DELPHI

THE NAVEL OF THE EARTH AND A GIFT FROM HUMANITY

Temple of Apollo, Delphi

A Unesco World Heritage monument, nature at its grandest and the famous oracle… The gods still reign over Delphi


In Delphi the harmony that bound men and their gods is still apparent. Photographs cannot do justice to the grandeur and serenity of the setting. Nor can words express the emotions that this holy place provokes. The eagles, dispatched by Zeus to find the centre of the earth, met here, at Delphi. This is where the god Apollo founded his sanctuary when he killed the dragon Python. The most renowned oracle in ancient times was located in this corner of Central Greece


The Delphic landscape, a Unesco World Heritage Monument since 1972, and the archaeological site are a gift from Greece to humanity. Here you will bow to what men and nature made together, a creation beyond place and time. You’ll discover your deeper self, as the power of human potential and divine energy resonate in you. And you will leave with prophecies of your own.

What to do in Delphi

The navel of the world
Layers of myth and history enhance the natural magnificence of Delphi. According to myth, Zeus sent two eagles in opposite directions to determine the centre of the world. When they met at Delphi, he proclaimed it the “navel of the world”. Tradition also relates that at Delphi a sanctuary existed, dedicated to Mother Earth, that was guarded by the dragon Python. Apollo, disguised as a dolphin, arrived at Kirra, Delphi’s port, slew the dragon and founded his own sanctuary in its place, the Temple of Apollo.

The Delphic oracle was an important spiritual and religious centre from the 6th century BC to the 4th century AD and rewarded the god-fearing with credible, if ambiguous, prophecies. Ancient pilgrims expressed their gratitude in the form of dozens of brilliant offerings that came to light during excavations.

The Delphic landscape, a trip fit for the gods
Here you’ll feel the divine presence: In Central Greece, two giant cliffs at the foot of Mt Parnassos – the Phaidriades (Shining Rocks) – overlook the oracle and the sanctuary. The surrounding area from Arahova to Kirra is a vast silver-green olive grove. Together they form the famous Delphic landscape. Soothing yet wild, dramatic yet welcoming, it seems to sway to an inaudible score that floods the soul with the music of the gods. 

The Temple of Apollo, the Theatre and the Stadium
Like a worshipper in ancient times, you’ll walk up the Sacred Way to the majestic Temple of Apollo, which was decorated by Athenian sculptors. Pythia issued her prophecies from its inner sanctum. The temple is surrounded by monuments dedicated by the ancient Greek city-states, leaders and ordinary people and the whole place still exudes a unique energy.

Stand before it and look carefully at the ruins: they date from a temple built in 330 BC on the foundations of an earlier Doric temple erected in 505 BC. North of the sanctuary you’ll find the theatre, where music and drama contests were held. Walk even higher and you’ll come to the Stadium, where the Pythian Games took place. 

The Kastalia spring, purifying waters
In a landscape of surreal, mystical beauty, the spring gushes from the base of Phlemboukos rock in the crevice formed by the twin cliffs. It was here that Pythia and her priests washed and purified themselves, as did every ordinary mortal before they approached the Oracle. The history of the oldest fountain dates from the 6th century BC. In the 1st century, the Kastalia of the Rock was created closer to the spring. Niches cut into its sides held offerings left to the nymph Kastalia. You are now at the very source of the myth.


Images of Delphi

So many more monuments
At Delphi, remains of its past glory fill the site. Among them are the Tholos shrine of Athena Pronaia, the unusual circular structure whose function remains unknown; the Gymnasium, where athletes trained and worked out; the Palaistra or wrestling arena; and the Baths from the Classical period near those from the Roman era.

The Archaeological Museum
Delphi’s museum is one of the most important in Greece. It was built in 1903 to house finds from the first great excavations that began in 1892. In 2004, the space was renovated and expanded, the exhibits enlarged and rearranged according to modern standards. The result is stunning. Don’t miss the marvellous Charioteer, the focal point for many of the thousands of visitors who yearly pass through its 14 rooms.

The European Centre at Delphi
A contemporary cultural centre in Delphi, it hosts performances, conferences, international symposia on ancient theatre and exhibitions of Greek and foreign artists. It was founded on the initiative of former prime minister Constantine Karamanlis to create a pan-European and global intellectual centre near the town of Delphi. The conference complex, a representative example of the Modern Movement in architecture, was built in the 1960s. An interesting sculpture park surrounds it.

The revival of the Delphic Festival
Early in the 20th century, the major Greek poet Angelos Sikelianos and his American wife, Eva Palmer, sought to revive Delphi as a world centre. In the first Delphic Festival in 1927, its ancient prestige was renewed with a performance of Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound in the ancient theatre and, again, in 1930 with his, The Suppliants.

Today, in Sikelianos’s house-museum, one of the many attractions you’ll encounter near the modern town, you will see manuscripts and correspondence concerning the festivals, photographs, by the celebrated Greek photographer, Nelly, and costumes designed by Eva, based on vase paintings and woven on her own loom.

The modern town of Delphi
Here you’ll find excellent hotels, restaurants, cafe/bars, shops selling folk art and copies of finds from the archaeological site. And that same extraordinary view of the dramatic mountain above, the sea of olives below.

Hidden gems of Delphi

The Corycian Cave
From a large triangular opening, you’ll enter into a cave whose subtle lighting enhances the amazing stalactites and stalagmites. The Corycian Cave, the grandest on Parnassos, was also a treasure chest of very old finds dating back to the Neolithic era (4000 BC). In the 5th century BC, Pan and the Nymphs were worshipped here. It still emits an aura of mysticism.

Travel the Path of Pausanias
Follow one of the best known hiking paths in the area, which is also one with the longest history. A large portion of it belonged to the ancient path described by Pausanias, the 2nd century AD traveller and ‘guidebook’ author. Now a section of the international E4 route, it leads from Delphi up to a place called Kroki.

Walking from Delphi to Chrisso and Kirra
You’ll enjoy this gentle downhill path that traces the ancient road that linked the port of Kirra with Delphi.


OTHER GREEK STORIES TO LOVE