One of the most popular things to do if you’re visiting the Greek capital is to take a day trip to Delphi from Athens. There are many organised day tours offering trips for anybody without a car but I travelled there by public bus because a) it is cheaper and b) I was only going one-way. What I discovered, almost accidentally, was the perfect way to experience Delphi. Here’s a little run down of everything you need to know to plan your own trip.
Getting to Delphi from Athens
Getting to Delphi from Athens is extremely easy to get to using KTEL, the public bus network of Greece. Unlike much bus travel in the Balkans KTEL actually seem to have accurate information on their website and even allow you to book your tickets online (which is what I did).
When you receive your email receipt from booking online there is an instruction in small print saying that it is not the actual ticket. You need to print the receipt and then take it to the ticket office in the bus station and exchange it for your ticket before you board the bus. The Athens bus station is quite large and has separate ticket desks for each destination, one is clearly labelled Delphi so you can’t miss it. Make sure you leave enough time to do this as there is sometimes a queue with people buying tickets. This pretty much means you don’t save any time booking online over buying your ticket at the station… you are really just guaranteeing that you already have a seat.
You can check the bus timetable online for departure times. The most popular are the 07:30 and 10:30 departures, as many people choose to go to Delphi from Athens on a day trip. They take the earliest departures there and return on the last bus. If you intend to do this then I strongly recommend booking your tickets in advance, particularly in the summer months, to ensure you get a seat.
One important thing to note is that there are two bus stations in Athens and tickets do not specify which one the Delphi bus departs from. You will need to go to the Liosion Street station which is named KTEL Terminal B on google maps.
Everything I read online about getting to the bus station advised taking a cab or the metro and then a local bus. I ended up taking the green M1 metro from Syntagma Square to Kato Patissia and then walked for less than 15 minutes to the bus station. Personally I don’t see why you would need to take a local bus from the metro unless you had loads of luggage, in which case you are probably better off to go for the cab option directly from your hotel.
Visiting the archaeological site
I would highly recommend doing an overnight stay in Delphi if you have the time to do so. It is not a large place and doesn’t actually require a huge amount of time there but it will make your trip much more leisurely and enjoyable.
Firstly, it means that you can take a later bus to Delphi from Athens and an earlier bus from Delphi back to Athens, thereby avoiding the crowds of day-trippers. Plus you can avoid spending 6 hours on a bus in one day!
Most importantly though, it gives you the best experience possible when visiting the archaeological site and museum. The site’s opening hours are 8.00 – 20.00 Tuesday to Sunday (with reduced hours on a Monday) but the last bus back to Athens is at around 16.30 and so after this time most of the tourists have left.
The archaeological site and museum probably require 2 to 3 hours to visit depending on how into museums you are and how many photos you are compelled to take. I have to admit I whizzed slightly through the museum, having been to a number of similar ones in Athens by this point, but spent a long time at the archaeological site. There is a lot to see and all of it with the most amazing backdrop. I do recommend walking right up to the top to the ruins of the ancient stadium and racetrack. It is a bit of an effort but worth it if you have the time… the views just get better the higher you go.
With time on your side you can choose to visit the archaeological site in the evening and the museum the following morning before catching your bus back to Athens… and the best part is that there will only be a smattering of other people there! I really think it is the best way to experience Delphi and I’m so glad I did it this way.
Where to stay in Delphi
Not only does staying overnight in Delphi give you the best experience of the archaeological site but it also gives you a full chance to soak up the atmosphere and incredible views. I had been in Delphi for about 5 minutes before I understood why the ancient Greeks considered this place to be the centre of the world.
The road runs right alongside the valley so immediately upon driving into Delphi you are hit with breathtaking views. These are obscured by shops, hotels and restaurants as you get into the actual town but walking from end to end is relatively quick as it is a very small place. Plus, it’s hard to be annoyed when your hotel room has a view like this…
I stayed at the Pan Hotel, a 3-star, relatively simple hotel elevated by its lovely staff and incredible panoramic views. Looking at this you would think that this stay had set me back a fair bit right? The cost of my single room was £30.00 for 1 night. I think it was about £27.00 for a room without the panoramic view so that’s easily the best £3.00 I’ve ever spent! My evening was spent chilling on this balcony and watching the sun go down… absolutely glorious!
Getting to your next destination
From Delphi back to Athens
The majority of people will take the same route back to Athens from Delphi. It is a tiny bit confusing as Delphi is very small and has no official bus station building.
If you need bus timetable information or to purchase a ticket you need to go into a taverna at the end of the main high street (the end where the bus from Athens drops you off). The address of the building is Apollonos 8 and there is a big “bus tickets” sign painted on the wall outside with an arrow pointing at the building. You can purchase your bus tickets from the staff inside. If you have booked online you need your printed confirmation/receipt and can use that as a ticket. In the taverna they will not exchange it for a proper ticket like they do in the Athens bus station.
You board the bus back to Athens from the opposite side of the road where the bus from Athens to Delphi dropped you off, which is also directly opposite the taverna.
From Delphi to Amfissa and Northern Greece
If you are heading onward to Northern Greece like I was you need to board the bus to Amfissa outside of the “bus station” taverna. This bus does a triangular circuit between Delphi, Amfissa and Itea. Amfissa is the hub for buses in this area of the country so you need to change here for journeys into Northern Greece i.e. if your destination is Lamia, Larissa, Thessaloniki etc.
I travelled to Thessaloniki from Delphi and when I booked my ticket online there was no mention of where I needed to change buses, therefore I royally screwed up this journey and will be sharing how to do it successfully in an upcoming blog post. If you need any tips in the meantime feel free to get in touch and I will try to pass on the information that I had to learn the hard way!