Greek: Ολυμπία

Birthplace of the Olympics! The Olympic Stadium of ancient times differs just slightly from the elaborate structures built for today’s games—the old track is a simple flat field, surrounded by grassy banks on all sides (though this did not stop it from being used for track and field events during the 2004 Olympics!). The stone passageway that led athletes from the sanctuary to the field for ancient competitions still survives today, and the site as a whole is lively and well excavated.

As opposed to the spectator sports of today, the Olympic Games of classical Greece were an important religious event. The Temple of Zeus at Olympia was at the time amongst the largest ever built, and the lost statue of Zeus within, said to be over forty feet tall, was frequently cited as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Walking through the stadium, the sanctuary, and the myriad other temples and monuments, you can almost picture some ancient athlete carrying the torch, set to begin the celebration. This is a longer trip, roughly 3-4 hours by car, but it is always well worth the drive, as the site is quite large and will certainly keep you occupied for the day.

Right: The Original Olympic Stadium!