy to the evergreen needles of pine trees, and then even they were slowly fading away the higher we climbed. Finally, 14 km of footsteps from town, after what seemed like an endless upward battle, we reached the Spilios Agapitos Refuge (Refuge A) where we would sleep for the night.
Once inside we booked ourselves 2 beds, removed our shoes, (that was a new one), and got shown to our room. Just fyi for those who wish to hike Olympus in the future, especially in the cooler seasons, there are no shoes allowed in Refuge A, they literally make you take them off as soon as you walk in, put them in a shoe cabinet, and then provide you with rubber sandals if you have not come prepared with your own alternate footwear such as sandals or slippers.
The only heated areas are the dining rooms, which each have a fireplace, and the lobby. Bedrooms are not heated although they do plug in a dehumidifier at night to take out the dampness and provide you with plenty of blankets. Oh and another big fyi, they have no hot water…bye bye any thoughts of a shower. I have to say, I was kind of wishing I had brought my down jacket, as it is quite chilly up there at night sleeping right at the tree line.
Both Justin and I consumed two heaping bowls of spaghetti bolognese for dinner followed by watching another gorgeous Greek sunset and huddling by the fire for warmth before heading off for an early sleep. I hoarded 3 heavy wool blankets to sleep under and drifted off in my own toasty cocoon. The next morning greeted us with an amazing sunrise, and after fueling ourselves with some bread and chocolate we were off on a brisk start to reach Mytikas.
The trail only got steeper upon leaving the refuge. Somewhere along our walk/crawl to the top I met the sweetest dog, whom of course I made friends with, who proceeded to follow us all the way up to the valley between Skala and Mytikas, the two highest peaks on Mt. Olympus. We stopped here for a rest and a sunbath, upon which time our dog friend decided it was much more fun to sunbathe than it was to hike, and let us continue on without her.
The route up to Mytikas, even the easier, less steep route that we were taking, is some serious climbing, hands involved, and is certainly not for the faint of heart, but is absolutely totally 110% worth it to reach the top. We had a spectacularly clear day, and the view from Mytikas was breathtaking. It certainly feels like you are on top of the world, as you stand on the highest peak in all of Greece, on the mountain occupied by the ancient Greek gods.
The weather could not have been more in our favor as we are told the peak is usually shrouded in clouds for most of the day. We wrote our names in the guestbook at the top and just sat for a few minutes admiring the marvelous view. There was certainly no place we would rather be to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary.
Before catching too much of a chill we headed down, deciding to take the harder, steeper, yet shorter route down from the top. This route is almost straight up and down, and is basically just a sheer rocky cliff. We crab walked down the steep peak until we hit the trail at the bottom which 3 km later brought us to Mouson Plateau where we reached refuges B and C.
We stopped at Refuge C for lunch, and had another bowl of spaghetti bolognese, this one though, we both agreed, was significantly better than the one served by Refuge A. For just 7 euro for a heaping bowl served with bread big enough for us to both share one bowl for lunch and be full, we would highly recommend.
Down the mountain we went after lunch. The more we walked, the more affirmed we were that we choose the right trail to take down the mountain. I would highly recommend coming down to Gortsia instead of Prionia. Although the first descent from the summit is steeper than coming from the other side the difference is really not too extreme, and once you get down from the peak, the rest of the trail is far less steep than the way we took to reach Mytikas from Refuge A. We also got the added bonus of an amazing lunch and a new trail with new scenery to explore, win, win, win!
Upon reaching Gortsia it was an easy hitchhike back to town. We got picked up by a local driving back to town with a trunk full of firewood in his teeny tiny car, who was more than happy to have us ride in his passenger seat, me sitting on Justin’s lap.
Hiking Mt. Olympus was an absolutely amazing experience and was certainly the highlight of our trip. This was the first time either of us had climbed a mountain specifically to reach the summit, and it was totally awesome! So much so that we can’t wait for our next mountain summit adventure, wherever that may be.
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