Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games in the 8th century, is a vast site with many remains of temples and the original training facilities used by ancient Greek competitors. It can be a little overwhelming for the first-time visitor, but on this tour, you’ll be accompanied by a private guide who’ll walk you around the site, ensuring you see its highlights. They’ll help bring the ruins to life and put them into context, explaining the political circumstances that led to the inception of the games, athletes’ training regimes, cheating and bribery, and the perks of being a winning athlete.
This half-day tour begins at your hotel in Olympia where you’ll be picked up and taken to the site by private transfer. Once you arrive at Ancient Olympia, a short drive away, you’ll meet your private guide who will begin by explaining a little about the history of the region, and how and why it was chosen as the site of the Olympic Games.
Olympia has always held significance for the Greek people as the place where Zeus was said to have fought and defeated his father, Cronus.
Just as the games are intended to transcend borders and unite the nations of the world today, in ancient Greece the games brought the warring city-states of the Greek Empire together through athletic competition in an effort to promote peace.
Athletes came from all over the empire to compete to bring glory to their cities and to themselves. The site grew to include 70 temples, as well as the sporting facilities. Today, it’s one of the largest archaeological sites in Greece. Your guide will lead you around the ruins, taking you to the most significant remains (as well as some overlooked corners) and explain their function and history as you go.
The site was in use for about 1,000 years and your guide will point out Roman additions and renovations, such as statues of Zeus paid for by fines imposed on cheating athletes. You’ll also see the vestiges of the colossal statue of Zeus, regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, which once stood here.
Your guide will take you to the Temple of Hestia, where the modern Olympic torch is lit before beginning its journey around the world, the 2nd-century gymnasium, the palaestra (wrestling ground), and the original stadium which could seat 45,000 spectators.
The remains of a stone archway lead into the stadium where the straight running track remains along with its stone starting blocks and the stone seats used by the judges. You’ll likely see visitors and school children recreating the races.
Models of how Olympia would have looked in its prime can be seen in the site’s archaeological museum, and you’ll have time to pore over its wide-ranging displays which span the site’s past from prehistory to Roman times. Once you’ve had time to look around the museum, you’ll say goodbye to your guide and return to your hotel with your driver.