During my recent Big Fat Greek Road Trip, I stopped off to consult the oracle in Delphi, Greece, and discovered the Tholos of Athena Pronaia nearby. Planning a day trip to Delphi? Read about how to make the most of your day there.
After the Acropolis, the archaeological site of Delphi is the most popular in Greece. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is situated near a village of the same name about 3 hours drive from Athens. Whilst it is perfectly possible to make a day trip to Delphi from Athens, it would make quite a long day, and so it might be better for most people to stay nearby. There is a range of accommodation in Delphi, Greece, and also nearby Arachova. We were staying in Arachova anyway, and I would recommend this to anyone planning to visit the site.
Ancient Delphi was an important religious area, and considered to be the centre of the universe. It was where heaven and earth met, and the priestess Oracle ‘channelled' messages from the god Apollo, and dispensed advice. Consulting the Oracle at Delphi, Greece was a major religious experience for ancient Greeks.
Today, perhaps a little of the mysticism of The Temple of Apollo at Delphi has gone, especially when a dozen bus loads of tourists turn up! Even so, there is still something special about this ancient place.
It is definitely one of the more photogenic archaeological sites that I have visited!
The word photogenic is rarely applied to me though! At least it wasn't an extreme close up!
Surprisingly few people take the walk all the way to the top of the complex. Here, there is a large stadium where the Pythian Games were held.
It's a shame, because the views looking down over the Delphi archaeological site are stunning.
Seeing Delphi, Greece
The site takes a minimum of an hour to enjoy, although I would recommend longer. This way, you can wait for the clumps of tourists to clear, and experience a little tranquility! After the site itself, the next place to visit is the museum. This is rated as one of the top 5 museums in Greece, and rightly so. It is very informative, and well laid out. It is about a ten minute walk from the site, and again, a good hour should be put aside to make the most of it. I'm not going to write about the museum here though, because instead, I want to write about the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia.
The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia at Delphi, Greece
About a mile to the south east of the main complex, and on the other side of the road, is the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. The sanctuary, or Marmaria as it known, is most recognised for its circular temple, or Tholos. When comparing the two areas of Delphi, I much preferred this one. Perhaps it was because there were not so many tourists there, maybe it had a better setting. It definitely had a ‘special' feeling about it though. In my humble opinion, this area was actually better than the more famed Temple of Apollo across the road.
The ‘Tholos' is a circular structure, which is unusual for Greek temples.
Coming from England, I thought of Stonehenge straight away. Could the ancient builders of Delphi, Greece have journeyed to England and seen the standing stones there?
The setting was stunning, and we timed it perfectly to arrive after all the buses had taken the tourists back to Athens. Travel tip for Delphi, Greece – Visit the main site before lunch, the museum during the peak heat of the day, and the Sanctuary of Athena after about 15.00.
After spending a while at the Sanctuary of Athena, it was time to head back to Arachova. It would be Easter Sunday the next day, and a lot was due to happen, all of which you can read about in the next travel blog update.
Beyond Delphi, Greece
Are you interested in finding out about more ancient sites in Greece? Take a look at these articles:
Delos UNESCO Island – Temples and sanctuaries await at this incredible island just a short jaunt away from Mykonos. There's a great interview with the man who guards the ancient sites here.
Ancient Athens – My article about places to see in Athens.