Dion & Mount Olympus: “The Mountain of The Gods”

This is the region where you can combine your mountain holiday with a vacation by the sea. Not only will you find the Thermaic coast enchanting but you will also admire Olympus- the mountain of the Gods. Pieria is thickly forested, with plane trees, pines, poplars and firs on Olympus.

The capital of this prefecture, Katerini, lies between the plain of Pieria and Mountain Olympus. Some 32 km southwest of Katerini, the village of Agios Dimitrios is built on a plateau where there are streams and trees galore.

The road to “Stena tis Petras”, which is the pass to Thessaly, is truly exciting, as is a walk up to the impressive Olympus Gorge.

At Dion, 17 km south of Katerini, archaeologists have brought to light the extensive ruins of the Macedonians’ sanctuaries to the Gods. Amidst the lush vegetation and springs of the Pierian plain, just before the ascent to Olympus begin, one can see the ruins of the sanctuary buildings – the temples, two theatres and a stadium – while next to them, to the north, the remains of the ancient city of Dion stretch out. It was closely associated with Zeus as its name implies (in Greek the god is called Dias). Thousands of Macedonians used to flock to this place for the festivities and games dedicated to the God, which grew in importance after the 5th century BC. Among the sacred buildings, the following are the most notable: the sanctuary of Demeter, two temples dating to 500 BC, the Asklepieion, and the whole sanctuary dedicated to Isis, with its cult statues still standing on their bases.

The city of Dion was well fortified by the wall erected in the 4th century BC, and it had a splendid layout. The excavations had exposed paved streets, public buildings, shops, workshops, and houses, as well as the orchestra, stage and lower seats of Dion’s large theatre. In the vast cemetery, to the north and west of Dion, there are four subterranean, tiled-roofed macedonian tombs. In the 5th century AD violent earthquakes brought an end to the city’s prosperity. Nevertheless, enough remained of it to give today’s visitor a good idea of the beauty of the town with its ample public spaces, theatre, numerous statues, and impressive fortifications.

To come back to the present, Leptokaria (23 km. from Katerini) has a lovely beach which is long enough to attract crowds of Greek and foreign tourists each summer. Other seaside resorts are Methoni, Nea Agathoupoli with its splendid fish market, Agios Panteleimonas with its Venetian castle, Platamonas with its sandy beaches, and Makri Gialos with the ruins of ancient Pydna. Finally, on the slopes of Olympus, is the small town of Litohoro (24 km. from Katerini), an old summer resort and the starting point for those whishing to climb the legendary mountain. The enchanting valley of Epineas with its river coming down from Olympus is worth visiting.

USEFUL INFORMATION

Dion, Archaeological Site: tel.: (23510) 53.206. Dion, Museum, housing a unique sculpture collection.

Olympus Ski Centre:

tel.:(204930) 22.261; reached via Olympiada, 20 km. park­ing lot and ski tow, 1140 m., capacity 850 people per hour, refuge, highest altitude 2400 m., lowest 1900 m. There is one slope for average skiers served by a lift. Mountain climbing – refuges

Olympus:

Refuges at Stavros, alt 1000 m., 1 hour 30 min. walk from Litohoro. Sleeps 40 people, spring wa­ter, kitchen, electric heating, fireplace, shower, beds, mattresses, and blankets. Information and keys: EOS (Alpine Society) Thessalonica, tel.: (2310) 278.288. On the borders with Thessaly there are four more refuges:

a)

Spilios Agapitos

, 22 km. from Litohoro, on the mountain, 2 hours 30 min. walk from Prionia, which can be reached by car. 100 beds, mattresses, blankets, rainwater cistern, electric fireplace, heating and kitchen. In summer, a small restaurant is open. Tel.: (0352) 81.329, 81.800.

b) Vrissopoules,

on the east side of the mountain, alt. 1900 m. The road to the refuge is open all year. Sleeps 50 people, has ski lift. Information, EOH (Ski­ing Society) Athens.

c) Hristos Kakalos, 1 hour 30 min, walk from the refuge alt. 2760 m., sleeps 15 people, rain water cis­tern, gas cooker, heating, beds, mattresses, blankets. Information and keys, tel.: (23520) 81.329.

d) Pieria,

Ano Milia, alt. 1000 m., 5.5 km. from Messea Milia and 25.5 km. from Katerini. Accommodates 70 people, spring water, electricity, heating, kitchen and gas cooker, fireplace, 52 beds, mattresses and blan­kets, shower. Information and keys, tel.: (EOS Kateri­ni) (23510) 23.102.