Magical Greece

On the Go

Trekking and sightseeing with Mahendra’s camera. Part 1 on Mt Olympus and Meteora.

Two years ago, in October 2020, I was recovering from ruptured muscle fibre in my left thigh. To me, swimming offered the best means of recuperation. I love to swim in the Walchensee, the lake close by my apartment, but it does get quite cold, even in summer. Where else might I go, to swim and do some light hiking so my muscle could heal up?

Greece sounded appealing. Not only was it close enough to avoid flying long-distance to Asia or America, but it also combined the promise of abundant natural beauty – spectacular mountains and delightful beaches – with a rich cultural heritage. I love to visit and study such places. Moreover, in October it would still be pleasantly warm.

My initial trip took me to the area of Mt Olympus and to the monasteries of Meteora. It left me hungry for more.

The following spring, I returned to Greece for six weeks, this time to the area of Kalamata, which is situated on the famous southern tip of the Greek mainland, the Peloponnese. I started to explore the nearby Taygetos mountains, with their lush green valleys and ragged and barren peaks. I found this area so enjoyable that I returned in October and stayed for another six months, allowing me to immerse myself in the natural and cultural beauties of the region.

As is my usual habit, I’ve been making good use of my Panasonic camera, with its various lens attachments, to document my travels. I can’t claim to have captured the essence of Greece in all its many-facetted splendour, but my pictorial record does offer some glimpses of its delights.

Here nature can be rough and rugged, lovely in its pristine wilderness. But there is also a breath-taking monumental record of civilizational change: the continuous struggles between the ancient Greek city states, conquest and absorption into the Roman Empire, the adoption and development of Christianity, then several centuries under Ottoman rule, before the eventual emergence of an independent Greek state still strongly imbued with the distinctive culture of the Orthodox Church.

Mt Olympus

In this first part of the series I will take you up to Mt Olympus all the way to its highest peak, Mytikas. This is just part of the massive range I had already viewed from my airplane seat, towering above the mellow Mediterranean landscape.

Mt Olympos

Olympus is a mountain range in Northern Greece, situated south of the city of Katerini, close to the coast of the Aegean Sea. The highest summits are also the highest mountains in Greece, with the Mytikas peak reaching 2917 m. Mt Olympus, well known as the mythical abode of the ancient Greek gods, is nowadays a beautiful nature reserve with an extraordinary variety of flora and fauna.

For example, I had never seen a fire salamander before. True, it may be found in various parts of Europe, but already at the beginning of my ascent through the Eneapas Gorge, I saw two of them within half an hour! The second one was so kind as to wait for me until I had taken the camera out of my backpack.

To see the slideshow fullscreen click on arrows top right – if you wish to see in higher resolution go to

View from Nei Pori towards Platamonas and Mt Olympus
Autumn at the foothills of Mt Olympus
A fire salamander
Ascent through Eneapas Gorge
The highest summit, Mytikos (left) and the Plateau of the Muses
A chamois on the side of the main path
Overlooking the Aegean coast and sea, while a storm is building up
Looking westwards

After the first ascent to roughly 1000 m above sea level, I rested at Spilios Agapitos, the largest of the climbers’ refuges. Its size is due to it being on the route to several of the Olympus peaks, some of them over 2000 m high.

The next morning I started early, before sunrise, and watched the sun creep over the edge of the mountains. You can see the peninsula of Chalkidiki on the horizon, with the distinctive cone of Mt Athos, the famous mountain of the monks, clearly identifiable even at a distance of 160 km.

Above the tree line, at about 2200 m, I hiked through barren uplands and saw many chamois, which can apparently get enough nourishment from the few small patches of grass growing in the midst of the vast fields of limestone rock and gravel.

There were stunning views from the peaks; I was fortunate that the weather conditions were favourable. To the North, West and South the Olympus mountains merged into the hills of Northern Greece, while to the East stretched the immaculate blue Aegean, sparkling two and a half thousand meters below.

Now that we are back at sea level, let’s have a rest and a swim at the beach of Katerini.


Meteora, in the Thessaly region of Northern Greece, features some spectacular scenery, dominated by gigantic columns of rock, many of which have been colonised by ancient Orthodox monasteries.

Meteora area, credit Google

To give you an idea, here is a Google Earth bird’s eye view that shows the whole area.

According to radiocarbon analysis, palaeolithic humans were using some of the natural caves in the area 50,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found indications that Christian monks were living in caves around Meteora from 800 CE onwards.

To see the slideshow fullscreen click on arrows top right – if you wish to see in higher resolution go to

From left to right, Rousanou, Nicholas Anapausas, Great Meteoron (the highest and largest), and Varlaam
St Stephen
St Stephen
St Stephen
Monastery of the Holy Trinity
Rock formations
Nicholas Anapausas

From around 1300 CE, Greek Orthodox monasteries were being built on top of the rock formations, where the monks could live, work and pray in seclusion. The fortifications were necessary because of the frequent Ottoman invasions of the Thessaly region. Access to the monasteries was only possible via ropes or ladders, which could be pulled up in case of unwelcome visitors.

In the subsequent centuries, 24 separate monasteries were established, housing many hundreds of monks. Over time, impressive interior decorations were added. Nowadays, only six are still inhabited. Two of them (Rousanou, St Stephen) have been taken over by nuns.

Icon of Jesus
St Jakob
Mary with Jesus
The Three Hierarchs

In 1988 the area was recognized as a Unesco World Heritage Site, which means that the monasteries now have to be open to the public. Although the visiting hours for each site are limited, little remains of the solitude which the monks originally enjoyed. They are now kept busy organising the steady flow of visitors and maintaining the buildings, museums and the interior decorations. At St Stephen, at least, the nuns are still practising hesychasm, the Orthodox tradition of mystical contemplation.

Text and photos by Mahendra, edited by Hafiz Ladell


Mahendra Myshkin is a Bavarian Yogi, and researcher of the Inner and Outer Universe.

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