When you think of ancient Greek archaeological sites, your mind probably jumps to the Parthenon and the other buildings on the Acropolis in Athens. But those are far from the only ancient sites to explore in Greece. As I mentioned, we spent only one full day in Athens, so that we could also spend a day traveling to Delphi, Greece, the place the Ancient Greeks considered the center of the world. This was a great decision. I enjoyed visiting Delphi far more than the Acropolis. For one thing, the archaeological sites here aren’t under construction, and so there are no cranes and scaffolding to remind you that you’re actually in 2016 and not 600 BC. I’m also a sucker for mountain scenery, so ancient cities against a mountainous backdrop are going to beat plain old ancient cities any day of the week in my book.
There are multiple operators that run day trips to Delphi from Athens. We went with Greece Taxi. Delphi is a little over a two hour drive from Athens. The first part of the trip was nothing special scenery-wise, but we enjoyed hearing our driver talk about life in Greece. I always enjoy getting the local perspective when traveling, even if it’s from someone who works in the tourism industry. Once we got into the mountainous regions, we stopped in the cute little town of Arachova. I was so charmed by this town and so surprised to see something like this in Greece; it wouldn’t have been out of place in Switzerland. I really wish we’d had more time here to explore (I liked our tour in general, but wasn’t thrilled about the pacing – it was a private tour so I thought it should have been more customized).
Once we got to Delphi, I forgot all about Arachova, however. Delphi is located on the side of Mount Parnassus and the views are incredible.
We saw the Treasury of the Athenians, built to commemorate the Athenians victory in a battle…
…and the remains of the Temple of Apollo, where people sought advice from the oracle…
…and the ancient theater, which could hold a crowd of 5,000.
My favorite (and the most photographed) structure in Delphi was the beautiful Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia.
There is a museum in Delphi too. It’s smaller in scale and less impressive than the Acropolis Museum, but still worth a visit.
On the way home we stopped in Livadia, a lovely little mountain town with a river running through it, for lunch. We had a very Greek meal of pita, chicken kabobs and french fries and a not-so-Greek meal of chicken in some sort of (mild) curry sauce.
I really enjoyed this excursion, and highly recommend a day trip to Delphi if you’re in Athens. In addition to all the ruins, which are certainly worth a visit in and of themselves, it was fun to get out of the city and see some more of mainland Greece before we headed to the islands.