The morphology of Mount Olympus, the ever changing natural beauty, the almost permanent cloud cover over its peaks and the frequent thunderstorms, filled the people around the mountain with awe and admiration, which in turn gave birth to numerous thrills and myths since the ancient times. Archaeological artefacts dated since the Iron Age, have been discovered at the foot of the mountain.
Inspired by its mystery and the legends created by the prehistoric inhabitants, the twelve ancient Greek Gods were created. According to Homer, the twelve gods lived in ravines, "the mysterious folds of Olympus", where they had their palaces. Pantheon (the summit of Mytikas) was their meeting place. Their tempestuous discussions were heard by the God of Gods, Zeus who was sitting on his imposing throne (the north east face of Stefani). From there he threw his thunders showing "his godly wrath". In Iliad Olympus has been described as magnificent, long, glorious and full of trees.
At the foot of the mountain 5 km from the sea there lies Dion, a sacred Macedonian city dedicated to Zeus (Dias). It is estimated that it flourished between the 5th century B.C. and the 5th century A.D. Excavations, around the ancient city started in 1928 and are still going on, have revealed archaeological artefacts from the Macedonian, Greek and Roman Eras. The majority of these artefacts is exhibited in the museum of Dion. Piblia and Livithra are two other among the many ancient cities located at the foot of Mount Olympus and are closely related to the legend of Orpheus and the Orphic Secret ceremonies.
The history of Mount Olympus continued being unsteady during Roman and Byzantine times as well and even under the Ottoman occupation. The mountain was used as a hiding place for the famous "armatol" fighting the "yoke of the tyrant". During the German invasion in 1941, the Greek army along with Australian and New Zealand units fought important battles. Later on the Greek Resistance found a nestling place there. Since the 1950´s the history of Mount Olympus has been dominated by mountaineering endeavours and tragedies.
Mount Olympus is the highest mountain of Greece, its main summit of Mytikas (or Pantheon) rising to an altitude of 2918m. According to the Greek mythology Mount Olympus was the home of the 12 ancient Greek gods and goddesses, while in 1938 Mount Olympus was established as Greece´s first national park with ultimate goal the preservation of its natural and cultural wealth.
According to the Greek law, Mount Olympus National Park core covers an area of about 40,000 acres in which all kinds of exploitation are prohibited. Surrounding this core area there exists the core´s peripheral zone spanning approximately 239,000 acres, its specific coverage not clearly defined yet within which only certain actions are allowed. However, today there have been serious efforts from local organizations so that the area of the National Park to be increased, since the environmental pressure from human factors is alarmingly increased every year.
In 1981 Mount Olympus was declared by UNESCO as a "Biosphere Reserve", whereas the EU has included Olympus National Park in its list of the most important bird habitat areas.
Mount Olympus Massif
Mount Olympus does not belong to any of the Greek ranges but comprises an independed massif. It very summit is spaced a mere 18km from the coastline, giving the impression that the mountain rose from the sea. The Mount Olympus comprises a circular massif covering an area of approximately 500 km2.
There is a rather large network of trails all over mount Olympus, so that one can approach the upper mountain from all the sides. Many of these trails exist since antiquity, like the one starting from the village of Dion and leads to the highest parts of the mountain. This trail was reestablished in 2004 when the inaugural Olympus Marathon took place. The construction of the majority of the existing trails took place over the ages and they were mainly being used by loggers and shepherds. The recreational use of Mount Olympus trails begun in the 1950´s.
Considering the density and popularity of the existing trails, Mount Olympus can be pided in two major parts; the eastern and the northern ones. This of course does not mean that there are not any trails on the other sides of the mountain as well, but these are not that many and less popular. However, in this website there is an effort so that all the existing hiking routes of Mount Olympus to be described in the near future.
On the eastern part of the mountain, the most popular hiking route includes the European trail E4; starting from the village of Litochoro, through Ennipeas Gorge reaches Prionia (1060m) where there is a restaurant. From there the trail continues to "Spilios Agapitos" refuge, to further continue to the summit of Skala (2866m). From Skala one can reach Mytikas (2918), but the E4 trail continues to Skolio (2912m), then descending to Megali Gourna (Xristaki Bivouac) and from there following mainly the gravel road used by shepherds, further descents to the village of Kokkinopilos. This route is the most popular route, but only to Skala and Mytikas. Another equally popular route is this one starting from the parking lot of Gortsia (4km before Prionia, along the road from Litochoro to Prionia). It a scenic route as most of the time someone is hiking on a broad ridge. The trail is a roller coaster going through Petrostrouga (Petrostrouga Refuge) and then to Skourta to reach finally the Plateau of Muses.
There are many other trails both on the east, north and south west sides of the mountain. The trails on the southwest side of the mountain are not well maintained, but trails from the east and north sides are well maintained.
Litohoro - Prionia - Refuge A
Refuge A - Zinaria - Oropedio Mouson
Refuge A - Kofto - Oropedio Mouson
Litohoro - Petrostrougka - Kakalos & Apostolidis refuges
Oropedio Mouson - Mitikas & Stefani peaks
KEOAH - Agios Antonios peak - Skolio
Kserolaki - Kazania - Oropedio Mouson
Katafugio Krebatia - Kopsi Mparmpala - Oropedio MousonOlympus has been the research subject for numerous greek and foreign scientists. The geomorfology, geology, flora and fauna are only a few of them.
Mount Olympus morphology is generally characterized by steep slopes sharp ridges separated by deep canyons as result of past and present climatic oscillations and subsequent erosional processes. The morphology of the upper mountain (above 2000m) has been greatly affected by climatic, glacial, periglacial and geophysical processes (rain, hail, snow, wind, frost, solifluktion, variations of the tree line elevations etc), while in the lower parts of the mountain human impacts (logging, cattle and goat grazing) become more important. More specific, based on Mount Olympus present morphology the mountain can be divided in two main parts; the north and the south part. The division line mainly of tectonic origin follows an E - W line along the old glacial valleys of Megala Kazania to the west and Maurologgos - Ennipeas to the east. The north part of the mountain is characterized by steeper slopes, well developed hydrographic network, and deeper canyons. On the contrary, the southern part of the mountain is characterized by much smoother relief and less developed hydrographic network, probably a result of differential uplift and different geological substratum.
From a geologic standpoint Mount Olympus´ origin has not been well defined yet. According to many geologists Mount Olympus comprises a tectonic window of the Gavrovo - Tripoli geotectonic belt, thrusted under the Pelagonian sheet, its lithology comprising a continuous (Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous) calcareous sequence. Others believe that Mount Olympus is part of the Pelagonian Belt, considering it an autochthonous sequence but not continuous in the time - sedimentation sense (Jurassic limestones are missing). Whatever the case might be Mount Olympus is composed by Triassic, maybe Jurassic and Cretaceous limestones, while on the south west part of the mountain there exist granite outcrops and flysch. The upper mountain is dominated by the deposition of glacial and periglacial deposits, while in the lowlands thick sequences of conglomerates and alluvial deposits exist. (More information can be obtained in "Research on the Mountain of the Gods" unit).
Photos available on:http://www.olympus-climbing.gr/research_en.html
More information on:http://www.olympus-climbing.gr/olympus_en.html#1