Think of Greece and think of whitewashed villages, brilliant blue window frames trailing with hot pink bougainvillea, beautiful beaches and sunshine, plenty of sunshine.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to the Greek islands on several occasions and love their laid-back beach vibe, the spanokoptia, the rich, juicy tomatoes… yum.
I’ve visited the Acropolis and the Parthenon in Athens and really, they both beg the question; what have the Greeks ever done for us?
The overwhelming sense of history is extraordinary and just seeing the Parthenon in the distance is an unbelieveable experience.
In short, I have spent many happy holidays in Greece. So I was delighted when Discover Greece Blogtrotters – along with Olympus Cameras – invited me to spend a week in an area I have never visited – the northern region of Pieria, around Mount Olympus.
My amazing partners in crime were Julia from Stylonylon, Victoria from In The Frow, her genius video graphic designer boyfriend Alex, Leon from The Lean Machines, along with his girlfriend, fitness YouTuber and blogger Carly Rowena. I heart them all.
The area itself – called the Olympus Riviera – is dominated by the mountain – and the terrain is lush, green and spectacular.
The fittest members of the group hiked to the snow-capped summit over the course of a twelve hour trek (Julia and I chickened out!) – check out their Instagrams for amazing images of them at the top taken with their Olympus PEN cameras.
But the versatility of the area amazed me. There are myriad beautiful beaches within a stone’s throw of Mount Olympus’ foothills, gorgeous small towns with rustic wineries, along with a huge variety of hotels which all make it the perfect tourist area. We stayed at two, the first was Poseidon Palace (the beach is shown above) and then the smaller, more boutique Litohoro Resort (below), but we were also shown a fantastic five-star ski-resort called Semeli which was stunning.
We went scuba diving at Platamonas beach, visited the incredible ancient ruins of Dion (a complete must for history nuts) and were shown wild orchids and waterfalls on the mountain by our knowledgeable guide Savvas. Did you know there were over 1700 species of plants on Mount Olympus? No? Me either.
And we ate like kings. A total highlight was being taken to Kourtis Winery (unfortunately not online) in a tiny little village called Rahi. Here we checked out their own award-winning Oniros wine (a lot of it!), sat in their garden with views to die for eating plate after home-made plate of the finest feta salad, baked aubergine and roasted lamb while listening to three rock dudes serenade us. It was heaven – and a moment in time I will never forget.
Another amazing meal was at agricultural small-holding and hotel Koukos Inn, near Katerini. The owners pride themselves on their organic produce, with mouth-watering, healthy, clean foods inspired by ancient Greek recipes. Olives as big as tomatoes, boiled eggs mixed with almonds and honey (delicious, honestly!) and a slow-roasted lamb stew were my personal highlights – and throw in a view of the idyllic countryside edged with lavender, you’ve got a pretty good afternoon.
A final evening spent at Mediterranean Hotels, hosted by regional director Evangelia, saw us add a few more pounds of body weight as black-tie wearing waiters served us plate after plate of salads and yummy desserts.
Greece is going through a very difficult time at the moment, but the hospitality and kindness we received from everyone we met was extraordinary. And it definitely shouldn’t deter anyone from checking out this country’s stunning and versatile landscape.
Experiencing the week with five fabulous people was the icing on the top of my Baklava.