View of Delphi in Greece

Discover the Ancient Sanctuary of Delphi in Greece in 1 Day

Visit the place that was once considered to be the centre of the world! Read on for how to plan an Athens to Delphi day trip.

You can’t talk about Greek mythology and history without referencing Delphi. Once considered the centre of the world, Delphi was home to the most famous oracle (no, they probably didn’t look like the ones in 300: the movie) in all of Greece and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After visiting Athens, Olympia and Meteora, Delphi was our last stop in mainland Greece before hopping over to Santorini. If you’re considering visiting Delphi (because honestly, why wouldn’t you?), it’s very easy to do a day trip from Athens; alternatively, you could spend the night and drive on to Meteora. Read on for how to plan your perfect Athens to Delphi day trip.

The Oracle was also known as the Pythia, and was thought to have existed since the dawn of time. She was a prophet for the Greek god Apollo and handed out sage advice and wisdom to kings as well as ordinary citizens – her prophecies could send armies to war, or break up relationships. It was the Oracle who told Hercules to serve King Eurystheus in order to cleanse himself of the murder of his own wife and children – this is what led to Hercules undertaking the 12 labors.

How to get to Delphi

Delphi is a 3 hour drive away from Athens in Central Greece and the drive is relatively easy, with a few tight bends along the way. Make sure you have change ready for the various toll booths along the Greek highways. If you are planning to visit Delphi, you could easily visit all the sites, monuments and museum in a few hours’ time and there are plenty of tour operators that offer day trips from Athens.

For those of you who are driving from Athens to Delphi, there are a number of spots along the road in front of the archaeological site that you can park at at no cost. If you’re looking to nab a spot, make sure you head there early (before 11 am/noon) so that you avoid the tour buses.

Looking for the best prices for rental cars around the world? Click here to book your rental car ahead of your trip. Bookings can be cancelled or amended if your plans change! We rented our car in Greece from Kosmos for approximately 50 Euros per day.

Where to stay in Athens

If you are planning a day trip to Delphi from Athens, check out A for Athens hotel, just steps away from the Acropolis. A for Athens was the perfect base for us to explore all the historic and archaeological sites in the city, I just wish we could have stayed longer! Click here to check availability and current rates at A for Athens Hotel!

Want to stay overnight in Delphi? Click here to book accommodation in Delphi!

What to bring to Delphi

A bottle of water (there is a shop outside the museum if you forget); sunscreen and/or a hat (there is zero shade inside the archaeological site); and a comfortable pair of walking shoes with good grip as the path within the site can be slippery. You have to walk uphill within the archaeological site so you may also want to bring a fan and/or wet wipes.

What to see in Delphi

Annotated map of Delphi in Greece
Map Data © Google

There are a number of sites and a museum located in Delphi. Tickets are €12 (€6 for children) and covers your entry to all sites. There are also several free admission days throughout the year – March 6th, April 18th, May 18th, the last weekend of September, October 28th and every first Sunday from November 1st to March 31st. Check the website for the latest opening times – the site and museum tends to open at 8 AM and shut at 8 PM, but this may change seasonally.

Both locations are closed on certain days of the year (such as Christmas, Boxing Day, Easter Sunday etc.) so make sure you check the Ministry of Culture & Sports website if you’re planning on heading there on a major holiday.

Sanctuary of Athena

If you’re coming from Athens, this is (quite fittingly) the first site you will hit. This site is a few hundred meters away from the main archaeological site and contains the iconic Tholos of Delphi, one of the ancient structures of the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia (which you’ve probably seen on many a postcards), a circular building that once consisted of about 20 columns.

It’s said that the tholos was first erected in 380 B.C., though has undergone several rounds of restoration and repair. The Tholos of Delphi is probably one of the most popular places for tourists to take photos, and for good reason. There is a small platform as you walk down the hill to the site that serves as an excellent photo spot. When we were there, there was no ticket booth to enter the Sanctuary of Athena so don’t miss this section during your tour of Delphi.

The Main Delphi Archaeological Site

Sanctuary of Apollo and theatre at Delphi in Greece

Once you have arrived at the main archaeological site, you can purchase your tickets and go straight in (hang on to your ticket). The path is mostly uphill and some sections are slippery, so be careful. As you ascend up the Sacred Way (the main road leading from the entrance) towards the Temple of Apollo, there are a number of notable monuments to see.

The Sacred Way road in Delphi Greece

Those wishing to consult the oracle ascended the Sacred Way on the ninth day of each month, sacrificed an animal on the altar at the top and were then allotted their place in the queue.

The Treasuries of Delphi

The treasury of the Siphnians in Delphi Greece

The elegant treasuries were erected by several Greek cities to host their votive offerings to the sanctuary. The treasury of the Siphnians was shaped like a small temple and hosted votive offerings dedicated to Apollo, but only the foundations are still located at the archaeological site – the surviving sculptural decoration is on display in the museum.

The Athenians’ treasury contained trophies from important battle victories and other votive objects dedicated to the sanctuary. Parts of the architectural sculpture of the treasuries are on exhibit in the museum, including an inscription on a wall of 2 unique hymns to Apollo.

The Omphalos at Delphi

Navel stone in Delphi Greece

If you weren’t looking for it, you’d probably walk right by it and think “oh that’s a funny looking cone-shaped rock”. Among the ancient Greeks, Delphi was believed to be the center of the world. Legend is that Zeus sent out 2 eagles from the ends of the earth to fly across the world at the same speed, and where they met was determined to be the navel of the world – the Omphalos marks this location. Spoiler: this is a copy of the sacred Omphalos at the sanctuary, the “original” stone is on exhibit in the museum.

The Temple of Apollo at Delphi

Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece

Jackpot! The Temple of Apollo is arguably the star of the show and was built with donations from every Greek city. The base and several columns still stand and it’s not hard to imagine how it might have looked during its heyday. Once you walk further up the hill, you can look back on the Temple of Apollo with lush mountains as its backdrop and just marvel at its beauty. It is here where the Oracle carried out the divination rituals.

Looks like the Oracle and Apollo were not fond of the cold. The Oracle only gave prophecies during the 9 warmest months of each year as it is said that Apollo deserts his temple during the winter months.

The Seat of the Oracle at Delphi

Have you watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Nia Vardalos wrote the screenplay and starred in the comedy – she then went on to write and star in My Life in Ruins, a predictable (yet hilarious) romcom with the most incredible scenes of the landscape and ruins in Greece. In the movie, she points at this holey (yes, holey as in with holes, not “holy”) slab of rock and said that the Oracle used to peek through the holes to deliver prophecies.

The Seat of the Oracle at Delphi

It is said that this slab of rock was actually placed flat, rather than on its side, and that the holes were for the Oracle’s tripod seat. Some people say this is a replica – who really knows?

When the Oracle sat in her seat, she would inhale fumes that would send her into a trance so that she could act as a medium for Apollo and deliver prophecies. Geologists have found that it might have been possible that these gases were hallucinogenic and released from fault lines between tectonic plates. The researchers found traces of ethylene at Delphi: ethylene has a sweet smell and produces a narcotic effect described as a “floating” or euphoria! Read more on National Geographic.

The Ancient Theatre of Delphi

The theatre of Delphi in Greece

By this point you’re probably getting a bit sweaty and panting from the uphill climb. But seeing the well-preserved theatre of Delphi is worth it. Perched high up on the hill, this is where the musical performances of the Pythian Games (more to come on the games) and other religious festivals took place. Of course I couldn’t resist striking a Yoga pose here.

It’s said that the first stone-based theatre dates back to the 4th century B.C., but the version you see today was a result of a restoration dating back to approximately 160 B.C. It is said that this theatre could accommodate approximately 5000 people in its heyday!

The Stadium at Delphi

The Stadium in Delphi Greece

Honestly, after the theatre I was extremely disinclined to keep walking up the hill. I was exhausted (probably all those back bends!) and wasn’t sure if the stadium was worth visiting – turns out that it was (kind of). The Olympic Games was not the only sports event in Ancient Greece, turns out that there are a total of 4! The stadium at Delphi dates back to the 4th century B.C. and hosted the athletic portions of the Pythian Games, which was hosted every 4 years at Delphi, and could accommodate approximately 6000 people.

The Delphi Archaeological Museum

Kouroi of Delphi in Greece

Last but not least is the Delphi Archaeological Museum, I hope you still have your ticket.

Dancers of Delphi Statue in Greece

Before you enter, you should know that the museum staff are very strict about posing for photos with the sculptures and artifacts for photos – apparently some rowdy visitors disregarded the fact that the exhibits had cultural and religious significance and took stupid, silly photos with the sculptures.

Sphinx of Naxos in Delphi Greece

Anyhoo, the museum contains lots of impressive statues, votives, pediments, architectural elements and the famous Charioteer, the last remaining bronze sculpture from Delphi. Other major exhibits include the Kouroi of Delphi or the “Twins of Argos”, two matching male statues, the Sphinx of Naxos, the Dancers of Delphi, the Omphalos and the statue of Antinous.

Delphi is an incredible, unmissable place to visit in Greece. I would go as far to say that no trip to Greece is complete without exploring Delphi, and the good news is that while there is a boatload to see, it can easily be seen in a few hours’ time. Is it on your list of places to visit in Greece? Tell me in the comments section below!

For those planning a Delphi day trip from Athens, I recommend staying at A for Athens hotel, a boutique hotel with a killer view of the the Acropolis. Click here to check availability and current rates at A for Athens Hotel!

Planning a trip to Greece? Check out my other destination guides!

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79 Comments

  1. A great read thanks. Just found it while in Greece today. We are off to Delphi on Monday. Thunderstorms “planned” for Wednesday !!! Do you know if tickets are valid over 2 days?
    Regards Dave

  2. We should note the Oracle of Delphi was a bona fide historical place, where everybody from kings to commoners went for centuries to get advice. At any given time, there was one young priestess of Apollo’s called the Pythia, who hung out in a room full of volcanic fumes spouting prophecies.

  3. Hiya! I’m heading to Greece in a couple weeks and am having a hard time deciding on whether to drive to Delphi or do one of the guided tours. My travel companions and I have slight mobility issues and might be rather slow walking about – especially with hills. Do you think it’d be worth our while to drive up there so we can take it easier? Oh, also – if you had to choose between Delphi and Olympia, which would you personally choose?

    1. Hi Lindsay, you can’t drive within the main archaeological site – you have to walk but you can walk slowly! The only site that is separate from the others is the Temple of Athena. If you want to explore Delphi on your own schedule and not worry about falling behind in a guided tour, then I would recommend that you take your time and see it on your own – there are plenty of places to rest, just enjoy the fresh air! It can be sweltering in the summer months and a lot of it is not shaded, so make sure you bring some water and a hat.

      If I had to choose, I’d choose Delphi hands down (unless you’re a massive Olympics fan) – the monuments are much better preserved! Have a fantastic trip 🙂

  4. This post will definitely help me organize my trip to Greece. Honestly I have never heard of Delphi I always see photos and posts about Santorini. It sounds an interesting place to visit. Greal post , it contains lot of details which makes it good and easy for the reader. Thank you for sharing

    1. Loudy, so sorry for the (very) delayed response – thank you for taking the time to read this! I hope you’ve had the chance to visit Delphi in person.

  5. first time to hear about Delphi and I don’t even know that there is a more amazing place to explore for Greece. Beyond bless to know this. Thank you.

  6. Damn!
    Really missed out this place to add in my bucket list. I’m a history lover, loved the historic carvings at Delphi Archaeological Museum, those are really magnificent.
    Keep posting such historic places 🙂

  7. Well, I have to go see the center of the world, now, don’t I?! What a great day trip idea. I was supposed to tour most of the ancient sites in Greece with a class, but it was planned for right after the September 11th attacks so the entire trip got called off and I’ve never made it out that way. Time to replan that trip!

  8. Ever since studying Greek Mythology (many many moons ago) in school, I’ve always dreamt about going to Greece. Your post makes me want to go even more! Such a great and comprehensive guide.

  9. What an interesting an gorgeous place to visit Flo, definitely worth hiking around in the heat for! Love the yoga pose in the ancient theatre too! 😀

  10. Haha, the best advice of all is “take wet wipes” 😀 I haven´t visited here – we just rushed through Greece last year – but one day I´d love to! It seems on your beautiful photos that it is not quite as crowded as I would imagine (or maybe you just waited long enough ;-))

  11. I love my history but admittedly, I don’t know very much about my Greek history. Definitely a very informative post, Flo! Gave me a little crash course. I tend to visit museums to learn a bit about ancient history but it’ll be completely different visiting an ancient site like this! I’m impressed with how well-preserved the grounds are. And that view!

    Also, are you wearing jeans in that photo? The weather in your photos looks extremely warm, kudos to you!

  12. Wow, what amazing information and pictures. We are in Austria so pretty close by and this post is wonderful as a motivator to want me to travel there. Awesome!

  13. Beautiful pictures and awesome information! Delphi has never been on my radar, it definitely is now. Thanks for sharing.

  14. This is such a great and informative guide! I only had a short time when I was in Greece last and this post made me realize that I still have so much to see! Can’t wait to see more of your Greece posts.

  15. I love that there seems to be nobody else around! This would be a great place to experience some serenity. Aside from the architectural delights, the natural landscape is just breathtaking!

  16. Your Greece guides have been on fire as of late! Love that they’re all so informative each with a history lesson. Did you know everything about Delphi before your visit? Wondering if it’s a good idea to hire a guide to walk us through each temple, theatre, stadium, etc. so we can better appreciate Delphi. Also, which month did you go? I can’t imagine wearing jeans in Greece in the summer, let alone hiking uphill with so little shade!

    1. They have pamphlets and the Museum is also incredibly informative! I personally probably wouldn’t hire a guide (but that’s just me!) – we went in July so it was BLISTERING hot. Must. Bring. Hat!

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