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ILIA

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General Information

Ilia, the land of the Olympic Games, is surrounded by Achaia to the north, Arcadia to the east, Messinia to the south, and the Ionian Sea to the west. The mountainous landscape of Ilia gradually descends as it nears the coastline, forming a zone of fertile land which has naturally attracted the larger part of its population. Thousands of people visit annually the temple of the Epikouros Apollon in Vasses and, of course, the archaeological site of Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games. The tourist infrastructure of Ilia is concentrated on its offshore resorts, as well as in the vicinity of Ancient Olympia. Pyrgos, the capital city of the prefecture, is also connected to with Athens by railway. The prefecture has a population of 193288 residents, while its extent covers 2.681 sq.km.    

 

History - Culture

Ilia, and especially the river banks within its coastal zone, has been inhabited in the Paleolithic years. Some of the first settlers are considered to be Pelasgians, Arcadians and Leleges of the Ionian Islands. They mingled with the Achaeans until Dorians came forth and occupied the region. It is believed that Ilia was named after King Ilios. The most important city of antiquity was Ilis, which was the caretaker and host of the Olympic Games. Though the games officially began in 776 BC, there is evidence supporting the theory that the concept was much older, finding its roots in the tributary games in honor of the dead warriors, as described in the works of Homer.  Ilis played a significant part during conflicts, sometimes as an ally of Sparta and sometimes as a rival. This led to a war between Ilia and Sparta, a war in which Ilia met defeat, and Sparta took control of its lands. In 145 BC, the region came under Roman rule. After a long period of obscurity, Ilia entered a period of great prosperity under Frankish rule (1210). It became an administrative centre with the city of Andravida being the capital of the Frankish State. In 1446, the Turks attacked the region for the first time, and in 1450 it came under their domination, with the exception of a small period of Venetian occupation. When the Greek War of Independence broke out, Ilia was liberated (1821) but the Turks kept attacking and raiding it until 1828, when the region was finally free from the Turkish yoke.

 

Sights

Ilia is famed for its important archaeological sites and astonishingly varying coastline adorned with many beautiful seaside resorts. In the capital of Pyrgos, the municipal market and the Apollo Municipal Theatre are housed in beautiful buildings of the neo-classical architectural style. Just outside of town, there are ancient ruins dating from Hellenistic and Roman years, as well as remnants of prehistoric settlements. The ruins of ancient Oleni lie close by. The ruins of the Frankish church of Aghia Sofia (1230) can be seen in Andravida. Heirs to the throne of the Frankish principality used to be crowned here. Only 15km south of Andritsaina, the imposing and virtually intact Temple of Epikourios Apollo stands in the site of the ancient city of Vasses, surrounded by an awe-inspiring natural environment. The ruins of ancient Ilis lie 12km away from Gastouni. Apart from being a major city, Ilis was the place where athletes practiced before participating in the Olympic Games. The noted resort of Kaiaphas is built on the islet of Aghia Aikaterini, situated in the centre of a lake. The area is celebrated for the sulphurous springs in the cave of Anigrides, where, according to mythology, Nymphs used to live. The renowned Chlemoutsi Castle is definitely worth visiting, as it is the most beautiful and well-preserved Frankish castle in the Peloponnese. Built in 1222, it also served as a mint and it still emanates an aura of splendor. World noted Olympia is situated 19km from Pyrgos within beautiful and peaceful natural surroundings. The site includes a number of structures and monuments that help us reconstruct scenes from the life as it had been in this holy place. There are many temples, the Stadium, stoas, baths, a Palaestra, a Gymnasium, and many more. The Olympic Games, originally a time for peace and cultural exchange, were held continuously from 776 BC to 393 AD. Yet, Ilia has plenty more to offer and visitors are to discover by themselves all the sites and natural beauties of the region, many of which lie on the highlands beyond the coastal zone.

 

Entertainment-Sports-Shopping

A world-class, famous and highly popular ?mainly due to the existence of Olympia- tourist destination, the prefecture of Ilia has developed a significant infrastructure, especially during the latest years. The facilities offered in Pyrgos, Amaliada, Vartholomio, Zacharo, Kyllini and Andritsaina will satisfy visitors in search of high-quality accommodations and entertainment. There are hotels, rooms-to-let, taverns, coffee shops, bars and clubs, while the shopping areas are well-supplied. Colorful and welcoming local events and festivals are held in many towns and villages, offering cultural insight along with great fun. As far as sports are concerned, most luxury hotels and organized beaches provide water sports facilities, while there is also a yachting club in Amaliada. In Pyrgos there are facilities for basketball, volleyball, football and track. But, with beaches of such beauty, swimming is a genuine pleasure, as well as an athletic activity.

 

Access

There are public bus services from Athens to Pyrgos, Gastouni, Andravida, Olympia, Amaliada and Zacharo. There is a railway line from Athens and Piraeus to Pyrgos with many intermediate stations. There is also a summer local train service connecting Kavasila - Vartholomio - Kyllini - Pyrgos - Alpheios - Olympia.

 

Connections

Bus and train services link Pyrgos, main towns and villages of Ilia with the rest of the Peloponnese. There is local bus service from Pyrgos to Tripolis on a daily basis. Trains from Athens and Patra link Pyrgos, Kyparissia, Kalamata. There is frequent local train connection with Alpheios and Olympia. Ferryboats depart daily from Kyllini to Zakynthos and Cephalonia.

 

Museums

The Olympia Archaeological Museum houses exhibits of great significance. In Pyrgos, there is the Municipal Library and an Art Gallery. The library in Andritsaina is worth visiting as it houses rare publications of the 16th century, an impressive archive of the Greek War of Independence and a rich archaeological collection originating from Vasses.

 

Alternative Tourism

Educational, cultural, archaeology, agrotourism, sporting (water sports, yachting, sailing, surfing, windsurfing, scuba diving, trekking).

 

Useful Telephone Numbers:

PYRGOS AREA CODE:  26210-

HOSPITAL: 26210-82300

PHARMACIES: 26210-22630, 26901

RAILWAY STATION: 26210-22576

MUNICIPALITY: 26210-34444

TOURIST POLICE: 26210-37111

 

 

 

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