Natural Landmark in Greece – Northern Greece Waterfalls in Mount Olympus
The Orlias Canyon is a gorge with a length of two kilometers that runs through the north-eastern part of Mount Olympus in northern Greece. It is a beautiful forested canyon with about twenty-five smaller and larger waterfalls, and countless natural pools. Visiting this natural landmark in Greece was an unforgettable experience.
In this canyon are located the Orlias Waterfalls. They are not the largest or most famous waterfalls in Greece, but certainly one of the best. Especially, because of the beautiful surroundings and the crystal-clear waters of the natural pools in front of the waterfalls where you can swim in.
The eponymous river Orlias flows through the canyon. In Greek antiquity the river was also known as Elikonas and Vafiras. Orlias comes from a Greek verb meaning “making a lot of noise” and that is exactly what the water in the river does when it flows with high speed against the boulders and other stones in the river. This natural violence can be heard from a great height when one stands at the top of the canyon which is thirty meters high in some places. Waterfalls and the running water have washed out basins in several places in the ravine with crystal clear and potable water.
Oases in the Greek mountains
In places where the water flows with less force, you will find entrancing green-blue oases. Two of these oases with waterfalls are easily accessible if you have good mobility. They are located above the village of Dion, near the chapel of Saint Konstantinos and Eleni at 340 meters altitude. Not only the waterfalls, but also the basins worn out in the rocks, the impressive wild vegetation and the surrounding mountains make these places seem to have escaped from a fairy-tale book. The beauty of the colors green and azure in the middle of the rocks is indescribable and almost impossible to capture in a photograph.
How to get to the waterfalls
To get there follow the signs to the Olympus Mountains from the village of Dion. Sometimes the chapel Konstantinos is also indicated on a sign, but not consistently. It is about a four kilometers drive through the mountains. The road is in good condition but has some pretty steep ascents and sharp turns. As you drive higher into the mountains you will see the upper part of the meters deep canyon on the right. After four kilometers the chapel of Saint Konstantinos and Eleni is on the right-hand side. Here you can park somewhere along the road. A few meters higher you will see a large gold-colored sign with some explanation of the Orlias site in English and Greek. Next to the sign, a sand and gravel path leads to the waterfalls.
The first waterfall
After a walk of about five minutes you will be blinded by the beauty of the first oasis. During summer, in the azure water of the natural pool near the small waterfall, people are swimming or jumping from the cliffs into the water. The water is freezing cold because it runs down from the mountains. Though with the very high temperatures during summer a dive into the water is very refreshing. The bottom of the lake is entirely of stone, and in some places it is very deep. Closer to the edge you can stand or even sit because the water is only a few centimeters deep. If you are planning to swim it is a good idea to bring water shoes to make it easier to walk over the stones along the pool.
On the left side of the pool there is a short path running along the rocks. From here you can enjoy the waterfall and the natural pool from a few meters height. You can sit on the rocks and take a rest. Others climb on the surrounding rocks around the basin and jump from the cliffs into the water.
⇒ About a 30 minutes drive from Dion is located Palios Panteleimonas, a picturesque Greek village on Mount Olympus. One of those nice places in Greece you should visit when in the area.
The second waterfall is along the same path that leads to the first waterfall, but slightly closer to the “main” road (from the “main” road on the right). It is a path that runs quite steeply down. Here you have to climb a little and watch well where you put your feet. The entrance to the path is not very clear, but you will find it.
This waterfall is about six meters high and is called the Orpheus waterfall. The natural pool in which you can swim is slightly smaller but its beauty is breathtaking. The waterfall is named after the person Orpheus from Greek mythology. Orpheus was a musician and poet who especially enjoyed fame because of his singing and harp playing. When he sang and played on his harp, nature, animals and people all calmed down.
Orpheus and his wife
However, Orpheus was rather unlucky in his life. He was married to the beautiful Efridiki whom he loved very much. When she dies by a snake bite one day, Orpheus is inconsolable. He decides to go to the Underworld of Hades, where the dead “live”, to get Efridiki back. King Hades decides to give her back to her husband, but Orpheus must fulfill one condition: he is not allowed to look behind him until they have both left the Underworld. Things go wrong though. Orpheus walks in front of Efridiki and when he comes close to the exit of the Underworld he can’t longer resist and looks behind him to see if Efridiki still follows him. He loses Efridiki forever.
Maenads murder Orpheus
According to the Greek geographer, traveler and writer Pausanias, who lived in the second century AD, the Greek people in ancient times believed that Orpheus was strung to pieces by Maenads. The Maenads were female worshippers of the god Dionysius and went dancing and drunk through life, always in a state of madness. They wore animal skins, ate raw meat, drank a lot of alcohol, they were violent and had an excessive sexual drive.
There are different versions for the reason of the murder of Orpheus. One version claims that Orpheus was no longer interested in the religion of the Olympic gods, thus also rejecting the god Dionysius which the Maenads couldn’t accept. Another version claims that he was murdered by the Maenads because he was no longer interested in women since the death of Efridiki and the Maenads felt rejected.
The ashamed river
Whatever the reason Orpheus was murdered, according to Pausanias he was murdered in Dion by the Maenads. They wanted to clean their bloody hands in the Orlias River but the river felt so ashamed that it disappeared under the ground. And that’s the reason, according to the ancient Greeks, that the Orlias River flows underground for a large part.
Most beautiful bird songs
At first, Orpheus was buried by the Muses (goddesses who were born in the adjacent Pieria Mountains) in the ancient city of Leivitra, at the foot of Mount Olympus. But after this city flooded, the Greeks transferred his bones to Dion. According to legends, there is a forested slope on Mount Olympus where the birds sing more beautiful than anywhere else in the world. And that is because Orpheus is buried there.
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