Delphi was famous in the ancient world; it retains that fame today. The notorious Oracle of Delphi changed history; among those who sought wisdom there were kings and princes.
Delphi today is a ruin of an ancient civilisation, with just as many visitors making the long journey into the rocky, windswept mountains to touch some of the magic that appears to be lingering in the very stones of the place.
As a visitor recently said "As I walked the streets of Delphi I felt the unexpected beauty, I felt a peaceful, esoteric familiarity with this wild inaccessible landscape".
"It was certainly exciting, yet gloriously simple. I felt an ease and tranquility".
The ruins of Delphi are located in the mountains looking over the Corinthian Gulf, on the mainland of Greece, 165 km west of Athens.
This extraordinary location on the slopes of Mount Parnassus was, no doubt, chosen for its spiritual essence, which remains today.
The modern village of Delphi has grown to accommodate visitors from all over the world who come to explore history, and also ski, walk and climb in the mountains. Both the archaeological site and the new village are on the steep slopes of the mountain, so bring your walking shoes.
The site is extensive and so important and beautiful that it is now protected by UNESCO. There are temples, a theatre, a stadium, fountains and so many stories to tell. The sanctuary and oracle were worshipped as a female deity cult as early as the 8th century BC.The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia
(above, top) is one of the most striking structures remaining on the site today. Known as the tholos, it was made of 20 dorian columns, of which three are still standing, and inside were 10 corinthian columns. This spiritual centre was thought to be built in the 6th Century BC.
Many of the artifacts recovered from the ruins at Delphi are in very good condition, some are located on site, many are located in the museum in modern Delphi.
The early stories of this woman speaking in frantic nonsense atop Mount Parnassus were told in the oral tradition. Much of the truth of the spiritual practices in Delphi is now lost. Conjecture and fables make up the rest.
The oracle was a woman chosen from Delphi known as the Pythia. The woman sat above a crevice in the mountain-side from which vapours wafted, causing her to rant and rave. Her words were then translated by the priest of the temple of Apollo for the benefit of the seeker.
Writers of Greece history who tell the stories about the Pythia include Aeschylus, Herodotus, Thucyclides, Euripides, Sophocles, Plato and Aristotle. From these stories we know that many important historic figures from 700 BC to the 3rd Century AD consulted the oracle.
Modern scientists have discovered evidence of hallucinogenic gases rising from a nearby spring and preserved within the temple rock.
There are several day tours to choose from, departing from Athens daily for Delphi Greece.
Several local buses depart from Athens daily. The bus trip takes about 3 hours one way. Leave a full day if you want to visit from the city.
Driving yourself is well worth the trip, as the mountain scenery is wonderful, and there are many small hotels and guesthouses with local character to choose from in modern Delphi Greece.
Or you could choose to drive down the mountain-side and stay at one of the small fishing villages on the Corinthian Gulf, such as Itea, Kirra or Galaxidi.