Delphi, a significant World Heritage site, is located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, a couple hours bus journey from Athens and is possibly the most beautiful of all ancient sites I visited. This is my account of a day-trip to Delphi from Athens.
Mythology and significance in Ancient Greece
Delphi is the site of the ancient Oracle and was believed to be the navel of Gaia or the ‘Grandmother Earth’. In ancient Greece, it was believed that the Castalian spring running through Delphi was guarded by Python, a serpent or a dragon. Apollo defeated Python and spent many years in menial labour to atone his sin because Python was a son of Gaia.
A sanctuary of Apollo was built at the site. Pythia, a priestess chosen from among the priestesses of the temples served as the ancient Oracle. The spring that disappeared beneath the temple emitted chemical vapours which aided the Oracle in revealing her prophecies. The Oracle retained its significance even in the Roman times and even into the Christian Era.
It is also the site of the Pythic games, one of the four Panhellenic games held in ancient Greece, which took place every four years to commemorate the victory of Apollo. To read about Olympia where Olympics, the most important of Panhellenic games were held, read my post Things to do in a day in Olympia Greece.
Entrance ticket(site and museum): € 12
The site is surrounded by lush vegetation on all sides and is a treat for the eyes. There is a museum which is included in the site entry ticket but I was unable to visit it due to lack of time. The tholos at the sanctuary of Athena Pronoia is about a kilometre away from the main site so make sure you have enough time to visit this beautiful temple as well.
Planning the trip
You can take an organized day-trip to Delphi with a tour agency or you can take a trip on your own. The costs for both work out to be almost the same.
How to reach on your own?
I took the bus from Liosion bus station in Athens and it took me two and a half hours to reach Delphi. You will have to buy the return bus tickets from Athens itself. The timings when the bus leaves are fixed. I took the one that leaves at 10:30 AM and the return bus at 4:00 PM, one before the last. Three hours were not enough for visiting the site and the museum. It would be wiser to take the bus that leaves at 7:30 AM to give yourself enough time to explore the site as well as the museum.
I traveled towards the end of April which is a shoulder season. Despit that I managed to get only one of the last two seats left on the bus. If you are traveling during the peak season, make sure to book the tickets a couple of days in advance. The tickets could only be booked at the bus station when I visited.
As I missed the museum, I have an excuse for taking another day-trip to Delphi when I visit Greece next. I will either take the first bus there and the last one back. Maybe I will stay there for a couple of days.