Olympia (Ολυμπία) is one of the most influential and famous ancient Greek sanctuaries, located in western Peloponnese, in Elis.
It is the birthplace of the most important sporting event of all times; the Olympic Games and one of the most famous tourist destinations in Greece, which is well-known worldwide.
The archaeological site is located within walking distance of the modern village called Ancient Olympia and it includes ruins from Bronze Age to the Byzantine eras. The site covers an expanded area of ruins scattered among low trees, as well as the ancient stadium where the Olympics took place. An impressive array of artifacts which were unearthed during excavations are on exhibition at the nearby Olympia Museum.
The last Olympic Games were held in 393 AD and in 426 BC Theodosius II ordered the destruction of the sanctuary. In the mid-fifth century AD a small settlement developed over the ancient ruins and the Workshop of Pheidias was transformed into a Christian church. In 522 and 551 the ruins were devastated anew by earthquakes, the Temple of Zeus being partially buried. In subsequent centuries the Alpheios and the Kladeos overflowed and together with landslips from Mount Kronios buried the site deep in mud and sand. Olympia remained forgotten under a layer of debris 5-7 metres deep. The area was dubbed Antilalos and it was not until 1766 that the ancient sanctuary was re-discovered.
The Olympic Games were held every four years throughout Classical from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD.
The archaeological site held over 70 significant buildings, and ruins of many of these survive, although the main Temple of Zeus survives only as stones on the ground.
The site is a major tourist attraction and has two museums, one devoted to the ancient and modern games.
Olympia is easily accessible from other areas of interest of Greece. It is less than 4 hours away from Athens and only 1 hour from Patras port, or Kalamata airport. There are numerous daily buses and trains that connect Athens to Olympia.
You can walk through the impressive ruins of the area where athletes trained and ran in the ancient stadium; just as the ancient Olympians did after their victory 3000 years ago. You can also visit the museum and get the chance to see some amazing sculptures such as the sculpture of the temple of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the famous Hermis of Praxiteles and the statue of Nike of Paionios.
During the year there are many festivals such as the Ancient Olympia International Festival and the Alfios River Eco-festival, where you can explore the magnificent natural environment of the Alfios River, Kato Samiko’s unspoiled beach that is only 18km away or enjoy the natural Kaiafas Thermal Spa.
From Olympia, you can explore more ancient ruins nearby such as the Temple of Apollo Epikourios, the Temple of Aphrodite, Ancient Ilida and Chlemoutsi Castle, which are all less than 60km away.