390km (241 miles) N of Athens; 70km (43 miles) N of Larissa; 100km (62 miles) SW of Thessaloniki
Greece's most famous mountain range, home of the Olympian gods, towers 2,919m (9,574 ft.) above the plains of Thessaly and Macedonia.
The first recorded successful ascent of Olympus's summit Mytikas -- nicknamed "the Needle" -- was in 1913, when two Swiss mountaineers and a local guide made it to the top. Today, for such an imposing mountain, Olympus is surprisingly easy to climb. A number of well-marked paths lead to the summit; climbers can rest or overnight in shelters at Stavros (944m/3,096 ft.) and at Spilios Agapitos (2,100m/6,888 ft.). In summer, these paths can be very heavily trafficked. Elegant Greek women have been known to make the ascent in high heels (not recommended).
Still, Olympus is a serious mountain, and no one should attempt it alone -- or without water, provisions, and gear. From a distance, it's almost impossible to pick out the summit, although the massive, gnarled, snowcapped range is often visible from Thessaloniki (albeit less and less so, given the area's increasing pollution). Another of its main peaks (it has six), Stafani (2,909m/9,541 ft.), is called the "throne of Zeus."
As always in the mountains, weather conditions can change for the worse without warning. Well into May, severe snowstorms can hit the heights of Olympus -- which helps explain why the area has been developed in recent years as a ski resort. The main town on the slopes, and the base camp for climbers, is Litochoro.