6 h. tour (Private tour)
(Transportation + guidance all the way + guided tour of ancient site + guided tour of the archeological museum + free time in Olympia + extra activities)
This is a tour designed for people that have more time at their disposal and would also like to enhance their experience in this historical, but also beautiful and traditional area. I have selected some extra activities to suggest, in order to make the most of your visit.
Departing from the port with your private vehicle and driver, you will travel through the rich countryside between the Alfios and Kladeos rivers, on your way to Olympia, where you will embark a 2 and a half hour guided tour, that visits the temple of Zeus, the temple of Hera, the altar of Hera where the lighting of the Olympic torch takes place and the stadium, among other sites.
Ancient Olympia, the archeological site of the first Olympic Games, in 776 B.C., lies in the lush valley formed between the Alfios and Kladeos rivers. The temple of Zeus in antiquity was housing one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient world, the gold and ivory statue of Zeus, which Phedias had created. You will also see the temple of Hera, the shrine of Pelops (one of the oldest in the sanctuary), the Council house where the athletes took the Olympic oath, the Treasury houses, the Gymnasium and the Palaestra where they used to exercise for a month prior to the Games. Finally you will reach the stadium, where the marble starting blocks are still in position.
You will also visit the Archeological Museum, only a short walk from the Olympia site itself. There you will find a wonderful collection of Greek sculpture, as well as treasures that have been unearthed over a century of excavations. See the breathtaking original pediments from the Temple of Zeus, all in white marble from Paros, illustrating the mythical war between the Centaurs and the Lapiths on the one side, the beginning of the chariot race between Prince Pelops and King Oinomaos on the other side. The museum is also home to the famous Hermes of Praxiteles statue as well as the statue of the winged Nike. Extremely important for world's history and the way democracy was founded in Athens was the battle of Marathon in 490 BC from which the helmet of general Miltiades that was dedicated to Zeus still exists and is in display in the museum.
By the end of the guided tour, if you want, you can have a short break in the modern town of Olympia, for coffee or shopping.
To complete your overall experience tour in Olympia you can pick among the following unique activities, that will bring you close to the local people, see where they live or work, talk to them and learn more about the "real" modern Greece.
A. A COOKING CLASS
Put your hands in the mix! Learn the famous and delicious Greek recipes, by cooking them yourselves. Greece has a long history and tradition in cooking. The Greeks have always been lovers of healthy and good quality food since the ancient times. Ancient recipes have survived throughout the centuries but have also been influenced and modified throughout the years by different cultures such as the Romans, the Byzantines and the Turks.
A famous local chef, as well as Mrs. Vasso, the owner of a beautiful local restaurant, where the class will take place, will help you learn some of the magic tricks of how the fresh and healthy ingredients are mixed together in the Greek cuisine. You will learn how just with the use of extra virgin olive oil, some spices and fresh vegetables, or yogurt, you can "transform" each plate you make, into a feast of senses! Among other things you will learn how to prepare tzatziki, cheese pies(tyropitakia), opening your own pastry(fyllo), as well as zucchini balls(kolokythokeftedes).
After that you will be served the food you cooked, as well as other specialties of the area, from a large all-you-can-eat buffet. House wines and sodas will also be on your tables.
This beautiful experience couldn’t end without the tasting of Greek coffee, which you can also make yourselves, steering the coffee in your own "briki", the traditional pot in which this coffee is being prepared. There was a long period of time that Greek people believed strongly that by "reading" the marks that the coffee grains leave upon the cup can you insight about your future. Some old ladies could "read" the cup and could "fish" answers from whoever was vulnurable with this idea. Maybe you would like to "play" with your coffee cup too.
You will leave the place with a unique experience to remember, as well as with your own cooking book with the recipes that you had prepared.
B. A HOME MEAL
I have carefully selected a few beautiful houses of people I know in the area, places where I have been fascinated by their cooking skills. I think that there is no better way to experience "real" Greece than a well prepared home meal. "When in Olympia, do as the Olympians….!"
Therefore, depending on the time of year you will be visiting Olympia and the weather conditions, you will be served in a private environment, either indoors or at a beautiful veranda of a local house, where only you and your friends will be able to enjoy the hospitality and the delicious cooking the Greek house wives are famous for.
You will be served a large variety of specialties, like an original Greek Salad, the "yemista"(stuffed tomatoes and peppers with rice), "mousaka"(eggplants, potatoes and beef meat with besamel on top), "dolmades"(stuffed vine or cubbage leaves in delicious lemon sauce), "yiouvetsi"(organic chicken in fresh tomato sauce with homemade pasta) served with a salty traditional cheese called "mizithra" and many more plates, as well as house wine, beer and sodas.
Of course there will be dessert and Greek coffee served at the end of your home meal experience.
I don’t know if this description of plates was "all Greek to you", but I am sure that after this experience you will put the Greek cuisine higher on your list.
C. VISIT AN OLIVE OIL PRESS
Since the very ancient times, the Greeks have been famous for the superb quality of their olive oil, which they used to export all over the known world. It was their liquid gold and they used to trade it with gold, ivory and many other products from far away lands. Still today Greece, the third largest producer of olive oil in the world, is famous for some of the top qualities of extra virgin olive oil worldwide.
The harvesting of the olives and the production of the fresh extra virgin olive oil takes place between November and January of each year. If you are lucky to visit the area this time of year, you will see the whole procedure. But even the rest of the year the press can be opened upon request, in order for you to have a tour through it, see the machinery, smell the olive oil and hear explanations about all the steps of extraction from the olives. You will also be taught what the difference is between common and extra virgin olive oil and how to be able to tell the difference yourselves.
A table with light snacks served in extra virgin olive oil and oregano, as well as fresh bread, will be waiting for you at the end of the tour, right there... in the press!
D. THE WINE LOVERS DREAM
Visit one of the several wineries there are in the area.
Next to Olympia is located another beautiful winey, the "Olympia Land", famous both for its red and white wine. It’s a small family business, newly founded, with modern buildings and machinery, in a lush part of the valley, surrounded by different varieties of vine yards, that you will be told about.
The daughter will show you around and the mother will serve you some of her specialties that will help you enjoy even more your wine tasting at the end of the visit.
Another of the most famous, and oldest in the area, is the "Merkouri estate", located in Korakochori, an area near Katakolon. Its prolific history dates back to the late 1800s, when Corinthian currants were it's main crop. Today the estate is renowned for age old nectar and rich olive oil. Picturesque and serene, this estate is home to vineyards that board the Ionian Sea, olive groves, an Italian residence, a winery, offices and a visitor center, as well as lush gardens with ivy covered stone chapel and peacocks jumping all over the place. A traditional family museum offers an impressive collection of antique agricultural implements and artifacts.
Upon request you can have a tour through their cellars and the rest of the estate and at the end you can enjoy a wine tasting, or even some snacks. You can visit it either at the beginning or at the end of your tour, since it is close to the port.
E. BEACH GET AWAY
After you visit Olympia, you will either travel for about 30 minutes to get to St. Andreas beach, or for about 40 minutes to get to Kourouta beach. Sun kissed sand and the crystalline waters of the Ionian sea, will help you relax and get an unforgettable experience. Next to the sea is an unspoiled pine forest. Along the sea front are beach bars, serving "frappe", coffee, ouzo and traditional dishes.
F. VISIT ONE OF THE AREA'S MONASTERIES
There are several monasteries in the area. Two of the most popular are the one of Kremasti and the one of Skafidia. They are both very old and with a few nuns living in each one of them.
The monastery of Skafidia is about 15 minutes drive from Katakolon, in a beautiful setting on the valley and near the sea. It has a Byzantine church in it, with paintings and iconography on the wall, from the 11th century AD. The garden is full of beautiful plants and flowers and the tower bell worth taking a picture of.
It's only certain hours a day that the nuns will accept visitors in it and it's a serene place where you can spend about 40 minutes or one hour, before or after any of the other things you choose to do while in Katakolon.
There is no entrance fee charged to visit the Monastery.
The monastery of Kremasti is about 30 minutes driving from Katakolon and 20 minutes driving from Olympia. It is isolated on the top of a very impressive hill of sand and overlooks the fertile valley. Unfortunately the oldest church and icons have been burned in the past, but there are still impressive icons and parts of the building for someone to see.
The nuns are very friendly and will welcome you with a smile and several times a Greek coffee, or a Greek delight.
There is no entrance fee charged to visit the Monastery.
In all Greek Monasteries, there is a dress code. Men should wear long pants and women should wear a skirt and have their shoulders covered. Women do not have to cover their heads.
In case you are not dressed according to that code, they will offer you at the entrance appropriate clothes to wear over yours.