Spring is in the air and with it the urge to ditch the winter layers and head outside to enjoy the warmer weather. With the snow gone and the sun not quite hot enough yet to send us running to the beach, this is the perfect season to visit key locations in Greece’s mountainous interior. Our favorite? The one and only Ancient Delphi!
According to myth, Zeus and his great eagles determined Delphi to be the center of the earth, the navel of his grandmother, the primordial deity Gaia. We don’t know for sure if this is what originally led the ancient Greeks to the site, but we do know that it had been in use for millennia and that the great sanctuary they built there was one of the most important destinations in the ancient world: a sacred site and home to the Oracle of Delphi, whose widely influential prophecies were consulted for over 1000 years.
Situated on the foothills of Mount Parnassus, about 180 km from Athens, Ancient Delphi is an essential destination that combines one of the best ancient sites in the country with spectacular Greek nature and a wealth of opportunities to delve into local culture on the way there and back. Before you go, here’s some great tips to help you enjoy your visit:
Ancient Delphi is big. It’s not always easy to realize from looking at photos of its main monuments, but it’s a large archaeological site situated on the southern slope of Mount Parnassus. From the entrance, by the Roman Market, the Sacred Way winds its way through the sanctuary and up the steep slope, all the way to the Temple of Apollo and the grand theater at the top of the site. The theatre alone is an experience unto itself, with spectacular views over the entire sanctuary, the surrounding mountains and the valley below, so make sure you’re ready for a bit of a gentle hike to get there.
You won’t need expedition gear, but make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes and sporting a pair of walking or hiking shoes that will get you through the visit. Pace yourself and take breaks when you need to—after all, any excuse to pause and take in the view is a good one. And don’t forget that this is an open air site with little in the way of shade: Pack a hat—and sun-block if you tend to burn!—and grab a bottle of water, especially if you’re visiting during the warmer seasons.
With archaeological sites this large, a guided tour is often the best way to get the most out of your visit. A knowledgeable guide can really transform your experience, sharing fascinating facts and interesting anecdotes that bring the site to life. Of course, for a full picture of the ancient sanctuary in all its glory, make sure you visit the Delphi Archaeological Museum, which showcases statues and other artefacts recovered from the site.
In addition to the Sanctuary of Apollo, the region is full of wonderful sites worth seeing. Much of Mount Parnassus itself is a designated National Park and home to an impressive range of flora and fauna, and it’s also a favorite winter destination with Athenians who flock here in the winter for skiing and snowboarding. Their preferred destination is the elegant little town of Arachova, which is worth visiting as much for its traditional architecture and character, as for the spectacular views and delicious local food.
And don’t forget the many other attractions, including the pristinely-preserved Byzantine Monastery of Hosios Loukas—which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From being one of the most sacred sites in ancient Greece to becoming the setting of an Indiana Jones book, Ancient Delphi is just too good to miss. A stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site, whose magnificent ruins are nestled the breathtaking landscape of Mount Parnassus, Delphi is a top destination for anyone traveling to Greece—an ideal full-day tour from Athens and the perfect way to begin your exploration of the Greek mainland!