This is a trip for fit mountain lovers with a sense of curiosity who would like to visit some of the less well-known parts of Europe. Over nine days we will visit three national parks, the UNESCO city of Thessaloniki in Greece and the UNESCO-recognised lake and city of Ohrid in Macedonia, with swimming both in lakes and in the Aegean Sea.
Level of Activity:
Duration: 9 days
Dates: 22 Sep 2018 – 30 Sep 2018
This trip has it all, and if you can only do one trip with us next year, it’s the perfect choice.
We are taking you to Mount Olympus, where Aphrodite revealed her beauty and the mighty Zeus and his wife Hera had their famous arguments, accompanied by thunderstorms.
In September the weather is perfect for hiking here, warm but not too hot, which is important because we will be reaching heights of almost 3,000 metres (10,000 feet).
Ancient Greeks never tried to climb the peaks of Olympus – Partheon and the Throne of Zeus, (currently called Mytikas and Stefani respectively) – because they considered them to be the home of the Gods and thus inaccessible to people. However, they did reach the summit now called Aghios Antonios, from which they had a view of the two peaks, and where they left offerings to the Gods, as recent archaeological findings indicate.
Aside from Olympus National Park, we visit Pelister National Park which covers an area of 17,150 hectares, with altitudes ranging from 927m to 2601m (3040 to 8533ft).
The park is abundant with unique natural resources and is home to rare and endemic animal and plant species, not least the particularly significant five-needle molika pine. The diverse range of wildlife includes bears, roe deer and other deer, wolves, chamois, wild boar, rabbits, several species of eagle, partridges, red-billed choughs, and the endemic Macedonian Pelagonia trout.
We end this trip with a stay in the town of Ohrid, which, together with Lake Ohrid, the oldest lake in Europe, is one of only 28 UNESCO protected sites in the world that has gained its status on both natural and cultural grounds. The town’s architecture, with its old streets and houses, is one of the best preserved of its type in the whole of the Balkans. Here we will enjoy hiking in the Galichica National Park, which is located between Lakes Ohrid and Prespa and offers stunning views. We will also enjoy climbing Jablanica, a mountain on the border with Albania, ending our hike in a village situated on the ancient Roman road, the Via Egnatia.
September is an ideal month to enjoy the outdoors in this part of the Balkan Peninsula, and this 9-day trip highlights the Greek and Macedonian mountains as well as offering you a taste of both cultures.
Day 1: We start the trip in Thessaloniki, where you will arrive in the evening.
Day 2: After breakfast we will have a guided tour of Thessaloniki, including its Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments. You can also enjoy one of the many cafes in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, which has a very vibrant coffee culture and is widely known for its attractive street photography opportunities.
We’ll then have a transfer to Prionia, at 1100m (3609ft) – the gateway to the first national park that we visit on this trip – Olympus. The route from Prionia to Refuge A is through a thick forest of pine, beech and fir trees, along a high-quality footpath.
Our main luggage will be left at Litochoro, where we return the day after. We will spend the night in a mountain hut with shared rooms and facilities, carrying only the essentials with us. We’ll hike for about 5 hours, making our way up to the hut at an altitude of 2100m (6890ft). We’ll have dinner in the hut, before bedding down there for the night.
Day 3: We wake up early to greet the morning and enjoy the stunning views. After breakfast we will head towards the second highest peak, Skolio, at 2912m (9555ft). Our path runs beneath the Throne of Zeus, called Stefani Peak, 2902m (9520ft) and the highest peak in the range, Mytikas at 2915m (9565ft), both of which require technical equipment and climbing skills to be reached.
We do not consider either of these peaks suitable for the whole group, but if any participants want to have a shot at Mythikas or Zeus’s Throne, we can arrange that option at the start of the tour. This will entail a detailed briefing about those two options, booking another local guide and renting technical equipment for an extra charge.
After reaching the summit we’ll go down to a hut on the Plateau of the Muses – where better to enjoy a lunch break than the legendary home of these inspirational goddesses of literature, science and the arts?
This is the most demanding and strenuous day of the trip. We will have about 11 hours of effective hiking, starting at 2100m (6890ft), reaching a peak of 2912m (9555ft) and descending gradually to a level of 1100m (3609ft).
Our hosts have promised us some amazing Greek food once we’re back in Litochoro.
Please note that if any participants want to skip doing this part of the hiking activities, they can spend the day back down in Litochoro and on the warm sandy beaches just below it.
Day 4: This is a day for rest, so after breakfast we’ll have a leisurely stroll in the historical town of Litochoro. For lunch, we can choose between a local tavern and a fish restaurant on the beaches of Plaka, which is 20 minutes away. After lunch, we’ll have a longer crossborder transfer to Bitola in Macedonia, where we will take an evening stroll around the city centre before we reach our base for the next two days: the Hotel Molika in Pelister National Park. We’ll have an early night so that we can get some rest before our next hiking challenge the following day.
Day 5: We’ll have an early breakfast and start hiking straight from the hotel, at an altitude of 1420 metres (4659ft), setting off to conquer the range’s highest peak and the mountain after which the national park was named, Pelister, at 2601 metres (8533ft).
Day 6: After breakfast, we’ll check out from the Hotel Molika – named after the greatest natural asset of the park, the endemic molika pine tree (Pinus peuce). We’ll once again start our walk directly from the hotel 1420m (4659ft), taking about 4 hours to hike the 9 km (5.6mi) trail, 300m (984ft) of ascent and 900m (2953ft) of descent, to the village Dihovo at 850m (2789ft) altitude, where we’ll taste some organic Slow Food® branded dishes and drinks.
We will have a late lunch in a family farm house, where we will try some of their home-produced organic honey.
We’ll reach Ohrid later in the afternoon, following a 1 hour transfer from Bitola. In the evening we’ll explore the cobbled streets of Ohrid and its urban cafes at a suitably slow pace.
Day 7: Another full day of hiking lies ahead of us – a moderate hike will take us over the Galichica Mountain and through the national park between Lakes Ohrid and Prespa, climbing from 1600m (5250ft) to 2255m (7398ft) and going along the mountain ridge for 8 km (5mi) or 3-5 hours.
We will be picked up by our minibus to go for lunch at Lake Ohrid via a picturesque mountain road. We’ll taste local grilled trout while sitting on a white pebble beach, where we can take a dip in the lake.
We’ll introduce you to the best of Macedonia’s indigenous wines during our late lunch on the shore – so opt in for a guided wine-tasting session featuring our favourite sparkling, white, rosé and “black” (red) wines, produced by 4 different Macedonian wineries.
Day 8: Today we’ll hike up Jablanica – a gorgeous mountain on the Macedonian / Albanian border overlooking Lake Ohrid, with trails winding among lush forests, springs and meadows full of butterflies.
The trail is 12km (7.5mi) long, with a height difference of 920 metres (3020ft). It is a circular route, starting and ending at the village of Gorna Belica 1359m (4458ft) and reaching its peak at Crn Kamen (Black Stone), at 2212m (7257ft).
We’ll have a late lunch in the village of Vevchani, famous for its winter carnival, its rebellious tradition and the stunning springs that we will see during a stroll in the village later in the day.
We’ll be back at our hotel in Ohrid in the evening.
Day 9: The last day of this amazing trip is reserved for some leisure time around Ohrid. You can stroll along the cobbled streets among Byzantine churches and hear about three millennia of continuous history from our guide. There is a short walk up to the top of the hill, where we will be rewarded with a stunning view of the lake. Swimming in the lake is a great idea, as the water is warm in September – although the lake is almost 300 metres (980ft) deep.
After a farewell lunch on the coast of the lake, we’ll have a guided sightseeing tour, with some time for shopping at the fresh food market and the artisan jewellers before we head to the airport to catch the 18:00 flight to London Luton.
The cost of this trip is £950, based on two people sharing a room.
A single room supplement is available at £150 extra. Shared accommodation in mountain huts where there is no alternative.
What is included?
• 8 nights bed and breakfast at 3 star hotels, family hotels and 1 night in a mountain hut
• Minibus transfers from and to airports (for the recommended flights only)
• Minibus transfers to and from the starting and finishing points of the hikes or sightseeing visits, according to the itinerary
• Local English-speaking certified mountain and tourist guides for all hikes and sightseeing trips, according to the itinerary
• Three lunch packs on hiking days when there is no alternative for lunch
• Travel/health insurance – please arrange your own in order to be able to join this trip
• Flights – you need to purchase your own flights to Greece and back from Macedonia
• Lunches and evening meals in restaurants
• Personal expenses for drinks or souvenirs
• Other optional activities and visits
Jet2 flight from London Stansted to Thessaloniki
Saturday, 22 September 2018 at 16:20, arriving in Thessaloniki at 21:40, flight number LS 1651
Wizzair flight from Ohrid to London Luton
Sunday, 30 September 2018 departing at 18:00, arriving at 20:20 flight number W6 7909
You can book this trip by clicking the BOOK NOW button on our website or by sending us an email. Please book the recommended flights after you receive our confirmation of availability. We provide transport from and to the airports for the recommended flights only.