Olympia is an ancient Greek sanctuary in the Peloponnese region in southern Greece where every four years the ancient Olympic games were held.
Olympia is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in Greece. Even cruise ships dock at the nearby port of Katakolo and put people on buses to visit the site. The village of Olympia itself is a collection of tourist shops, cafes, restaurants and a Historical Museum of the Olympic Games. As in most overly touristed places in Greece finding a restaurant is easy though finding a good restaurant is not. My friends at Lonely Planet suggest the Taverna Praxitelous, next to the police station and the Klimitaria, on the edge of town on the road to Pyrgos.
The town of Olympia has a very good tourist office on Praxitelous Kondyli, where you can change money, get maps and schedules for buses, trains and ferries. There are three campgrounds in Olympia, and many hotels. Booking in advance is advised because of the towns popularity, particularly the higher category places which get filled by tour groups.
The Site of the Ancient Olympic Games
Because of the destruction of the site by Theodosius and several earthquakes, there is not much left in the way of buildings besides foundations, steps and columns but these are impressive and are in a beautiful setting near the Kladeos river. The area is called The Altis which means the area sacred to Zeus and the reason there is anything left is because the flooding of the river buried it until 1875 when archaeologists rediscovered it.
The most outstanding building is the 5th Century Temple of Zeus, built by Livon, which contained the 12 meter high statue by Phideas, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, which was removed to Constantinople by Theodocious and destroyed in a fire.
The entire archaeological site of Olympia won’t make you stare in awe and marvel at the ancient architecture however it is a beautiful place to visit and unlike most archaeological sites in Greece which are exposed to the sun and surrounded by vegetation that barely reaches your ankles, Olympia is shaded by tall trees and walking through the ruins can be a peaceful and profound experience. Olympia is a place you can visit any time of year and if you can come here when the rest of the tourists are gone you will find it even more enjoyable.