Tips to Get Beyond the Ruins at Olympia, Greece

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Olympia is the stuff Greek legends are made of. The striking landscape is dotted with historical sites, classical temples and Byzantine cities just waiting to be explored. But such a legendary place draws summertime crowds! Today our local guide Vassilios joins us to share his favourite “escape the crowds” activities in his beautiful part of Greece.

6 Fun Ways to Spend your Day in Olympia

The Modern Olympics are the most spectacular worldwide athletics games of our era. So Olympia's fame as the birthplace of the original Olympics far exceeds the reputation of other highlights of the Mediterranean. It attracts numerous travellers, mostly arriving from the nearby Katakolon Port with a cruise, who, as modern pilgrims, are crowded under the merciless summertime sun, roaming around the ruins. Surely there’s a better way to experience the area...? Actually, there are six! Here are my suggestions:

1) Greece is in the crossroads of three continents and this makes Greek nature so rich in plants, wild flowers, herbs and medicinal worts! Peloponnese and Olympia are among the richest. Pristine biotopes for wildlife and untouchable nature create an unparalleled landscape, from subtropical sandy dunes and wetlands to snow-capped subalpine peaks and steep-cliff ravines! A paradise for birdwatchers, nature lovers, trekkers or climbers. You can enjoy the richness of exceptional Olympia's nature with a hike, a kayak or a scenic flight tour and realize why ancient Greeks choose Olympia as the superior religious, cultural & athletic center of antiquity. Take an easy downhill cycle tour and see the verdant vegetation from a different point of view that ends at the beach for a refreshing swim!

2) Experience authentic Greek cuisine that other more touristic places in Greece have lost. Meet a local family and enjoy a homemade meal based on the abundant local produce! Free range livestock and poultry, wild seafood, native varieties of veggies, cereals and fruits with the combination of thousands of years of lively rich culinary tradition and the amazing climate that gives such a huge diversity. During the summer also a lot of folklore fests and traditional music concerts take place in picturesque villages accompanied with local dishes and sweets!

3) See why famous Olympia Olive oil is one of the best worldwide and also participate in agricultural activities like olive oil harvesting in November till February and taste some very rare local varieties of olives…or even make your own olive soap. Moreover, wineries & honey farms with excellent products spill into the beautiful countryside that's worth a visit.

4) Olympia was famous for the Olympics, but very few people visit the city that was responsible for the games’ preparation. Visit Ancient Ilis and its local museum, the prosperous city that organized the Olympics for more than 1000 years. Besides, Olympia was only a sanctuary, but Ilis was a city of 200,000 people with amazing infrastructures which have not yet been overcome. In the wider region there are also many other open, accessible classical sites (some only the Archaeological Service Department know about), like the Temple of Apollo Epicurus (a World Heritage Monument), Samico's Cyclops Walls, the open Amphitheatre of Aipy with an awesome view at the top of a steep mountain, to name just a few.

5) Our ideas of ancient Greece typically revolve around the philosophers or theatrical contributions to Western civilization. But you should meet the Greek minds featured in the Ancient Greek Technology Museum and realize why a society with a labour force shortage, compared with other parallel civilizations, had a motive to create and inspire our modern civilization. You'll see that the background for so many modern applications hide in Greek history, with many inventors and scientists like Archimedes or Heron from Alexandria. Here you can also learn about the practical side of Ancient Greek life.

6) Greece has a tremendous history from all eras, not just antiquity. Visit some of the better preserved Medieval Fortresses and Gothic Convents in the Eastern Mediterranean, like Frankish Chlemoutsi Castle in Kyllini and Cistercian's Abbey of Virgin Mary in Isova. Numerous others Byzantine monasteries and nunneries or hermitages perch in awesome spots with breathtaking views!

Thank you Vassilios! These are wonderful suggestions to go beyond the bus tour sites in Olympia and really experience this special part of the Peloponnese. For any travelers headed to Greece in 2018, consider contacting Vassilios for a unique, personalized day of exploring.
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