In the shadow of Mount Parnassus amid olive, pine and cypress trees stands one of the truly sacred spots of the ancient world.
About 2,000 feet above sea level, Delphi is one of the best archaeological sites of ancient Greece. Considered the holiest place in the world by the ancient Greeks, Delphi was believed to have been the sanctuary of the god Apollo. If you have any interest in ancient Greek history or mythology, it is an essential day trip from Athens.
Delphi is about 110 miles outside of Athens and can only be reached by car or bus. There are no airports nearby. A private car tour is generally less expensive, less stressful and more individually oriented than a bus tour.
The mountains provide a spectacular location for the remains of ancient Delphi near the modern town. Various plateaus up the slope of Mount Parnassus hold the well-preserved ruins. A feeling of awe enveloped me as I walked among the ruins, and flashes of ancient Greek history and mythology came alive in my imagination. Despite the crowd of visitors, there was a silence and feeling of transcendence at hand. Delphi still evokes an air of reverence.
One of the most popular sites at Delphi is the Delphic oracle at the Temple of Apollo. The ancient Greeks believed that you could talk to the gods here and get answers from the oracle to some of the most essential questions in life. People from all walks of life came here in search of guidance and wisdom. The priestess, Pythia, supposedly provided the answers from the god Apollo, although many of these were ambiguous and subject to interpretation.
The visitor reaches the site of the oracle and temple via a stroll down the Sacred Way. Up the hill from the Temple of Apollo are the theater and the stadium. The mountains surrounding the well-preserved theater must have been a spectacular backdrop for classical audiences. The stadium was the site of the quadrennial Pythian Games, held here in ancient times during the third year of each Olympiad.
Another attraction at Delphi is the Tholos, a beautiful circular building at the center of the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. It was built between 380 and 360 BC.
Delphi, along with several of the other significant archaeological sites in Greece (Olympia, Delos), has an excellent museum to help the visitor connect with the history of the site through artifacts and statues from various historical periods – most notably the classical period. A visit here helps to unwind layers of history.
It’s worthwhile to enrich your visit by refreshing yourself a bit with ancient Greek history along with the myths and legends associated with the site.