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Olympia and Mount Olympus

Don't make an epic traveler's mistake

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A bust of Zeus, king of the gods

Zeus, King of the Gods, Lord of Olympus.

Time for a brief Greek geography lesson: Olympia, home of original Olympic Games, and Mount Olympus, home of Zeus and the other Olympian gods and goddesses, share similar names but vastly different locations. Both are don't-miss destinations, but don't expect to combine them on the same leg of your trip.

Olympia is in the Pelopponese, the large peninsula forming the southwest of Greece. The ancient site is about 10km east of the regional capital of Pirgos, surrounded by beautiful, fertile countryside. Olympus is in Central Greece, on the Greek mainland, the dominant peak of a still-wild mountain area.

Olympia

The vast archaeological remains of Olympia will enchant most visitors, partly because this section of Greek history lives on for us in the modern Games.

For this reason, the excellent Archaeological Museum at Olympia, is particularly worthwhile. Obviously, the Olympic Collection attracts most visitors, but the museum also boasts the famous Hermes by Praxiteles and the winged Nike of Paionios.

In this age of jogging and modern marathons, many visitors run a few yards in the well-preserved Olympic Stadium. Remember to bring your own water if you intend to pursue this activity seriously!

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus is a beautiful mountain, soaring into the sky, a fitting abode for the Olympian gods and goddesses. Like Fuji in Japan, it is appreciated both from afar and up-close as a hiking or skiing destination. An outstanding archaeological site in view of Olympus is the little-visited city of Dion, which boasts a partially-intact Temple of Isis.

Just as athletes can't resist the stadium at Olympia, many visitors to Olympus feel impelled to climb it. For experienced hikers, the ascent and descent, in good weather, can be accomplished in a single day.

It's a relatively easy drive to Mt. Olympus, departing from either Thessaloniki or Athens. However, usual cautions about driving in Greece apply. Though the road itself is a good one, good roads sometimes inspire Greek drivers to new heights of daring.

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