Where the heck is Katakolon and what can I see there? This was my first thought the first time Katakolon was a port of call on a cruise we were on. That was almost 10 years ago!
First of all Katakolon is a small town with a port on Greece’s Peloponnese Peninsula. It’s connected to the Greek mainland and is about 310 Km. from Athens. It is a popular stop for cruise ships on the Greek Isles route.
Cruise ship brochures describe it as “a sleepy little seaside village overlooking the Ionian Sea”. Such a quaint description of a village that pretty much consists of 2 streets and has a population of 601 according to the 2011 census.
Since we’re avid cruisers I can proudly say that I’ve been to Katakolon at least half a dozen times, I seriously stopped counting after the first time.
There really isn’t much to see or do in the village itself. It merely serves as a gateway to the Olympic Archaeological Site and Museum which is about a 30 minute drive away.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad port of call, but unless you’re on a cruise ship I doubt you’ll go out of your way to go there. But if you’re stopping there anyway here are some ideas on how to spend your day. I believe there are a few B&Bs in the village if you really have a burning desire to stay, but a day is more than enough to see everything this village and its surroundings have to offer.
Olympic Archaeological Site & Museum
This is the site of Ancient Olympia and is home to the Temple of Hera and the Temple of Zeus. It is where the ancient Olympic games were held from 776 BC to 393 AD.
The temples are long gone, mostly columns and stone foundations remain. The Temple of Zeus once housed the 43 foot gold and ivory statue of the Greek god Zeus. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This statue was one of the most revered statues of the god in ancient times.
If you visit the Museum you will see some of the finest decorative sculpture on display; including the famed Nike Winged Victory which once stood by the Temple of Zeus.
As you wander thru the site you’ll see the Stadium, basically a large open rectangular space. But the marble starting blocks are still in position.
(I’m standing in the stadium where the games were held, the starting blocks are those thin slabs behind me.)[spacer height=”-20px”]
You’ll also see the ruins of the ancient Temple of Hera. This is where the Olympic Torch is ignited several months before the start of the modern Olympic Games.
In ancient Greece fire held divine connotations. The altar of the ancient Temple of Hera in Olympia maintained a continuous flame. During the ancient Olympic games held in honor of the god Zeus more fires were lit at his temple.
This tradition was reintroduced to the modern Olympic games in 1928, the relay that takes the torch from Olympia to the host city began in 1936. Since then the flame has traveled around the world and even to the International Space Station. The torch has been carried by thousands of people using different modes of transportation including boats and airplanes.
That’s pretty much all there is to see at this site. Then you can wander over the the nearby museum. This should take about 3 or 4 hours leaving plenty of time to have a leisurely lunch or a slow stroll thru the streets of Katakolon.
From the village/port you can take a taxi to the site, it should cost about €25 each way.
Or you can join one of the excursion buses. You can buy tickets from the parking lot just before you get into the village. Tickets cost €10 each person round-trip.
You can also book a shore excursion from your cruise ship or a private tour online from one of the local tour companies. That’s the easiest way to get there but it’s also the most expensive. Shore excursions from the ship start at about $59 per person and private tours run about $100 per person. These of course include admission tickets and is accompanied by a tour guide.
If you’re taking a taxi or the bus you will have to buy tickets. Tickets are €12 per person and includes entrance to the archaeological site as well as the museum. I believe you can rent audio guides for an additional fee.
Go to the Beach.
Kourouta Beach is the most famous beach in the area. It’s about a half hour drive from the port of Katakolon. It’s an organized beach with a seafront lined with tavernas. You can rent a lounge chair and umbrella from any of the bars.
The sandy beach stretches over 10 miles along the clear blue waters of the Ionian Sea. [spacer height=”-20px”]
Winery Tour & Wine Tasting
Take a ride out to the Mercouri Estate Winery. This family run winery is one of the oldest in the area, it’s been in business for over 150 years.
It’s known for it’s fine wine, olive oil, and raisins.
Admission to the winery is €1.00. A 20 minute guided tour cost €4. Wine tasting cost €1 for dry wines and €1.50 for sweet wines.
You can take a taxi if you want to go on your own or book a shore excursion that includes admission, tour, and wine tasting for about $60 per person.
Hang out in the village
It’s a small village, it literally has 2 streets. The street along the waterfront has cafes and restaurants. The cafes are right off the parking area and the restaurants are further down.
The second street is lined with shops and some cafes.
At the far end of the street there’s a small park with some play equipment for kids and a newspaper stand that sells everything from bottled water to beach toys.
We usually spend a hour or so on the waterfront at one of the cafes. It’s a nice place to have a cup of coffee or frappe.
At lunch time we head over to one of the waterfront restaurants for some tzatziki and seafood.