Another famous holiday destination near Thessaloniki, by the clear waters of the Aegean Sea, is the string of resorts along the Pieria coast. Easily accessed from the National road and only an hour drive from Thessaloniki. The Pieria coast is a unique place, where you can combine having a holiday in the mountains and by the sea. From the Pieria coast you can visit the ancient sites of Pidna, Dion, and Levitra, you can climb the Olympus Mountain, enjoy the sea at the beaches of Olympiaki Akti, Leptokarya or Platamonas, refresh yourself at the springs in Tembi valley and you can visit the pretty town of Katerini. Pieria coast should not be passed by, even though you can easily drive 130 km per hour on the Thessaloniki-Athens highway.
Most people know the Pieria region (Olympic Riviera) and Mount Olympus from Greek mythology. Others know about this place from the tourists that have visited it. Even so, most of the tourists that have visited the place agree: Pieria is even more beautiful and thrilling in reality.
Very few places in the world associate endless beaches with their golden sand and clean sea, the mountains full of history and natural beauty, tourism organization with excellent prices in such a pleasant way. All these are connected in an excellent local infrastructure of roads, highways, and railroads.
Few other places in the world are blessed with 70 miles of shore, home to such different kinds of holidays, from quiet family holidays to weekend breaks for those young and reckless tourists. Few places indeed offer such a diversity in terms of entertainment, recreation, and cultural life, due to their geographical diversity, secular history and especially the hospitality, friendship, diligence and consistency of people in the region.
It is a land of abundance, a blessed place with extra charm and grace, magnificent nature and historical heritage. The history of Hellenism is discovered in finds of ancient cities (Dion, Levitra, Pimblia, Pydna, Methoni, Makrigialos) and other monuments.
In Pieria, the senses come from the magic of the landscape and the integrity of nature. Mountain and sea, green and blue colors and myths are in magnificent harmony.
ANCIENT DION – In their foot of Olympus and 5 km from the coasts of Pieria is ancient Dion found, the holy city of Macedonians, in a region that is submerged by waters. The discoveries resulted in the fact that Dion covers without interruption life of 1000 years, from the 5th century BC up to the 5th century AD.
Only a few kilometers north from Litohoro, a little city at the foot of Mt Olympus, lies the ancient site of Dion. It was the sacred city of the Macedonians, who worshipped gods here. It was perfectly situated as all Olympian gods lived up at the mountain Olympus. Later, also lesser gods such as Asklepeion, the god of medicine, Dionysos, the god of wine and Demeter, goddess of agriculture were worshipped here. Also, foreign gods, such as the Egyptian goddess of Isis was worshipped and she had her own sanctuary here. Zeus had a huge sanctuary here and massive animal sacrifices took place to honor gods.
The site is huge but very nice to walk around. It’s a real archaeological park! Ruins are well signposted and you can walk quite freely among them. The site is very green and lush, due to the numerous rivers underneath the soil and on the surface. There used to be several residential buildings here, including public baths and villas. The villa of Dionysos is especially worth seeing. It has a unique mosaic, Dionysos Triumphal Epiphany, as a floor. It is very well preserved. Also, smaller mosaics can be seen; for instance flower ornaments and a bull with a snake kind of figure. Unfortunately, some parts of the site were flooded at the time of my visit, the temple of Isis, for instance, was totally underwater.
At the site’s museum, there is a large collection of items and statues from the site. Three whole floors, but most interesting figurines and statues, and so well preserved. Copies can be seen at the actual site. If you ask the staff at the museum, you can see a film telling more about the site and excavations. Some parts of the museum’s display are most demonstrative, such as warming up the public baths and how the lavatories actually worked during those days. Greeks had water closets even back in those days!
LEVITRA – Archaeological site that includes: the city, the citadel and a cemetery.
VERGINA – The finds from the excavations are exhibited in the protective shelter over the royal tombs of Vergina and in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. Most important monuments you can visit are the royal tombs, the palace, the theatre, the cemetery, the temple of Efkleias, the Acropolis and the city wall.
CASTLE OF PLATAMONAS – It is one from the most imposing and among the most important Castles of Hellenic space. Built-in south-eastern Olympus, it dominates in the street that links Macedonia with Thessaly. From his Eastern side, it checks all the marine region. His place in the passage of Macedonia and Thessaly made this Castle the key for the control of Macedonia. Along with the Castle of Kassandra, they were the guardians of Thermaikos gulf. Before the manufacture of his Byzantine fortification, it was the place of ancient Irakleias, which was built likely the 5th century.
The resort is regarded as one of the most important tourist destinations in Pieria with green landscapes, beautiful beaches, and crystalline waters. No wonder this town has turned into a remarkable destination. Platamonas may be a starting point for exploring the prefecture of Pieria and continental Greece.
In Platamonas, a village between the railroad and the sea is a good choice to stay overnight. Noise from the tracks may bother a little. The village is very comfortable and easy to walk from one end to another. The residential area is on the other side of the tracks while the seaside has all the hotels, restaurants and shops. One-way streets may confuse you at first. The Castle of Platamonas at the entrance of the village is worth a visit, at least for the view over the Pieria coast. Leaving Platamona behind you will find a brand new tourist resort of Nei Pori. Not very attractive even now, and what it may grow into…?
The most important attraction is the Venetian Castle. The town has numerous restaurants, hotels, and campgrounds. During the summer the number of tourists increases to 120,000. A large number of visitors come from Eastern Europe but also from Greece as the resort is also very popular for greeks.
The center of the resort is very picturesque and modern. It is full of souvenir shops and supermarkets. The hustle and bustle of the resort are observed mainly in the evening hours when it is cooler and tourists go sightseeing. Platamonas is connected to the cities of Katerini and Larissa through the bus and train transportation system.
During the summer, many wealthy Greek families reside in Platamon such as the Moskof and the Akkas family.
It was built at a key-position, just opposite the “passage” of the Valley of Tempi, which has connected Thessaly to Pieria since the remote antiquity. It has been supported reasonably that the city Heraclea or Heraclion which was probably built in the 5th century BC, was located in exactly the same place.
The castle – its greatest part at least- was built by the Franc king of Thessaloniki, Bonifacius e Monferèt, in 1205, upon a Byzantine castle that had previously existed there, as parts of its castle walls -dating from the 6th, 9th and 10th centuries- confirm. During the years 1218-1224 AD, the castle was seized by the Duke of Hepirus, Angelos Komninos, who gave an end to the Franc Occupation in Thessaloniki in 1224 naming this city the capital of the Byzantine Empire.
The Castle of Platamonas was conquered -about in 1389- by the Turks, who, thus, could have the overall control over the “passage” of the Valley of Tempi, leading to Southern Greece. Later on, nevertheless, while Mourat was encircling the Bay of Thermaikos, the Venetians took over the administration of Thessaloniki in 1423. The castle of Platamonas was fortified, then, on a parallel with the fortification of Cassandra, Chalkidiki, so that control over the entire Bay of Thermaikos would by possible.
Olympic Beach (Olympiaki Akti) and Paralia
These two beach resorts are so unlike each other, they have absolutely nothing in common- unless you want to get into details such as ten kilometers long beach combining them, or them both being very popular holiday resorts, or that they are both close to Katerini, capital of this area. Paralia is noisy, busy and least attractive tourist place, so commercialized that it is nauseous already, while Olympiaki Akti has smaller crowds, is much more peaceful and genuine. It’s a tourist place as well, but nothing like Paralia. Accommodation is no problem, almost every house is a hotel and beach… well, it’s a dream-like. You will definitely find a spot for yourself. These two resorts have normal tourist attractions, but what really brings you here, is what you can find in a close distance. Having your own transport helps a lot.
Leptokarya is a big international resort some 25 kilometers from Katerini. It has a fine beach, a nice center and an excellent information office by the railway track, which covers the whole of the Pieria coast. If you don’t wish to stay here at least visit the information office, and then move on along the coast. On the way you pass Paralia Skotinas and Paralia Panteleimonas, which both turn out to be excellent choices for a beach but especially Paralia Panteleimonas. Its narrow, long sandy beach is by the Athens-Thessaloniki railroad but rarely passing trains don’t bother too much. The beach here stretches for kilometers long and mostly it’s very crowded. Camping sites by the beach, hotels, and apartments tell a story of popularity. At the end of the beach, by the shadow of the Castle of Platamonas, you may find a more tranquil spot.
Mount Olympus (sometimes on maps as Ólimbos Oros) is the highest mountain in Greece – 2919 m. The highest peak of Olympus is Mytikas (Godfather) (2919 m). Since its feet are placed at sea level, Mount Olympus is one of the highest mountains of Europe in topometric terms (the relative difference between top and skirt). The mountain is located (40 ° 05’N 22 ° 21’E / 40.083, 22.35) in mainland Greece, about 100 km from Thessaloniki, second largest city of Greece.
Mount Olympus is famous for the wide variety of plants, with several endemic species. Flora, fauna, geological formations and features special led UNESCO to declare the region biological reserve.
Any ascent on Mount Olympus starts at Litochoro city, called “City of Gods.”
The name “Olympus” is quite popular. Besides the mountain of Greece, there are mountains with the same name in Cyprus, in Utah, Washington and near San Francisco (USA).
The etymological origin of the name means full of light, is analogous to the sky, inhabited by gods, demigods, children of gods and their servants. In Greek mythology, Olympus is the abode of the ancient Greek pantheon of gods. Olympus was considered the abode of the gods, but it is hard to say what it was in those days really “Olympus”.
In Homer’s Iliad Olympus states that are far above all the mountains, but we are heavily involved. In a passage in the Iliad, the gods Zeus speaks of “the highest peak of Olympus with many peaks, which would suggest that Olympus was really a mountain. The work of Homer, Poseidon observes that he is master of the seas, Hades and Zeus the heavens death, but Olympus is common to three. Regardless of its nature, guarded the entrance to Olympus was a great bearing cloud. The gods lived in this place, (which sometimes descend into the world of mortals on Earth), ambrosia and ate divine music of Apollo’s lyre.
Olympus is a compact, relatively small in size (600 square kilometers) but a rocky mountain with an almost circular shape. From the newest of our mountains since the age of particular rocks estimated to exceed 200 million years, when most of Greece and the Mediterranean, was at the bottom of a shallow sea, where the main deposited material from which later formed the current rock. The various geological events that followed led to the emergence of the whole region and the seabed. 1 million years ago glaciers covered Olympus created the flat areas and hollows of the mountain. With the rise of temperature followed the ice melted, and the torrents that swept away large quantities up the crushed rock in lower areas, forming the alluvial fans that spread throughout the region at the foot of the mountain to the sea.
MONASTERY OF DIONYSIOS – LEPTOKARIA
Dionysus Monastery, a place where you feel a complete and overwhelming quietness. The monastery was founded in the early 16th century and was dedicated to Agios Dionisios and o the Holy Trinity. During the last 400 years, the monastery offered a real economic and religious support for this part of Olympus. Its domain also included a forest, Prionia, a water mill, a wheat mill, and a farm. Since the start of the XXI century, it has had only 6 monks. In 1943 it was destroyed twice, first by a bomb and second by the German troops. Since then, the local community has been living in Metohi Monastery, near Litochoro.
NEI PORI – popular resort with sandy beach, beach bars and watersports.
LEPTOKARIA – popular resort of Pieria.
ELATOCHORI – with ski centre.
The capital of the area, Katerini is a typical small-sized town.
What makes Katerini different is a walking-only area in the very center. Several blocks in the center are free of cars. There is a beautiful fountain at one end of the pedestrian area and a little further is the town park that is crossed by little rivers and waterfalls. It is a very popular place to be in the late evening.
The town has many modern shops and comfortable cafés all around the pedestrian area.
Combining mountain and sea, it is the ideal base for excursions to Olympus. Easy access, being only 5 km away from the highway, beaches, surrounding nature, and traditional character contributed to its tourist development. Hotels, hostels, rentals, taverns, restaurants, and cafe-bars are both in Litochoro and on the beach. The village is divided into two settlements, with the new one spreading around the old one: houses with authentic Macedonian architecture, doubles, with wooden gates and several neoclassical paved alleys, stone fountains, small squares, and churches make up the image of both settlements.
It was a very important ancient city, now identified as Aegae, the capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia. The capital was later removed to Pella but Aegae continued to play a significant role as a Royal Cemetary.
It was here that the great King Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, was murdered at his daughter Cleopatra’s wedding and then buried. On-site, they have found a number, 10 at the moment, incredible graves of the royals. These include Philip II and Queen Eurydike, mother of Philip II. Also, graves of other royals, not yet identified, were found. The site covering almost the whole of the village of Vergina, contains also a theatre, a majestic palace, sanctuaries of the goddess of Eukleia and Mother of Gods, Gaea, fortifications of the city, etc. There is a lot of walking should you wish to visit the entire site.
The site’s museum was particularly impressive. It was built over a few of the graves, without moving anything from the site while building. The museum from the outside is a beautiful grass-covered hill, a tumulus, just as the old graves looked after they were covered with soil to hide them. Entrance is 8 euros and it will give you access to all sites throughout the village. There are many things on display at the museum that were found in the graves. These are not just gold or figurines but also paintings, several sarcophagus, and fabrics. The most impressive painting is from the grave of Philip II. This shows where Hades, king of death, kidnapped the virgin Persephone with the help of Zeus and takes her to the underworld. That upsets greatly the goddess Demeter, goddess of agriculture. She demands Zeus to get her daughter back. Hades wishes not to let her go but agrees to have her for one-third of the year. That time Demeter doesn’t let the grain grow, i.e. we have winter. -> Nekromanteio chapter. At the museum there is also played a video, showing more about the excavations and of the man, Manolis Andronikos, who discover the site, of people working on site after it was discovered, about the findings and details of the life of Philip II and Alexander the Great. Further information and more about the excavations can be found at the museum of Thessaloniki.
Waterland is a water park in Thessaloniki, Greece. It opened in 1994 and it is the largest waterpark in Eastern Europe as it covers an area of 150,000 square meters.
How to get there
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Thessaloniki is the closest major city to Pieria. Thessaloniki is linked to Athens, Ioannina, Hania, Heraklion, Limnos, Lesbos, Rhodes, Skiathos and many cities in Europe.Thessaloniki’s Macedonia Airport: 2310-985.000, 2310-472-212, 2310-408.411
Distance from Katerini 80 Km.
Useful phone numbers
Camping Association: 23520-41.115
Dion Archaeological Museum: 23510-53.206
First Aid: 166, Katerini General Hospital: 23510-57.200
Litochoro Health Center: 23520-22.222
Aeginio Health Center: 23530-22.222
Fire Brigade: 199, 23510-23.333
Radio Taxi: 23510-21.222, 31.222
Association of Greek Mountaineers
SEO Katerini: 23510-31.311
SEO Litochoro: 23520-84.200
Greek Mountaineering Association
EOS Katerini: 23510-23.102
EOS Litochoro: 23520-82.444
Olympic Riviera Attractions
About Mount Olympus
From the coast to the top
Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece, known worldwide for its mythological background, as at its top (Mytikas – 2.918 m) the twelve “Olympians” were inhabited by gods according to the religion of the ancient Greeks.
Its compact mountainous volume is overwhelming in the boundaries of Macedonia and Thessaly, with a series of high peaks plunging deep ravines around which an area of particular biodiversity extends. In order to protect this unique heritage, it was declared in 1938 as the first National Park of Greece.
Every year, thousands of nature lovers, visit Mount Olympus to admire the charm of nature and enjoy the tours of its slopes and the conquest of its peaks. Organized mountain shelters with a variety of mountaineering and climbing routes are at the disposal of visitors who want to explore its beauties.
A classic starting point is the town of Litochoro at the eastern foothills of the mountain, 100 km from Thessaloniki.
Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and the second highest mountain in the Balkans. Its relief features many features that give it charm and glamor. Rocky and rugged peaks, deep ravines, alpine meadows and dense forests, make up this rare sculpture that hears the name Olympus. A total of 52 peaks are rising from the 760 to 2918 meters.
The area of Olympus is about 500 square kilometers. The area it occupies is almost circular with an average diameter of approximately 25 km and a perimeter around 80 km. Regarding the Olympos National Park, its area amounts to 238,411 acres with a core of 40,000 acres.
The rocks of Olympus began to form 200 million years ago at the bottom of a relatively shallow sea, from where it emerged and slowly began to take its own form. During the glaciation period, significant upgrades took place in the shape of the mountain, since the ice that melted transported huge amounts of rock from the tops to the foot of the mountain. With the melting of the last ice, for about 10,000 years, Olympus took its present form.
In Olympus there are no lakes, except for periodic ponds in the “Bara” and “Dristela” areas that are created by the melting of snow. A small artificial lake was created in recent years at the exit of the Xerolaki ravine above the village of Petra. In Olympus, no caves have been officially mentioned, but caves, dragonflies, snow-caps and schisms, but this does not exclude their existence. Many of its gullies have water throughout the year, which mainly ends due to its excellent quality, in the water supply network. The springs of Olympus are many but, few are found at altitudes above 1000 meters.
The climate of Olympus is affected by its geographical location, its volume, the rock and the exposure of the slopes. Generally it is the Mediterranean, that is hot and dry in the summer and wet in the winter. Approximately seven months a year Olympus is covered by snow (from November to May), while the total amount of water that Olympus receives, either in the form of snow in the winter or in the form of rain or hail in the summer, is large. That is, the amount of water is about 3 to 4 times higher than the quantity of water that Athens or Thessaloniki receives (1100 to 1800 millimeters per year, while Thessaloniki receives 500 and Athens 400 million per year of water precipitations). Half the amount of water falls in the form of snow, while the other half falls like rain or hail.
The average winter temperature ranges from -20 ° C to + 10 ° C and in the summer from 0 ° C to 20 ° C without this meaning that there are no values beyond these limits. Every 100 meters to Mount Olympus the temperature drops about half a degree. Thus, if at sea, we have 20 ° C at the same time in Mitika (2918 m) – and if the same weather conditions apply – we will have about 5 ° C. Finally, the winds at Olympus are a daily phenomenon, sometimes they surpass at speed 100 km / h.
The shape of Mount Olympus, the versatile and varied charm of its nature, its high peaks, full of fog and low clouds that often bring storms, caused awe and admiration for the prehistoric man who lived in its foothills, where the archaeological excavation today reveals finds from settlements of the Iron Age. The first inhabitants of the area will create the legends that will later be given to the twelve years of the ancient Greeks.
OLYMPUS THE FIRST NATIONAL PARK
The Olympos National Park covers the eastern side of the mountain and is designated as a UNESCO monument while the European Union has included it in the “Important Bird Areas of the European Community”. There are many delineated mountaineering routes, short or long, with varying degrees of difficulty, and shelters equipped for hospitality. At the top of Litochoro, in the area of Myli, is one of the entrances of the national park. From there, the international E4 trail, which crosses the impressive Enipea Gorge, extends over 10 km. A good and safe path, with sufficient signage, crosses the gorge and ends at the Prionia (after hiking 5 hours) at an altitude of 1,100 meters.
The river Enipeas, with its turquoise waters, wooden bridges, wild dense nature, gorges, ponds and streams give unique images. The famous waterfalls of Enipea meet around mid-way, a few minutes after the monastery of Agios Dionysios (open to the public from spring to autumn, depending on the weather), while twenty minutes later Agios Spilios, where the monastery Saint Dionysios. From Litochoro you also reach Agios Ioannis with the wonderful alpine meadow and head right to Prophet Elias. From there, an uphill path leads to the Gallina location with breathtaking views. Even in the southeast, at the foot of Mount Olympus, Platamonas Castle, a great medieval fortress, dominates. Over the centuries it was occupied by the Byzantines, the Turks, for a few years by the Greeks, while in 1941 it was used as a fortress by the New Zealanders. Its inner wall has a polygonal shape, excavations have revealed temple ruins, residences and graves.