Travelers and hikers worldwide definitely know Mt Olympus: the tallest mountain in Greece, the home of the Greek gods according to myth, and a bold challenge for climbers who visit every year in hopes of reaching its highest peak: Mytikas.

But very few are aware of what lies around the great Greek mountain and that’s what the 1st Olympus Adrenaline & Nature Festival held in the town of Litochoro last month comes to change.

Small to the eye, Litochoro has managed to position itself on the map mainly for hikers seeking to test their mettle and climb up Mt Olympus. As of late, the town, the municipality, and the wider Pieria Regional Unit in Central Macedonia together with the newly-formed Pieria Organization for Tourism Development and Promotion (POTAP) are taking active steps to showcase the wider range of tourism offerings in and around the divine mountain. To Vima English Edition had the chance to experience first-hand what Pieria has to offer and speak to local stakeholders about the plan to reach out to new and more markets with new products.

Learning about the healing effects of horseback riding at the Pieria Therapeutic Riding Center with Stella Papathanasiou. Photo: Olympus Adrenaline & Nature Festival

Pieria: From Mountain to Sea

This year’s inaugural Olympus Adrenaline & Nature Festival came after a new experience in the region: the “Pieria Cherry Blossoms of Spring” event which invited travelers to visit the local cherry orchards and experience the area through art, culture, and local cuisine.

This is just one of many events and happenings taking place lately as part of efforts to get the word out. Last weekend, local specialty food products including the Platamonas shrimp, the Makrygialos mussel, the Katerini crab, Mt Olympus pork and organic mountain tea were prepared by Michelin Star-winning chef Lefteris Lazarou and accompanied by locally produced wines for a gastronomy event. And there is so much more in the pipeline, including the 53rd Olympus Festival which will be inaugurated by Culture Minister Lina Mendoni on July 3 at the Ancient Dion Theater. This year’s festival – one of the country’s largest – features Serbia as honored country and includes dozens of events, theater performances, concerts, musicals, workshops, children’s shows around Pieria through to the end of August.

An exciting lesson in canyoning over waterfalls of Mt Olympus. Photo: Olympus Adrenaline & Nature Festival

Creating Synergies for the Future

Held in the main square of Litochoro, which is about an hour’s drive from Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, the inaugural Olympus Adrenaline & Nature Festival included more than 70 free experiences that introduced visitors to the diverse offerings of the Pieria Regional Unit in Central Macedonia.

Local experts and tourism professionals ran workshops and held talks about essential outdoor skills such as first aid, trail signposting, backpack packing, survival basics, nutrition, mountaineering, local herbs, beekeeping and wine-making.

Visitors had the chance to go canyoning, birdwatching, do some acroyoga, climbing, e-biking, learn more about therapeutic horseback riding, participate in sea sports, or even pilates in the Archaeological Park of Dion. Meanwhile, children loved the climbing wall and the pottery-making lessons by one of the region’s masters. The two-day event ended with a vibrant concert featuring performances by local musicians, students, and dance troupes.

“A destination is its people,” Pieria Deputy Regional Governor Sofia Mavridou tells To Vima English Edition, stressing the importance of fostering a sense of shared objectives and rewards. 

Crucial to achieving this, she says, is to ensure year-round tourism, develop experiences that bring value to the local community and are inclusive, and opening up to new markets.

That is why the regional authority is encouraging collaborations and partnerships, creating value, and distributing the rewards and benefits to the residents,” Mavridou notes. Among others, she goes on to add that the region received a gold award for its Accessible Tourism Initiatives at the 2024 Tourism Awards.

“The goal of the festival was primarily to foster synergies that will promote Pieria and the region around Mt Olympus and to give local professionals a platform to showcase their work and services, which include everything from culture and sports to alternative experiences and conferences,” Mavridou tells To Vima English Edition.

This area, beyond its connection with Mt Olympus, boasts a 77km coastline with beautiful beaches, over 400 hotels with more than 20,000 beds, 900 rooms to let, and well-equipped campgrounds on the waterfront.

Pleased with this year’s turnout, Mavridou said the Olympus Adrenaline & Nature Festival was a “great first step” and is here to stay.

Pieria Locals Pooling Efforts

One of the challenges organizers faced ahead of the event was getting local stakeholders on board.

“We are very proud of our first festival held in Litochoro because the goal was to engage the local community, producers, and services providers and to introduce visitors to the offerings of the Olympus Riviera,” Litochoro Deputy Mayor for Tourism and Education, Sofia Zourzoura tells To Vima English Edition.

She too underlines the importance of active participation of local stakeholders, producers, and volunteers who came together to promote the wonders of region which “uniquely combines Mt. Olympus and the sea”, she says.

For Zourzoura, who was born in Litochoro, the festival is only the beginning of a new institution which she hopes will grow in size and scope attracting more participants and visitors.

Mt Olympus stands at a height of  2,917.727 meters (9,572.60 feet). It has been a designated National Park and World Biosphere Reserve since 1938 due to its unique biodiversity and flora. During the festival, we also learned more about the mountain at the Olympus National Park Management Unit Information Center. Three years ago, local authorities said they would be submitting a file so that Mt Olympus be included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The 1st Olympus Adrenaline & Nature Festival was organized by the Regional Unit of Pieria and POTAP with the support of OpenWays Events & Travel, the Dion-Olympus Municipality, and the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO).