Olympia – Valley of the Gods
No holiday to Zante, or indeed to Greece, is complete without visiting the birthplace of the Olympic Games. Travel to Olympia, often referred to as the ‘Valley of the Gods’ and you’ll be able to explore this historical site for yourself.
Located on the Peloponnese peninsula, Olympia dates to the 8th century BC, and was built to host the Olympic Games and provide training grounds for athletes in the ancient world. The Greeks celebrated the Olympic Games every four years, and today the site is a national shrine containing many treasures. Olympia was first excavated in 1829, with the final excavations taking place in the 1960s.
Here you’ll find archaeological wonders like the Temple of Zeus and the first light of the Olympic flame at the Temple of Hera. On a day trip to Olympia you can see ancient temples, a stadium, wrestling arena, and the athletic training area, wander through the impressive ruins, and walk in the footsteps of ancient athletes.
The most famous attraction must be the Temple of Zeus, which was home to a gold and ivory statue of Zeus, sculpted by Phidias. The decoration of the temple is known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and is not to be missed.
It’s just a short boat ride from Zante to the Greek mainland, and you can take a guided tour of Olympia, so you don’t miss any of its attractions. Every year, festivals and celebrations take place here, like the Ancient Olympia International Festival, and it can be busy during the peak months of June, July, and August.
While you’re here, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, where you can see finds from the site such as sculpted ornaments from the Temple of Zeus, a two-metre tall marble statue of Nike of Paionios, and a bronze battering ram, the only surviving one of its kind from the ancient world.
Tickets for Olympia and for the museum can be booked in advance online, or in person at the site. The first Sunday of every month from 1st November to 31st March is free admission day at the museum, great for families visiting with the kids!
While you’re here, why not explore the unspoilt beach at Kato Samiko, just 18km from the site? Or enjoy a wander around the old town before stopping off for a spot of lunch in a taverna. The surrounding region of Elia is mainly farmland, but its quiet roads and rural atmosphere make it ideal for hiring a bike to explore the countryside on sunny afternoons.
There are plenty of historical and archaeological sites worth visiting on your holiday to Zante, but Olympia remains one of the most popular, and it’s easy to see why. Don’t forget to pack your camera to take advantage of photo opportunities; you’re sure to go home with some fantastic photos of the site and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World!