If you’re coming from Athens, it is possible to visit on a day trip, but an overnight stay is much more rewarding.
Located some 150km further north-west of Athens, Delphi is unmissable if you’re looking for a full experience of the ancient Greek lifestyle. The Acropolis may have been the pride of Athens in terms of architecture and cultural standing, but Delphi was the beating heart of the Greek religious tradition.
Enter the Dragon
Delphi was already an important place of worship going back as far as 1400 BC, but it entered its most renowned period after the sun god Apollo slayed the monstrous serpent Python here, according to Greek mythology. This event precipitated both the building of the first temple to Apollo at Delphi, and also the inaugural Pythian games, which began some time in the 6th century BC and continued until at least 424 AD. These were an important panhellenic tradition, second only in importance to the Olympic Games, and they would have enormously boosted Delphi’s stature in the minds of ordinary Greeks.
Unlike the area surrounding Olympia, however, Delphi did not attach central importance to its games, and would have been widely renowned without them. The city was the stage of the famous Oracle at Delphi, a priestess who would deliver highly-regarded “prophecies” with the aid of chemical vapours emanating from a rock cleft in the temple of Apollo.
A Wealth of Ruins
Wandering around the spectacularly located archaeological site today, commanding impressive views down the valley, you will be amazed by how much there is to look at. Besides the temple of Apollo, there is the 5,000-capacity theatre, the well-preserved Athenian treasury and the beautifully circular Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena Pronoia, to name but a few sights. It may take a little while to get here from Athens but, if you do make the effort, the experience is unforgettable.
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