Did you know that after the Acropolis, Delphi is the most popular archaeological site in Greece?
Located at the foot of Mount Parnassos, within the angle formed by the twin rocks of the Phaedriades, lies the sanctuary of Delphi, which had the most famous oracle of ancient Greece. In fact, Delphi is regarded as the centre of the ancient world.
Due to its close proximity to Athens (just over two hours drive) Delphi is an ideal spot for a long weekend getaway from the Greek capital. This historical site not only offers incredible cultural experiences, you are also in for an adventurous trip, with some fabulous spots to eat and drink.
The archaeological site of Delphi includes two sanctuaries, dedicated to Apollo and Athena, and other buildings including the Treasury of the Athenians, the Theatre, the Stadion, and the Castalian Spring- which are all must-see sites.
Visitors arriving from Athens first encountered the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia – that is, Athena who is before the Temple of Apollo. Outside its walls spread the settlement of Delphi. Within the walls were the famous Tholos, the symbol of Delphi today, and the remains of three temples dedicated to the goddess. Outside and around the two sanctuaries are the remains of the settlement and cemeteries of Delphi, which developed mainly in the Classical and Roman period.
Temple of Apollo
All that remains of the Temple of Apollo, the most important building in the Sanctuary of Apollo, are the foundations. It was built on the same location three times and featured columns, sculptures, and statues inside. The present Temple of Apollo, built in Doric style in the fourth century BC, preserved the ground-plan of the earlier sixth-century-BC Archaic temple and re-used the old column drums, but the detailing is typical of the late-Classical period. It is here, in the adyton (inner shrine) that the Pythia (priestess) would sit and utter the words of the Oracle, sent to her by Apollo and interpreted by the priests.
The Archaeological Museum, which presents the history of the Delphic Sanctuary in 14 rooms, provides for another profound lesson in Delphi’s political, religious and social history. Lying between the ancient site and the modern town of Delphi, the archaeological museum displays a fascinating collection of finds from the site, including friezes, statues, votive offerings, and stele. Exhibits are displayed in chronological order and arranged across the 14 rooms. There is also a café and a gift shop. Tip: Make sure to check the museum’s opening times ahead, as hours can vary.
On the western slopes of Mount Elikonas, just outside Distomo village (15 km from Delphi town) is the Holy Monastery of Osios Loukas (Saint Luke). The large walled complex contains two adjoining churches, one of which is the 10th Century Church of the Theotokos, dedicated to Panagia, Virgin Mary. Adjoining it is the Katholikon cathedral, built in 1011. A bell-tower, monastic rooms and a little store selling religious items are also located in the complex.
From the fresh, mountainous air to the incredible caves, springs and ancient paths, Delphi is the ideal spot for hiking, paragliding, rock climbing and mountain biking. There are many tours that are organised here throughout the year or you can of course, adventure out on your own and explore the wonderful surroundings.
Visit the Pretty Town
The gorgeous little town of Delphi (population of around 2,000) is now home to a range of hotels, guest houses, restaurants and shops. It was established in 1892, when the village of Kastrí, which had grown up on the site of the Temple of Apollo, was moved to a new position one kilometer west to allow excavation of the ancient site. This is a good base for exploring the surrounding area.