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Mountainous Pieria: Olympus

From Homer’s time right up to the present day poets and artists have not ceased to sing the praises of Mount Olympus, and the simple fact that the representatives of a great historical civilization such as Greek civilization imagined Olympus as the home of their gods is indicative of the awe that this mountainous massif provokes. It is not impressive only for its height with the peak Mystics reaching 2.918 meters but also for its short distance from the sea. It truly dominates the landscape with its many different aspects. Each trip to Olympus evokes different feelings because the mountain has many faces to show its visitors.

For mountaineers Olympus is an ideal location. Mountaineering Associations have carefully organized routes and special, hospitable refuges. The roads and paths crossing the mountain nonetheless allow visitors who do not have a special interest in mountaineering or special knowledge to become acquainted with the mountain, its diverse flora and fauna and its natural beauty up close.

The easiest routes start from Litochoro. The next stop following the course of mountain path E4 which leads through the Enipeas Gorge is the location known as Prionia at an altitude of 1.100 m. There you can rest and obtain information about the rest of the journey. Prionia can be reached after 4-5 hours of walking or by car by forest road. Along the length of the road there are special areas from which one can enjoy the view, drink fresh water and relax. From Prionia mountaineers with endurance can head on for the Spilios Agapitos refuge at an altitude of 2.100 m.

A few kilometers before Prionia a path commences leading to the Muses Plateau at an altitude of 2.600 m where there are mountain refuges. This path begins from the position known as Gortsia. It is from these refuges that the ascent to Olympus’ highest peaks begins.

There are other tried and tested routes to match the endurance of the walker. Detailed information can be obtained from the mountaineering associations.

Mountaineering routes on Olympus also begin from Dion and Petra.
In 1938 Olympus was declared a National Park. Covering an area of 40 million m2, the eastern slopes of the mountain constitute the core of the Park within whose bounds all manner of land uses are prohibited. Around this central core land uses are subject to certain restrictions.

The European Union has included it among those areas of the Union considered important for bird life. 32 species of mammals and 108 bird species have been recorded on the mountain, among them rare birds of prey. Many species of reptiles and insect also find home on Olympus as well as countless butterfly species.

Fauna in the area differs depending on the altitude. More than 1.700 species of plant flourish on the mountain. Towards the peaks one can find alpine ecosystems. Lower down grows a rare species of pine, the scotch pine, while even further down are oak, beech, fir and pine forests while the further down one descends one meets holly and cedars.

The climate in the lower sections of Olympus is Mediterranean with a warm summer and humid winter. The higher areas have a wet climate with extreme weather phenomena. In some places it even snows during summertime. The temperature ranges from –10°C to -20°C while in summer evenings it falls to zero without exceeding 20°C at midday.

Olympus is of major historical importance for modern Greece. Important urban centers developed among its foothills, particularly Kato Olympus. Whatever has remained of their grandeur has survived in the traditional villages of the area. The slopes of the mountains are closely tied to the Greeks’ national struggle for independence.
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