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If you love Greek history and philosophy then you’ve probably heard of the Oracle at Delphi, also known as the Pythia. This mysterious figure is said to have advised famous Greeks from the Athenian philosopher Socrates to Oedipus’ doomed father. But if you are interested in visiting the site of the ancient oracle for yourself, first you need to know how to get from Athens to Delphi.
So, in this article, we will show you the best ways to get from Athens to Delphi and some ideas about what to see there.
How to Get From Athens to Delphi
First, let’s make clear that there is no airport or railway line in Delphi so planes and trains are out of the question. The only way up Mount Parnassus to the site of Delphi is by driving or being driven from Athens.
How far is Delphi from Athens?
The physical distance between Athens and Delphi is only around 75 miles but with the winding roads and mountain paths, the driving distance is closer to 117 miles.
Of course, you could also drive yourself from Athens to Delphi, either in your own car or using one of the many rental car services in Athens. Private driving is a good way to travel if you are planning a private tour of Delphi and want to explore at your own pace.
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The main highway between Athens and Delphi is the E75 but you will also have to take many narrow and difficult mountain roads to travel between the two cities as well.
If you are driving yourself you have to be careful in the mountains to avoid dangerous roads or reckless drivers. If you are looking for a cheaper option to travel from Athens to Delphi then you should consider taking a public bus.
As an alternative, you can check some options for a guided day trip from Athens to Delphi. Take a trip to the center of the Ancient Greek universe on a full-day tour of Delphi. Site of the oracle, and heart of the classical Greek world, explore the hilltop museum and ruins, famous for its amphitheater, and Temple of Apollo.
How long is the bus ride from Athens to Delphi?
The main intercity bus line between the two cities is the KTEL or the Common Funds of Bus Proceeds in English.
They run between 5 and 6 buses from Athens to Delphi every day with tickets (costs 15€) available online, at the station, or even on the bus.
The trip by bus takes slightly longer at around 3 hours including a 10-minute rest stop.
The bus station that runs transit from Athens to Delphi is the KTEL Bus Station B at 260 Liosion Street.
The nearest metro station in Athens is a good 10-minute walk from Bus Station B so factor that into your plans before leaving. If you like to learn more about how to get around Athens, please read our detailed guide here.
If you choose to take the bus from Athens to Delphi be careful when you decide to take the trip. The Greek tourist season is highest in summer so buses and stations will be more crowded while tickets are harder to get. Be sure to arrive at the station early to guarantee you get a seat on the bus.
Even if you buy a ticket in advance the bus will leave without you if it fills up before you arrive so be sure to check timetables and station schedules before your trip.
What to See in Delphi
Delphi is one of the most visited sights on the Greek mainland. According to legend, Zeus sent out two eagles to find the center of the earth, and the eagles met over Delphi.
From the 8th century BC to 393 AD, Delphi was known as the most important oracle in the world.
Kings and common people alike would give a tribute in return for the wisdom of the god Apollo, transmitted through the oracle at his Delphi temple.
The actual prophecy was made by a priestess known as the Pythia, who was seated inside the temple and inhaled vapors that came out of the rock. This put her in a trance, believed to make her able to receive messages from Apollo himself.
The travelers weren’t allowed to see the Pythia, but a priest would ask her the question and also interpret the answer she gave.
The result was of course that the answer would be based on knowledge of politics of the day, what the traveler would expect to hear, plus a little guesswork.
In addition, the answer was often worded ambiguously wording.
The best-known prophecy was given to King Croesus of Lydia, who asked what would happen if he went to war against Persia.
The answer he received was that a great empire would be destroyed. The king took this as a good sign, but as it turned out, it was his own empire that ended.
The Sacred Way
When you enter the area known as The Sanctuary of Apollo, or The Sacred Precinct, you’ll walk up the Sacred Way to reach the Temple of Apollo, just like the ancient travelers did.
On the sides were 3000 statues and a series of treasuries, that held the riches donated by various city-states. On the north side of the Sacred Way, you can see a reconstruction of one of these treasuries.
Temple of Apollo
The temple was originally erected in the 6th century BC, but the remains currently there are from the 4th century BC. The French archeologists that found the temple in 1892, also made some reconstruction on the temple. As a result, you can get an impression of the scale of the temple.
Above the Temple of Apollo lies a large theatre, that could hold 5000 people, and almost rivals the great theatre in Epidaurus.
Delphi held a festival every 8 years, in honor of Apollo’s killing of the great snake Python. The festival included poetry and music, performed at this theatre.
From 582 BC the music festival was called the Pythian Games, held every four years, and athletic competitions were added.
Many of the athletic competitions were held in this stadium, which is almost 200 meters long, and able to hold 7000 spectators. The current seating is from Roman times.
Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia
Southeast of the Sanctuary of Apollo, lies the so-called marble quarry (Marmaria Precinct), where the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia is.
It contains the remains of two temples dedicated to Athena, built around 5 centuries BC. Between the two temples is a circular tholos.
It is not known what it was used for, but the three columns that were re-erected in 1938, has certainly made it the most easily recognizable building in the sanctuary.
This is where the athletes would bathe and exercise. The Castalian spring further up supplied only cold water to the baths, until the Romans added hot water in the 2nd century AD. East of the baths is the training area, surrounded by remains of exercise and changing rooms.
Poets and philosophers would also use this area to lecture. In addition, there’s also a covered track, which made it possible to have athletic events even if the weather was too bad for the stadium.
The nearby Delphi Museum has a collection of sculptures and artifacts that is only surpassed by the ones found at the Athens Acropolis. The museum has a total of 13 rooms, with a statue known as The Charioteer, a life-sized bronze statue.
Another notable piece is a Roman copy of a navel stone, Omphalos, the stone that marked the center of the earth. There’s also a model of the temple of Apollo.
A great way to see the best of Delfi is a guided day trip from Athens. We found this one on GetYourGuide.com and we believe that is one of the best out there. On a full-day trip from Athens, step back into the past with a visit to Delphi, one of Greece’s most historic archaeological sites. Admire the ruins of the Temple of Apollo and the ancient theater, and see precious artifacts at the Delphi Museum.
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