Full disclosure: Athens wasn’t what I was expecting. There, I said it.
Frankly, it had been so completely hyped up that when I got there, I found myself asking: “This is it?”
In all fairness, I had just come down from the high of Santorini, admittedly a tough act to follow.
But just the same, it took a little more digging around to understand what the appeal of Athens was all about.
Don’t get me wrong – the historical sites of Greece’s famous capital are absolutely worth seeing, but as a whole, the city was surprisingly graffiti-ridden, dirty, and kind of a letdown…
However, once I understood that Athens served as a gateway to ancient Delphi – arguably Greece’s most precious gem – I was singing a different tune…
A UNESCO world heritage site, in ancient times, Delphi was considered the center of the known world where heaven and earth met.
It wasn’t hard to see why. Delphi was straight up heaven-sent.
If you have more than a day or two to spend in Athens, I highly recommend taking a day trip to Delphi. In fact, I can’t recommend it enough.
My husband and I rented a car and drove ourselves.
Generally, at this point in time, I would offer you some helpful “rules of the road,” as they tend to vary by country, but seeing how no one really adheres to any of that in Athens, I will be straight up with you.
The city of Athens is a nightmare to drive through.
- Speed limits are considered suggestions (that no one ever takes).
- Blinkers are about as useful as wisdom teeth. They are more of a bother than anything.
- There is no rhyme or reason to lane changing (or anything else for that matter). You just sort of “wing it” and hope for the best.
That being said, once we left Athens proper, we couldn’t be happier that we decided to rent a car and venture out on our own.
However, if you don’t have a highly confident and willing driver (or a death wish), I would recommend hiring a private driver.
You can also catch a bus to Delphi, but I strongly recommend going with a private driver instead for a more exclusive experience. This will also give you more time to enjoy the site without having to worry about an imposed time limit.
To be totally honest, even if Delphi was a total bust (which is absolutely wasn’t), it would still have been absolutely worth the 2+ hour drive. It was that unbelievable.
While we figured it would at least be a refreshing departure from the graffiti-lined streets of Athens, we soon found that the journey was so much more than that.
It was as though we had left Greece and somehow landed in the Colorado Rockies. I honestly had no idea Greece was so mountainous.
One of the most surprising parts of the journey was passing through Boeotia, Greece’s central region. We literally gasped as we came around a hairpin turn (and not from fearing our lives). We were just utterly shocked to see hundreds of beautiful orange-roofed houses steeped into the landscape, seemingly out of nowhere.
A short while later, we arrived in Mecca, a.k.a Delphi.
Delphi sits up on an enormous hill and its majestic presence is felt instantaneously.
If you’re feeling adventurous and decide to drive there, be aware that there is no designated parking lot. However, there is plenty of space for cars along the winding road leading up to Delphi.
Once you enter the site, you will need to purchase a ticket for entry at the booth by the front gate. Day admission is 12€. This will give you access to all of the sites. Trust me when I say, this is an amazingly good deal considering what lies ahead.
Delphi offers a variety of fascinating sites, including the Temple of Apollo, the Delphi Stadium, the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia and my absolute favorite, the Delphi Theater. Build in the 4th Century B.C., this ancient beauty used to sit upwards of five thousand spectators for plays, poetry readings, and musical events.
With my theatrical background, I found it absolutely breathtaking. I can only imagine how amazing it would be to perform somewhere like that!
After spending a few hours basking in the beauty of it all, we stopped down by the snack bar, which, surprisingly, offered slushie drinks in almost every flavor imaginable.
It was, quite literally, a sweet ending to a spectacular day!
So if you’re in Athens and you’re looking to escape the crowds of the city, definitely pay Delphi a visit. Guaranteed, you won’t regret it. I know I didn’t.