Delphi is also called the navel of the world since it was here that the two eagles launched by Zeus in opposite directions met again.
A key destination for fans of ancient Greece, Delphi is worth a visit for its shrine but also for its extraordinarily beautiful natural setting, sunsets, hiking trails, and a quaint town center where you can eat Greek cuisine while sitting in typical taverns.
The advice would be to be able to devote two days (one night) to discovering Delphi and its surroundings since most visitors visit the archaeological site in the day and leave, so morning and evening are the only times to appreciate the tranquility and beauty of the place without too much crowds.
Excursion to Delphi: what to do
❖ Sanctuary of Delphi
Situated at the foot of Mount Parnassus 550m above sea level, the Sanctuary of Delphi is one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in all of Greece, in a truly impressive mountain setting.
The name of Delphi is linked to the famous oracle of Apollo. According to belief, the oracle was enunciated by the pythias, the priestesses of the god, and interpreted by the priests.
After purifying themselves and paying a series of offerings and tributes to the god Apollo, pilgrims could meet the pythia who, inhaling mysterious vapors that escaped from a natural fissure in the ground, would enter a state of delirium and pronounce the long-awaited response. No one had ever dared to question her answer, not even on such important issues as, for example, the decision to go to war.
The entrance to the archaeological site is located about 1 km from the town center.
❍ Sanctuary of Delphi: what to see
Walking on the ancient ruins, surrounded by the rugged landscape of the mountains, we can understand the importance of the city of Delphi in ancient times.
The Sanctuary of Delphi is a magical, timeless place. It consists of a main site on which stood the Temple of Apollo with altars, treasuries and other small temples, and a lower site, called Marmaria, which was the sacred place dedicated to the worship of Athena.
Entering the main site is the Roman Agora, where the city market was probably held, and the Via Sacra leading to the Sanctuary of Apollo: along the way are the remains of numerous monuments, such as the remains of the Monument of the Navarchs of Sparta and the Kings of Argos, the Treasury of Sycion, the Treasury of the Athenians, the richest and most important temple erected to commemorate the victory over the Persians, and the Stoa of the Athenians, a large colonnade from which one can see the Temple of Apollo and Mount Parnassus.
Finally we come to the Temple of Apollo, built in 506 BC. The Temple was 21 meters long and 58 meters wide, with six Doric columns resting on the main facade and 15 columns rising on the long sides. Inside the cella in the center stood statues of Zeus and Apollo, and an altar dedicated to Poseidon. In front of the building is the Great Altar for Apollo’s sacrifices.
Continuing on, we find the Theater of Delphi, consisting at the time of 35 rows of seats where up to 5,000 spectators could be seated, and the Stadium where athletic competitions were held during the Pythian games and could seat 6,500 spectators. From the bleachers there is a splendid view of the ancient city and the surrounding mountains.
At this point, one can descend the archaeological site again and enter the lower site called Marmarià where one finds the Castalia spring, a sacred spring where pilgrims had to purify themselves before consulting the oracle, a gymnasium, where athletic exercises were practiced, and the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, the patron goddess of Delphi, which held the same importance as the sanctuary of Apollo.
Next to the Temple of Athena Pronaia is the tholos i.e., a small circular temple whose function within the sanctuary is still unknown today.
Trivia – The name Marmarià was given later i.e. in the 2nd century AD when the site was abandoned and became a marble quarry from which the locals took material.
❍ Timetable of the Sanctuary of Delphi
Open year-round from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. in summer, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in winter.
❍ How long does it take to visit the Sanctuary of Delphi
To visit the two archaeological sites and the Museum at leisure, it takes half a day. Ideally, you should arrive at the opening time when there are fewer crowds and less heat, in summer.
❍ Skip-the-line admission ticket for the Sanctuary of Delphi
The skip-the-line ticket with entrance to the archaeological site and museum costs 15.00 euros and you can buy it on this portal.
The visit inside is free so if you want you can book the tour with an experienced guide who will explain all the monuments step by step.
There are also organized tours departing from Athens, which are very convenient because they include round-trip transfer, skip-the-line entrance ticket to the archaeological site and museum, and certified guide. There is also a package with a visit to the town of Arachova. See here👇
❍ How to get to Delphi from Athens
Delphi is about 2h30 from Athens so you may consider renting a car or avail yourself of a day tour starting and returning to Athens. There are also packages that include a visit to Delphi and the wonderful Meteors 👇
❍ Sanctuary of Delphi with children: information for the visit
Strollers are not allowed. If you decide to visit Delphi during the summer, the advice is to bring a supply of water, a hat and sunscreen. Central hours of the day should be avoided at all costs.
In winter, a k-way-type jacket might be useful.
It is important not to let children touch the monuments or ruins: the natural oils on the skin, could be extremely harmful to the archaeological remains.
❖ Archaeological Museum of Delphi
The Archaeological Museum of Delphi is a magnificent museum consisting of 14 rooms within which are many of the treasures of Ancient Delphi as it was a more suitable location for their preservation.
It is worth a visit to the museum to see the bronze vessels, sculptures and figurines of the period, and especially the Sphinx of Naxos, the friezes from the Treasury of Sifnos, the Twins of Argos, and the metopes from the Temple of Apollo.
Normally admission to the museum is included in the archaeological site ticket.
Excursion to Delphi: visiting information
❖ Trekking in Delphi
Walking is the best way to admire the breathtaking scenery of Delphi and its surroundings.
One hike that we really enjoyed is the one that leads to Chrissó and Kirra. You start from the center of Delphi, go down a flight of stairs and immediately find yourself on the very scenic trail (marker E4) that always runs downhill through olive trees for about 13 km. To return, one can take a bus from Ìtea with destination Delphi.
About 18 km from Delphi, on the other hand, is Corycian Cave, the largest cave in Parnassus. This is a much more challenging hike, 20 km long with an elevation gain of 800 m, which requires good training. When you reach the end of the trail, you will be able to enter the cave and find some refreshment from the summer heat. Appropriate clothing for trekking and a good supply of water and food is recommended.
▶ You might be interested in How to dress in the mountains.
Excursion to Delphi: visiting information. Where to eat and where to sleep
Where to eat in Delphi
We enjoyed dinner at Tavern DION so much that we decided to stop for lunch the next day as well: in the center of Delphi, with tables on the outside steps very impressive and genuine but really tasty, mouth-watering cuisine!
Where to sleep in Delphi
Hotels in Delphi are concentrated in the modern city, from which you can reach Ancient Delphi by walking about 1 km.
Hotel Orfeas – Family rooms with breakfast included, children stay free and the view from the room is enviable! Book here.
Excursion to Delphi: visiting information. Around Delphi
About 20 minutes from Delphi is the pretty town of Arachova, perched on a cliff face. From here it takes another 20 minutes to reach the Monastery of Ossios Loukas, on the summit of Mount Helicon. A visit to both takes half a day and is definitely worth the detour from Delphi or Athens (they are a couple of hours away from here).
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