Christina Hudson in Greece: The Oracle of Delphi predicts mountains, sea in your travel future

Located less than three hours from Athens is the ever-alluring site of Delphi, located on the side of Mount Parnassus. Whether or not you are an archaeology buff, the place has atmosphere and the surrounding natural beauty is truly impressive.

I always recommend that people make a weekend or a long weekend out of the trip, staying overnight in the nearby small but stunning harbor town of Galaxidi. This simple plan allows you to easily enjoy both the mountain and the sea in a way that only Greece can offer.

Unless you are a heat freak, I highly recommend you visit in fall, winter or early spring.

If you go in winter, you can also combine it with a bit of skiing at Arahova, which is located about 10 kilometers from Delphi and is a favorite among cosmopolitan Athenians.

This picturesque village of Galaxidi is worth a quick visit even for non-skiers. It is small and sweet, has some lovely architecture, magnificent views and is a good place to pick up colorful traditional textiles and locally produced cheese (formaela), wine, honey and trahanas (a tasty fermented grain used to make special soups).

Where the eagles crossed

According to ancient myth, in an attempt to locate the center of the earth, Zeus released two eagle – one to the east and the other to the west. Delphi is said to be where their paths crossed and thus the spot became known as “the navel of the world.” Indeed ancient Delphi was a very important cultural and spiritual center for many years. The religious sanctuary was dedicated to Apollo, god of knowledge and the arts, truth and prophecy and the sun and healing, to name just a few of his specialties!

Both ordinary citizens as well as powerful rulers of ancient city-states would come from all around to visit the priestess Pythia, the mysterious oracle of Delphi who was said to be the mouthpiece of Apollo. Visitors offered sacrifices in order to receive advice on both personal as well as political matters.

The oracle was said to speak in riddles, rhymes and prophecies.

We now know that this was probably a result of her getting a bit high from hydrocarbon gases in the area, some of which had a narcotic effect in enclosed spaces such as that of the small chamber in which Pythia spent a good amount of time.

Chariot races, wrestling events, theatrical performances, artisan workshops, public baths and more. Ancient Delphi had it all and then some, and the ruins give you a real sense of the importance of the place.

Here are some hikes in the area.

Photo by Christina Hudson

Way more than history

When it’s time to get off the mountain, in less than half an hour you can be at a truly lovely gem of a neoclassical port town – Galaxidi.

Be sure to stop by the Delphi Archaeological Museum to see, among other treasures, the famous bronze Charioteer. If you are more of a nature lover than a culture vulture, hiking around Mount Parnassos is sure to please with lovely springs, verdant valleys and views of the gleaming Corinthian Gulf.

Here you can enjoy long walks on the waterfront and tasty seafood with a view of the multi-colored fishing boats. Got kids? There is a playground next to the main harbor and there are some adorable sweet shops here and there. If you are looking for a quieter vibe, there are some very pretty beaches just a few minutes’ drive from town as well. While they can get busy in summer, the other seasons are ideal for quiet walks along the shore.

For reasonably-priced rooms in a quiet part of Galaxidi, just off the main harbor, Hotel Ganimede is the place to stay. This old Captain’s house turned hotel has updated amenities and offers a delicious award-winning breakfast in its charming courtyard. The rooms are clean, the service is warm and the building has real character.

There is something truly wondrous about this whole area. You could pretty easily do it all in one very long day but honestly, part of the appeal, for me at least, is to leave time to sit and gaze, to eat carefully – prepared meals unhurriedly and to take in the natural rhythms of the mountain and the sea which harmonize so beautifully in this magical landscape.


Read more about Greece here in Dispatches’ archives.

See more from Christina here.

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A Pittsburgher by birth, Christina T. Hudson is also half Greek and has – so far – spent most of her life in Athens, the chaotic but captivating capital city of Greece.

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