The Temple of Apollo on Mt. Parnassus was revered in ancient times as the place to go before attempting any ambitious endeavor. You would make a significant sacrifice, confer with the oracle, and reap your rewards. Many influential citizens of the time did just that, and the Delphi Oracle is mentioned over and over in history. We went not really knowing what to expect, but looking for a few things: one – the oracle or some tales of the oracles and what they did and predicted; and two – King Midas’ throne. Supposedly he had made his way to Delphi and gave a very handsome and expensive throne as an offering to Apollo. In the end we learned more about the oracle but the museum only briefly mentions Midas, and we were highly disappointed about that.
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Consulting the Oracle of Apollo
We had gone to Greece with a loose plan of visiting Athens and then renting a car and seeing where we could get to in the eight days we had in the country. Athens is an amazing place, but after two days we were ready to get away from the cruise ship crowds and explore some of the other sites. Our plan was to work our way up to Thessaloniki in our small, red rental car and then get to Athens for our flight out. Delphi was our first stop outside of Athens, and even in June we found it a cool mountain retreat.
The Archaeological Site and Museum at Delphi
Visiting the Archaeological Site in Delphi is one of the highest rated activities for a trip to Greece, and with good reason. The collection of artifacts in the museum and the individual excavations on site really bring the story of the oracle to life. These are ruins, however, so some imagination is needed to get the idea of how large the Delphi complex was in it’s prime. Still, the gymnasium and amphitheater are some of the best preserved structures of their kind.
Climbing through the wooded hillside offers a shady green pine-scented trip through time. You can, and should, hike as far up as the gymnasium, or stadium. It is the largest and best preserved in Greece and well worth the hike. My recommendation? Bring a small picnic lunch of olives, bread, tzatziki, and figs along and enjoy some wine and a snacks while sitting on the stone seats, taking in the expansive view looking out over the valley and imagine the cheers of the crowd as their favorite athletes came sprinting around the track.
I recommend visiting the museum before hiking around the site. Inside, you’ll find collections of artifacts that were donated as sacrifices to Apollo, his priests and priestess, and the oracles. The curators have gone to great lengths to identify the items and show exactly which area on the site they came from. So you can see if an item was offered at the temple of Apollo, or “tossed” into the votive pit along the Sacred Way. Fascinating!
A Visit to the Town of Delphi
We spent the better part of the afternoon, about four hours, between the museum and the site, there was that much to see and do. Afterwards we drove up to our hotel, checked in and went out in search of a Taverna. Luckily enough, we found a crowded wine bar/restaurant just up the hill from our inn that had one last table for four. The place was crowded with Greek families enjoying a night out, drinking the tavern’s homemade wine, and feasting on mezes, mains, and desserts. We, of course, had a liter or two of the red (delicious), tried a few of the mezes that were recommended to us by neighbors, and stayed long into the night attempting to sing along as the crowd got livelier and livelier.
I’m not sure what the ancient oracle of Delphi would have proclaimed for our Greek “invasion,” but I would call it a complete success!
- Delphi is about 3 hours driving time out of Athens along, mostly, national highways in good condition
- Regular bus service is available between Athens and Delphi aboard Ktel-N.Fokidas buses; approximate travel time is also 3 hours
- Entrance to the museum and site are under a combined ticket at the current cost of 12 euro for adults, children under 18 are free
- The site has several free days, check out their website for more details
- Delphi is a small town but there are several options for accommodations and food in a range of quality levels
For more information about the site and the museum, or to check for closures or free days, visit the website below.
Delphi Archaeological Museum
Delphi 330 54, Greece
+30 2265 082312
The Hotel Lito offered good clean rooms at an affordable price. They are near the site, have free parking, and are close to restaurants.
Apollonos 15, Delfi 330 54, Greece
+30 2265 082302
One of the best nights out during our Greek adventure was had at Taverna Vakchos, just up the road from the Hotel Lito. I remember the food all being superb, but the wine was just incredible (so who knows how well I really remember the food). We closed the place down, but only after the waiter enticed us to leave with one “last” free flagon of home-made red wine.
Apollonos 31, Delfi 330 54, Greece
+30 2265 083186
Have you been to Delphi? What was your prophecy?
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