If there is one destination that epitomises the spirit of ancient Greece, Olympia is it. From the first Olympic Games in antiquity to Roman and Byzantine occupations, the ruins of ancient Olympia represent every era of Greek civilisation making it a unique and fascinating stop on your Greek tour.
Things to do in Olympia, Greece
Known as the Altis, the sprawling sanctuary complex at Olympia was one of the most sacred sites in ancient Greece. Developed over many centuries, the complex contained temples to some of the most important Greek Gods and was the site of the very first Olympic Games in 776BC. Walking through thousands of years of human history, it is easy to see why Olympia is among the top tourist destinations in Greece.
One of the first things you will notice when you visit Olympia are the few standing Doric columns of the Temple of Hera, wife of the god Zeus. Built in around 600 BC, this is the oldest surviving structure in the Altis. It was here that a curved mirror was used to focus the rays of the sun and light the Olympic torch, a tradition that was revived for the modern Olympics and continues to this day.
Much of the competition of the ancient Olympics was played out on the long flat track of the Olympic Stadium just outside of the sacred Altis complex. The rejuvenated track played a special part in the 2004 Olympic Games when it hosted the Shot Put event and many people try their hand at running its length when visiting Olympia.
The massive Temple of Zeus, chief of the Greek Gods, must have been an awe-inspiring sight when it was built in around 450 BC in the middle of the Altis. Not only was this famous Greek monument unrivalled in size and intricacy, it was home to one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the massive 12 metre (40 foot) statue of Zeus, seated on a throne and plated in gold.
You may not be able to see the giant statue of Zeus on your Olympia holiday any more as it was destroyed some time in the 5th century but there are plenty of depictions and information on it at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia. Considered to be one of the most important museums in Greece, the Olympia Archaeological Museum houses an amazingly comprehensive collection of artefacts spanning Greek civilisation and is a must see on any Olympia tour.
But its not all antiquity on an Olympia vacation, the small town centre close to the ancient site has a quaint mix of restaurants, bars and shops where you can relax after an exciting day of Greek sightseeing and indulge in some traditional Greek food or a glass of local wine.