Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and the second highest in Europe. A compact massif 2,918 meters in height with a perimeter of 150 km majestically dominates on the limits of Macedonia and Thessaly, with rugged rocks, deep gorges, the Enipeas river canyon and rich streams that create the fertile valley of Dion, before flowing into the Thermaikos Gulf.
The diversely scenic natural terrain, combined with the local microclimate (mediterranean with continental influence) favor the appearance of natural springs, seasonal lakes and streams, created by frequent rain, thunderstorms and hail, even during summertime, while snow is kept in the deepest canyons throughout the year. Being one of the exclusive and richest biodiversity areas in the country, at both fauna and flora, the Mt. Olympus has been declared a National Park since 1938 and a “World’s Biosphere Reserve” in 1981 by UNESCO.
Undoubtedly the most renown mountain in Greece, Olympus still remains a main attraction for visitors from around the world, for its unique natural beauty and its mythical allure alike, offering National and European paths for hikers, organized shelters for naturists and elaborate routes for skilled and novice climbers.
The breathtaking volume of the high-peaked Olympus, surrounded by clouds, fog and storms, created a “mystery veil” to the ancient locals, who in both awe and admiration, could only attribute it to its “divine” status, thus announcing it as the “home of the gods”. According to the Greek mythology, the Twelve Olympian gods kept their palaces hidden in the mountain canyons, or “ridges” according to Homer, while meeting on the “Pantheon” (the highest peak, Mytikas) to plot the fates of the ancient mortals. Stefani, the second and most impressive mountain top, was known as the “Throne of Zeus”, rumored to be the residence of the Father of Gods himself, from where he would unleash the thunders of his “divine wrath”. At the foothills of the mountain, mythology placed the residence of the nine Muses, daughters of Zeus and patrons of the Fine Arts.
The modern Dion is located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Olympus, 15 km south of Katerini, in close proximity to the ruins of the ancient city, currently as a part of the Dio-Olympus municipality. The archaeological site, the theater ruins and the modern museum boosted tourism development in the region, mainly based on livestock and tobacco farming. The “Diia in Olympus” and “Olympus Festival”, sport and cultural events taking place in the area, were by tradition dedicated to Olympian Zeus. The Archaeological Museum of Dion, opened in 1983, hosts archaeological finds from the wider Pieria region (Dion, Olympus, Pydna, Ritini) and exhibits findings as statues, tombstones, coins and minor items excavated in the ancient city and necropolis of Ancient Dion.
Ancient Dion, a city of great strategic importance in Macedonia, was founded by King Deucalion of Thessaly in honor of Zeus. By the end of the 5th century BC, it had become a local spiritual and cultural center, while later both Macedonian kings Phillip II and Alexander the Great organize significant sport events and religious offerings. Keeping independent government and coin, it grows commercially as a city of the Roman Empire and becomes a Bishop under the Christianity prevalence, being renamed to “Dios” and later to “Malathria”. Completely destroyed after the Ottoman dominance, the ancient city ruins are located in 1806, but excavations are not to start until 1928, when significant archaeological finds come to light – Greek and Egyptian temples and sanctuaries, public buildings, villas and theaters, as well as two posterior Christian churches.