If you are searching for Katakolon, chances are you are on a Greek Island Cruise and only have 1 day to explore. We know because we did it too!
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. It’s an extremely small town (which seemingly only survives on cruise ships visiting).
If you only have one day in this Greece Cruise Port, you’ll want to keep reading about how to get to Olympia to visit the site of the original Olympics and what to do in town when you are done!
Short on Time? Here are the key takeaways:
- There are several bus services and a train offering rides to and from Olympia from the port town.
- Olympia is roughly 45 minutes away so to maximize your time get off the cruise ship early!
- Take food and plenty of water with you as there isn’t much at the Ancient Olympic site. (The town itself has shops.)
- Katakolon has a small beach and a nearby winery if you aren’t going to visit the Olympic site.
This post was originally published in November 2019, and was updated in October 2023.
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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.
The three main ways to get to Ancient Olympia are: bus, train and taxi.
If you’ve done any research, you might find yourself at dead ends about the trains not working and 80+€ to hire a taxi.
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.
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 45 minutes long. 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.
The bus has more options for getting there. While we didn’t use this website, it does like the public bus schedule to and from Olympia.
The second option in the train to Ancient Olympia. The train is on a bit more rigid schedule with a train departing approximately 2 hours apart. If you miss the train, it’s quite the wait.
For more info on the train, click here.
This will be the most expensive option for getting to Olympia, but it will offer the best flexibility.
We didn’t talk to any drivers, but the internet will tell you it’s anywhere between 80-150€ to get there.
There will be several around town if you want to explore this option. Make sure you say “Ancient Olympia” when talking to them. Olympia is the town nearby and you’ll have a 5 minute walk from here.
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
- 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.
- Cost: 12€
- Hours: Open daily 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- What to know: minimal shade, bring water and a hat; vending machines only for food
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”. For more in depth info on the Archaeological Site, click here.
The entire area is littered with monuments that are well noted with signs to help you decipher one ruin from the other.
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 Hercules, 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.
While this temple used to be grand, here is what it looks like now. Whomp whomp!
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. It’s the large column behind us in the photo above.
One of the more interesting things that we saw during our walk around the site were plaques that we read detailing 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. (Although, we don’t know if this would work in modern times.)
There were a lof of people running the track when we visited. If it wasn’t 90+ degrees Farneheit when we were there, we might have considered it. If you do want to run the track, wear sneakers.
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.
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.
There is only 1 beach in the town called Plakes Beach (aka Reneta Beach) and it’s very close to port.
The water is very clear and there is a small beach bar you can visit. While we didn’t go to the beach, the water was clear and it was very inviting.
Mercouri Estate Winery
If you want to visit a local winery, Mercouri Estate is located about 2 miles (3.1km) outside of town.
Taxi rides start at 10 euros and make sure you agree on that prior to getting in.
Mercouri Estate was established in 1864 and is a five generation, family-owned winery. It’s one of the oldest family-owned wineries in Greece.
There are best known for their dry reds, but have a small assortment of other wines as well. In addition to wine, they also have their own olive oil, which can be sampled on the flight.
You can take a guided tour of the winery, which includes a visit to the vineyards, the cellars, and the tasting room.
If you are running short on time, you can do a wine tastings as well. If you haven’t gotten your fill of history from Olympia, there is a museum that showcases the history of the estate and the region too.
While we didn’t have a chance to visit, this would be a great way to support a local winery on your trip to Katakolon!
Other Greece Cruise Ports
If you are on a cruise, you’ll probably be headed to other ports.
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