At Olympia the myth lives on. You too, like the athletes of thousands of years ago, can experience the thrill of walking through a vaulted passageway and come out into a stadium with a mythical air: close your eyes and you will be transported back in time, when the stands of this stadium were packed with people flocking from all over Greece to acclaim the heroes of sport.
Home to one of the most important sanctuaries of the ancient world, Olympia is the place where the Olympic Games of antiquity were held. A living tradition, since even today every four years the Olympic flame departs from here.
Walking through the ancient ruins of this legendary city is an indescribable emotion: for history and sports fans but also for romantic people looking for a unique place.
The Panhellenic sanctuary of Olympia is one of the most important religious and political sites of the ancient world.
Its origins date as far back as the end of the Neolithic period (4th millennium BC), but its importance was established when it became the main center of the cult of Zeus, the supreme god of Greek mythology.
From 775 B.C. to 383 A.D., every four years, sports competitions were held in Olympia that we know as the Olympic Games. In the Greek world these games had a sacred meaning, as they were celebrated in homage to the gods. In the name of a divine peace during the games were suspended all wars between the Greek cities, perpetually fighting each other to defend their autonomy and prestige.
Even today, the Olympic Games are synonymous with the spirit of solidarity and sense of common belonging.
The main attraction of Olympia are obviously the ruins of the ancient city. With a single ticket you can visit the archaeological site of Olympia (which includes the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hera, the Stadium), the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the History of Excavations, the Museum of Ancient Games and the Museum of Modern Games.
All these places can be visited independently, but are best appreciated by participating in a guided tour with a guide who will tell you the story of these millennial places.
Within the archaeological area of Olympia the most interesting attractions are:
The Archaeological Museum of Olympia is one of the most important in all of Greece: a real must for lovers of ancient history, it will fascinate even the merely curious. The museum will introduce you to the long history of the sanctuary of Olympia through artifacts found during excavations in the sacred area (from the prehistoric era to the early Christian era). It includes three important collections: one of sculptures, one of bronzes and one of pottery.
Inside the Museum of the History of the Ancient Olympic Games are preserved more than 400 artifacts from the prehistoric era to the fifth century BC, mostly from Olympia but also from other important centers of antiquity. The museum traces the history of the ancient games and other Pan-Hellenic festivities.
The Modern Games Museum is less interesting than the Ancient Games Museum, but since it’s free, why not check it out? Some medals are on display.
The archaeological site of Olympia is one of the most visited tourist attractions in mainland Greece, so you won’t have trouble finding accommodation in its surroundings.
In the modern part of the city of Olympia you will find a wide choice of hotels and b&b’s in all price ranges, with a prevalence of mid-range facilities. Prices of hotels in Olympia are generally quite cheap.
The archaeological site of Olympia is open all year round, with the exception of a few holidays including Easter, Christmas, Boxing Day and January 1.
There is no best time to go to Olympia: it is undeniable that the ancient ruins are much more impressive on a sunny day, but the site is almost completely exposed and the heat can sometimes be excessive.
In the cooler seasons the number of visitors is lower and you can therefore visit the archaeological park with more tranquility. In addition, from November to March, the entrance fee is half price.
Olympia is easily accessible by rental car, cab or bus from the cities of Pyrgos or Katakolon, which are 15 km and 40 km respectively. In Pyrgos there is a small airport, but it offers few flights. From Athens you can reach Olympia with a direct bus, but the journey is a bit long (5 hours and a half).
For those who want to reach Olympia there are several possibilities. The easiest, and probably the cheapest, is to fly to Athens and from there travel by bus or by rented car. In the summer months there are also some flights to Patras airport, 67 km from Olympia.
Another possibility to visit Olympia is to participate in a tourist cruise in the Mediterranean: many cruises, in fact, include in their itineraries also a stop in Katakolon to allow tourists to see the ruins of the ancient city of the Olympics.
The city of Olympia is located in Elida, a region in the Peloponnese peninsula (now separated from the rest of mainland Greece by the Corinth Canal). The modern center is called Archea Olympia and is located less than two kilometers from the archaeological site.
The city lies on a verdant plain, crossed by two rivers that join to the south (Cladeo and Alphaeus). It is about 100 km from Patras and more than 300 km from Athens.