Why go to Katakolon (Olympia)?
Whether you want to check out ancient historical sites or you prefer the beach and shops, Katakolon fits the bill
Independent navigation with the help of Google Maps can be tricky thanks to the antiquity of the area
History buffs will have lots to explore, while the more leisure-minded can enjoy a day of relaxation
Katakolon (Olympia) Cruise Port Facilities?
You exit the ship to an open-air dock that also has a small duty-free shop, a good place to purchase bottles of water, soda, cigarettes, alcohol and other items. After a short walk to the right from the dock, you reach Katakolon, with its waterfront cafes and shops.
The town has three streets that run parallel to the shore. The one closest to the water provides access to the marina, along with seaside cafes and tavernas. Moving away from the water, the next street is the main drag, lined with shops selling typical tourist items like T-shirts, hats, white cotton and linen dresses, and jewelry, as well as olive oil. There's also a news shop that sells international papers and an internet cafe. The third street is more residential and less touristy, but you'll find a bakery, a few shops and a traditional cafe.
If you want a quick swim and you're not too picky, Plakes Beach, also known as Renata Beach, to your left as you leave the port, offers a small swath of pebbly sands. Jellyfish, however, are known to frequent these waters, so ask the locals before you jump in for a swim.
Good to Know?
Aggressive jewelers. Some jewelers hang outside urging people to come in their shops, but once you do the games begin. Expect major haggling. You may get a great deal but you also may have to work for it.
Greece is hot in the summer, and its inland sites are even hotter. In the summer, temperatures can spike over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen, bring plenty of water and plan to purchase more bottled water for the ride back to Katakolon, if needed.
The bus drop-off point for Ancient Olympia is different from the bus pick-up point, so listen carefully to your guide's instructions. To catch your return bus, follow the footpath to the left of the Archaeological Museum to reach the bus departure area. Allow 5 to 10 minutes to get there from the museum, depending on your walking speed.
Although convenient, the cafe at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia serves high-priced soft drinks and snacks. The outdoor vendors near the entrances to ancient Olympia are often less pricey.
On Foot: It's an easy walk from the dock to the heart of Katakolon with its array of restaurants, shops and the small beach. You can walk to the town beach, but the next beach is nearly 2 miles up the road.
By Car: You can rent a car and drive the well-maintained roads to the ancient site yourself, picking up a guide, if available, once you arrive. Avis has a rental office near the port. With your own car, you can also visit the nearby beaches.
By Scooter: Scooters (also known as motos) are available for rent in town. You'll see rental shops across from the port and along the main street.
By Taxi and Van: Taxis and vans that accommodate small groups line up to meet the cruise ships. Expect a taxi to Olympia and back costs about 80 euros (about $83), with 60 to 90 minutes waiting time at the site. If you're an antiquities buff, bargain for more time. Taxis are technically required to use the meter, which includes charges for waiting time, and to give you a machine-printed receipt; however, we found that they quoted a flat rate. If that's the case, be sure to bargain -- and don't pay until after the driver returns you to the ship. The local tourism office advises against booking a taxi in advance via the internet, saying those operators will simply arrange for a local taxi and mark up the price, socking you with an added fee.
By Train: At select times, a train operates between Katakolon and Olympia, and a one-way trip takes about 45 minutes. The station is about a 15-minute walk from the cruise pier. The train service operates an information kiosk at the port when ships are in town, and extra trains are added when the port is busy. Be sure to confirm train times in person; don't rely on internet information. If you can make the scheduling work, prices for the train are significantly lower than a taxi.
By Bus: Private company Katakolon Express offers reasonably priced bus tours and private tours to Olympia.
By Horse Carriage: Once you get to Ancient Olympia, you can walk into the site (about a quarter-mile) or take a 2-euro carriage ride to the main entrance.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The euro is the official currency. For current currency conversion figures visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. ATMs are available at the port, in the town of Katakolon (one is located at nearby Jewellery Dionisos) and also in the modern town of Olympia that borders the ancient site. Some shops and restaurants take credit cards, and a few will accept U.S. dollars.
Greek is the native language, but most vendors, shop owners and taxi drivers know enough English to enable you to bargain, order food and get to and from your destinations.