A guide to Katakolon and Olympia, Greece

A guide to Katakolon and Olympia, Greece by Boozing Abroad

Katakolon, a 3-street town (literally), is the only cruise port to get to Olympia (at least, easily).  However, not many travel books or travel websites talk about Katakolon, an extremely small town (which seemingly only survives on cruise ships visiting) and how to get to Olympia to visit the site of the original Olympics. 

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Getting to Olympia 

olympia bus greece field katakolon

Olympia, where the ancient Olympic games started back in the day, is about 45 minutes outside of the port, and there are several ways to get there. If you’ve done any research, you’ll find yourself at dead ends about trains not working and 40€ to rent a car. Rest assured, it’s not only easy to get there, but the entire town is waiting to take you. 

We were unsure of our plans for the day because we just found so little information. We decided to just get off the boat and play it by ear due to the overwhelming lack of information. We wanted to go to Olympia but were unsure of the cost and didn’t want to spend a ton of money getting there. The blogs had talked about 150€ for a ride there and back.

Maybe those prices were true for some folks depending on when they were in town, but we found several Olympia bus services offering 6€ one way to Olympia so we jumped on the opportunity as an Olympic long-jumper does, and off we went to Olympia. The Olympia bus ride was only about 40 minutes long and we got there right around 11:15 AM. 

Our bus driver, who spoke no English whatsoever, told us that we needed to be back to the bus in 2 hours time.  This may not sound like a lot of time, but it was more than enough for us to walk around a lot of the ancient Olympic site.  

Olympia Overview 

olympia greece downtown-2

The actual town of Olympia is also a small town with about 5 streets, and 3 of them lead directly to the ruins.

There are shops and restaurants in town, but Olympia clearly understands what it’s known for (ancient Olympia) and caters to the tourist accordingly. The Olympic site itself consists of two attractions: the museum and the “track and field”.  With no map and zero directions, we set off looking for the Olympic site.  

After getting turned around trying to find the ruins and asking several people who didn’t speak a lick of English, we finally stumbled upon ancient Olympia.

olympia greece katakolon sam and chris

The throngs of people milling around a ticket booth was our first indication that we were in the right place.  We bought our tickets and began to explore the ruins.  

One thing to keep in mind is that there was little to no shade throughout the ruins and we were visiting at the end of August/early September.  Translation? It was hotter than H-E-double hockey sticks out there! Bring water, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Even though it’s only two hours of exploring, we promise you’ll thank us later.  

We saw what was left of this amazing event in history including the Temple of Zeus, which used to house the Statue of Zeus (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), training facilities, baths, a swimming pool, temples, and the track and field “stadium”.

The entire area is littered with monuments that are well noted with signs to help you decipher one ruin from the other.

Temple of Zeus 

templeofzeus1

Photo Credit: Olympia Greece 

The temple of Zeus was constructed in the 400s BC, aka it’s really old!  The 12 metopes (the architectural elements/depictions near the point of the roof) represent the labors of Hercules, son of Zeus – some of these labors consisted of fighting the famous Nemean lion, Cerberus and the Hydra!

If you’re familiar with the Disney movie, you might have seen some of these depictions there as well, at least a loose interpretation of them. Surrounding the temple were giant pillars with statues of previous Olympic champions on top.  To be featured on one of these pillars was said to be one of the highest honors. 

The site was destroyed in the 400s AD by arsonist (and emperor) Theosodius II and further ruined by severe earthquakes in the 500s AD. Today, you can see the ruins in presumably the exact same place where they fell during the earthquake!  To read more about it, click here.

You saw what the temple was supposed to look like in ancient times above, but here is what it looks like now.  Whomp whomp!

Olympia column-2

Olympic Games 

Something neat that we learned while walking around the ruins was that as a tribute to the modern Olympic games in Athens, Greece, in 2006, a replica of one of the Zeus columns was re-built.

One of the more interesting things that we saw during our walk around the site were plaques that we read talking about the walk to the stadium.

It stated that statues were erected on the walk into the stadium of those athletes that were accused and found guilty of being cheaters.  This was a warning to other athletes to remember to follow the rules. This was a fascinating concept to us because our society builds statues to glorify champions, not cheaters.

olympia to katakolon greece

After walking through most of the ruins, we headed back to town to grab a bottle of wine and the last round of souvenirs for ourselves and family.  And knowing us, you shouldn’t be surprised that we also grabbed a beer and a snack for the bus ride back to the Katakolon cruise port.

Katakolon 

katakolon street-2

Once back in Katakolon, we roamed the streets for a little bit (with only 3 streets, it didn’t take very long) and settled down at a small cafe to enjoy some of the best saganaki we’ve had, a real Greek salad, and some succulent souvlaki.  To Samantha’s delight, we finally got one of the many cats we’ve seen on the islands to come and eat with us too! I guess cats like Greek food!

Taking a few final photos of the quiet little town, we went back to the ship to rest before making the journey back to Rome.  On our way back to the ship, we passed by a souvenir shop with some not-so-modest trinkets (the Greeks are not known for their modesty).  Yes, those are key chains and bottle openers. 

greece katakolon

Overall – Katakolon

Katakolon is the gateway to Olympia which is one of the many incredible ancient sites in Greece. If you don’t want to make the journey to the ruins, you can relax on the beach or hang out in town. 

For more information on Greece and nearby places, check out:

What to do in Mykonos Greece in 1 day - Boozing Abroad
The best 3 days in Rome itinerary guide by BoozingAbroad

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We are Samantha & Chris and we are Boozing Abroad (literally). Together, we've traveled to over 40 states and 20 countries drinking local beers, wines and spirits along the way. 

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Samantha & Chris
Samantha & Chris

Samantha and Chris fell in love with traveling together back in 2015. They met, married, and lived together in Richmond, VA for 7 years before becoming full-time travelers in 2020.

Along the way, they’ve traveled to over 40 U.S. states and 20 countries while drinking local beers, wines, and spirits during their journeys.

Join them as they share travel resources, stories, and guides based on their personal experiences drinking locally when traveling globally.