A Delphi day trip from Athens

Discover the site of the famous oracle on a day trip from Athens to Delphi.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Visiting Delphi from Athens

Delphi was one of the most important site of Ancient Greece, considered to be the centre of the world - and the home of the famous Oracle of Delphi, whose prophecies changed history.

Although it's about three hours away, it's easy to visit Delphi from Athens, but it's worth doing a bit of planning in advance.

I don’t need an oracle to tell me that it’s going to be busy when I visit Delphi today – the fleet of tour buses parked near the entrance is enough.

But what if I had asked the Oracle of Delphi? What would she have told me?

Well, if you believe the stories of the classics, this high priestess would have predicted the future and told me about the crowds I would encounter on this Delphi day trip from Athens.

Or, if you believe the more cynical history, she would’ve spoken in a riddle so vague that I would’ve interpreted it in such a way to confirm whatever happened.

A Delphi day trip from Athens

Either way, the Oracle of Delphi was known across the world in the first millennium BC for her apparent fortune-telling ability, and her sanctuary about 200 kilometres from Athens was a pilgrimage site for everyone from paupers to kings.

The religious complex at Delphi was one of the most important sites of Ancient Greece – and remained so well into the time of the Roman Empire.

Now, 2000 years later, Delphi is again one of the most important places in the country – an excellent archaeological park that has been listed as one of the World Heritage Sites in Greece.

What is Delphi famous for?

From the 8th century BC, Delphi was an extremely important religious sanctuary that the Ancient Greeks considered to be the centre of the world. Along with the large complex of significant buildings and art, Delphi is famous as the home of the ‘oracle’ who shared prophecies.

Who was the Oracle of Delphi?

The Oracle of Delphi existed for many centuries and the role was assumed by whoever was the high priestess of Delphi at the time. The Oracle is said to have been the spokeswoman of the god Apollo and offered cryptic advice that was often interpreted as prophecies.

Is it worth visiting Delphi?

Delphi is one of the most important archaeological sites of Ancient Greece and makes for an excellent day trip from Athens. There’s lots to see on the site, amongst the picturesque natural landscape, and the comprehensive museum adds to the experience.

The significance of the sanctuary is just one of the reasons why Delphi is one of the best day trips from Athens. Thankfully it’s also a beautiful archaeological site, set on a lush green slope of Mount Parnassus, rocky mountain cliffs on one side and sweeping valley views on the other.

The easiest way to do a Delphi day trip from Athens is with a guided tour. There are lots of good options, but I would recommend this great-value day trip.

Although much of what would once have stood here has been lost to time, there are some key buildings remaining, and enough of the original temples to get a sense of the heart of the sanctuary.

It will help your visit to Delphi to know a little about the site’s history, though.

The story of Delphi

The history of Delphi goes back to the prehistoric times, when it was a place of worship for the earth goddess Gaia.

According to legend, Apollo killed the serpent Python, who guarded the oracle of Gaia, and took over the site. He established his cult here and appointed the Pythia (another name for the Oracle of Delphi) as his spokesperson.

It was from about the 8th century BC that the sanctuary here at Delphi developed under the name of Apollo, and it reached its peak from about the 6th century.

Visiting Delphi

Just like the island of Delos, the location of the Ancient World’s other most important Sanctuary of Apollo, worship of the god brought wealth and influence to Delphi. The site, up in the mountains and far from any major cities, was visited by kings, generals, and philosophers from all over Greece and beyond.

Delphi accumulated many treasures and monuments from the donations of its visitors, which were displayed in various buildings along the Sacred Way, the main path to the Temple of Apollo.

The best tours to Delphi

Although the Oracle of Delphi wasn’t the only feature of the site, it was one of the most important, with the high priestess and her prophecies making it an extremely influential part of Ancient Greece.

Many important decisions and events in Greek history were influenced by the oracle’s prophecies, who also mediated disputes and conflicts among different Greek states, and sometimes between Greeks and foreigners.

With all of this wealth and power, Delphi became more than just a centre of religion in ancient Greece. Every four years, it also hosted the Pythian Games, one of the four major athletic festivals in Greece. The games included musical and poetic contests as well as sports such as chariot racing and wrestling.

Visit Delphi from Athens

Delphi’s decline began in the 4th century BCE, when it was sacked by several invaders and its oracle lost its credibility. The rise of Christianity also gradually contributed to its demise, as pagan worship was began to be suppressed.

The last recorded oracle was given in 393 AD and the site was abandoned soon after. Systematic excavations by archaeologists didn’t begin until the late 1800s.

The Oracle of Delphi

Before I visited Delphi, I didn’t know much about the archaeological site. I had, however, heard of the Oracle of Delphi.

It’s a name that gets thrown around a bit, but I get the feeling most people don’t know much about it beyond the basic – that the oracle predicts the future.

But it’s more complicated than that.

The Oracle of Delphi was a title given to the high priestess of the sanctuary, so there was not just one woman in history who was the oracle, but a succession of dozens over many years (they usually served until they died or were too old to do the job).

Archaeological Site of Delphi

The Oracle of Delphi was also called Pythia, and she was considered to be the mouthpiece of the god Apollo. She would only give her prophecies on certain days (sometimes only once a month), and rarely in winter.

Reports from the time say that the oracle would sit in a sunken section of the Temple of Apollo and appear to go into a trance-like state. What she said could be quite confusing and often it was ‘translated’ by a male priest.

One of the theories is that there were natural gases in the chamber where she sat, which did affect her mind and cause her to hallucinate and ramble. The records also say she chewed ‘laurel’ and there’s speculation now that it was something different, a drug, that she was using as part of the ceremony.

Archaeological Site of Delphi

Regardless of how it happened, the prophecies were relayed in cryptic ways to those who came to ask for advice.

When the Athenians asked how to defend themselves against the Persian invasion in 480 BC, for instance, the oracle said, “only a wooden wall will save you”. Some interpreted this as building a wooden barricade around Athens, but others understood it as building a fleet of ships. (The ships turned out to be right.)

Another example was when Croesus, king of Lydia, asked if he should attack Persia, the oracle said, “if you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed.” Croesus took this as a sign of victory and invaded Persia, but he was defeated and his own empire was destroyed.

The point here is that the messages of the Oracle of Delphi were often ambiguous enough that they could be interpreted in different ways, or told people what they wanted to hear.

It was for this reason that the legend was able to continue for so long.

Things to see at Delphi

Visiting Delphi today, there is still lots to see from the time of the oracle, although much of the sanctuary is in ruins, as are most archaeological sites in Greece.

Delphi was built into a hillside and you’ll start at the bottom of the site, walking up the pathways between the remains of important buildings, with the theatre and then the stadium towards the top.

Going uphill, these are the most important things to see on your day trip to Delphi.

Roman Agora

One of the first things you’ll get to once you’ve gone in the entrance gate is actually one of the last things to be built here. As the name suggests, the Roman Agora was built by the Romans around 10 BC.

Just outside the main sanctuary, it would’ve been a market selling souvenirs (probably with religious significance) to visitors coming to visit Delphi.

Roman Agora, Delphi

You can still make out the various areas built into the hill that would’ve housed shops, while temporary stalls would’ve been set up between the columns.


Taking the path uphill, known as the Sacred Way, you’ll pass a series of monuments that were built as offerings to Apollo – often from a city or a state .

The treasury buildings in this first section would have been some of the most impressive, although not much is left of most of then. The largest, for example, would’ve been the Treasury of Argos, built to look like the Temple of Hera in the Argolis.

Treasury of the Athenians, Delphi

The Treasury of the Athenians has been restored and gives you an excellent idea of how they would’ve looked. Built of white marble from the island of Paros, it would’ve housed rich treasures offered to the god.

The relief carvings on its frieze represented the exploits of heroes of Athens, while the walls were covered in inscriptions. A platform would’ve once displayed the spoils of its victory over Marathon.

Temple of Apollo

Up on the main terrace of the site is the most important part of Delphi, the Temple of Apollo, which was the focus of the worship here and where the Oracle of Delphi would’ve delivered her prophecies.

What you see here today are the remains of the temple built in the 4th century BC, the third version constructed on the same site. The location was possibly chosen because this is where a chasm emitted the vapours used by the oracle.

Temple of Apollo, Delphi

This version of the temple, surrounded by Doric columns, would’ve had a rood and pediment made of marble. The east pediment had an image of Apollo flanked by his mother, Leto, and sister, Artemis. The west pediment depicted the god Dionysos (who was said to come to the temple in winter when Apollo was gone).


Up on the next level of the sanctuary is the main theatre of Delphi, from where spectators would’ve had an excellent view of the temple and the vista across the valley.

It’s estimated the theatre could hold almost 5,000 people and it was originally used for vocal and musical competitions that were part of the Pythian Games held here. Of course, it was also used for other performances the rest of the time, including plays and poetry readings.

Theatre of Delphi

I think this is one of the most photogenic parts of Delphi and shows how culture was almost as important as religion here (it’s probably more accurate to say they were intertwined).


One of the other main locations at Delphi used during the Pythian Games every four years was the stadium, which you’ll reach by taking a path higher up the hill into the forest.

In the 5th century BC, the ground was levelled to create a racing track, with spectators sitting on the ground. In the 2nd century AD, under Roman Emperor Hadrian, marble seats and a monumental entrance were added.

Stadium of Delphi

The length of the racing track across the stadium was equivalent to 178.35 metres. During the athletic competitions, there were a number of races, ranging from one length, right up to 24 lengths (about 4.2 kilometres). There was also a race of between 2 to 4 lengths, where the athlete had to wear a helmet and carry a shield.

Delphi Archaeological Museum

Once you’ve seen the main sights within the ancient precinct, it’s time to head to the Delphi Archaeological Museum, which is just a few minutes’ walk away.

The exhibition at the museum is excellent, and there’s a huge collection here of artefacts that were found at Delphi. This includes marble friezes that came from some of the buildings (the ones from the Siphnian Treasury are particularly detailed), and large statues like the Sphinx of Naxos and the male figures called Cleobis and Biton.

Delphi Archaeological Museum

There are quite a few rooms here and it would be easy to spend an hour or more looking at the artworks. Towards the end, make sure you don’t miss the Charioteer, a bronze sculpture of a chariot rider that is considered to be one of the best examples of 5th century bronze art.

Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia

Along with the main sanctuary at Delphi, dedicated to Apollo, there is a smaller sanctuary just down the hill that you might miss if you don’t go out of your way to visit it.

Ancient visitors arriving at Delphi by foot would’ve first passed through the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, which was established here in the 7th century BC. Although excavations show the site may have been used even earlier, and may’ve been why the main sanctuary was built here.

Tholos of Delphi

The most important structure here is the Tholos of Delphi, a circular temple supported by twenty columns. It would once have been richly decorated with sculptures on the dome and is considered one of the most significant buildings at Delphi.

Tours to Delphi from Athens

Visiting Delphi makes for a fantastic day trip from Athens – but you do need to give a little bit of thought to the logistics of how you’re going to do it.

In the next section, I’ll share some details for how to visit Delphi independently, if you would prefer to do it that way, but it can be a little tricky (especially if you don’t have a car).

This is actually one of those places where I would recommend taking a tour. The main reason a tour to Delphi is a good idea is because it will streamline the transportation and take a lot of hassle out of the day.

Most tours to Delphi also include at least one extra stop along the way, which would be almost impossible to do with public transport. The tour I used, for instance, had some free time at the beautiful hillside town of Arachova.

Arachova, Greece

Almost all tours will also include a guide at the Sanctuary of Delphi and at the museum, which helps bring the site to life and explain what you’re seeing. But if you prefer to explore independently, you can still do that instead.

There are lots of companies offering day trips from Delphi from Athens and, to be honest, they are pretty similar for the most part. However, I would recommend this guided tour because it’s great value and is from a trusted operator.

There are some other good options here that will also give you an interesting day out:

If you would prefer a private tour to Delphi, that’s definitely possible to do as well (although obviously costs a little more per person).

I would recommend this private tour that gives you some flexibility about where to have lunch. Or, if you are particularly interested in World Heritage Sites, there’s this private tour that includes the UNESCO-listed monastery of Hosios Loukas as well.

One final thing to mention – you can also include a visit to Delphi as part of a multi-day tour to some of the best sites in this part of Greece. There’s this excellent two-day tour that also includes Meteora. Or there’s this fantastic four-day tour that also includes Mycenae, Epidaurus, and Olympia!

Visiting Delphi from Athens

Now, you may prefer to do a day trip to Delphi from Athens independently – and that’s certainly possible. In fact, the logistics are easier than some of the World Heritage Sites that are closer (like Mycenae or Epidaurus).

If you have a car, then it’s fairly easy (and if you need to rent a car, I recommend Discover Cars in Greece). The drive will take you about 2.5 hours from Athens, with Livadia a good place to stop for a rest along the way.

There is no official parking station, so you’ll have to find a spot in town (unless you’re lucky enough to get one of the few in front of the museum).

Visiting Delphi from Athens

If you’re wanting to use public transport, there are normally four buses every day that leave from the KTEL station at Liosion in northern Athens. The trip takes about three hours and you’ll be able to spend about four hours in Delphi before the next return.

You can see the latest timetable here. But with a return price of €30.20, you may find it cheaper to rent a car if you’re in a group, or use one of the discounted tours that cost about €45 each.

Where is Delphi?

Delphi is about 150 kilometres northwest of Athens, in the Phoics region of central Greece.
You can see it on a map here.

How do you get to Delphi?

By car, it’s a fairly straightforward drive from Athens to Delphi that will take about 2.5 hours. (If you need to rent a car, I recommend Discover Cars in Greece.)
If you’re travelling by public transport, it’s relatively simple to get to Delphi from Athens by KTEL bus, which runs direct several times a day from the Liosion station in the northern part of Athens. It takes about three hours one way and you can check the timetable here.
However, you may find that, rather than the KTEL bus, it’s easier to take a guided tour for the ease of the transportation, with the guide and extra stops just a bonus!

When is Delphi open?

In summer, from April to October, Delphi is open from 08:00 – 20:00.
In winter, from November to March, Delphi is open from 08:30 – 15:30.

How much does it cost to visit Delphi?

Admission to Delphi is €12 for a full ticket and €6 reduced.
The full ticket is only €6 from November to March.
A ticket includes the archaeological site and the museum.

Are there tours to Delphi?

Yes, there are lots of tours to Delphi from Athens. For a comfortable and affordable option, I would recommend this guided tour. For a private tour, I would suggest this day trip to Delphi.

The actual archaeological site can get quite hot, although there are some shady spots to rest. Still, I would recommend bringing sun protection and water.

For food and drink, you’ll need to go to the nearby town of Delphi for a restaurant, although there is a small cafe at the museum. The other option for lunch is the charming town of Arachova, about ten minutes’ drive away.

And, if you’re driving and have time, the final suggestion I would make for your Delphi day trip is a slight detour to the monastery of Hosios Loukas, which is about 40 minutes from Delphi on the road to Athens.

It’s one of three monasteries (including the Daphni Monastery in Athens) that make up a World Heritage Site of beautiful Byzantine buildings. A bonus UNESCO visit on your day out from Athens – who could’ve predicted that!


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

1 thought on “A Delphi day trip from Athens”

  1. Michael,
    When you click on the link for the guided tour that you recommend, it brings up a list of all 76 tours. Can you recommend one specifically, please? I will be in Athens in a couple of weeks and would really like to do this tour. Thanks!


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