Before I tell you about the things to do in Delphi, I will tell you why I was super excited about visiting Delphi. Besides spectacular view, Delphi is like threads of history and mythology woven together. Ancient Greeks called Delphi the centre of the earth. So I called this day trip from Athens to Delphi ‘A Journey to the Center of the Earth’. Even though my journey was not similar to the one described by Jules Verne in his novel, ‘A Journey to the Center of the Earth’, written in 1864. The protagonists of the novel plunged into the interior of the Earth and I plunged into the pages of Greek history and mythology.
I had booked my guided group day trip with lunch for 80 Euros (negotiation possible) with Fantasy Travel near Syntagma Square.
I was picked up at 5am from ‘The Hilton, Athens’ by a huge bus. The Hiltons were generous enough to pack me a heavy breakfast which I devoured after boarding the bus. We were greeted by our tour Guide, Hana, a middle aged jovial lady. She introduced our co-passengers. The group consisted of Greeks, Italians, French, English, Irish and Russians, besides me, the only Indian. My co-passengers were welcoming and warm to me when they heard that I was traveling alone from India. Hana started telling us a lot of stories from the Greek Mythology. She was amazed to see that I knew them all. In fact we became friends when I elaborately narrated to the fellow travelers, the story of the great Emperor, Alexander’s visit to India.
The bus drove through the roads of the city and then into the high way. I could observe the terrain changing from snow-covered rolling fields to rough rugged snow-covered mountains on all sides. We drove across ancient Thebes, famous for the story of the Sphinx and Oedipus. (Check for the story in the end). We stopped for a short break and coffee and finally reached Delphi surrounded by Mount Parnassus, mountain of limestone. We travelled 120 kilometres by road (3.5 hrs) to reach Delphi.
Get lost in time at the Iconic Archaeological Site of Delphi
The chief attractions of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the 4th-century-B.C are The Temple of Apollo, The Sacred Way, Omphalos, Athenian Treasury and Ancient Theater and Stadium. Getting lost in time at such a scenic place tops the list ofthings to do in Delphi.
This Pre-Hellenic Sanctuary of Apollo was once home to a legendary Oracle and Priestess Pythia. The iconic ruins of the Temple of Apollo are wondrous. The remains of the humungous Doric pillars are majestic. The well-laden path leading uphill to the Temple of Apollo is called the Sacred Way. While climbing one gets amazing views of the craggy peaks of Mt. Parnassus and some remains of the walls with polygonal designs. The harmonious blend of the mesmerizing natural landscape and the ruins conjured a mystique spiritual calling.
The Athenian Treasury lies on the Sacred Way before reaching the Temple of Apollo. It is a Doric building with the appearance of a temple from outside.
The ancient Theater and Stadium is situated on platforms higher than the temple. Here the Pythian Games and Hellenic celebrations took place accommodating 6500 people. I relived history with the mythological stories narrated by the guide. Words can’t do justice in describing the aura of the place.
Omphalos, the navel of the earth, is a stone. Seeing the Omphalos and listening to the story behind it is one of the pivotal things to do in Delphi.
Zeus, the Greek God of Sky and Thunder, in his attempt to locate the centre of the earth, launched two eagles simultaneously from two ends of the world. They flew at equal speed and crossed each other at the area above Delphi. From this point in the sky Zeus threw a stone, the Omphalos, which fell at Delphi, since then was considered the centre of the Earth.
Visit the Delphi Archaeological Museum
It is amazing to see the care and precision with which these historic ruins, built even before 500 BCE, are being preserved and protected. The site is guarded 24X7. The DelphiArchaeological Museum is spread across 2000 square meters of area and is situated just beside the archaeological site. It displays artifacts found from the ruins, ranging from prehistoric to late Byzantine era. Spending time in the museum is amongst the compulsory things to do in Delphi. One can have a feel of how religion, art and architect were bound together, in ancient Greece.
Have lunch at lazy and picturesque mountain village near Delphi
Just beside the museum, there is a place for refreshment. However, we were taken to a lovely tavern in the mountains, a little below the site of Delphi. It was an awesome lunching experience. I shared my table with a 75-year-old Russian lady from Moscow who was very motherly, helping to serve my food. She didn’t know English and definitely, I didn’t know Russian. Yet, we enjoyed our lunch together speaking about our lives in our own language. I realized that more than language what makes a communication effective is compassion, inclusiveness and a broad bright smile. These are some little and heart touching experiences one gets from a solo trip.
Visit the beautiful village of Arachova
After lunch, we drove 10 kilometres away from Delphi to the beautiful town, Arachova. It is a ski resort on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. This is an added attraction during winters. The place offered us some breath-taking views of snow-covered mountains and roads. The mountains around look like the Alps and become Ski lovers’ paradise. The simple people of the village won our hearts with their warm smiles. Stopping by Arachova, especially in the winters, is amongst the best things to do in Delphi.
The special story and riddle from the Greek Mythology
Laius, the ruler of Thebes, was warned by an Oracle that he would be killed by his son. He sent a shepherd-servant to leave Oedipus, his newly born son, to die on a mountainside. The shepherd took pity on the infant. Oedipus was finally raised by the King and Queen of Corinth. In his early manhood, Oedipus went to Delphi. Here he learnt that he was fated to slay his father and marry his mother. To Oedipus, the King and Queen of Corinth were his parents. So he never returned from Delphi to Corinth.
Then he happened to pass by Thebes. The Sphinx devoured all travellers at the gate of Thebes who could not answer the riddle it posed. The riddle is “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?” Oedipus gave the answer, “Man”. Oedipus answered the riddle correctly and entered the kingdom. Laius, the ruler of Thebes, felt challenged and fought with Oedipus. Oedipus killed King Laius, became the King of Thebes and married Queen Jocasta, the wife of Laius. He had no knowledge that she was his actual mother. Sigmund Freud has coined the term, ‘Oedipus Complex’, based on this legendary story.
While driving back to Athens, I was travelling in time, into the Hellenic days and didn’t even realize how the actual time on the clock just flew and brought us to the end of the day and the trip
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.