It is not a myth. It is real. It is the highest mountain in Greece and one of its most picturesque sites. And it is the place the ancient Greeks chose as a residence for their Twelve Gods.
Mount Olympos is located between the regional units of Pieria and Larisa, about 80km SW from the beautiful city Thessaloniki. It reaches 2918m (about 9,570 feet) above sea level and has 55 peaks over 2.000m, deep gorges and excepional biodiversity. The highest peak, Mytikas is only 18 kilometers (11 mi) away at Litochoro. Olympus has an almost circular shape. The mountain has a circumference of 150 kilometers (93 mi), an average diameter of 26 kilometers (16 mi), and 500 square kilometers (190 sq mi) of the area.
Mount Olympus is formed of sedimentary rock, laid down 200 million years ago in a shallow sea. Various geological events that followed caused the emergence of the whole region and the sea. Around one million years ago glaciers covered Olympus and created its plateaus and depressions. With the temperature rise that followed, the ice melted and the streams that were created swept away large quantities of crushed rock in the lowest places, forming the alluvial fans, that spread out all over the region from the foothills of the mountain to the sea.
The home of the 12 Gods supports over 1.700 species of plants, 23 of those exist only here. Here also live 182 species of mammals and birds, like the famous Rupicapra-Rupicapra (wild goat) which you will definately see if you hike above 2.500m. Because of its rich biodiversity, the mountain was recognised as the country's first national park in 1938. It is also a World Biosphere Reserve.
Inspired by the mysterious peaks reaching up beyond the clouds, the ancient Greeks understandably believed their sacred mountain to be the wondrous home of their gods. Dozens of villages arose in the foothills of Mount Olympus during the Iron Age (approximately the 12th century to the eighth century B.C.), before the classical era of Greece. One of the most notable is Dion, on the northern side. Alexander the Great is said to have gone to Dion to make sacrifices to Zeus before he set out on his campaign to expand the Macedonian empire.
In the period of the Ottoman Empire, the mountain was a hiding place and base of operations for klephts and armatoloi. In the early 20th century, even for some time after the liberation from the Ottoman Empire (1912), robbers were active in the region - the best known of them the notorious Giagoulas, while during the German invasion in 1941 the Greek army fought significant battles along with units of New Zealanders and Australians. During the German Occupation (1941 - 1944) the mountain was one of the centers of the Greek Resistance, while a little later the Greek Civil War (1946-49) started there, in Litochoro.
Ancient Greeks likely never tried to climb the two main peaks of Mt Olympus. In the modern era, a series of explorers tried to study the mountain and to reach, unsuccessfully, its summit. But its highest peak, Mytikas was only first ascended on August 2, 1913 by Swiss photographer Frédéric Boissonnas, his friend Daniel Baud-Bovy, and Christos Kakkalos, a Greek hunter from the near-by town of Litochoro, who served as their guide. Kakalos, who had much experience climbing Olympus, was the first of the three to climb Mytikas. Afterward and till his death (1976) he was the official guide of Olympus. In 1921, he and Marcel Kurz reached the second highest summit of Olympus, Stefani.