Ruins in Olympia Archaeological Site, Greece

Katakolon (Greece) Cruise Port: Exploring Olympia on Your Own

The tiny port of Katakolon, Greece, serves as a gateway to one of the most legendary sites of the ancient world โ€“ Olympia. While the port town itself offers limited attractions, most cruisers make the pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Olympic Games. Experience the echoes of history with a DIY excursion from Katakolon to Olympia, exploring the wonders of this famous site.

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Katakolon Cruise Port: Is a DIY Excursion to Olympia Easy? ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž (Do-able, Needs Hustle)

Katakolon cruise port (and its town) is tiny. It’s not often I rate a “just walk off the ship” port as “needing hustle”. Here’s why:

  • Limited Train = Extra Planning: Katakolon itself is tiny, serving mainly as a gateway to Olympia. Sadly, the direct train seems down to a single daily service now. This means be prepared to set an early alarm to disembark on time for your train!
  • Coach Transfers as Backup: Luckily, privately run coach transfers are also available between Katakolon and Olympia. (Purchase tickets locally.)
  • Bottom Line: Olympia is definitely doable DIY excursion from Katakolon cruise port. Just expect a bit more hustle than at ports with loads of transport options. Be prepared for an early start but you’ll be back in Katakolon for a siesta or a drink by the pool!

Tip: Bring sunscreen, a hat and water bottle with you.

Katakolon cruise port is definitely getting more popular! Cunard, Holland America, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises and Costa will all stop in Katakolon as part of their Greek Isles cruises. So let’s see whether the local transportation offerings will improve.

Katakolon Cruise Port Essentials: All You Need To Know

Katakolon Cruise Port Address: Katakolo 270 67, Greece

  • Currency: Euros
  • Language: Greek
  • Official websites: Use Hellenic Train for train schedules to Olympia.
  • Recommended Transport App: Use Google Maps to navigate within Katakolon town and in Olympia. Both are small towns and it’s very difficult to get lost!
  • eSIM for roaming in Greece: For a great data connection without the huge roaming fees, use an eSim data pack from Airalo. I always recommend having a smartphone with a valid plan when youโ€™re at port touring independently. Get US$3 off your first eSIM data pack from Airalo when you use ROXANN1666 when you sign up or apply it at checkout
  • My Katakolon & Olympia Map: ๐Ÿ‘‡ Click on the upper right hand corner to see a bigger version. Use buttons on bottom left hand corner to zoom in and out. If the map is not loading, click here to see it directly on Google Maps

Getting from Katakolon Cruise Port to Olympia: Your Transport Options

Stepping off your cruise ship in Katakolon, you have two main DIY choices for reaching Olympia:

1. Direct Train from Katakolon to Olympia (recommended)

Though there’s only one direct train scheduled for the day, this is the easiest DIY way to Olympia. Cruise lines know this and will usually be at port by 8am.

  • Katakolon Train Station: Once out of the cruise port, walk along the main road for about 5 minutes. It’s marked on my map above. You won’t miss it!
  • Timetable: See the latest timetable at Hellenic Train’s website. 8:40am train leaving Katakolon will get you to Olympia by around 9:30am. Return journey leaves Olympia at 1:10pm.
  • Journey Time: around 45 minutes
  • Tickets: Roundtrip is โ‚ฌ10 per person. There’s a ticket seller on the platform. Otherwise, jump onto the train and a conductor will come around.
  • Important Note: The Katakolon-Olympia line only runs from Monday to Saturday. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, use a coach transfer instead.

The entrance to the Archeological Museum of Olympia is a few minutes walk from the train station. Follow signs. There’s only one road!

2. Direct Coach Transfers from Katakolon to Olympia

My DIY motto is always to have a backup plan! If you’re visiting on a Sunday, then there are private coach transfers to Olympia for around โ‚ฌ15 return. Look out for those enterprising ticket sellers just outside the port!

Note: KTEL Ilia’s is the local bus authority. I thought that there’s buses running from Katakolon to Pyrgos and then from Pyrgos to Olympia, however infrequent they appear to be. But Timetables on its website suggest that only the Pyrgos to Olympia bus is currently running. Let me know if you’ve recently returned from Katakolon and managed to see a public bus!

Essential Things to See in Olympia

If you’ve come via the direct train from Kataklon, you’ll have just over 3 hours to see Olympia. In my view, this is sufficient unless you’re a real ancient history buff. Prioritise seeing the Archaeological Site and the Archaeological Museum of Olympia first. If you have time, then you can visit the Olympic Games museum.

1. Archeological Museum of Olympia

Nike of Paionios statue at Olympia Archaeological Museum
Image By Carole Raddato

This world-class museum is an absolute must-visit if you’re visiting Olympia, complementing your exploration of the archaeological site. Inside, you’ll discover a treasure trove of artifacts that bring ancient Olympia to life. Don’t miss two of its most celebrated masterpieces:

  • Hermes of Praxiteles: This exquisitely detailed marble sculpture depicts Hermes, the messenger god, holding the infant Dionysus. It’s considered one of the finest examples of ancient Greek sculpture in existence.
  • Nike of Paionios: This stunning statue of Nike, the goddess of victory, seems poised to take flight. Her flowing drapery and dynamic pose convey a sense of triumphant energy.
  • Opening Hours: 8am to 8pm daily from April to October, 8am to 3:30pm from November to March.
  • Tickets: โ‚ฌ12 for adults and โ‚ฌ6 for kids. Ticket includes entry to the Archaeological Site of Olympia, the Olympic Games of Antiquity Museum, and the Olympia Excavation History Museum.
  • Downloads: Download the official guide here – it’s free!

2. Archaeological Site of Olympia

Temple of Hera at Olympia, Greece
Temple of Hera. Image By Matฤ›j Baลฅha

In ancient times, Olympia was much more than just a sports venue. It was a sacred sanctuary dedicated to Zeus, the king of the gods.

The tradition of the Olympic Games is believed to have begun in Olympia in 776 BC, held every four years as a pan-Hellenic festival bringing together athletes and spectators from across the Greek world. It was here that victors were crowned with olive wreaths, attaining near-divine status among their people.

Despite political conflicts and the passage of time, Olympia remained the heart of these prestigious games for centuries. It wasn’t until the rise of Christianity that the ancient Olympics were eventually abolished in 393 AD. Centuries of earthquakes and floods buried the site, but thankfully, it was rediscovered and excavated. Don’t miss:

  • Temple of Zeus: Built between 470 and 456 BC, Temple of Zeus is massive. Measuring about 64m (210 feet) long and 28m (92 feet) wide, its columns were over 10m (33 feet) tall. Inside stood a colossal statue of Zeus, considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
  • Temple of Hera: One of the oldest Doric temples in Greece, it’s believed to have been built around 590 BC. The temple is dedicated to Hera, the wife of Zeus and the goddess of marriage, women and family, The Olympic flame is still lit, every 4 years, on the ancient altar today.
  • The Stadium: This was the beating heart of Ancient Olympia. Foot races, wrestling and boxing would all have taken place at the Stadium. It held an estimated 40,000 spectators during the ancient Olympic Games.

3. Museum of the History of the Olympic Games of Antiquity

Plaque showing linkage between ancient Olympic Games 776 BC to present, Olympia, Greece
Ancient Olympic Games started in 776 BC. Image by Stefan Schweihofer from Pixabay

Exhibits at The Museum of the History of the Olympic Games explore the birth of the Olympic Games, its connection to Zeus, traditions like the sacred truce, and the evolution of Panhellenic Games at other major sanctuaries. There’s ancient sporting equipment and statues of past champions.

Admission is included with the same ticket you bought at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia.

4. Olympia Excavations History Museum

Excavations at Olympia, Greece

Next door to the History of Olympic Games Museum, the Olympia Excavations History museum is a behind the scenes look at the systematic excavation of Olympia. Learn how the site was mapped, how artefacts were documented and how Olympia’s ancient structures were constructed.

I’ve put this museum last on the list, as it is much more specialised and possibly only interesting to fans of archaeology. But admission is included, so by all means drop in before your return trip back to Katakolon.

Featured Image by neufal54 from Pixabay

Enjoy your port day in Katakolon, and experience the magic of Olympia first-hand! If you found this guide helpful, please share it with your fellow cruisers; let’s help everyone make the most of this incredible Greek destination.

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