We had always thought Mount Olympus was just a mythical mountain from Greek tales, so when we learned it was not only a real location, but you could hike it, we were sold on making a visit. Our challenge then came in finding a way to do a day hike from Thessaloniki, where we were basing ourselves in Greece. What follows is our complete guide for others interested in doing a day hike to Mount Olympus.
Note: All prices are listed in Euros and US Dollars. As of January 2020, €1.00 EUR = $1.11 USD.
- Getting to the Mountain
- Hiking the Mount Olympus Trail
- Returning to Thessaloniki
Getting to the Mountain
There are three different ways to get to Mount Olympus: train, car and bus.
While train is often one of our preferred travel methods, it doesn’t make sense for this hike. That’s because the train station in Litochoro (the village at the base of Mount Olympus) is located 5km (about 3 miles) outside of town. This means you’d need to hire a taxi to get to/from Litochoro, which could take a while considering it’s a small village and there aren’t many taxis around.
The second route is to rent a car. We found this could be a good option if traveling with more than 2 people. The cost for a one day car rental is about €27.00 EUR or $30.00 USD (not including the cost of gas or potential parking fees). If you’re interested in greater time flexibility with your trip, then perhaps consider this further.
Lastly is taking a bus to Mount Olympus and back. With only 2 people in our group, this was the most cost effective route and one we recommend for your day hike. It requires the least amount of coordination, and is reliable since it’s on a popular bus route.
Catching the Bus in Thessaloniki
To begin, you first need to make your way to the KTEL Makedonia Station in Thessaloniki. The fastest way there is to take a taxi, although the public bus works just as well and is more cost effective (bus fare is €1.00 EUR or $1.11 USD per person).
Once at the KTEL Makedonia Station, head inside to where they’re selling tickets. Now bus transit in Greece is unique (and sometimes frustrating) because each region of the country operates their own bus service. Because of this, there will be many ticket counters to choose from. Just read the signs above each one until you find the counter selling tickets to Litochoro.
After you’ve purchased your tickets to Litochoro, head out to the bus parking area, find the proper bay number and wait to board.
Are you planning to travel around Greece via bus? Make sure to read our guide on how to best navigate the country’s bus system.
Ticket Prices and Departure Times
Since you’re looking to do just a day trip to Mount Olympus, you’ll want to purchase a round-trip (or “return”) ticket. This should cost you €16.50 EUR ($18.34 USD) per person. The return ticket will be open ended, meaning you don’t need to specify the exact date or time that you plan to return to Thessaloniki.
Note: Although it’s possible to purchase one-way tickets, they cost €9.30 EUR ($10.34 USD) per person, so you’ll get a small savings by purchasing both trips together.
Buses leave the Makedonia terminal multiple times per day. However, we recommend getting an early start. Since it gets hot in Greece (especially in the summer) the earlier you begin the hike, the cooler you’ll be throughout the day.
As of 2019, the bus to Litochoro runs on the following schedule. However, you can always find the most up to date information here:
Bus Journey Part 1 – Thessaloniki to Katerini
You’ll actually have to change buses midway through the trip. This changeover is built into your bus ticket, so be sure to hold onto it after boarding in Thessaloniki.
The bus will pull into the Katerini Station approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes after leaving Thessaloniki. Once you de-board, look around at the bus bays and find the next one labeled for Litochoro. There will only be about 5-10 minutes of waiting before the bus departs, so don’t wander far.
ProTip: If you get lost at the bus changeover in Katerini, just show your ticket to one of the drivers or ticket counter, and they’ll point out where to wait.
Bus Journey Part 2 – Katerini to Litochoro
The final bus ride from Katerini to Litochoro is very short, lasting about 30 minutes. You will be dropped off in the center of town, near a round-about. From here it’s a 15 minute walk up the hill to the start of the trailhead.
In total the trip from Thessaloniki to Litochoro will take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Hiking the Mount Olympus Trail
Getting to the Trailhead
Once in Litochoro you’ll need to walk to the trailhead. It’s located near Myloi Restaurant (reference the map below):
Unfortunately there are no maps in town pointing you the correct direction, so we recommend saving this location before leaving Thessaloniki. We had hoped to ask the visitor’s center in town for directions (or even possibly a map), but they were closed when we arrived, so we had to do our own sleuth work on finding the trailhead that morning.
- The trail takes approximately 4-6 hours to hike, depending on your speed. We’re of average fitness and it took us 5.5 hours in total, including water breaks, a stop for lunch and a few quick photo ops.
- The Litochoro to Prionia trail is officially called the E4. It’s a well worn, 9 km (5.6 mile) hike, so you shouldn’t need to do any trail finding throughout the day. If you do reach a junction though and are unsure how to proceed, look for the E4 yellow diamond markers.
- This particular trail does not summit Mount Olympus. If you want to summit then you’ll need to continue up the mountain, past the Prionia parking lot, and spend the night in a mountain hut. From what we’ve read though, the summit itself is often foggy and doesn’t provide much of a view. The E4 trail is considered the most beautiful portion of the mountain.
- There’s no bathroom along the trail, so make sure to go before you depart. There is a bathroom at the start of the trailhead which you can use.
About the Hike
The E4 trail is absolutely gorgeous, but also not for the feint of heart. It begins as you work your way through the Enipeas Canyon, with steep uphill climbs along a rock-hewn path. Expect beautiful sweeping views as each hill takes you further and deeper into the valley.
After a while, as your legs start to give out from the climb, the trail finally begins a downhill descent into the shaded forest. Crossing back and forth over the streams that dot Mount Olympus, you’ll witness the mystical greenery and lush trees that one imagines when thinking of the home of the Gods.
You know you’ll have reached the 2/3 point, when you come across the Holy Cave of Saint Dionysiou. A tiny chapel was built next to the rocks, where the monk Saint Dionysiou used to live and worship.
It’s at this point on your hike that the crowds begin to thicken. Many day visitors drive up the mountain and then walk the short distance down to these famous sites. Snap some photos, marvel at the architecture and then continue moving on.
The second site you’ll encounter is the Monastery of Agios Dionysios. Saint Dionysios came from the Monasteries of Meteora and later founded his own monastery in 1542 on Mount Olympus. Once here, you’ve got about an hour left.
Depending on how you’re doing on time, this is a great area to take a breather and cool off in the mountain streams (many of the locals are doing it). Otherwise, you can expect to rest your laurels at the Prionia parking lot just a little further on, where there’s a restaurant, drinking water and public restroom.
What to Pack
- There is no water for purchase along the trail, so make sure to pack enough with you. We encountered a few day hikers who only had a single 12oz water bottle and had no idea how they survived without being completely dehydrated by the end. Tom and I easily drank 3 liters a person.
- Supposedly you can drink water straight from the river, but we’re always a bit cautious of this. Water ecology around the world differs from what you’re perhaps used to at home, so it’s never certain how your stomach will react.
- You’ll be walking up rocky hillsides and down steep paths, so make sure to wear proper footwear. Tennis shoes or hiking boots is recommended, not sandals.
- Pack sunscreen, a sun hat or both. While you won’t need either while on the forested part of the trail, there are plenty of stretches out under the sun.
Read our top tips on how to avoid sunburn while traveling!
- If you’re heading out early in the morning, or think you may be still on the trail come early evening, then it’s a good idea to also pack insect repellent. Around town I was getting swarmed.
- Layer on warm clothing. We were chilly when we first started out in the morning, but quickly found ourselves shedding the layers as the hill climb and heat overtook us. Being able to strip down throughout the day was extremely helpful in regulating our body temperature.
- Pack a sack lunch (or at least some snacks) to keep you going throughout the hike. If you want, you can save the bigger meal for the restaurant in Prionia as a way of rewarding yourself for accomplishing the hike.
Returning to Thessaloniki
Getting Down the Mountain
If you hike on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, then you’re in luck as there’s a shuttle bus that runs between Litochoro and the Prionia trailhead. However, this bus only operates between the months of June and September, so you’ll need to plan your trip to the mountain accordingly.
The shuttle bus makes two trips to Prionia each day. If you’re hiking up the E4 trail, this means your only option is to catch the 5:30 PM shuttle. Make sure you start the hike early enough to reach the shuttle rendezvous in time.
Litorchoro Town Center to Prionia Trailhead, departs:
- 7:00 AM
- 4:00 PM
Prionia Trailhead to Litochoro Town Center, departs:
- 8:30 AM
- 5:30 PM
Cost to catch the shuttle bus is €2.00 EUR ($2.22 USD) per person for a one-way trip. You’ll pay cash to the driver upon boarding.
ProTip: If the shuttle bus isn’t running on the day of your hike, consider catching a taxi to Prionia and hiking down the E4 trail instead. This way you’ll end the hike in Litochoro and won’t need to worry about arranging transportation down the mountain.
If you’re doing the hike on any other day of the week (Monday through Thursday) or time of year (October to May), then your best bet is to hire a taxi. We’re unsure how often they drive up the mountain, so you may end up waiting a while in Prionia for a ride home.
There are only a handful of taxis in the entire town (we read somewhere there’s a total of seven drivers), so it may be a wise to arrange a ride before starting the hike. That way they can meet you at a prearranged time in Prionia. The taxis are usually found milling about the central square in Litochoro.
Estimated cost for a taxi from Prionia to Litochoro is €25.00 EUR (or $27.79 USD). It seems like a lot at first, but when you consider the drive is a winding 20 km (12.4 miles) along the mountainside, the price is actually quite reasonable.
As the sights near the Prionia trailhead are a popular destination for local tourists, you could always try to hitchhike with someone. There’s only one road in and out of the area, so you know anyone with a car will be heading back down to Litochoro.
Return Bus from Litochoro to Thessaloniki
Once back in Litochoro, you’ll need to catch the bus back to Thessaloniki. It’s essentially a reverse of the two bus route you did that morning.
First, head to the Litochoro bus office (reference map below). This is where the bus will pick you up when it’s time to depart.
Even though you purchased an open-ended return ticket in Thessaloniki, you’ll need to check-in with the front desk at the Litochoro bus office before boarding. This is because they must issue you a proper bus ticket and mark your return ticket voucher as consumed.
The bus out of town comes approximately once every hour. This may change though depending on the season, so make sure to check online for the latest bus hours.