Welcome to Ilia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games with a long history dating back to the Palaeolithic Age. With archaeological sites under the UNESCO's umbrella, castles and fortresses of historical significance and natural attractions, with hills, rivers, natural spas, beaches and lakes, visitors get a spectacular part of the world that is well worth the visit.
Best known for the site of Ancient Olympia, founding city of the Olympics and its spectacular nature, Ilia is a treasure trove of history and natural beauty, to satisfy every visitor. Other than its strong archaeological significance, numerous luxury hotels along its coastline to offer high end facilities, several options in terms of outdoor activities, countless wonderful beaches as well as ideal for therapeutic tourism, Ilia is a mini-paradise, and a wonderful choice for your holiday destination in the Peloponnese.
The prefecture of Ilia connects with Athens only by road, to cover a distance of 310km, as there is no airport in the area while the railway line is under construction, so rent a car or use of the national coach services to reach the area. However, the port of Kilini connects regularly with Kefalonia and Zakynthos throughout the year. The port of Katakolo during the summer period is a widely known stopover for cruise ships to transfer the visitors to the Ancient Olympia.
SIGHTSEEING & MONUMENTS
Ancient Olympia is by far one of the most popular sites in Greece, with thousands of visitors from all over the world, eager to see and admire the place where Olympic Games where born. From the ancient Olympic Games from 776BC to 393 AD to the modern ones from 1986 to day, the Olympic torch is relayed in Ancient Olympia to transfer the sacred fire to the host countries every four years. Strictly male participants were travelling from every part of the Ancient World to compete in these prestigious games, pursuing a victory in order to become lifetime legends, as the winning trophy was only an olive wreath. A walk around the archaeological site gives a thrilling picture of how the games used to run. The Prytanio where the winners we awarded, the Philippeion gymnasium, the Nymphaion bath houses, the social quarters for the Athletes, Palaestra, the Vouleftirio where the athletes gave the Olympic oath, Leonidaeo serving as a hostel for the accommodation of official persons as well as the temple of Zeus are all well worth visiting sites. Finally a visit at the arena gives a good feeling for the extraordinary abilities of the historic athletes. Right next to the site, the Archaeological Museum of Olympia hosts significant finds only some of which being, the stone head of Hera, the statue of Hermes – work of Praxitelis, Niki of Paeonios, the helmet of Miltiades, sculptured works of pediments and metopes of the temple of Zeus, vessels, clay and copper configurations, as well as the unique in the world stamps collection regarding the Olympic games, photographs and artifacts.
Only a few kilometers from Kilini, is the Castle of Chlemoutsi as the strongest fortress of the Frankish principate of Achaia. This strategic location had the advantage of securing the control of the passage inland and ensuring the overall defence of the province. Primarily used as a residence and a jail, the Castle is a fine example of thirteenth-century Frankish fortified architecture, being surrounded by a moat, having a bridge covered by a barrel vault as its entrance and an elaborate system for rainwater collection from rooftops to large underground cisterns. By the end of the Frankish domination, Chlemoutsi was used by Greeks, Venetians and Turkish until the Greek War of Independence.
THINGS TO DO
As Ilia is blessed nature wise with forests, lakes and rivers, thus myriads of activities are offered from kayaking and hiking to bird watching and natural spas. Those searching for a beach, won't be disappointed in Ileia as there are beautiful beaches among the longest in the country, such as those around Kilini and Amaliada. Near the town of Zaharo are some simply stunning beaches, continuously being voted as one of the top three beaches in the European Union having as a background a picturesque pine forest, as a stunning backdrop against the blue crystal waters of the sea.
Therapeutic and healing tourism find another point of interest in the area, as natural spas of Kaiafa in a wonderful landscape and the hot springs of Kilini, attract thousands of visitors every year. This spa has become well organized and developed by the Greek National Tourist Organization, with accommodation facilities.
Due to the fertility of the prefecture, Ilia is known for olive production as well as its farming, particularly of grapes, citrus fruits, pistachios, watermelons, strawberries and potatoes, to offer the ideal base for delightful Mediterranean cuisine.
USEFUL TELEPHONE NUMBERS
Ilia Railway Services: +30 26210 22576
Ilia Bus Services: +30 26210 22592
Pyrgos Police: +30 26210 81731
Pyrgos Tourist Police: +30 26210 37111
Amaliada Hospital: +30 26220 22222
Ancient Olympia Museum: +30 26240 23753, 26240 22529