Aside from the Acropolis in Athens, Delphi is one of the most visited archeological sites in Greece. It takes about 2-2.5 hours to drive to this UNESCO World Heritage Site from Athens, making it a great option for a day trip. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Delphi from Athens.
A Brief History
Located on Mount Parnassos, Delphi was once considered the center of the world. It is most famous for its oracle, the Pythia, who was consulted for all major decisions of the day. Foreigners and Greeks alike made the pilgrimage to Delphi to see the Pythia. Based on Plutarch’s history, the Pythia would enter the inner chamber of the temple, sit on a tripod, and inhale natural gases from the earth. She would then fall into a trance and mumble nonsensical words that were later interpreted by the priests of Apollo. Since the oracle was only available to the public certain days out of the year, people waited in line for a long time to hear the Oracle’s predictions.
Delphi was also the site of the Pythian Games, one of the four Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece. Starting in the 6th century BC, the games were held two years after each Olympic Games and between each Nemean and Isthmian Games.
The sanctuary of Delphi fell to the Romans in the 2nd century BC and was destroyed in the first century BC in a raid by a Thracian tribe.
Getting to Delphi
Delphi is about 115 miles northwest of Athens. It is easily accessed by car if you plan on renting one. There are daily buses departing to Delphi from Liossion KTEL Bus Station in Athens, which takes about three hours. Otherwise, you can book a day tour to the archaeological site. I recommend Chat Tours which is based out of Athens.
Points of Interest
- Athenian Treasury: Built around 510 BC (and re-erected in the early 1900s), the treasury was built by the Athenians to house their offerings to Apollo.
- Temple of Apollo: This is the most famous building at the archaeological site. Built in the 4th century BC, the temple was where the Pythia would mutter the words of the Oracle.
- Delphi Theater: The theater was built in the 4th century BC to host contests at the Pythian Games.
- The Stadium: Located about 50 meters above the theater, this 5th century BC stadium was built for the Pythian Games.
Your ticket to the archaeological site also provides access to the Delphi Museum.
Not only is the history and mythology surrounding Delphi fascinating, but the location on the side of Mount Parnassus is breathtaking. If you have some time in your itinerary, I highly recommend taking a day trip from Athens to Delphi. If you have even more time, you might consider traveling farther north to check out Meteora.