Some of Greece’s longest sandy beaches. Its highest mountain. A (small) ski resort. Several archaeological sites. Coastal resorts and traditional villages. A lively town. Pieria is an area in Greece that has a lot to offer.
Situated on the border between Thessaly and Macedonia, Mount Olympus is Greece’s highest mountain. Its highest peak, Mytikas, tops out at 2,917 metres and according to Greek mythology this was the meeting place of the ancient gods, the Olympians. Apparently it is not a very difficult mountain to climb, though it is not something I recommend you try unless you are an experienced climber or you go with a qualified guide. Most people leave from Litohori on the eastside and stay overnight in a mountain refuge before moving on to the top. But I’ve been told that it is actually a lot easier and faster to leave from the west side of the mountain; apparently you can reach the top in half a day. That said, there is no need to aim for the highest peak – the mountain, a protected national park, offers incredible biodiversity, appreciated by nature lovers and hikers alike. Over 1,700 plant species and well over 100 bird species have been recorded in the park, and you may spot deer, chamois, foxes and wild cats. Harder to spot, but there are wolves too. There are fantastic walking trails to explore and there are plenty of possibilities for other outdoor activities such as canyoning, river trekking, rock climbing and mountain biking. There also is the tiny ski centre of Elatohori. It has only five or six runs, nothing challenging, but it is nice and not bad at all for a day relaxed skiing.
There are also several important archaeological sites, including those of Dion and of Pydna. North of Pieria, just outside the village of Vergina (in Imathia), you can – no, let me get this straight – you must visit the underground museum with the excavated tombs of Macedonian kings. This is one of the most magnificent archaeological finds in Greece, displaying the gold reliquaries and wreaths, and other riches of Macedonian royals. It is believed that one of the four tombs is of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, though some dispute this and believe that Alexander’s half-brother was buried here.
Small hotels and other special places to stay in Pieria