We docked in Katakolon, Greece on the 4th day of our MSC Cruise. A must do when sailing into Katakolon is a visit to the site of the ancient Olympic Games. Getting from Katakolon to Olympia, Greece was easy, as we had pre-booked a tour to Olympia with Katakolon Express instead of taking the MSC offered tour.
Olympia is where the ancient Greeks came every 4 years to celebrate the sacred games dedicated to Zeus. We had a preconception of Olympia being a town. This turned out to not be the case. It was not a town, but rather a sanctuary with buildings associated with the games and worship of the gods.
Our knowledgable, licensed, local tour guide took us around the archaeological site, showing us the temples, athletic stadiums and sanctuary. He even had Lucy stand on the podium where the winners stood thousands of years ago!
Our guide had a special connection to Olympia as he used to visit with his father as a child. It was great for the kids to hear about these memories. He told us about how he still enjoys looking back at those pictures from visits years ago. To hear tidbits of Greek life from someone who actually lives in Katakolon and has such a strong connection to Olympia really added to the experience.
One of my favorite aspects of the visit was seeing the recreation of one of the columns from Zeus’s temple. It was restored for the 2004 olympic games. As we walked the site, parts of the unrestored columns were laying on their sides near the temple. It’s incredible to realize just how big they were.
Being the incredible athlete that I am, Derrick and I raced in the ancient stadium of Olympia. Derrick won, so I must be out of practice. Or maybe it was because I was wearing boots. Despite my nagging, the kids refused to race. Maybe they were too embarrassed to let mom beat them. Or perhaps they were embarrassed to be seen with a boot wearing, stadium racing, race losing mom. I don’t know. Kids!
More about Katakolon Express:
:: There are several tour options available to suite all budgets.
Choose the escorted tour which includes transportation to and from Olympia plus historical information during the 30 minute bus ride for only 20€ per adult and 15€ for children. Just as a comparison, on the night before we docked, the MSC Daily Program came out with a price of 22.90€ per person for transportation to Olympia. The cost difference for our family of 4 would have been 21.60€.
Upgrade your tour for 10€ more per adult or 5€ more per child to include a guided tour of the archaeological site and museum. Our guided tour was in both English and Italian. It took quite a bit of time for our guide to say everything twice. And it was a bit difficult to hear sometimes, as people tended to start talking amongst themselves once our guide switched languages. We usually wandered around for a bit then came back to listen to more of the English explanations.
Tickets are not included in the escorted or guided tour. Upon arrival in Olympia, there is a 12€ fee for the archaeological site & museum or 6€ for the archaeological site only. Kids are FREE.
Also offered is an all-inclusive tour and private tour. Savings are offered for booking multiple tours. Katakolon Express offered toured in all the Greek ports we visited, including Piraeus (Athens) and Rhodes.
:: The comfortable bus departed from the port at 11am, approximately an hour after the ship docked in Katakolon. A negative for the tour we chose is that the MSC cruise ship tours left before us. We seemed to be the last group to arrive in Olympia, so the site was already busy. However, due to it being the off season, it wasn’t overcrowded and only took a few minutes to stand in line for tickets. Sadly, the Wifi didn’t work on our bus.
:: Multiple languages spoken on the bus – English, Italian & Spanish. I loved listening to our guide talk. He reminded me of the father from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
Other ways to get from Katakolon to Olympia –
There is a train that goes from the Port to Olympia. You must watch the train schedule as there was only a limited number of runs per day. There is also a limited amount of room available on the train. However, additional times may be added depending on the cruise. The operating hours are subject to change depending on the Cruise ship’s schedule. The round trip ticket price is 10€.
You could also take a taxi, but this will be the most expensive option. You’ll pay the driver both for the transportation and waiting at the site.
Getting from Katakolon to Olympia with Katakolon Express was a breeze & the price couldn’t be beat. You don’t want to miss seeing a such an important piece of history. Close you eyes and imagine what it would have been like listening to the crowds cheer in 776BC during the first Olympic games.
Disclosure: We were guest of Katakolon Express. All options are 100% my own and may differ from others.