The archaeological site of Delphi and the adjacent picturesque town are situate on the southwestern slope of Mount Parnassus. It is now an extensive archaeological site with a beautiful modern Museum, since 1938 are part of Parnassos National Park. This important ancient Temple complex today is an UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and it is considered by many as one of the most important archaeological sites of Greece. Delphi, a place of long history and beautiful nature is roughly 2 hours’ drive from Athens, making it an ideal destination for a visit.
Delphi was since ancient times a place of worship for Gaia, the mother goddess connected with fertility. Earlier myths include traditions that Pythia, or the Delphic oracle, already was the site of an important oracle in the pre-classical Greek world (as early as 1400 BC) and, rededicated from about 800 BC, when it served as the major site during classical times for the worship of the god Apollo.
The town of Delphi started to gain pan-Hellenic relevance as both a shrine and an oracle in the 7th century BC as the worhip of god Apollo began to spread around Greece. Initially under the control of Phocaean settlers based in nearby Kirra (currently Itea), Delphi later on was ruled by the Amphictyonic League, an religious and military alliance responsible for the protection of the temple of Apollo.
In 356 BC, the Phocians under Philomelos captured and sacked Delphi, leading to the Third Sacred War (356–346 BC), which ended with the defeat of the former and the rise of Macedon under the reign of Philip II. This led to the Fourth Sacred War (339 BC), which culminated in the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC) and the establishment of Macedonian rule over Greece.
Romans sacked the oracle many times and although they were few attempts, later on to restore the site, it gradually lost importance and by 3rd century AD, it fell into a decline. The oracle was shut down completely, during the persecution of the pagans in the late Roman Empire by Theodosius I in 381 AD.
What to See in Delphi
Ancient Ruins in Delphi
The visit of the archaeological site takes roughly 2 to 3 hours. Follow the Sacred Way through the Sanctuary of Apollo leading from the entrance to the main Temple complex. Originally, it was lined with votive monuments and treasuries erected by various Greek cities, like the famous treasury of the Athenians reflecting the cultural and political diversity of ancient Greece. Visit the ancient Theater from the 4th century BC and the Stadium built to host the Pythian Games. Do not miss to see the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, based on a circular plan is a masterpiece of Classical architecture.
The treasure of artifacts brought to light by the excavations in the sanctuary of Delphi found shelter in the museum that was built on site in 1903 with funds by Andreas Syggros. Successive expansions of the exhibition areas from the 1950s onwards led to the contemporary museum, which was last refurbished in 2000. Today the museum accommodates one of the most valuable collections of ancient Greek art. These works, along with the architectural monuments, once adorned Apollo’s sanctuary, which must have resembled a vast open-air museum. Among museums’ highlights are the famous Charioteer belonged to a statuary complex of a chariot run by four horses, the sacred symbol of Delphi “omphalos” (navel) that signified the center of the earth, and the marble statue of Antinoos.
The nearby villages of Arachova and Galaxidi
Just 15 minutes’ drive from Delphi lays the mountain town of Arachova, Athens winter ski resort. Enjoy the panoramic view and the winding streets with stone and wood houses. There are many taverns where you can eat fresh, local meals and a glass of Arachova’s famous black wine, called ‘brusque’. Galaxidi is another nearby fishing village to visit on your trip to Delphi. This charming village back in the 19th century was an important port in possession of one of the largest merchant fleets in Greece. Galaxidi is located approximately half an hour drive from Delphi town. An ideal place to taste fresh fish by the seaside.