Delphi lies in the lush green slopes of Mount Parnassus in Central Greece. Here, the most important religious center of antiquity flourished, attracting visitors from all over the world. Famous thanks to its renowned oracle, the city of Delphi continues to attract visitors from every corner of the world. Easily accessible from Greece’s capital, Delphi, the ‘navel of the earth’ is one of the top day trips from Athens.
Legend has it that Zeus simultaneously released two eagles, one from the east and the other from the west, to indicate the center of the world. They met directly over Delphi – now a sacred stone marks the spot. Nearby stood the impressive sanctuary of Apollo, home to the most important oracle of antiquity. According to tradition, the oracle originally belonged to Gaia (Mother Earth), who lived there with her son Python. But the god Apollo transformed into a dolphin reached the port of Delphi, Kirra, killed Python and founded his own sanctuary, the Temple of Apollo. From then on, pilgrims from far and wide flocked to the oracle, seeking the guidance of Apollo’s priestess. As a tribute to Apollo, the Pythian Games were held there every four years and were the precursor of the Olympic Games which were held in Olympia.
The Oracle of Delphi
Delphi is best known for its oracle, Pythia the high priestess of the Temple of Apollo. The oracle was the most important source of sacred wisdom in the ancient world from the 7th century BC until the advent of Orthodox Christianity. Pythia consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient world and delivered oracles in a frenzied state caused by vapors rising from a chasm in a rock. When the oracle answered a pilgrim’s question, usually with only with a few words, its authority was accepted almost universally.
The Archaeological Site of Delphi
As you approach, the archaeological site, Delphi unfolds on the side of the central road, facing cliffs, olive groves, and valleys. The inscription “γνώθι σαυτόν” (know thyself) has crumbled from the portal of the ancient temple, but still governs the meditative atmosphere of the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi. Cut into the steep mountainside, the ancient sanctuary reigns over the valley below. The UNESCO-listed archaeological site of Delphi is one of the most important in Greece, second only to the Acropolis of Athens. One of Greece’s top archaeological sights will take your breath away.
The Temple of Apollo, the Olympian god of light, knowledge and harmony, is the centerpiece of the site. To reach the temple, follow the Sacred Way, that is, the route followed by the ancient pilgrims, adorned with numerous buildings and offerings. To the left is the Treasury of the Athenians, excavated in the early 20th century. Past the Temple of Apollo is the theater. From there, make your way up the winding trail to the stadium at the top of the hill. The archaeological tour concludes at the museum, where the most famous findings of archaeological research are presented.
The Archaeological Museum of Delphi
The Archaeological Museum of Delphi houses artifacts from the ancient city. Among the notable collection are enormous 7th-century bronze shields, the frieze of the Siphnian treasury, the archaic and classical facades of the Temple of Apollo, the altar from the temple of Athena Pronaia, a Naxian sphinx, the haunting bronze Charioteer of Delphi, the Kouroi of Delphi, and many of the impressive gifts presented as offerings to the oracle.
The Modern City of Delphi
The modern city of Delphi extends beyond the ancient, but due to its geographical relief, it is not visible from it. Perched on the southern ends of Parnassos, it has not retained any particular architectural character but offers excellent views of the Amphissa Olive grove and the Gulf of Itea. Concentrated on the two main streets (Friderikis-Pavlou and Apollonos), you will find souvenir shops, traditional tavernas and trendy cafés with views. The oracle and museum are on Friderikis-Pavlou a few hundred meters past the town, towards Athens.
Have a taste of the mountainous part of Central Greece on a day trip from Athens to Delphi, the navel of the earth. Discover even more ancient temples, heavenly monasteries, medieval castles, lush landscapes and the most stunning coastlines on one, or even several, of these top 10 day trips from Athens.
- Delphi, the Oracle of Apollo – The Navel of the Earth (full day)
- Cape Sounion & Athenian Riviera Beach Escape
- Ancient Corinth & Corinth Canal Photo Stop
- Nafplio on Foot & Palamidi Fortress - A Walking Tour (3-4h)
- Nafplio with a Visit to Ancient Mycenae (4h)
- Nafplio - Mycenae - Epidauros & Photo Stop at Corinth Canal (8h)
- Achaia Clauss Winery & Church of Agios Andreas in Patras (full day)
- Kalavryta & Monastery of Mega Spilaio (full day)
- Ancient Olympia Private Day Tour from Athens
- Meteora Full Day Tour From Athens - Columns in the Sky