Growing up, I loved learning about ancient Greece and Greek Mythology. One of our priorities when in Athens was to take a day trip to the archaeological site of Delphi. A UNESCO World Heritage Site recognized for its outstanding cultural contributions and well-preserved ruins.
The archaeological site of Delphi is located on the side of Mount Parnassus 181 km out of Athens. We would have loved to go to Delphi for the day on our own but we just didn’t have the time. We also didn’t know the roads or weren’t comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road.
Being one of the top trips to do from the capital, a guided tour seemed like the best option for us.
1. Stepping back in time Delphi
The Temple of Apollo at Delphi and its Oracle are central figures in Greek Mythology. In the history of Greece, Delphi was considered by the ancient Greeks to be the centre of the world.
Today, Delphi is a significant archaeological site in Greek history. It ranks with the Acropolis in Athens, Olympia, and the island of Delos as one of the most important tourist attractions of ancient Greece.
That said, visiting Delphi is like stepping back in time, especially as you enter and walk along Sacred Way. It reminded me of walking through the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey. If you love history and ancient ruins Delphi is certainly worth a visit for a day when in Athens.
Interested in wanting to read more on the history of Delphi and its Oracle? Feel free to check these books out in hardcopy or online; Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World. Or The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind Its Lost Secrets
2. What to do on a day trip to Delphi from Athens
I split the archaeological site of Delphi into 3 areas, the main site, the outer site and the museum. All 3 are within walking distance of each other and cover both the Temple of Apollo and Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia.
Here’s everything you need to know and what to do on a day trip to Delphi from Athens. I have also given options on car hire and tours to help with your search.
3. Exploring inside The Archaeological Site of Delphi
The main Delphi archaeological site is located on the main road between the towns of Delphi and Arachova, Greece. While there are lots of things to see like, Ancient Stadium, Temple of Apollo and Ancient Theatre. Here are some of the highlights not to miss in the main ancient site.
4. Start at the Sacred Way
As you enter the archaeological site of Delphi, you will walk along the Sacred Way. It was the main path that leads up to the Temple of Apollo. Originally, it was lined with monuments and treasuries erected from various Greek cities. Today, the monuments have gone, however, some of the bases have survived.
On your way, you will see the Delphi Athenians Treasury, the Serpent Column and what would have been Stoa of The Athenians. As visitors climb the Sacred Way they pass a number of lesser excavations, including a number of treasuries.
The paths can be rocky and dusty especially in the sun, so wear good lightweight walking shoes.
5. The Treasury of the Athenians
The Treasury of the Athenians located along the Sacred Way was one of two important Treasury buildings. Which housed offerings made by citizens to the sanctuary to god Apollo and the oracle of Delphi.
Original Artefacts in the Delphi Museum
What you see today is a copy; the original is in the Delphi Archaeological Museum. Here you will also see on display the Athenian Treasury Statues, reliefs and some historical artefacts.
The Siphnian Treasury does not exist anymore either but there is s piece of it in the museum too.
6. Polygonal Wall
Just up from the Treasury of the Athenians is the sixth-century-BC Polygonal Wall. This wall supports the platform on which stands the Temple of Apollo. The wall’s main face is 90 meters long and it was originally two meters taller than it is today.
The fifth century BC Stoa of the Athenians was built against this wall, and traces of it are visible on the wall’s surface.
7. Stoa of the Athenians
The Stoa of the Athenians is built against the polygonal wall that supports the terrace of the temple of Apollo. Constructed in 478 B.C it hosted the trophies of the Athenians from their sea battles.
Among the most important offerings of the Athenians in the site of Delphi is the known Stoa located at the centre of Apollo sanctuary. It is 30m long and 4m deep with the 8 Ionic columns placed every 4 metres and made with Parian marble.
8. Serpent Column or Serpentine Column
Just before you reach the Temple of Apollo, look out for the Serpent Column, as sometimes it is easy to miss. It is a black twisted column with the top broken off. It was built to commemorate the defeat of the Persians at the hands of the Greeks in the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC.
The Serpent Column that you see today is a replica as the original was relocated to Istanbul as a trophy by Emperor Constantine.
9. Hear about the Oracle at the Temple of Apollo
Against the cliffs of Mt. Parnassus is the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the most important building in the Sanctuary of Apollo. The temple was dedicated to Apollo, the god of light, harmony and music. It consists of just six limestone columns atop the ruins of a granite foundation. It is the third temple built in the same place.
Inside the temple, was the oracle of Apollo. It is where the Pythian priestess would communicate the god’s insights and prophecies.
10. Take in the views at Ancient Theatre
I love ancient theatres and they are usually always in a great spot to take in the views. The Ancient Theatre is located just above the Temple of Apollo of Delphi up a flight of steps. It could accommodate over 5,000 people who would sit along benches made of stone.
The Ancient Theatre was constructed with limestone from Mount Parnassos and dates back as far as the 4th century BC
⇒ Make sure to take your camera for your trip to Delphi for the day. You don’t want to miss out on all those amazing shot of the ancient city.
11. Pythian Games at Ancient Stadium
Above the theatre at the highest point on the hill is the Ancient Stadium of Delphi. A little longer than the length of a soccer field, it could accommodate up to 500 spectators. This is where the Pythian Games and other events of the oracle used to be hosted. These games were the precursors to the ancient Olympic Games.
We didn’t make it up to the Stadium as we ran out of time but I understand that it is worth a look. Beware though as it is a bit of a steep hike up.
12. Don’t miss the Delphi Museum on a day trip from Athens
Located next to the Delphi archaeological site entrance is the Archaeological Museum of Delphi. It is one of the most important museums in Greece and one of the most visited. This museum should not be missed when on your day trip to Delphi from Athens.
Organised on two levels the museum exhibits the history of the Delphic sanctuary. It follows Greek history from the late Helladic/early Mycenaean period through Classical Greece and Hellenistic Greece, ending at the Roman conquest and the rise of the Byzantine Empire.
Highlights in the Delphi Museum
The Archaeological Museum of Delphi showcases discoveries unearthed during excavations at the Delphi oracle and its vicinity. Artefacts include statues, coins, friezes, gold, jewellery, and others. Some of the highlights are the Cleobis and Biton statues, Sphinx of Naxos and the frieze of the Siphnian Treasury.
You can visit before or after you have explored Delphi archaeological site. It is also a great way to see what it looked like. Not to mention it is a great spot to cool down when it is hot outside. There is also a café, toilets and a gift shop available to visitors.
- Opening Hrs; 8:30am–3:30pm
Make sure to see the famous Charioteer
The Charioteer of Delphi also known as Heniokhos is one of the most important pieces in the museum. This impressively detailed bronze statue is the only survivor of a large chariot. It is one of the best-known surviving statues from Ancient Greece and believed to have stood in a place of honour beside the Temple of Apollo.
This life-size (1.8m) statue of a chariot is on display in the last exhibit of the Archaeological Museum of Delphi. It is a great way to end your visit to the museum.
13. Stop at Castalian Spring
On your way to the Oracle of Delphi is the Castalian Springs, a small rocky gorge with two monumental fountains.
During ancient times they believed the spring water had cleansing powers. Many believe that visitors could cleanse their souls before going to the Temple of Apollo.
14. The Gymnasium at Delphi
The Gymnasium was situated in the area between the fountain Castalia and the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. Here is where the athletes would train in ancient times for the Pythian Games. We ran out of time to explore the Gymnasium but we could see it from afar.
15. The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia
After visiting the main archaeological site of Delphi, head over to the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. It is located less than a kilometre from the main site entrance of Delphi.
The Sanctuary of Athena Pronea comprises a group of buildings consisting of temples and treasuries. Which includes the famous Tholos of Delphi and the treasury of the Massaliots.
It’s the first sanctuary that could be seen by people coming to Delphi and for many, it was the first stop after they climbed Mount Parnassus. Originally constructed around 360 BC, a shrine of some sorts has stood on this exact spot since the very earliest days of the Mycenaean civilization.
The Temple of Tholos stands on a circular plan with the remains of Doric and Corinthian columns. It was built around 380 BC and located in the centre of the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia.
This is the most photographic area of the ancient site, especially with the Temple of Athena Pronaia and Tholos. It was my favourite spot at the Delphi and I spent the most time here wandering around taking pictures.
Looking for other places to explore in Greece, how about Ioannina?
16. Visit Arachova for lunch while in Delphi
If you are looking for restaurants in Delphi or hotels then the mountain town of Arachove is a good choice. It is located only a few kilometres away from Delphi.
Arachove is visually pretty with its old stone houses, hotels, guest houses, taverns and restaurants. Why don’t you try the local specialities like formaéla (cheese served grilled), while in Delphi? The village is also known for making fluffy flokati rugs, which are hung around town.
During winter Arachove turns into a ski destination and hangout for celebrities from Greece.
17. Ways of getting to Delphi from Athens in a day
Delphi is located about 181 km north and west of Athens on the south side of Mount Parnassus Greece. There are a few different options in ways of getting to Delphi from Athens via car or bus and train. Delphi Day Trip From Athens
Hiring a Car in Athens to Delphi
Wanting the freedom and flexibility of doing your own time and comfortable driving in Europe? Then hire a car from Athens to Delphi for the day, it should take about 2 to 2.5 hours one way.
You can hire a car either at Athens international airport or in central Athens. The drive will be along the highway (with tolls) then up through the mountains. Travel Supermarket has a free and easy fast comparison on car hire in Athens.
Taking a Bus trip from Athens to Delphi
The cheapest way to take a trip to Delphi for the day from Athens is via public bus. It should take around 3 hours and you can get the bus from terminal B in Athens.
I heard that the buses fill up pretty quickly, so best to book in advance. You can book and check the bus from Athens to Delphi schedule here.
18. Delphi to Meteora
Meteora is also another popular day trip from Athens and visitors tend to do both. It is possible to go from Delphi to Meteora if you don’t want to head back to Athens.
There are two main ways to get from Delphi to Meteora which is by either bus or car. You can get a train but it does not go all the way there and is a bit of a hassle.
19. Take a guided trip from Athens to Delphi for the Day
We took a guided trip to Delphi for the day, as we only had a short time in Athens. Being one of the top excursions to do from Athens, there are plenty of companies offering day tours. Just remember though that these are usually bus tours in big groups.
You can check here for different prices and guided tours to Delphi.
Book a private day trip from Athens with a tour company
Looking for a private tour from Athens to Delphi, you have two options. Book directly with a tour company or make arrangements with a taxi company in advance.
If you are thinking of booking with a tour company, check to see if a guide accompanies you. This is not always the case. You also have the option of going on a private tour on your own or in a small group. Usually, small private groups cost less.
Book a private taxi for the day to Delphi
The other option is booking a taxi for the day from Athens and getting them to take you to Delphi. However, taxi drivers are not guides and not permitted on the site with you. You can check prices for private taxi tours here.
Why not combine a tour to Delphi with Meteora another famous Ancient Greek site.
20. Athens to Delphi Useful Information for a day trip
- You need at least 3 hours to get around the Delphi oracle, ruins and museum.
- Think about getting an iVenture Athens Unlimited Attractions Pass (1, 2, 3, 5, or 7 Days) to save money.
- Take a water bottle, to keep hydrated, as the only place you can purchase water is at the cafe.
- You can fill your water bottle at the drinking fountain near the entrance and ticket kiosk
- I suggest getting a small guidebook that includes maps and information about other areas of Greece. I used Athens (AA Essential Guides) (AA Essential Guides Series). It was a great size for carrying in your backpack and inexpensive.
- Sunscreen: Delphi gets really hot, please make sure to take sunscreen.
21. Weather at Delphi
As the archaeological site is situated on the southern face of Mount Parnassus. The weather at Delphi can become quite hot and sunny, especially in the summer months. We went in May during Spring and it was pretty hot even then.
While there are a few trees offering some shade, will predominately be in the sun. Most of the time you will be walking around in the heat, which means there are no concessions, vending machines, or anything else inside the entire park.
22. Use Athens as your base for a day trip to Delphi
First of all, you can absolutely visit both the archaeological site and the museum in Delphi on the same day. Meaning that you can definitely use Athens as your base and head to Delphi for a day trip.
We stayed at the trendy Fresh Hotel centrally located in Athens and within walking distance to most places. The hotel features a rooftop swimming pool that took in views of the archaeological site Acropolis of Athens.
Greece uses two different types of plugs for electrical equipment. Plug type C (which has two round pins) and type F ( which has two round pins with two earth clips on the side).
23. Is it worth taking a day trip to Delphi from Athens
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Delphi is well worth a day trip from Athens. These well preserved ruins really do make you feel like you have gone back in time. I completely understand after visiting why Delphi is such a significant archaeological site in Greek history.
As I said earlier we only had a short time, so the best option was to take a guided tour. I am hoping to go back myself and spend more time there on my next visit to Athens. Being around 181 km away from Athens means you can definitely do it in a day.
Thank you for reading my article on Delphi, it is a great day trip while in Athens. I hope I was also able to answer any questions you might have had.
⇒ Make sure to wear comfortable lightweight walking sandals as it is hot and some paths are uneven.
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⇒ Looking to discover other parts of Europe? Then feel free to head to my European page
Have you been to Delphi Greece before? I would love to hear your experience in the below comments.
Disclaimer: All views are based on my own personal experience. I paid my own way to go to Delphi for the day.