Katakolon and Olympia Shore Excursion: my honest opinion

Tour Katakolon e Olympia, na Grécia.
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Everything you need to know about Olympia Shore Excursion and Katakolon, in Greece!

Katakolon is a highly popular port for cruise ships in the Adriatic. We had the chance to visit this region on a cruise departing from Venice, with Katakolon being the first stop in Greece, right after Bari, Italy.

So, in this article, we’ll describe our experience on the Katakolon and Olympia tour we chose for this stop.

Additionally, at the end of the post, you’ll find some information I consider relevant to help you on your trip.

This excursion was booked through MSC Cruises and included a visit to the ruins of Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, as well as some free time for shopping.

A brief introduction to Katakolon and Olympia

Altar de Hera, em Olímpia, Grécia.
Altar of Hera, in Olympia, Greece.
Ruínas em Olympia.
Ruins in Olympia.

Katakolon is a seaside town about 11 km from Pyrgos, located on the Peloponnese Peninsula.

It’s a beautiful place situated on a promontory overlooking the Ionian Sea, separating the Gulf of Kyparissia from the rest of the Ionian Sea.

On the other hand, the archaeological site of Olympia is about 20 km from the port of Katakolon, making it the perfect choice for cruise travelers wanting to explore the birthplace of the Olympic Games.

By the way, the ruins of Olympia are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Katakolon – MSC Orchestra’s Olympia Shore Excursion

Desembarque no porto de Katakolon e viagem de autocarro para Olympia.
Arrival at Katakolon port followed by a bus trip to Olympia.
Viagem de autocarro do porto de cruzeiros de Katalokon para Olympia.
Bus journey from the cruise port of Katakolon to Olympia (Olympia Shore Excursion).

The port of Katakolon may be small in size, but it’s bustling with activity, with several cruise ships arriving at the same time. Surprisingly, our ship’s departure was efficient.

Next, we were transported by bus to Olympia, where we explored the ruins of the city that hosted the Olympic Games in antiquity.

The Olympic Games, dedicated to the god Zeus, are believed to have begun in 776 BC and were interrupted in 394 AD by Emperor Theodosius I.

The site was later abandoned, and today, as we observe the ruins, we can see the extent of the destruction of the pavilions. Although many columns have been reconstructed, parts of the buildings are scattered throughout the area.

The ruins of Olympia

Pritaneu de Olympia, onde se acendia a chama olímpica.
Pritaneum of Olympia, where the Olympic flame was lit.
Colunas em Olympia, Grécia.
Columns in Olympia, Greece.
Altar de Hera, em Olímpia.
Altar of Hera in Olympia.
Templo de Zeus, em Olímpia, Grécia.
Temple of Zeus in Olympia, Greece.
Painel explicativo da reconstrução do Templo de Zeus.
Information about the reconstruction of the Temple of Zeus.
Conchas encrustadas nas rochas.
Barnacles embedded in the rocks.

We saw shells embedded in the rocks, indicating that this area was once underwater. Additionally, the Prytaneion area, where the Olympic Flame was lit, is well-preserved.

We could clearly see the spot where the sunlight would strike to ignite the Olympic Flame, along with the entire ritual involved.

This is when we appreciate the work of guides, as without the explanations from our guide, the visit would certainly be poorer.

Archaeologists have chosen not to disturb the ruins until technology allows for a more precise reconstruction.

Painel explicativo à entrada do Complexo de Olympia.
Information at the entrance of the Olympia complex.
Estádio Olímpico, em Olympia.
Olympic Stadium in Olympia.

Most of the information panels are in English, which is very helpful for those visiting Olympia independently.

Walking a bit, we reached the entrance to the Olympic Stadium, which is truly impressive.

This massive stadium showcases the number of visitors the complex used to receive. It was an excellent way to conclude our tour to the ruins of the birthplace of the Olympic Games.

After the visit to Olympia, we returned to the port of Katakolon and boarded the ship.

Return to the port of Katakolon. The End of Olympia Shore Excursion

Porto de cruzeiros de Katalokon, Grécia.
Cruise port of Katakolon, Greece.

We left the Ionian Sea and headed towards the Aegean Sea, eagerly awaiting our arrival in Santorini the next day.

Also, we still had some time for shopping, and in the end, we returned to the port of Katakolon and boarded the ship.

We left the Ionian Sea and headed to the Aegean Sea as there was one day left before we reached Santorini.

Everything you need to know about tours and excursions in Katakolon, Greece

Tour Katakolon e Olympia, na Grécia.
Tour of Katakolon and Olympia, Greece.

Is it possible to do the Olympia Shore Excursion independently?

Although it is possible to rent a car and visit Olympia from the port of Katakolon, I do not recommend it, and I’ll explain why.

The ruins of Olympia are incredible, but remember they are ruins, not in good condition.

In other words, if you don’t have a guide to explain to you what those stone blocks are and the history of the place, you probably won’t have a good experience.

Moreover, Olympia is about 20 km from Katakolon, so it’s not that close to go independently or by taxi.

Are there shops and restaurants in the Port of Katakolon?

Navio parado no porto de Desembarque no porto de Katakolon, na Grécia.
Ship docked at the port of Katakolon, Greece.

Although small, the Port of Katakolon has a few shops, as well as cafes and restaurants.

They’re not plentiful, meaning prices aren’t very competitive, but it’s entirely possible to have a coffee at a café terrace or enjoy a meal by the seaside.

Does the tour provide enough free time to explore the ruins of Olympia independently?

Colunas antigas.
Ancient columns. Things to see at Olympia Shore Excursion.

We didn’t have extra time to explore independently, but I also didn’t feel the need for it.

The guide was explaining the history of Olympia, and then we had a few minutes to take photos and wander around.

Honestly, if we had free time at the end, it wouldn’t have made much difference.

Are there any specific recommendations on what to bring or wear for the tour?

Templo em Olympia.
Temple in Olympia, without shade.

My suggestion is to wear walking shoes, preferably sneakers.

Do not wear flip-flops or open sandals, as small stones can make walking difficult for those wearing open footwear.

Also, don’t forget your hat and sunscreen, as there is a lot of exposure, and bring some snacks and water to stay hydrated.

Does the tour provide enough time to visit Katakolon after the Olympia Shore Excursion?

This tour included a visit to Olympia and time for shopping, but there was no additional time to visit Katakolon afterwards.

In other words, it was necessary to choose what to visit in this port, and those who went to Olympia could not visit other places.

So it’s important to know what to expect from each tour so you won’t be disappointed if you miss out on any tourist attractions.

And you know what? I wouldn’t mind returning to Katakolon to explore the region further, especially the beaches that are said to be great!

Is it worth visiting Olympia?

Conjunto de colunas de um templo em Olympia.
Set of columns from a temple in Olympia.

Yes, visiting Olympia in Greece is definitely worth it!

After all, visiting Olympia means delving into the roots of Antiquity and witnessing the birthplace of the Olympic Games.

This historical site, located in Greece, dates back to 776 BC when the games in honor of Zeus began. The city thrived until 394 AD when Emperor Theodosius I suspended the competitions.

The ruins in Olympia not only reveal the grandeur of the past, with the Olympic Stadium standing out, but also the reconstructed columns tell the story of a place that welcomed athletes, spectators, and pilgrims from all over ancient Greece.

While exploring Olympia, we encounter shells embedded in the rocks, evidence of the time that has passed since its foundation.

In other words, it’s worth visiting this historical landmark that continues to inspire enthusiasts of Greek history and culture.

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