Outdoors Magazine

Greece Road Trip: Delphi and the Peloponnesian Peninsula, Part 1

By Everywhereonce @BWandering

After ferrying around the Greek islands and seeing the classic sites in Athens, we set out to explore more of the mainland on a twelve-day road trip. Beginning and ending in the capital city, a looped route brought us to mountainous Delphi and then through the Peloponnese, a gorgeous, historic peninsula in the southern part of the country.


Treasury of the Athenians, Delphi, Greece

The Treasury of the Athenians, Delphi, Greece

Delphi was a striking contrast to the sea-level places we saw in Greece, and it felt as if we could almost reach up and touch the sky and scoop a handful of clouds. It’s no wonder this site was considered the center of the world in ancient times and home to an important oracle. In Greek mythology, Zeus released two eagles in opposite directions, and Delphi was where they met after circling the world.

Cascading down the side of Mount Parnassus, the ruins of Delphi are located along a switchback trail leading past a temple devoted to Apollo, a treasury, a theater, and a stadium—once glorious but still beautifully atmospheric and enhanced by the stunning backdrop.

Pillars of the Altar of Apollo, Delphi, Greece

Pillars of the Altar of Apollo

Further down the mountain and somewhat away from these main attractions is another collection of ruins. Be sure to look for the trail leading to The Sanctuary of Athena because it’s easy to miss. The site used to contain five buildings consisting of two temples, two treasuries and the Tholos of Delphi, an architectural masterpiece of ancient Greece. Of the twenty Doric columns that used to comprise the Tholos’ circular colonnade, three have been restored giving visitors a glimpse of what the imposing structure once looked like back in the 4th century BC.

The Sanctuary of Athena, Delphi, Greece

The Tholos at the Sanctuary of Athena, Delphi

We stayed two nights in Delphi, which meant we could easily be at the ruins for the 8 a.m. opening time and miss the day trip crowds coming from Athens. The site is a ten-minute walk from the center of town, where we relaxed in the evenings with ouzo and a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding peaks and valleys.


Temple of Zeus, Olympia, Greece

The Temple of Zeus

While Olympia can’t beat Delphi’s dramatic setting, it’s more expansive and its ruins more plentiful. Plus it’s shaded with tree coverage, a bonus in the powerfully hot Greek sun.

The site of the original Olympic games, there are athlete training areas, a stadium, and a track (where energetic visitors can run laps) along with temples and the like. In what remains of the Temple of Hera, the modern-day Olympic torch is lit and from there carried by a succession of runners to the host city.

Also on the grounds is a museum showcasing artifacts excavated from the site. The most striking display is a collection of pieces that once adorned the Temple of Zeus. But it was a statue of Hermes (messenger of the gods) that garnered the most attention. We stood in front of the statue looking at the cherubic-looking infant carried in Hermes’ arms—Dionysos, the Greek god of wine and a favorite deity of ours. Then a small uproar began on the back side of the statue as a group of visitors admired and exclaimed over Hermes’ sculpted rear end. Titillating viewers since 330 BC.

Hermes by Praxiteles, Olympia, Greece

Hermes by Praxiteles

An unusual decision for us, we didn’t stay in the modern town of Olympia right near the ruins and instead opted for a countryside hotel about a ten-minute drive away. Typically we want easy access to the site we’ve come to see, as well as restaurants within walking distance, but the Bacchus Hotel had all the necessities—a restaurant on premises, a nice room with a lovely view, and the all-important parking, without the stress of maneuvering into a tight space on city streets. It was a great place to bed down and rest up for the long road ahead. 

Stay tuned. The road trip continues . . . 

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