An introduction to the Olympus Riviera, Greece
If you're after a Greek holiday with a difference, look no further than the Olympus Riviera on Greece's mainland. Many people equate Greece with islands and beach holidays, yet the Olympus Riviera offers hiking opportunities and traditional villages to visit as well as beautiful beaches, making it a fabulous holiday destination for couples, adventurers, families, and those seeking something of the 'real' Greece.
The Olympus Riviera runs along the coast for 43 miles (70 km), from the foothills of majestic Mount Olympus to the Aegean Sea with Thessaloniki the largest city along the route. With the likes of Thomas Cook offering great value holidays to the Olympus Riviera, let's take a look at what you can see and do in this little discovered region.
Explore local villages
Pieria is the main region which the Olympus Riviera runs through, and offers numerous villages and monasteries to visit. It's popular and unusual in that you can explore a mountain village in the morning, yet dip your toe in the sea by the afternoon. The distance between mountain and coast is not great, although you will certainly traverse some precipitous roads.
The villages range from the truly ancient such as Palioi Poroi - a settlement with houses made from 17th and 18th-century stone, surrounded by lush forests, great for hikers - to the busier tourist resort of Litochoro - only 5 km from the coast and located at the base of Mount Olympus itself. Visitors to Litochoro can expect to find narrow cobbled streets, tiny Orthodox chapels and more of the traditional Macedonian architecture this region is famed for.
Of course, with summer temperatures reaching an average of 31°C, visitors to the Olympus Riviera will naturally want to spend some time on the beach. The well-developed village of Paralia Katerinis is located on the coast, and offers a wide sandy beach (including disabled access) with many organised facilities such as watersports and a vibrant nightlife. Prime time to visit is in spring or autumn, when temperatures will still be warm enough to enjoy the sea and facilities without the crowds.
As well as its revered ancient sites, Greece is also home to an abundance of castles, and the Olympus Riviera is no exception. The Castle of Platamon is one of the most beautiful castles in the country. Situated to the southeast of Mount Olympus, this Crusader castle has a fascinating history; believed to have been built in 1204, it was later seized by the Ottoman Turks in the 14th century, and damaged during World War II. Today you can get up close to the ramparts and three main towers inside the polygonal shape. Due to its hilltop location, you'll also get magnificent views across the Aegean Sea in one direction, and up to Mount Olympus in the other.
Whilst you're visiting the castle in Platamon, make time for the town's beach, reputed to be one of the longest in Greece, much of it sand with organised facilities and many tavernas to choose from. Its backdrop of cascading pine forest makes it one of the most popular destinations for Greeks in the region. After dusk, you'll see the castle impressively lit up, making a dramatic backdrop as you sip a cool drink in one of Platamon's many bars.
No visit to the Olympus Riviera is complete without a visit to Mount Olympus itself, known in Ancient Greek mythology as the home of the gods. Even though it's the tallest mountain in Greece - its highest peak, Mytikas, stands at 9,573 feet, and is believed to have been the meeting place for the Greek gods - you don't have to be an experienced hiker to appreciate all the various forms of nature here such as golden eagles, wild deer, foxes, and many species of butterfly, to name but a few.
Hikes or walks of all levels can be enjoyed, whether it's up the various mountain paths, or into the deep ravines. In fact, with national park status given in 1938, you could call it Greece's (smaller scale) Grand Canyon. The starting point for any exploration of Mount Olympus is the previously mentioned village of Litochoro located right at the base of the mountain.
You may be surprised but yes - it is possible to ski in Greece. Less summer holiday, more winter escape, you have seen that Greece is a land of mountains as well as beaches and sea. The Elatochori Ski Centre is located on the northern slopes of Mount Olympus, and offers six slopes and two lifts as well as a snowboarding and a sled run. There are also two ski schools, and a shop for buying or renting equipment.
Whether you come for the landscapes, forest walks, and beach time in summer or skiing in the winter, you will enjoy your time in the Olympus Riviera all year round. Remember to check out the latest deals on summer holidays to the Olympus Riviera with Thomas Cook. You'll find great value online offers, and can choose from departure airports across the UK. You can also see what the weather along the Olympus Riviera is like, plus when we think is the best time to go for the best holiday weather.
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