The archaeological site of Delphi is located in Central Greece, on the base of Mount Parnassus. For centuries, Delphi was the spiritual and religious centre of Ancient Greece. There was located the most famous oracle of Ancient Greece, the Oracle of Delphi, whose reputation has got over its limits, since oblations from foreign countries had been found during the excavations. Since 1972 the archaeological site of Delphi has been numbered among the World Heritage Monuments of UNESCO. The feeling you will get, after getting to this sacred area, cannot be described with words. The atmosphere itself has an overpowering energy , which emerges from the long history wafting around, and from the exciting nature as well, a wild and impressive background, but also welcoming and peaceful, ready to offer relaxation moments to every visitor.
Delphi, ad World Heritage Monument
Delphi, acknowledged as World Heritage Site of UNESCO, have a great number of Greek and foreign visitors all year long.
In Delphi, this majestic place , rich in gratitude and history, myths and truth are twisted together beautifully and harmonically. From the era, when the 12 Gods where ruling over the ancient world, Zeus, the father of the Olympian Gods, wanted to find out where the centre of the world was. According to mythology, he let two eagles fly, the one towards West and the other towards East, in order to show him the spot. The eagles flew and met up at Delphi. Ever since, Delphi was considered to be “the omphalos (the navel) of Earth”, in other words, the centre of the world.
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Historical information of Delphi
Before beginning with your tour around Delphi and the travel to Ancient Greece, you may need to know some historical information about the development of the area. How and why has this place been developed so much? What was it, that made mortals and kings want to visit Delphi, the navel of Earth?
During prehistory and according to the traditions and myths of ancient Greeks, there was at this place a sanctuary dedicated to the deity of Earth. Guard of that deity was a terrible dragon, Python. God Apollo, the god of music, envied this place and after killing the dragon he had there his own sanctuary. That victory of Apollo against Python was celebrated by the ancient Greeks with games and demonstrations, as well as with music performances, the so-called Pythian Games.
All these information, coming to us as myths, are dated back to 4.000 B.C., according to the archaeological findings!!! Of course, the sanctuary of God Apollo and Athena Pronaia are dated back at the end of the 7th century B.C. From the 6th till the 4th century B.C., at Delphi was the most important oracle of Ancient Greece. Here, Sibyl Pythia was giving her incredible prophecies to everyone asking her for a solution to their problems! Though, when the movement of rationalism developed, (3rd century B.C.) the decadence of the oracle followed. At 394 A.D. the oracle closed permanently, by order of the byzantine emperor Theodosius I, and the place was abandoned. As time passed, a small village was build on the buried ruins, Kastri. The archaeological research of the area with the “great excavation” (1896) by Greek and French archaeologists, brought to light impressive findings, as well as more than 3000 inscriptions revealing us a lot about the life of ancient Greeks.
Getyourguide.com offers day trips from Athens to Delphi with a guide. You can take a look here and here:
A day trip to the arcaeological site of Delphi
By arriving to Delphi, you will see the whole history of the ancient civilisation opening up in front of your eyes ! The archaeological site of Delphi was dedicated to two gods, and for that reason there where temples for both deities.One part was dedicated to God Apollo and the other to Goddess Athena. The area is big and uphill, so be prepared to dedicate enough time in order explore the whole of the archaeological site of Delphi.The archaeological sights of the area are innumerable, but the most important ones, that you should definitely visit are the Tholos of Athena Pronaia, the Castalian Spring, the Sacred Way, the Athenian Treasury, the Temple of Apollo, the Ancient Theatre of Delphi, the Stadium and the Arheological Museum of Delphi.
The Temple of Athena Pronaia and the renowned Tholos
Before entering the archaeological site of Delphi and buy an entrance ticket, walk about 20 minutes further down and visit first the area that was dedicated to Goddess Athena. The entrance is free at this area and you will see that it was worth it walking a bit more. The Temple of Athena Pronaia with its Tholos is the most photographed monument of the archaelogical site and this picture is a symbol of Delphi with a global range. At this area there where three temples in honour of Goddess Athena that were built around 380 B.C. Today only their ruins still exist, but the Tholos that has been reconstructed, will immediately arouse your interest not only with its beauty, but also beause it is a monument, that still hasn’t revealed its secrets. What was its purpose and who was worshipped there? This is a mystery till today. This place is very quiet, since it doesn’t have many visitors compared to the archaeological site of Delphi and because of that it is one more chance to take delight in this exciting landscape.
The castalian spring of Delphi, the holy font of Purification
Walking towards the entrance of the archaeological site, on the public street, there is the Castalian Spring, which is dated back at 6th century B.C. With the water from the spring the visitors of the ancient times quenched their thirst after their long journey, while, at the same time they were getting purified before entering the Temple of Apollo in order to ask at the oracle for the prophesy. The priestess of Apollo, Pythia, as well as the other priests of the temple were also bathing there.
THE SACRED WAY OF DELPHI
After getting your ticket, enter the archaeological site and begin with the most beautiful walk up to the history, as thousands of years ago the ancient Greeks did, who visited the Temple of Apollo in order to reach the renowned sanctuary, where Pythia was giving her prophecies.
The first monument you will come across is the Roman Agora. In the past, there were shops here specialized to receive the offerings for God Apollo. Roman Agora was located at the beginning of the Sacred Road and in front of the entrance leading to the Pythian processions and all the Delphi festivals.
This road is known as the Sacred Way of Delphi. Along the right and left side of the Sacred Way the Greek city-states were setting their various offerings and dedications, which were being left there as an act of gratitude to God Apollo for his help.
Today even though only the bases of all these monuments are preserved, the inscriptions preserved make Delphi the largest outdoor library of authentic ancient texts.
Today, on the Sacred Way there are scattered some of the numerous votive offerings, dedicated from Greek cities of even rich individuals, in cause of various historical incidents. The votive offerings except for religious veneration to God Apollo, had also the purpose of showing and displaying the art and wealth of their homeland.
The athenian treasury
In order to thank God Apollo for giving them his prophecies through Pythia, the city-states of Greece, built small temples in his honour, placing inside their small and big votive offerings. Those buildings where imposing, and luxurious as well. Among other buildings that are saved till today, there exists a small building, which is known as the Athenian Treasury, located on the Sacred Way. It is a small temple, made of marble from Paros, in doric order, while the reliefdecorating it illustrated the labours of Hercules and Theseus.
Except for the big and rich votive offerings, there existed smaller dedications, like bronze and silver tripods, as well as small statues made of marble or copper.
The dell of the Delphi
The Delphi Shrine was a conical stone with no decoration and they believed it had fallen from the sky. Zeus had thrown it to confirm that this was the center of the world. The Navel of the World (Omphalos) was in the sanctuary of Apollo, where the oracles of Pythia were given. According to the traveler Pausanias, who lived in the 2nd century BC, the stone was covered with stripes that were tied together and had precious stones between them, while two golden eagles adorned its top.
In front of the temple of Apollo, you will see a 7.5 m. high bronze column in the shape of a snake with a gold tripod on its top. It was gifted to Apollo by the Greeks after their victory at the Battle of Plataea (479 BC). Behind the Plataea tripod, there is a large pedestal with a gold-plated statue at the top of the Sun God.
The Sanctuary of Apollo and the Adyton of priestess Pythia
After walking a part of the Sacred Way you will reach to the majestic Temple of Apollo, that was and still is the most important monument of the archaeological site of Delphi. You will take time admiring the ruins of the temple, which stands there from 330 B.C. and you will get impressed by its size. Also, if you have passion for history, you will certainly be overwhelmed by awe and emotion. The Temple of Apollo is located in the centre of Delphi and despite that only four columns of it still exist, its grandeur and stateliness overshadow everything around it, even the Athenian Treasury, which is almost intact.
The ruins of the temple don’t lack at all in romance and majesty of an ancient temple, bearing into mind the fact that in its sanctuary, the Oracle with its prophecies wrote the history of Greece!
In ancient times, deep in the temple, in an area where nobody but few were allowed to enter, there were the sanctuary of Apollo. According to the archaeological findings, there was in this room the golden statue of God Apollo, as well as the spot indicating that there was the navel of Earth, and the hole of the oracle, that was giving off the fumes that Pythia was breathing in, in order to give the prophecy to the interested ones. The prophecies given by the Sibyl of the Oracle, Pythia, were considered to be reliable and, before a big decision that the cities were about to make, it was practically necessary for the kings and the citizens to visit the Oracle of Delphi in order to be advised by the god that expressed to the people his opinion or his will through Pythia’s word. From the time Pythia learned their question, she was sitting on her golden tripod, she was chewing daphne leaves and from the fumes released from the gap, that she was breathing in, she was coming in ecstasy and was saying incomprehensible words. The priests of the temple were decoding her word and were giving to the interested a logical answer.
The map of the area
The ancient theatre of Delphi
Beyond the temple there is the theatre of the ancient times of Delphi, which is today one of the best preserved sights of its kind. There exist much information about the theatre and when it was built, as well as its forms and its use during the centuries. During the ancient times, there were held music performances, theatrical performances at the Pythian Games, but also during other religious celebrations.
From this spot of the archaeological site you can admire and photograph all the enchanting and wild landscape unfolding in front of your eyes.
The Ancient Stadium of Delphi
If you take the uphill path from the ancient theatre, after some time hiking, you will reach to the stadium of Delphi, where, centuries ago, thousands of spectators were watching athletic competitions. The stadium was very big, regarding the standards of that era, while its size was similar to the one of the Roman stadiums. Its estimated capacity was about 5.000 people.
Archaeological museum of Delphi
After your tour at the stadium, walk down again to the main archaeological site of Delphi, while your next step will be to visit the Archaeological Museum, located few meters further, where you can go on foot. Of course you will have kept your entrance ticket in order to enter the museum. The exhibits of the museum are amazingly beautiful and certainly you can tour around on your own, since there are information about everything you will see.
Read more about the archaeological museum of Delpfi here
The tour at the archaeological site of Delphi is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, which will be for sure a unique tourist experience for you. The energy of the area is so overpowering, that in the end you will actually fell that you are in the centre of Earth! For us, Greeks, it is an ancient journey, with an impressive history, but also an invaluable cultural heritage!I proudly invite all of you, when you visit Greece, to visit this so important archaeological site, which, among others, is located in one of the most majestic landscapes of my country.
If you are in Athens and want to visit Delphi, you can take the highway E 75, and exit at the Kastro interchange, and after passing Livadeia and Arachova, in 10 km you will get to Delphi. If you are coming from Igoumenitsa and driving in Motorway 5 (Ionian Odos), you will head to Nafpaktos, and after passing Galaxidi and Itea, in 20 km you will admire the amazing landscpae of Delphi. From Thessaloniki the route through Bralos and Amfissa will astonish you.
- Athens to Delphi 180 km
- Igoumenitsa to Delphi 370 km
- Thessaloniki to Delphi 380 km
Delphi is one of those places in Greece that is worth visiting. However, it is not always considered while in the country in favor of heading to the islands or spending most of the time in Athens. Luckily, you can actually pull off visiting this site as a day trip from Athens.
It is really worth visiting Delphi even on a day trip. However, the area has many more wonderful places to see and maybe it’s worth a night. It all depends on the days of the trip but also on whether someone has visited Greece again. Thanks for you comment Nick!