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You know those amazing bucket list places you’ve been wanting to visit for so many years and when you finally get to go they are kind of…meah? Well, Mount Olympus was NOT one of them!
I’ve been dreaming about visiting the Muses Plateau and climbing to the highest summit of Mount Olympus, Mytikas, for a very long time. I’ve seen thousands of stunning photos online and heard friends raving about the beauty of the place.
But when I finally set foot on the grassy alpine meadows of the Muses Plateau underneath the characteristic silhouette of Stefani I was still completely taken aback by its otherworldly beauty and incredibly grateful for the privilege to be there.
The climb to Mytikas summit via the Muses Plateau is usually done in two days. However, we decided to spread it across three days, mainly to make the hike easier but also to have plenty of time to explore the Muses Plateau and the surrounding peaks.
We left Athens at six o clock on Friday evening and arrived at Litochoro at around 11:30. We had a lovely late dinner in a tavern called Meze Meze and spent the night in a surprisingly stylish hotel called Afroditi perfectly located at the main square of Litochoro.
On the first day of our hike, we climbed to the Muses Plateau and pitched our tents near the charming Christos Kakkalos refuge. We spent the second day of our trip exploring the summits of Mount Olympus and descended back to Litochoro on day three.
If you don’t want to camp outside make sure to book your place in one of the refuges well in advance. There are two mountain huts at the Muses Plateau, Christos Kakkalos and Giosos Apostolidis, with the capacity to accommodate almost 100 visitors. But they were both hopelessly full when we called almost a month in advance.
But even when camping outside, the mountain huts serve as a pleasant source of tasty food, beers, and tsipouro, as well as a meeting point with fellow mountaineers on their quest to conquer the mountain of gods.
Either way, be sure to bring enough warm clothes and a good sleeping bag even if you are visiting Mount Olympus during the hot Greek summer as we did. The nights at the plateau are very cold and even during the day, it can get pretty chilly especially when the winds pick up.
How to get to Mount Olympus from Athens
Getting to Litochoro from Athens by car was relatively easy and straightforward. The drive took us around four and a half hours and for the most part, we followed the Athens – Thessaloniki highway. We left the highway near a village called Plaka with only 6 km remaining until Litochoro.
It was not a cheap trip though. In July 2022 we paid almost 50 euros for the tolls and 155 euros for petrol for the return trip.
Litochoro can be reached by a combination of train and bus, too. During our previous trip to Mount Olympus, we took a train to Katerini where we changed for a bus to Litochoro.
The train ride to Katerini takes three and half hours according to the website of Hellenic Train and costs 75 euros for a return ticket. The following bus ride to Litochoro shouldn’t take more than half an hour. You can check out the timetables HERE.
From Litochoro, you’ll need to take a taxi to the beginning of the trail at Gortsia. We paid around 25 euros for the taxi drive from Litochoro to Prionia in 2016 but this may have changed since then. Let me know in the comments if you have more up-to-date info!
Maps, signposting & difficulty
The trail from Gortsia to the Muses Plateau is one of the most frequented trails at Mount Olympus and getting lost here on a clear, sunny summer day like ours would be almost impossible.
But it is not always sunny on Mount Olympus even during the summer and especially the upper parts of the mountain can disappear in thick clouds really quickly. Therefore, it is a good idea to come prepared.
We used our Anavasi Map of Mount Olympus during our trip in combination with a Wikiloc recording (you can follow ours HERE). The trail itself was marked by red and yellow paint completed by a few wooden signs along the way and a map at the trailhead.
The path was clear and easy to follow all the way up to the Muses Plateau. But at around 11 km in length and over 1.700 elevation gain it was definitely challenging.
That being said, we took it very slow right from the start, enjoyed multiple long breaks along the way, and arrived at the Muses Plateau 7 hours later relatively fresh.
The final ascent to Mytikas peak was a different kind of challenge. The elevation gain of approximately 250 meters didn’t pose many difficulties but scrambling high up the steep rocky slopes of the summit required a good mental game. But more about that latter…
Gortsia to the Mouses Plateau
We started our hike at a place called Gortsia (1.137 meters) lying in the Enipeas canyon about 15 km away from Litochoro. We parked our car at the side of the road and followed a dirt road branching off to the right until we encountered a couple of wooden picnic tables and a map (See the location of the trailhead on Google Maps HERE).
From here, we joined a clear, well-marked trail climbing up through a beautiful beech and fir forest. It was a steady climb but not too steep, and thanks to the well-defined path I didn’t find it particularly tiring. What’s more, the forest provided just enough shade to make hiking bearable in the 30 degrees summer temperatures.
We made a couple of stops at places called Mparmpa and Koka equipped with a couple of wooden benches and reached the refuge at Petrostruga after about 3 hours.
Petrostruga is a lovely mountain hut sitting at an altitude of 1.940 meters. The refuge serves food and drinks and is the perfect spot for a lunch break with beautiful views of the sea and the surrounding mountains.
Once we left Petrostruga, things become a bit more challenging. We didn’t follow the classic path climbing towards the Muses Plateau and instead, we joined the trail through Ntereki winding up among majestic black pines.
It branches off to the left from the main trail shortly after the refuge, near an imposing lightning-struck tree. It is steep and slippery and after couple hundred meters, we could feel our muscles burning and our breath shortening.
But it didn’t take too long and we come above the treeline and caught the first glimpses of the impressive summits of Mount Olympus towering in front of us.
From here, we walked across grassy meadows along the edge of unusually shaped cliffs until we re-joined the classic trail ascending from Petrostruga. It took us all the way to the summit of Skourta (2.485 meters).
The next section of the hike was by far my favorite! To get from Skourta to the Muses Plateau we had to cross a passage called Laimos, a narrow ridge with steep rugged slopes dropping down towards the green canyons of Enipeas and Orlias. During the summer, it was not particularly scary or dangerous but the views from the trail were just breathtaking.
After crossing Laimos we embarked on a last short climb of the day towards Perasma Giosou, a rocky pass potentially dangerous during the winter, and finally arrived at the grassy meadows of the Muses Plateau. We crossed the meadows keeping to the left at a crossroads of the paths and soon enough we reached the charming Kakkalos refuge.
Climbing to the Mytikas summit via Louki
Our second day at Mount Olympus was a summit day and I’m not gonna lie, I was scared. I’ve been to Mount Olympus twice before but both times I chickened out at the last minute from summiting the highest peak, Mytikas. This time, I was dead set on finally completing the challenge.
We had all day for the climb to the summit and the weather seemed good so we decided to leave the refuge at around 10 o’clock to avoid the morning crowds. We walked up towards the Apostolidis refuge where we joined the trail to Zonaria passing the foot of Stefani.
Shortly after we turned the corner at the edge of Stefani, we come to a crossroad of paths. From here, a narrow trail marked by blue and yellow signs run up to the right towards the towering cliffs. This was the beginning of our scramble through the Louki of Mytikas to the summit.
The trail disappeared after just a few meters and we continued up following the yellow and blue markings painted on the rocks. I’m not well versed in the scrambling difficulty levels (this should be Class III as far as I know) but I must say it wasn’t as hard or as scary as I expected.
Yes, we had to use both hands and feet all the way up and yes, the cliffs under our feet were pretty steep, high, and potentially dangerous. But I didn’t find the climb too technically difficult and my fear of highs didn’t really kick in thanks to the closed feeling of the gully.
That being said I do have some mountaineering experience and enjoy easy rock climbing from time to time. Also, we were lucky enough to be accompanied by an experienced friend who made the ascent of Louki many times before and helped us safely navigate the steep, rocky couloir.
If this is your first time in the big mountains (and it is for many) then hiring a local guide or coming with an organized group is a much better idea. Either way, a helmet is a must for the climb through Louki to protect you from a rock fall. If you don’t have your own, ask at one of the refuges if you can rent one.
It took us around 45 minutes to reach the top from the beginning of the scramble. The summits were partially covered in clouds and we didn’t have the best views but still enjoyed the occasional peak at Skolio and Stefani and the imposing cliffs of the northern face of the mountain.
We returned back the same way with just a short detour through Zonaria. The descent through Louki was surprisingly easier than the climb up, admittedly mostly because we descended in a very “unmountaineery” way using our backside more than our hands.
Muses Plateau, Profitis Ilias & TouMPa
Spending three days at Mount Olympus instead of the usual two gave us plenty of time to explore the Muses Plateau and the surrounding peaks. Toumpa was by far my favorite!
Next to the towering silhouette of Stefani, Toumpa doesn’t draw much attention. But it is worth a climb especially around sunset as it offers superb views of the main summits and the northern side of the mountain…Megala Kazania, the Naoum ridge and so on.
There is a faint unmarked trail leading to the top of Megali Toumpa from the Apostolidis refuge and a clearer one running across the grassy slopes behind the refuge to Mikri Toumpa. It took us about two hours to visit both but that included thousands of photography stops as well.
Another peak worth a climb is Profitis Ilias with an eponymous stone-built church sitting at its top. It offers a birds eye’s view of the plateau and the picturesque Kakkalos refuge surrounded by a cluster of colorful tents as well as the stunning view of Stefani.
But no matter how you decide to spend your time at the Muses Plateau, you are guaranteed to remain under constant surveillance of curious mountain goats making your stay at the plateau all the more special!