Mount Olympus

Trip Start Sep 04, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2010

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Where I stayed
Kymata Hotel, Platamonas

Flag of Greece  , Thessaly,
Monday, October 25, 2010

Last weekend I went to Mount Olympus and Meteora, two of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.  Early Saturday morning, we went to the airport to pick up the car we’d rented.  It was a about a five hour drive (not including a stop for fast food) to Platamonas where we had booked a room at the Kymata Hotel.

Driving in Greece was a little intimidating at first, but turned out not to be that bad.  They drive on right side of the road and highway driving was pretty much the same as in the States, except some parts have different speed limits depending on which lane you’re in.  Unlike the Sates, many of the roads don’t have names.  Instead, you have to follow signs toward a particular city that’s in the direction you want to go.  Thankfully, we had a road map and I helped navigate most of the way.  The drive from Athens to Olympus was the easiest part of the trip because it’s just a straight shot up route one.  The tolls added up to about ten Euros, and gas was expensive, but it was worth it to have the car.  Interestingly, we never had to pump our own gas here.

Platamonas is a small town on the coast, just south of Litochoro, the town that sits at the base of Mount Olympus.  When we arrived at the Kymata Hotel, I was immediately impressed by it’s beautiful location right on a pebble beach.  Our rooms were also very nice with two bedrooms, two TVs, a fancy shower, and a balcony with a view of a Byzantine castle.

As soon as we tied our sneakers, we were out the door and on our way to Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece.  We stopped in Litochoro for a snack and happened to see a wedding going on.  Then we drove up winding mountain roads into the clouds, stopping here and there to admire the view of the town below, the autumn leaves on the trees, and the clear streams trickling down from springs higher up the mountain.  It was gorgeous.

Our initial plan was to hike to the top, but we quickly discovered that it wouldn’t be possible because it takes seven hours.  Once you reach the summit, you have to camp overnight before making the climb back down, and we didn’t have that kind of time or energy.  Instead, we hiked through the Enipeas River Canyon to the Holy Cave of St. Dionysios, a Greek Orthodox pilgrim chapel.  The river was clean and clear, and we took a few sips of water so we could say we drank from the waters of the gods.  The hike wasn’t particularly strenuous, but there were a lot of steps.  Along the path we saw beautiful scenery, interesting plants and wildlife (including a field mouse), as well as a few other hikers.  We also stopped at the nearby ruins of the Monastery of St. Dionysios, built in 1542.

After the hike, we drove further up the mountain to the trailhead marking the beginning of the climb to the top.  There’s a cafe there and, judging by the number of cars in the gravel lot, there were a good number of hikers still up on the mountain.  As we drove back down, we turned off on a dirt road just to see where it went, but ended up turning around because it was starting to get dark.  As we were told by the car rental people, our tiny, automatic transmission, lime green Subaru Splash was not “an off-road vehicle,” but somehow it survived the numerous rocks and everything we put it through!

We got to admire the sun setting behind the mountain as we made our way down.  The views were amazing!  We stopped in Litochoro for dinner and then headed back to the hotel to pass out for the night.

The next morning, we ate a free continental breakfast and took advantage of the free Internet in the hotel lobby before hitting the road again.  Since this breakfast was almost exactly the same as the one we had at the hotel in Santorini, I’ve figured out that lunch meat, cheese, bread, hard boiled eggs, pound cake, a chocolate cookie, and toast with jam, butter, or honey is pretty much a standard continental breakfast in Greece.

Overall, the landscape of Mount Olympus felt much like the Appalachian Mountains.  It was extremely beautiful and the weather was perfect - clear and cool.  I’m very glad I got a chance to see more of northern Greece and one of the most famous mountains in the world.  I can now understand how the ancient Greeks could have believed it was the home of the gods.

In my next post, I’ll talk about our day on Sunday - Platamon Castle and Meteora.  Enjoy the pictures!
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