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Eleia and Olympia

The region of Eleia is most known for Ancient Olympia where the first Olympic games were held but it is also known by many for a spectacular beach that stretches for miles

OlympiaOlympia, on the banks of the Alfios River is an archeological site rich in the remains of old buildings and history. The games began ‘officially’ in 776 BC and were held every 4 years though there is evidence that they actually began long before. During the games a truce in any wars or conflicts was declared and athletes competed on the playing field rather then the battlefield. They were finally ended in 393 AD by Theodocious I but revived again in 1896 by the French Historian and Educator Pierre de Coubertin. They have continued to this day and many Greeks feel the games should be returned to their ancient site to eliminate the corruption and competition which takes place as each city tries to host it. Though I doubt that would eliminate the corruption it would at least centralize it. Besides that, the idea of turning this beautiful area into a modern Olympic village with all the commercial trappings that come with it is an obscene idea which I doubt many people would take seriously unless they stand to make a profit from it. The village of Olympia is heavily impacted by tourism and a fair indication of what would happen to the area in the unlikely event they ever moved the Olympics here permanently. But if you are not too much of a purist and don't mind being in a town where every nationality is represented and the mousaka and Greek salads flow freely then you will see that Olympia does have a charm, more so in the off-season than in July-August of course.

Olympia, Greece: Ancient Olympia HotelWe stayed at the Hotel Europa which is part of the Best Western Chain and it would be hard to imagine a better hotel and location (If you have a car). To get to the Europa you leave the town and follow the signs up a wooded mountain and it sits on the top with a view of the valley. Beautiful rooms and good service and a very friendly international staff. We did not eat at the hotel restaurant nor did we go back to the town of Olympia for dinner but instead we used the recommendation of George the Famous Taxi Driver (who also recommended the Hotel because this is the one he uses) and drove to the town of Ancient Pisa, about 5 minutes drive from the hotel to the Taverna Bacchus which was excellent in food, service and atmosphere. Actually there were several tavernas in the town and I noticed a large tour bus though no large crowds in the restaurants. I came to the realization that the tour buses take the tourists to their hotel where they eat at the restaurant there or in one of the tourist restaurants in Olympia. Then the drivers go up to where the Greeks eat.

OlympiaAs for the archaeological site of Olympia itself nobody is going to be awed or blown away by it. There are few standing buildings and the place has been pretty well trashed in the last couple thousand years. But it is in a beautiful setting and there is something magical about walking through the ruins of an ancient civilization among tall shady trees and to realize that this phenomenon that we have commercialized and turned into one of the world's biggest money-making enterprises all began here. Besides the absence of advertising the most impressive thing about Olympia has to be the massive columns scattered around the temple of Zeus. They are in the process of restoring one so you can get an idea of what they looked like standing intact.

See my page for Olympia at
For more Hotels in Olympia see my's Olympia Hotels Page

Beach at Kakovatos in EleiaThere are several places of note in the area besides Olympia. The town of Kyparissia, (more of a city than a town and in Messinia, not Eleia) has a castle and a spectacular view. The lower part of Kyparissia is quite busy and congested but the upper village is scenic and quite interesting and the castle is worth a visit. You have to find a road and make your way up because we did not see any signs for it. If it is lunch or dinner time stop at Tom's Taverna in the village of Raches, a few miles north. They have a bar with live jazz too. From Kyparissia running north for what must be about 70 kilometers is an endless sandy beach on the Ionian Sea. Try stopping in the town of Kakovatos (or coastal community or whatever it is) and drive west to the beach. Go for a swim and then visit the small unassuming fish-taverna called Vezzos for the cheapest and most delicious barbounia in Greece. Further north is the lake of Kaifa and the therapeutic baths. The southern entrance is kind of trashed so go further north and enter by the baths or on one of the dirt roads in the woods. If you have a fishing-pole they say you can catch kefalo as big as a large cat.

Most people nowadays who come to the prefecture of Eleia will be on cruise ships that stop in Katakolon, a small port that was suddenly thrust into the touristic limelight when they turned it into a major cruise port so people could visit Ancient Olympia. For information see my Katakolon Page

Be sure to see my Photos of the Peloponessos for pictures of Olympia and Eleia

More Helpful Sites

The best way to visit Olympia is either doing a private tour with George the Famous Taxi Driver, or else going with a group such as Fantasy Travel's 3-Day Classical Tour and 4-Day Classical Tour which include Olympia as well as Delphi, Meteora and the Argolis. The 7-Day Grand Tour also includes Olympia along with just about every other important site on the mainland.

The more adventerous may want to rent a car which you can do through Swift Car Rentals

You can find hotels in Eleia by location, price, whether or not it has a swimming pool, and see photos and reviews by using this link to Excellent prices and many hotels you can book and then cancel with no cancellation fee. For those who want to book without using a travel agency this is the best way to do it.


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