Orlias Waterfall and Lagoons – Mount Olympus Greece
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 of which the best accessible are the Orlias Waterfall and the Orpheus Waterfall. Visiting these waterfalls in Greece and their lagoons is an unforgettable experience.
The Orlias Waterfall and the Orpheus Waterfall are located in this canyon. They are not the largest or most famous waterfalls in Greece, but certainly some of the best. The surrounding nature and the crystal-clear waters of the lagoons in front of the waterfalls, are like a dream.
Orlias River & Orlias Waterfall
The Orlias River runs through the impressive Orlias Canyon, which at some places has a height of 30 meters. 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 in the river. This natural violence can be heard from a great height when one stands at the top of the canyon. The countless waterfalls and the running water have washed out basins in several places in the ravine with crystal clear and potable water.
The ancient city of Aigai, also located in Northern Greece, was the first capital of the Macedonian Kingdom. In nowadays Vergina there is much to see, like the tomb of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, and remains of the city. Read more in the blog post >> Vergina Tombs.
Oases in Mt. Olympus
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.
A stunning hiking trail runs through the Enipeas Gorge on Mount Olympus, starting not far from Dion. Some sections are also suitable for kids. Read all about it in our blog post >> Hiking Mt Olympus Greece – Enipeas Gorge.
How to get to the Orlias 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 Mount Olympus, 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 located on the right. 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 Orlias and Orpheus waterfalls.
Read more about how to get to Mount Olympus from Athens and Thessaloniki.
Not far from Dion, above Litochoro, you will find an easy hiking trail through dense forests where shepherds used to guide their animals to the Mana current for water. Read about it in this blog post.
The Orlias Waterfall
After a walk of about five minutes you will be blinded by the beauty of the first oasis at the Orlias Waterfall. During summer, people swim or jump from the cliffs into the water.
The water is freezing cold because it runs down from Mount Olympus. Though with the very high temperatures during summer a dive into the water is very refreshing. The bottoms of the lagoons are entirely of stone, and in some places they are 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 lagoons.
On the left side of the lagoon there is a short path running along the rocks. From here you can enjoy the Orlias 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 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, named Orpheus, is along the same path that leads to the Orlias Waterfall, but slightly closer to the “main” road (from the “main” road on your right hand). It is a path that runs quite steeply down. Here you have to climb a little and watch carefully 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 well-known in the 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.
If you want to learn more about Alexander the Great and the places where he spent his time, there is yet another historic site in Northern Greece. The archaeological site in Dion houses the remains of the ancient sacred city of the Greek Kingdom of Macedonia. It’s an enchanting lush green park with many statues and Greek monuments. Read more in our blog post >>Dion Greece.
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, 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. Orpheus makes a big mistake as he walks in front of Efridiki. 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 and he loses her forever…
Ancient Tragedy at Orlias Waterfall
According to the Greek geographer, traveler and writer Pausanias, who lived in the second century AD, the ancient Greeks believed that Orpheus was strung to pieces by Maenads. The Maenads were female worshipers of the god Dionysius and went dancing and drunk through life. 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. The Maenads couldn’t accept this.
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 Orlias 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 runs underground.
For families with kids visiting Athens we created the blog post 50 Things to do in Athens with Kids with many inspiring and relaxing activities.
Bird Songs around the Waterfalls of Orlias
At first, Orpheus was buried by the Muses (goddesses who were born in the adjacent Pieria Mountains) in the ancient city of Leivithra, at the foot of Mount Olympus.
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.