To understand how the mountain must have impressed the ancient Greeks and caused them to shift their allegiance from the earth-rooted deities of the Mycenaeans to those of the airy heights of Olympus, you need to see it clearly from several different perspectives. On its northern slope, the Olympus range catches clouds in a turbulent, stormy bundle, letting fly about 12 times as many thunder-and-lightning storms as anywhere else in Greece. From the south, if there is still snow on the range, it appears as a massive, flat-topped acropolis, much like the one in Athens; its vast, snowy crest hovering in the air, seemingly capable of supporting as many gods and temples as the ancients could have imagined. As you drive from the sea to Mt. Olympus, the mountain appears as a conglomeration of thickly bunched summits rather than as a single peak. The truly awe-inspiring height is 9,570 feet.
Nearby, Litochoro is the lively town (population 7,000, plus a nearby army base) nestled at the foot of the mountain. It's the gateway to Mt. Olympus. Souvenir shops, restaurants, local-specialty bakeries (stock up before a hike), and hotels vie for customers.