If you should chose only one single place to see, as a day trip from Athens, this should be without any doubt Delphi. I don’t think there are still people that never heard about the famous oracle of Delphi. Yes, the one which used to predict people’s future! Above this, let’s not forget that a visit to Delphi means to visit the center of the ancient Greek world. And if this is still not enough, you should know that only the place itself it’s magical and it worths a visit.
The ancient Greeks considered Delphi the center of the ancient world. According to the mythology, this is the meeting point of two eagles dispached by Zeus from the ends of the universe, to find the center of the world. Which means, a visit to Delphi takes you back in time, to a tradition which last over 3000 years.
First, back in the 14th-11th century BC, the daity worshiped here was Ge – the Earth. Later on, during 11th-9th century BC, Apollo itself killed the Pythos, the snake which was protecting the oracle of Ge. And this is how the sactuary of Delphi was brought to life, with the first two temples built to worship the God Apollo and the Godess Athena.
Between the XII century BC until the IV century DC, pilgrims started to come here to ask advices to the most famous oracle in the world, Pythia. People normally used to come in the 7th day of the month, when everybody could ask questions to the oracle. What is funny is that people didn’t changed much during the time and our main worries are still the same. According to the votive inscriptions found in the sanctuary, people wanted to know if their partner is faithfull, if they should accept a specific job or if a friend is trustfull. The same things we are being concerned today. Just that today we look for advices from family and friends, rather than searching for supernatural powers!
However, the oracle wasn’t some kind of creature. She was a woman, around 50 years old, which was considered to receive the profecy gift from the God Apollo. During her rithual, she wasn’t actually speaking any clear words or sentences, but she was more in a trance. She was making noises which needed further interpretations from the priests. In fact, they were having a very important job to do, as they were the ones to interpret the sounds and translate it to a message.
The landscape will leave any visitor spechless. When I arrived there I couldn’t believe my eyes. Delphi is situated on the foothills of the Mount Parnassos, in a green valley surounded by olive trees. I am affraid none of the pictures I took can actually reflect the reality. Even if I spent a full day there admiring the surroundings, I still wouldn’t get enough of it.
Actually, a good spot to admire the landscape it’s on your way from the village towards the museum. I was very lucky, as I could even hear and see a mountain goat on the rocks in front. Once having all this in front of your eyes, think about how lucky we are. And somehow it becomes also clearer why this place was chosen to be the center of the world.
If you come to visit the Sanctuary of Delphi, you will for sure pay a visit to the village of Delphi. Even if is only to have a meal, a walk around the streets or buy a souvenir, this charming place will surprise you. It has only two main streets so it’s quite easy to see it all. However, its size doesn’t say anything comparing to the beauty of the place.
I highly recommend to sit at one of the restaurants or the terraces with the view, towards the valley. It won’t even matter what you’ll drink or eat, as the view will worth all the money.
Archaeological Museum of Delphi
The exhibits presented inside the Archeological Museum of Delphi were the results of the archeological discoveries of the site. The exponants are absolutely superb. Lots to be admired from figurines, statues, gold, silver or ivory objects, ceramics, bronze vessels and so on. Don’t miss the gold room where you can see the real size bull covered in gold from the VI century BC. Towards the end of the museum, check the Three dancers sculture. It is said to be part of the trypod the oracle used to seat on. Last but not least, one of the most appreciated pieces of art is “The charioteer of Delphi”, honoring a victory from the Pythics games.
The museum is not very big. More precisely, it consists of 14 rooms, and can be seen in about 1.5 hours. The entrance fee for the archeological museum and the sanctuary costs 12€ and it consists in one single ticket providing access to both places.
After you visit the museum, follow the path down the road, to reach the sanctuary’s entrance. Once there, ensure you have enough water during the summer days as there is a long way and many stairs until up.
The treasure of the Athenians
This is the best preserved building of the site. It is located on the Sacred Path, before the stone of the Pythia and it cannot be missed. It was built with white marble from the island of Paros.
The temple of Apollo
From the impressive temple of Appolo dating back to the IV century BC, there is not much to see today. The excavations brought to life 6 columns, which gives us a sense of what it once was.
Located above the temple, this theater could accommodate 5,000 people at a time. Isn’t this impressive for those times? Also, from here you get the best view with the sanctuary – almost everything under your eyes.
In 582 century BC the Pythian games were created. Afterwards, they were celebrated every four years, to commemorate Apollo’s victory over the Python. So if you’re in good shape and motivated enough, go until the end of the trail.
There you will find the stadium where the Pythian Games used to take place (these were similar to the Olympic games in Olympia). It is one of the best preserved places of its kind in Greece. With its impressive size, it could accommodate about 7000 people simultaneously.
After exiting the sanctuary, continue your visit further down (5 minutes walking). It will lead you to the last part of your visit, the Sanctuary of the Godess Athena. There is no tax to be paid and no clear entrance. However, you will see a guarding there keeping an eye on you.
If you’re planning to visit Delphi by rental car or private tour, you can skip this paragraph. On the other hand, if you’re coming by public transportation, this should help. To reach Delphi from Athens, you have to take a public bus from Liossion bus station (not the Central Station). The first bus is around 7:30am and you should make the effort to wake up early and catch it. This will give you almost a full day in Delphi, as the arrival is expected around 10.30am. One way ticket costs 15€ and it takes you straight to Delphi in about 2.5-3h.
If you decide to do this tour as a day trip, you can take the last bus back to Athens at 6pm. Also, if you want to continue your journey towards Meteora, check here for further details to see how to get there in the same day – using public transportation.
If you want to trully enjoy the place, I recommend you to stay overnight. Like this, you can have the village all by yourself. You can also visit the site early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid crowds. There is even a hostel and a camping for solo travelers! So, there is no reason to say no.
During the winter, you can even go for skiing as there are resorts close to Delphi, at about 30km distance. Also, summer is a good time for trekking. I’ve heard there is even a cave Coryciana to be seen. It is considered the sacred place of the God Pan, the God of fertility, where you can see stalactite and stalagmites. And, if there is still not enough, the village of Arachova is a treasure not to be missed – check it out!
Well, I hope you will pay a visit to Delphi and agree with me on its sublime beauty. Even if it’s for one day or for a weekend, just go and enjoy the peacefull athmosphere. Honestelly, this is one of the those places I would visit again with no regret. Even if it would be only to admire the landscape.
If you can’t have enough of Greece, read more articles for new travel ideas here.