Pieria – Stunning Mountain Villages and the Beautiful Olympus Riviera
Today, Mount Olympus, home of the Ancient Greek Gods, is hiding several quaint villages, tucked away in its green hills where hikers meet at trails crossing the mountain slopes. Read all about the most stunning villages on the eastern slopes of Mount Olympus and the pristine beaches at the mountain foot in this post.
Olympus National Park
Katerini – Capital of Pieria
Gateway to Mount Olympus
Villages on Mount Olympus
Things to do at Mt Olympus
Olympus Riviera Beach Guide
Pieria – Weather and Climate
Pieria is the southernmost prefecture of Macedonia, located at the eastern side of Mount Olympus. The Thessaloniki-Athens highway GR-1/E75 passes right through the prefecture of Pieria next to all its seaside tourist resorts.
Olympus National Park
Olympus National Park was the first in Greece. The park which covers an area of 45,000 km2 was declared a national park in 1938. The park has stunning hiking routes in natural settings of great beauty. It is home to an alpine vegetation, like oak, black pine, beech, rompolo (a kind of white pine), and 1,700 plant species (of which 23 are endemic). Mount Olympus was declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1981.
Lodges and mountain trails
When hiking on Mt. Olympus you will come across several lodges where to spend the night: “D. Bountolas” (at 930 alt.), “Sp. Agapitos” (at 2,100 m alt.), ”G. Apostolidis” (at 2,100 m alt.) and “Chr. Kakalos” (at 2,650 m alt.). You will find several mountain trails waiting to be explored. The most popular is the Litochoro – Prionia hiking route, passing through the gorge of Enipeas (part of the E4 path). If you want to extend your excursion before you reach Prionia, you can follow the trail to Mouson Plateau (at 2,600 m alt.) from Gortsia and continue to higher peaks from there on. At Prionia, a traditional tavern is serving soup and other starchy dishes for hikers and visitors.
Katerini – capital of Pieria
The capital of Pieria Prefecture is the seaside town of Katerini. You will find it on the Pierian plain between Mount Olympus and the Thermaikos Gulf. The town, which is one of the newest in Greece, has a population of around 85,000. You can reach Katerini from the main Thessaloniki–Athens highway GR-1/E75 and the Egnatia Odos to the north. It is served by both Intercity and local trains on the main railway line from Athens to Thessaloniki and there is a comprehensive regional and national bus service with its hub in the town.
Gateway to Mount Olympus, home of the Olympian gods
Katerini is residing at the base of Mount Olympus and facing the Aegean Sea. Its history goes back to the very beginning of Greek history, as the city of Dion was one of the first Macedonian cities. Katerini is a small city and is the capital of the Pieria Prefecture. Many picturesque villages surround Katerini and are worth a visit. Most of the people living in the villages work in agriculture. There is a distinct Greek warmth in these villages that you will not find in any other big city in Greece. The welcoming spirit, the openness and the hospitality that is now changing from the Greek culture remains in these small villages.
Litohoro and Leptokaria are must-sees during the summer as they are villages right near the sea. Litohoro is a beautiful village that is often referred to as the gateway to Mount Olympus, home of the Olympian gods and goddesses. Both villages offer a variety of tastes that vary from mountain climbing to early morning clubbing!
Villages on Mount Olympus
Dion – the holy city of ancient Macedonia
Dion was a holy city in the ancient years of Macedonia. It is located at the foot of Mount Olympus, just 5 km from the shores of Pieria. In antiquity it was the most important spot of worship, where sacrifices to the Olympian Gods were taking place. Here in this spot, King Philip won battles and Alexander the Great offered sacrifices before his great expedition to the Persian territories in the East. Dion is famous and much visited for its archaeological significance. Here you will find a large fortified ancient city, theatres, temples, cemeteries, and a stadium. They serve as evidence of the inhabitants more than 1,000 years ago (5th century B.C. up to 5th century A.D.) The impressive thermae of Dion were built approx. 200 A.D. Do not miss out on the unique exhibition in the basement of the Archaeological Museum. Nearby, you will find the ancient river of Elikon running through Ourlia Gorge. Here you can enjoy a landscape of waterfalls and ponds.
Litochoro – perfect hub for hiking
Just a few kilometres from the shores of Pieria you find Litochoro, built near one of the highest peaks of Mt. Olympus (Mytikas at 2,918 m elevation). This picturesque town is probably the best starting point for your hiking excursions on the great “Mountain of the Gods”. Litochoro is a perfect travel destination all year round. Explore the narrow streets and houses built in the unique Macedonian architecture in this old traditional village. A must-visit is the Maritime Museum at the lush green Katounia Park. Also, spend an afternoon in the trail crossing Enipeas Gorge. Just follow the trail from Myloi, at the outskirts of town, along the way you will be flanked by the rocky cliffs, as if the mountain were split in two pieces.
Ano (Upper) Skotina
Ano Skotina is a traditional Macedonian mountain village. Nowadays, it is deserted as the villagers have relocated to Kato (Lower) Skotina (just called Skotina), the seaside village. The mountain village of Ano Skotina is surrounded by lush forests of fir and beech trees.
Enjoy the few stone-built houses dating to the 17th and 18th century and the 14th century church of Agios Athanasios with its remarkable wood-carved iconostasis. In the village square you will find the Koimisis of Theotokos Church (Dormition of the Mother of God) dating to 1862. Ano Skotina is the perfect place for starting your hiking excursion, off-road leisure drives and mountain biking. At Paralia Skotina you will find a great sandy beach, a camping site, several hotels, and rooms for rent as well as traditional taverns, bars, and shops.
Palaios (Old) Panteleimonas
Palaios Panteleimonas dates to the 14th century. You should visit this town for its gorgeous local architectural style. You will find traditional guest houses, picturesque cafes, taverns, and folk-art shops. Park your car at the outskirts of town and enter on foot. Walk the narrow alleys down to the central square and the church of Agios Panteleimonas, which is surrounded by extremely old plane trees. From here you can get a breathtaking view of the snowcapped peaks of Mount Olympus. A bit further uphill past the village you will find the Profiti Ilia church, which is also the spot where paragliders meet. From here you can ride your glider and enjoy a flight all the way down to the shores of Neos (New) Panteleimonas. Among the activities of the area, you can enjoy hiking, mountaineering, and mountain biking. At Neos Panteleimonas, you will find a gorgeous sandy beach with several rooms for rent, traditional taverns, water sports, cafes, and bars.
Platamonas – Popular seaside town at Olympus riviera
Platamonas is a small seaside town with approx. 2,000 permanent inhabitants, located along the Olympus riviera at the Aegean Sea. Nearby you will find the tourist resorts of Litochoro, Leptokaria, Nei Pori, Panteleimonas, and Skotina. It is part of East Olympus in the Dio-Olympus municipality. It is located 38 km south of Katerini and 49 km northeast of Larissa from where you can reach Platamonas by train or bus with several routes daily. In the little town you will find many hotels, restaurants, and beach bars.
Platamon Castle is a must-see when you are in the area. It is a Crusader castle built between 1204 and 1222 just souteast of Mount Olympus, in a strategic position controlling the exit of the Tempe Valley which is the pass from Macedonia to Thessaly and southern Greece.
Palaioi (Old) Pori
You will find Palaioi Poroi (pronounced Pali Pori) approx. 8 km from Platamonas. So, you will need to get off the highway at Platamonas and follow the signs for Palaioi Poroi from there. On your way to Palaioi Pori made of 17th – 18th century stone-built houses, you will pass through a beautiful landscape of lush green forest. Enjoy this picturesque village breathing the fresh mountainous air while following the narrow alleys to the village square with the huge plane tree and the church of Agios Georgios. From here you can go hiking and explore the chapels of Agion Apostolon and Zoodohou Pigis on your way. You can also follow the paths between Palaioi Pori and Palaios Panteleimonas. At Nei Pori, the seaside village just south of Platamonas, you will find several hotels, rooms to rent, restaurants, bars, and cafes.
TICKETS & THINGS TO DO:
Things to do at Mt Olympus
Mount Olympus is perfect for alternative activities and extreme sports like trekking, canyoning, rafting, climbing, mountain-biking, paragliding or jeep safari. You do not need to practice extreme sports, you will enjoy mountaineering on Mount Olympus since the options cover all levels of difficulty and stamina.
Olympus Riviera Beach Guide
- Akti Platamonas beach – one of the longest beaches in Greece. Pebbled, partly organized with watersports, lifeguards, and busy with a lot of beach bars, cafeterias, and restaurants, located 38 km south of Katerini Town. It also has a small-boat marina.
- Skotina beach – Sandy, family friendly, non-organized, with cafes and restaurants, located 32 km south of Katerini Town. It is 1 km from Ano Skotina and has a spectacular view of the Castle of Platamon.
- Nei Pori beach – Sandy and very wide beach, family friendly, partly organized beach, umbrellas and sunbeds with serving, water sports, located 40 km from Katerini Town.
- Panteleimonas beach – Sandy, family friendly, partly organized, umbrellas and sunbeds with serving, water sports, located 36 km from Katerini Town. It is located right below the Castle of Platamon.
- Leptokaria beach – Fine-pebbled, family friendly, draped in green vegetation, partly organized with umbrellas, sunbeds, watersports facilities, and cafes, bars, and restaurants. Located xx km from Katerini Town.
- Katerini town beach – long, wide, sandy beach with watersports, umbrellas, sunbeds with serving, a small marina for small boats and a wide range of bars, and clubs.
Pieria – Weather and climate