Being the original site of the Olympic games, Olympia is one of the best known ancient sites in the world, and it doesn’t disappoint.
The first recorded games were held in 776 BC, nearly 3,000 years ago. It’s a large but compact site, everywhere you look there are the columns and foundations of temples, alters, treasuries, gymnasium and other buildings. There are important temples to Hera (Zeus’ wife/sister) and Zeus himself.
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Much damage was caused by an earthquake in the 3rd century AD, the massive column sections of the Temple to Zeus collapsed on the ground where they fell is an extraordinary sight.Going through the famous archway, the minimalist design of the stadium is a surprise, earth banks around the side with no seating except for a small enclosure for the officials. A raised line of stone marks the starting line which competitors put their back foot against – the original starting block.What is most striking is that the basic design of stadiums hasn’t changed in 3 thousand years – an entrance tunnel, banked and curved seating for spectators around a sporting field, judges emclosure, and starting blocks are still the basic components of a modern stadium.The museum is outstanding, full of priceless artifacts from the site. The scale of the sculpted frieze from Zeus’ temple is breathtaking.
The nearby town of Olympia has been built to accommodate the droves of tourists passing through the site, but it’s actually a pleasant place to stay, having wide streets with little traffic, some decent hotels, and of course plenty of restaurants and tourist shops.
You can get a bus there from either Tripoli or Pyrgos, there are no direct busses from Athens, kalamata or Patras. There is also a train line running there from Pyrgos.