Greece history tour: Visiting Delphi with kids

Located approximately 2.5 hours’ drive from Athens, Delphi is like another world…a world tucked up in the mountains (yes, mountains!) of the northwest interior. According to mythology, Delphi is called ‘the navel of the world’, and it really does feel like the center of humanity while you’re visiting.

The sanctuary of Delphi, with its most famous oracle, is made even more mysterious and majestic by its stunning scenery. Literally hugging a mountainside, the ruins of Delphi feel otherworldly. Visiting, I can see why artists and creators draw inspiration from it. Side note: did you know that one of the settings for the new Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is set here? The game creators studied the topography and history of Delphi extensively.

The story behind Dephi revolves around Apollo. During pre-history, the site was sacred to Mother Earth and was guarded by the terrible serpent Python, who was later killed by Apollo. Apollo’s sanctuary was built here by Cretans and dates back to the Neolithic period (4000 BC). People experiencing life problems from financial woes to health issues pilgrimaged here to consult the oracle (have their fortunes told) and find answers and balance in this proclaimed ‘center’. They first passed through the marketplace at the base of the slope, where (conveniently) they could buy the tokens and offerings they needed before entering the structure dedicated to Apollo.

As you make your way up just like the pilgrims, the views just get more and more spectacular, and you can see the valley below and even the port and sea. There’s a stadium with a track at the very top (worth the hike) and far below, you can glimpse the remains of the gymnasium and other training facilities of the athletes who came here to compete. It seems that Delphi was part sacred and part festival during its time.

Planning your trip to Delphi:

Get there early, before the sun is at its peak because the site is very exposed and you will get sunburned if you’re not careful. Bring plenty of water, too and allow for time in the small museum after touring the ruins. Make sure your guide, if you opt to have one, is licensed.

You can do Delphi in a day as we did, on one long day trip from Athens (2.5 hours each way, through very pretty countryside), but I recommend staying over at least one night and perhaps two. You can always hire a car with an international drivers license; Greece is easy to drive in. The town of Delphi is just beyond the archeological site, and offers quaint hotels and restaurant with amazing views where they sprawl from the hillsides. The narrow streets are lively with people and there’s plenty of shopping to be had.

You could also stay about 10 minutes back, at the ski town of Arachova. Yes, I said ski town. This region of Greece is situated at 800 meters above sea level, and they do get snow. Even in the off-season, however, Arachova is arguably the cuter of the two towns, with even narrower cobbled streets and upscale shops.