As soon as we planned to visit Greece, we knew a visit to Delphi was going to be a must. Every kid who grows up learning about Greek myths and history has heard about the oracle of Delphi. Even UNESCO has recognized the importance of the site at Delphi, and the world wide fame of the site was a part of their decision to inscribe it. But when it came to planning a trip here, things got a little more difficult.
As we began researching our trip to Delphi, the majority of the information we could find was about day trips from Athens. But with a driving time of roughly three hours each direction, I wondered just how much of Delphi would I be able to experience on one of these tours? Also, as parents traveling with a young child, we knew that 6 hour in a car or on a bus would be totally out of the question.
And yet it seemed like every other traveler went to Delphi on a day trip. Spent hours driving to the site, only to rush around the world famous ruins so that they could get back on the bus and go back to Athens.
We thought that Delphi deserved better than that.
Delphi is more than just the UNESCO archeological site. The town itself sits beautifully perched against the side of a mountain. The cobbled streets meander up and down the hill, with stairs acting as shortcuts between them. It’s a nice relaxing little town, where you can escape the normal chaos that is Greece.
We decided to stay the night in Delphi. We found a cute family run hotel called Acropole Delphi that featured unobstructed views out towards the valley. Sunset was epic from our balcony. Our room was airy, large and comfortable with a desk to work at, a bathtub to relax in, and a cot for Jacob. But best of all – good internet! We had struggled up until this point to find hotels with strong internet connections in the rooms, but Acropole Delphi Hotel has a wifi router on each floor so that all guests have good access. Another major highlight was the breakfast. Finding a hotel with breakfast included is a must in Greece, where there are little to no cafe options for breakfast. The Acropole Delphi breakfast was particularly noteworthy, with fresh croissants, mini cheese pies, sausage rolls, cereals, and all sorts of breads and spreads.
But the main benefit to staying overnight in Delphi was getting to visit the Delphi Archaeological site first thing in the morning – before any of the tour buses of day trippers arrived. We had the place entirely to ourselves, and only had to share the views with a couple friendly cats.
The site itself is worth it’s international fame. The site itself is well maintained and well signed, with all the standard features you would expect; a theater, a temple, and a stadium. But it also has a few quirky extras; like the rock where apparently the oracle would stand to deliver her messages, and the rock that Zeus threw down to mark the center of the world.
So I bet you are thinking now, “OK, so I can get to the site before anyone else, but are there any other reasons to stay a night in Delphi and avoid the temptation to just day trip from Athens?”
Well there is, and that reason is Monastery of Hosios Loukas.
Hosios Loukas is another UNESCO world heritage site only about 30km’s from Delphi, but something that most rushed day trippers will end up missing out on. Hosios Loukas is a working monastery founded in the 10th century, and a striking example of Byzantine architecture and art. The peaceful grounds are dominated by the church which is filled top to bottom with stunning mosaics. After spending days visiting archeological sites from ancient Greece, Hosios Loukas offered a refreshing change of scenery.
Tips for visiting Delphi and Hosios Loukas
- Stay over night so that you can get to the archeological site early in the morning and beat the crowds
- Wear sturdy shoes for the archeological site at Delphi. There is a lot of uphill involved.
- If you are traveling with kids, ditch your stroller. The archeological site is mostly stairs.
- Visit the museum after the site – the displays will have more context
- You will need your own transport to visit Hosios Loukas
- Wear appropriate clothing to Hosios Loukas. This means no short sleeves and no bare legs. Otherwise you may not be admitted.