Sightseeing, local food and a journey to Mount Olympus

There are many movies out there featuring the stormy but heavenly place in the mountains with 12 Gods sitting on top of it. I have always felt so small watching this on a tv screen. The reality isn’t that much different, to be honest. On the day of our sightseeing there was no storm, or Gods anywhere to see but I still felt so tiny and. on the other. hand my heart felt so big, like standing on top of the world – (almost) on top of Mount Olympus.

After months of lockdown in Greece, volunteers are finally able to travel, and there is no better time than now. Nature is blooming and the weather couldn’t be any better. Our journey started from Thessaloniki – only 1-hour drive away. The scenery made me wonder about how amazing this world really is. I couldn’t help but smile the whole time. Suddenly the “mountain” in Estonia seemed like a little bump on the ground that you could throw a stone over.

First destination of our trip was actually even further from Mount Olympus – Platamon castle. A taverna owner from Katerini recommended visiting the place for its amusing history and view to the beach. The tower itself was closed, but it was definitely worth a visit. There isn’t a lot of information on the spot, but from a few info boards next to the ruins, we learned that the castle got hit pretty hard during the bombing. The inside yard is full of monumental tombs.

Under the castle, there is a beautiful stone beach. Coming from Estonia I felt like a little kid there. Searching for the most beautiful stone – black stones, marble stones, transparent salt stones – I was amazed.

The view from Platamon castle to Panteleimonas beach. Credits: Carol Väljaots

We spent the rest of the day exploring the area until it was time to find something local to eat and oh did we hit the jackpot.

Summit Zero hostel in Gritsa

Although we planned to spend our first night in an AirBnb at Katerini, I did some research before what would be other accommodation options in the area. Located right near the beach, overlooking the small harbour of Litochoro, with Mount Olympus as its spectacular backdrop there is a humble hostel called Summit Zero. The owner agreed to greet us for dinner even though we called at the last minute.

Summit Zero has been running now for 15 years. The place used to belong to a rock-climbing organization but the house itself looked like a cube and the yard like a jungle. Now the hostel looks like a backpacker’s dream. Amazing scenery, huge backyard, animals running around, cosy bar made of recycled wood and food that you could only dream of.

Everything about the place made me want to stay there. Louiza – the happiest chef that I have met – prepared us an amazing dinner. The owner said that because they weren’t expecting us, that food was all that they had at the moment but for us it was more than we could ask for. Crispy oven roasted potatoes, salad with a unique dressing, perfectly made risotto (coming from a culinary school graduate) and the positivity which made the not so crowded hostel felt alive. “We are definitely coming back here” – the first thing in all of our minds.

After eating way too much we had a conversation with the owner about Greece and the history of the hostel. We said our goodbyes and faced the next day – visiting the 12 Greek Gods.

Short hike to Mount Olympus and the waterfalls

The “mountain” in Estonia that I mentioned earlier – the height of that bump is 318m. So probably you can imagine how well I performed during the hike to Koromilia Dion Refuge which is located at an altitude of approximately 1000m. The road was like a snake’s tail, going up and down countless times.

If not including the fact that I was hearing my heartbeat in my head, I have never felt so satisfied to reach a destination. Every drop of sweat was worth it. The view was breathtaking and I almost didn’t want to leave. I have never seen a forest that thick, full of life and the sea so far in the fog but still giving the breezy feeling on my skin.

We chose the same road back and it wasn’t even a tiny bit less amusing. The birds sang like the day was never going to end and we whistled along with them. The sun, still on top of our heads but trees protecting us from the heat. The day couldn’t get any better. Until we reached the waterfalls.

One of the many waterfalls located in Mount Olympus area. Credits: Carol Väljaots

The ice cold water to my skin after the hike was like a blessing from The Gods. I kept stepping into the water thinking it was the ground because of its clearness. We only visited 3 waterfalls but I think my mind couldn’t handle it anymore. It was the perfect way to end our weekend trip.

Now we know that to visit Mount Olympus we need at least 3 days and staying at the mountain is a must. I would love to see what happens during the night and how the day turns another page looked down by the 12 Gods of Olympus.

Post Author: Carol Valjaots

Tere! My name is Carol and I’m from Estonia. I’m in charge of video- and photography in Balkan Hotspot. This is my first experience with video so I’m very excited to learn more from other volunteers. I enjoy singing - karaokes are my favorite, painting - all of my denim jackets have different artworks and photography - I would climb anywhere to get an amazing picture.

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