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A Visit to Delphi - the Centre of the Ancient World

Arachova ● Corycian Cave ● Delphi ● Hosios Loukas Monastery ● Mount Parnassus ● 09 November 2021
 
The Archaeological Site of Delphi is one of the fascinating sights of Greece, attracting thousands of tourists every year. They are all thrilled by its impressive beauty and unique energy. It lies in a superb location at the foot of Mount Parnassus, approximately a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Athens. Therefore, it is also an excellent idea for a day trip during your stay in Athens

According to the myth, Zeus decided he wanted to find the centre of Earth one day. So he stood on the top of Mount Olympus and sent out two eagles to fly in opposite directions. After a while, the two eagles finally crossed paths in Delphi. This story is why Delphi was considered to be the "omphalos" (meaning navel) of Earth. 


The Archaeological site of Delphi and its breathtaking view


The Archaeological site of Delphi

The reason why Delphi was such a significant city in the ancient years was that it hosted the famous oracle of Delphi. People from all over Greece, as well as the rest of the Mediterranean world, would travel there just to get a prophecy that would help them deal with their problems. The predictions were delivered by the high priestess Pythia, who was under the divine guidance of god Apollo. 

Consulting the oracle was so crucial in the ancient world that leaders asked Pythia for advice before almost every important political or strategic decision. Moreover, there were also many people visiting and asking questions about their personal and family problems. 

Pythia was not a woman's name but a title. The woman who was Pythia was usually selected among the priestesses of the temple after the previous one had died. In the beginning, there was only one Pythia, but as the oracle's popularity increased, there were times that two or even three Pythias were serving. Moreover, when the oracle began operating, Pythia would only give one prophecy per year, but later she was delivering predictions even on a daily basis. 

Before asking Pythia their request, visitors had to carry out sacrifices. Unfortunately, we do not have enough information about how Pythia was delivering her predictions. We do know, though, that she was in a dreamlike condition, like ecstasy, and she uttered words that didn't make much sense. It is not clear how exactly Pythia entered this state, but it was believed that she was under the divine guidance of Apollo. A priest was also present in the process, and his job was to give Pythia's words a metrical and more understandable form. However, these prophecies were usually ambiguous and obscure, and they were often open to many interpretations.

One famous example of Pythia's ambiguity was her response to King Croesus, who wanted to know if he should start a war against Persians. Her response was that if Croesus crosses the Halys river, he will destroy a great empire. Satisfied with her response, Croesus decided to attack. But after he crossed Halys, he was defeated. He had indeed destroyed one empire - his own. Another famous example was the response she gave to an unknown visitor who wanted to know if he would return alive from the war he was going to join. Her words were, "you will go you will return not in the battle you will perish". This sentence can be interpreted in two totally opposite ways depending on where we place a comma - before or after the word "not". In the first case the person will return from the war alive, whereas in the second one, he will die in battle! Despite its ambiguity, the oracle operated for many years. It had to stop operating around 393 BC, when the Roman emperor Theodosius ordered its closure.

While in the area, you can also visit the Archaeological Museum, which is right next to the Archaeological site. This captivating museum was founded in 1903, and you can see there findings from the Delphi sanctuary. It has 14 rooms and it hosts some fascinating exhibits, such as the Charioteer of Delphi and the Sphinx of Naxos. 

Another monument you should visit is the ancient theatre of Delphi. This theatre has a capacity of almost 5000 people, and it was built in the 4th century B.C. It is made mainly of limestone, and it is the largest building of the archaeological site. It also offers spectacular views of the whole sanctuary and the valley. 


The exquisite statue of Charioteer in Delphi Museum 


Arachova Town

If you are in the area of Delphi during wintertime, it is always a great idea to combine it with a visit to Arachova. Built at an altitude of 968 metres on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, it is one of the most popular winter destinations in Greece. It is just a 10-minute drive from Delphi. 

Arachova is a picturesque mountain town with cobblestone streets and lovely houses and squares. You can find there many cafes and taverns, and shops selling local products. In the restaurants you can enjoy its delicious traditional cuisine, featuring among others the homemade trahanas and hilopites, as well as the local celebrated cheese called formaela. Formaela is a hard, pale yellow cheese that is produced exclusively in Arachova. Arachova is also known for its vivid nightlife, and it has many bars and clubs where you can enjoy your drinks. 

One of the most beautiful and photographed sights of Arachova is the Arachova's clock tower. It dates back to the 18th century, and it is an important part of the town's history, as it had many uses in the past. One of them was to serve as a place to preserve cheese before electricity was invented. You can also visit the Arachova Folklore Museum, which is hosted in a neoclassical building next to the Clock Tower. There you will find many exhibits representing Arachova's rich  tradition and culture. Many of them are related to weaving, an art that Arachova has always been famous for.

Another reason Arachova attracts so many visitors is its proximity to the Parnassus ski centre. Parnassus is the largest ski resort in the country and it is very well organised. Many visitors choose it every year to enjoy the snow and practise skiing and snowboarding. Apart from skiing, the area is also suitable for other mountain activities such as hiking and climbing. 


Tourists skiing in Mount Parnassus


Hosios Loukas Monastery 

Another visit you can combine with your trip to Delphi is a visit to Hosios Loukas Monastery, a breathtaking Byzantine monastery. It is built in a lovely valley on the slopes of Mount Helicon, approximately a 40-minute drive away from Delphi. The monastery dates back to the 11th century, and it is included in the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. You will find there two astonishing Byzantine churches. The older one is dedicated to Virgin Mary, whereas the other one is dedicated to its founder, who was Hosios Loukas. Apart from the churches, it is also a great idea to visit the crypt below the first church. 


The imposing Hosios Loukas Monastery


Galaxidi

Another excellent idea for a short trip is the picturesque, seaside town of Galaxidi. You can visit it by car or bus, and it will take you approximately 30 minutes to get there. Although this town is on the mainland, its beauty will remind you of an island. It is ideal for long, romantic walks, where you can admire the neoclassical buildings, the lovely harbours and the charming churches. In addition, you will easily find many great places to eat, among them many sea taverns to enjoy seafood. 

While you are in the area, you can also visit the magnificent Monastery of Metamorphosis Tou Sotiros. This monastery was built at an altitude of 300 metres and dated back to the 13th century. It stands in a wonderful landscape and offers terrific views. Another interesting place to visit is the Nautical Museum. It is a small museum where you can explore the maritime history of the area through a variety of exhibits. 


Galaxidi - the town that feels like an island


Corycian Cave

Another place worth visiting if you are in the area is the famous Corycian Cave. This cave is located in a marvellous landscape on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, and it is surrounded by forest. It is at an altitude of 1.360 metres. The cave is also known as Pan's Cave, as it was dedicated to the god Pan and the Corycian Nymphs. Pan was a god in Greek mythology associated with wild nature. He had the legs and horns of a goat, and he usually had the companion of the wood nymphs. The cave is awe-inspiring, and it is full of stalactites. It also has historical value as the inhabitants of Delphi used it as a shelter many times, such as during the Persian attack in 480 B.C.

Where to Stay

Hotel in Delphi, Greece Fedriades Hotel
Fedriades Hotel
46, V. Pavlou & Friderikis str., 33054 Delphi, Greece

Centrally located in the picturesque village of Delphi, Fedriades Hotel is a 10-minute walk from the famous Archaeological Site and the Museum of Delphi. The scenic Arachova village is at 11 km, while the Parnassus ski center is at 20 km. Deplhi can be reached within a 2,5 hour drive from Athens.

Hotel in Delphi, Greece Hotel Orfeas
Hotel Orfeas
Ifigenias & Syggrou Str. 35, 33054 Delphi, Greece

Hotel Orfeas is set in a central location in the village of Delphi, close to the archaeological site. Arachova is a 15-minute drive away.

Hotel in Delphi, Greece Castri Hotel
Castri Hotel
23, Siggrou Str., 33054 Delphi, Greece

Castri Hotel is located in Delphi Village, just 1.3 km away from the Archaeological site of Delphi. Amfissa Town is a 20-minute drive away.


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