The seaside Greek town of Katakolon, with a population around 600, is your typical small-town cruise port -- fishing boats bob in the harbor; cafes lace the waterfront; shops sell T-shirts, hats and jewelry; and a small beach draws swimmers and splashers. But that's not why ships make this town a destination. They arrive because Katakolon serves as the cruise gateway to Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games.
Drive 40 minutes from Katakolon and you are transported back thousands of years. Stroll the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ancient Olympia, and you walk in the footsteps of early Greek and Roman athletes -- wrestlers, chariot drivers, discus throwers, runners and long-jumpers -- who vied for glory and the gods' favor. Stand alongside the massive columns, and, with the tales of a good guide, you can envision the once-magnificent temples, athletes training in the palestra and runners readying on the track. Alexander the Great, Nero, Plato and Aristotle are among those who watched the games from where you stand.
Tourists flock to the site and its companion museums, including the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, a treasure trove of pieced-together sculptures and statues that once adorned the ancient structures, and the Museum of the History of the Ancient Olympic Games, where you can learn about the original competitions.
If you've already visited Ancient Olympia, there are other sights in the area, including the spectacular temple of Apollo Epicurius and the medieval Chlemoutsi (Hlemoutsi) fortress -- or seek out the golden-sand beaches that ring the Gulf of Kyparissia.
Note: We recommend that you use Google Maps to locate the destinations in this guide by entering the name of an attraction or business, rather than the address, which often stumps Google Maps. You should also confirm the hours, which are changeable, based on the season and day you will visit. In some cases, the fact that there's a ship in port will also affect opening times.