Delphi – the centre of Earth

Ancient Delphi – Photo by Sotiris Lambadaridis 

Locals say that there is no day of the year without visitors wandering through the famous archaeological site and the narrow steep streets of the village or at least stopping for a minute to admire the exceptional view towards the endless olive groves that continue all the way to the sea…

View from Delphi to the olive groves and the sea in the distance

Driving the few kilometres from Arachova you’ll find the village of Delphi after a sharp turn. The town is built on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, between two large imposing rocks, Yampeia and Nauplia, and offers breathtaking views of olive groves and the Corinthian Gulf in the horizon. The Trans European Footpath E4 passes through the east end of the town. In addition to the archaeological interest, Delphi attracts tourists visiting the Parnassus Ski Center and the popular coastal towns of the region.

Two unidirectional streets with a length of about one kilometer are crossing the settlement hosting a great number of taverns, souvenir shops and hotels.

So, coming from Arachova you will see the beautiful intersection with the plane trees and the first old houses, and will necessarily move right on the uphill Apollonos Street. Do not make the mistake to assume that you have seen all there is to see of Delphi by walking back and forth in these two streets. Spend some time climbing from the streets or the higher stairs of the town, above the beautiful church of St. Nicholas, and to the old houses on the last hill before the mountain.

Delphi Tholos, detailThe old village called Kastri was built at some time during the Middle Ages just above the buried archaeological site. When in 1892, the first serious excavations of the French School in Athens began, the houses and the belongings of the locals were confiscated and the locals themselves were moved a few hundred metres to the west. Afterwards the settlement was renamed from Kastri to Delphi and as the narrator says: “the rest is history”…

Ancient Delphi

Tholos of Delphi

Touring in this exceptionally great ancient site, you may want to divide your tour in three different parts.
Coming from Arachova and looking to your left, a bit lower, you’ll see the “Tholos”, dominant and with its special beauty, one of the most photographed places in Greece. The circular masterpiece was built in the beginning of the 4th century BC, of Pendelic marble with 12 Dorian columns of which only 3 are still standing today. Responsible for this fact are numerable earthquakes and landslides up until a century ago. Nobody knows the exact reason for the creation of the Tholos. Scattered around you’ll find the ruins of the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia and the Gymnasium (half a mile from the rest of the sanctuary).

Delphi temple of Apollo

The next part of the tour will take you uphill on the path which leads you to the impressive temple of Apollo. The construction of this temple was finished in 330 BC. It was built on top of another temple of the same size and design which was destroyed in an earthquake in 373 BC. Even further back into history there was an even bigger Dorian temple built in the same spot, which was ruined by a fire in 548 BC.
As you walk further uphill the view becomes steadily more and more impressive and you start to understand the ancient ancestors in their decision of building the religious centre of the ancient world in this place.

The ancient theatre at Delphi

Admire the Treasury of the Athenians, the sections of the North Stoa of the Roman Forum, the parliament and the Delphic Sibyl (a legendary figure who made prophecies in the sacred precinct of Apollo) before a stop at the beautiful and well preserved ancient theater. Built in 4th century BC instead of a smaller and older wooden, it is today a favoured spot for tourists to have a break before continuing the tour. During the 20th century this old theater hosted spectators once again and loud applause could be heard eccoing over the landscape after many centuries of silence.

The ancient stadium at DelphiWalking a short distance, the tour will finish even further uphill in the large stadium, smothered in trees and spectacular views of the mountains.

The third and last part of the tour will take you to the Ancient Museum of Delphi. It is a museum of great significance with many important findings among which you’ll find the impressive frieze of the Siphnian Treasury, the famous kouroi, the tall Acanthus column with the three dancers and the Naxian Sphinx.

Delphi Museum

Statue chryselephantine, masculine, Delphi MuseumThe impressive Delphi Museum has many rare and well-preserved treasures on display.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *