Home of the ancient Oracle, Delphi, Greece, was known in mythology as the "Navel of the Earth." Today, archaeologists consider it to be one of Greece's greatest cultural treasures. The ruins, located 110 mi/178 km northwest of Athens, require at least half a day to visit.
Delphi was probably the most sacred site in ancient Greece, and today it's one of the most important tourist destinations for visitors to the region, second only to Athens. Conveniently, Delphi is only a little more than a two-hour drive from Athens, through hilly country and lovely wide cotton fields that skirt the foothills of Mount Parnassus.
Among Delphi's treasures are the Castalia Spring, the theater, the Temple of Apollo (where the Oracle was) and the Arcade of the Athenians (columns in varying degrees of ruin).
Other sites include the Sacred Way, the Treasury of the Athenians and the stadium. You'll also take in a panoramic view of olive groves sweeping toward the Gulf of Itea. The town's museum is one of the best in Greece; it houses the splendid bronze Charioteer.
The highway between Athens and Delphi passes through the town of Livadia and near Thebes (of Oedipus Tyrrannus fame) and is worth the drive if only for the scenery. Delphi can be seen easily on a day trip from Athens, but overnighting has its advantages: There are fewer visitors in the evening and morning.
If you're traveling to or from Athens, take the 20-minute side trip to visit the 11th-century Byzantine monastery at Ossios Lukas (excellent frescoes and mosaics with gold backgrounds—allow at least an hour). And if you're interested in carpets or red wine, stop in the town of Arachova, which also offers slightly more intimate tavernas and hotels than touristy Delphi.
Because of Delphi's rich and textured history, the most comprehensive way to experience this sacred site is with an experienced guide as part of a tour package. TrueGreece, a luxury travel company based in Athens, offers a day trip from Athens to Delphi as well as package tours that begin in Athens and include stops at other popular ruins.
The best time to visit is late fall to early spring. In the winter, nearby Mount Parnassus boasts some of the best skiing in the area, and the small town of Arachova, only a 15-minute drive away, is a playground for the rich and famous.
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