The highest, most magical and most dramatic of all Greek mountains, MOUNT OLYMPUS – Ólymbos in Greek – rears straight up to 2917m from the coast and, when pollution allows, is visible from Thessaloníki, some 100km away to the northeast. Its summit was believed by the ancient Greeks to be the home of the gods and it seems that quite a few locals still follow the old religion. Dense forests cover its lower slopes, and its wild flowers are without parallel even by Greek standards.
Climbing the mountain requires an early start (certainly pre-8am) for the 3hr ascent to Mýtikas, the highest peak, so it’s best to stay overnight at one of the refuges. The peaks frequently cloud up by midday and you lose the view, to say nothing of the danger of catching one of Zeus’s thunderbolts. Besides, nights at the refuge are fantastic: a log fire blazes, you watch the sun set on the peaks and dawn break over the Aegean, and you can usually see a multitude of stars.