At the foothills of Mt. Olympus lies ancient Dion. Even before Zeus and the Olympian gods, the mountain was home to the Muses and Orpheus, who entranced the men of the area with his mystical music. The story says that the life-giving force of Dion came from the waters in which the murderers of Orpheus (the women of Mt. Olympus, jealous for attention from their men) washed their hands on the slopes of the sacred mountain to remove the stain of their own sin. The waters entered the earth and rose, cleansed, in the holy city of Dion. (Zeus is Dias in Greek; the city was named for him.)
Ancient Dion was inhabited from as early as the classical period (5th century BC) and last referred to as Dion in the 10th century AD according to the archaeological findings.
Unearthed ruins of various buildings include the villa of Dionysos, public baths, a stadium (the Macedonian Games were held here), shops, and workshops. The road from the museum divides the diggings at the archaeological site into two areas. On the left is the ancient city of Dion itself, with the juxtaposition of public toilets and several superb floor mosaics. On the right side are the ancient theaters and the sanctuaries of Olympian Zeus, Demeter, and Isis. In the latter, which is a vividly beautiful approximation of how it once looked, copies of the original statues, now in the museum, have been put in place.
Dion is about a 1½-hour journey from Thessaloniki; buses leave every half hour or so for Katerini, where you can take the local "blue" bus to the Dion site (€1.20). From Katerini, you could also hop on the connecting route to Litochoro at the base of Mt. Olympus (€6.80), which has good dining and lodging options, and take a taxi (around €7) to the site. If coming by train get off at Katerini, 27 km (17 mi) south of the site, then take a bus or a taxi to the site or to Litochoro (the isolated Litochoro railway station is outside town). Winter hours are unpredictable.
museum. Start at the museum to see the video (in English) prepared by the site's renowned archaeologist, Dimitris Pandermalis, which describes the excavations, the finds, and their significance. (His efforts to keep the artifacts in the place where they were found have established a trend for the decentralization of archaeological finds throughout Greece.) The second floor contains a topographical relief of the area and the oldest surviving pipe organ precursor—the 1st-century BC hydraulis. The basement learning area has an Alexander mosaic, a model of the city, and ancient carriage shock absorbers. Adjacent to archaeological site, Dion, 60100. 23510/53206. €3. Apr.–Oct., Tues.–Sun. 8–8, Mon. 1–8; Nov.–Mar., Tues.–Sun., 8:30–3.
- Phone: 23510/53206
- Cost: €6
- Hours: May–Oct., daily 8:30–8; Nov.–Apr. reduced hrs
- Location: Dion