the Athens to Delphi alternative road
“Graecia Antiqua” Map of Ancient Greece (1814)

The voyage from Athens to Delphi

Since Ancient Greece until the 20th century, the main axis of transportation in Greece was the sea! The trip to Delphi had taken the form of a cruise, with the sightseers docking in the port of Kirra and continuing by feet until reaching Delphi. This process of visiting Delphi is described from travelers in Ancient Greece as well as tourists in the 19th century! The roads on dry land were built to serve local needs and were really developed in the second half of the 20th century.

Until as recently as the 1970’s, the main road to Delphi was the “National Road 3” which began at Elefsina and was passing by: Mandra, Thebes, Livadeia, Lamia, Farsala, Larissa, Tyrnavos, Elassona, Kozani, Ptolemaida, Florina and Niki ( at the border with Yugoslavia). The driver was following this route until Livadeia then would continue towards Arachova and Delphi through the “National Road 48”.

Since 1970 the “Highway 1” starting from Athens towards Thebes, Lamia, Salonika and Evzonous has become the principal mean of transport for visiting Delphi. The journey begins in Athens and continues north towards Thebes or Kastro where it meets with the National Road 3 until Livadeia and then the National Road 48 until Delphi.

Today, for a person wishing to visit Delphi the choice of road is a matter of time and mood. The fastest way is through the “Highway 1”which will bring you to Delphi in about 2 hours.

The second route takes more time but offers you the chance to travel through some historical monuments of Ancient Greece and through some beautiful landscapes.

1) Our departure point is at the city of Elefsina. This city offers to the traveler a complete image of Greece since the Antiquity to the 20th century. The sites of the city are composed among others from the museum and the archaeological site as well as a tour in the architectural style of the 19th and 20th century.

The road from Eleusis to Athens (1887 - Jacob Von Falke)
The road from Eleusis to Athens (1887 – Jacob Von Falke)

Elefsina, site of the Eleusinian Mysteries, is a post-industrial city steeped in myth on the outskirts of Athens. The Aisxylia Festival is held every year on the west coast of Eleusis, in a beautifully restored old industrial building, which used to operate as an oil press. The Festival is named after the renowned ancient Greek tragic poet Aeschylus and has been celebrated since 1975. The Festival initiated to celebrate 2.500 years from the birth of Aeschylus in Eleusis, hometown of the sacred Eleusinian mysteries. Every year performances of ancient and contemporary theatre are held and musical events, art exhibitions and films are included in the program. The tickets are reasonably priced, attracting many young spectators, who appreciate the occasion to enjoy the artistic and cultural events.

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2) Towards Thiva, and after making a small detour you arrive to Porto Germeno. During the Ancient times the city was called Aigosthena and was an ancient Greek fortified port-city in Attica, 19 km (12 mi) Northwest of the ancient city of Megara to which it belonged. It is also the name of the coastal settlement overlooked by the ancient city walls. The ancient citadel retains several of the tallest surviving towers of ancient Greece.

3) Next stop is the city of Erythron (or Kriekouki). The ancient city of Erythron, the ruins of which are located 1.5 km east of the present settlement, was one of the three northern strongholds of the region of Attica along with Fili and Aigosthena. The city is referred for the first time in the Catalogue of Ships written by Homer. The ancient geographer Stravon indicates that the population of Erythron created the Ionian city Erythron in Asia Minor.

4) From there, a detour allows the visit of the “Holy City” of Plataies (during the Persian Wars and the campaign of king Xerxes, Plataies and Thespies were the only cities on the region of Beotia that didn’t surrender or ally with the Persians). Furthermore, after the victory of the Greek armies Plataies was deemed a “Holy City”, no Greek army was allowed to attack it, and festivities were organized every year in memory of the final battle against the Persians. The battle of Plataies took place in 479 B.C between Greeks and Persians. Even though inferior numerically , the Greek army destroyed the Persians and, combined with the victory of the Greek fleet at Mikali, erased the Persian threat and allowed the Greek states to counter attack until the end of the war in 450 B.C.

Plain of Plataea, from Mount Cithaeron (engraving by William Miller after H.W. Williams)
Plain of Plataea, from Mount Cithaeron (engraving by William Miller after H.W. Williams)

5) Thebes. The city of Thebes was one of the most important city-states of Ancient Greece, the most powerful in Beotia, and a rival of Athens. Thebes was a Persian ally during the Second Persian War ( 480B.C). After the final defeat of the Persian army the city lost the hegemony of the Beotian common treasury and was almost expelled from the “Delphic Amphictionia”.

Thebes (1903)

Thebes ended Sparta’s hegemony over the Greek cities and fought until the end against the Macedonians of Phillip and Alexander the Great. The latter destroyed the entire city with the exception of the house of the poet Pindar. The destruction of Thebes prompted Athens into submission.

Rich in history, Thebes has an important place in mythology, inspiring many through the ages in different ways such as in theatre and philosophy, with the most famous example being the myth of Antigone.

The archaeological museum of Thebes re-opened its doors in June 2016 and is ready to welcome you. The Museum occupies an exhibition area of 1.000 square meters and houses, a multitude of artifacts, representing millennia of continuous human activity in Boeotia. The exhibition halls spread over two different levels, a choice dictated by the necessity to maintain the natural formation on the western slopes of the Kadmeia hill. The exhibition is arranged in a total of eighteen sections, eleven of which follow a basic chronological order from the Palaeolithic period down to the end of the Ottoman rule; in this way, they illustrate over time culture, everyday life, political and social evolution in Boeotia.

Particular sections relate the history of the Archaeological Museum of Thebes and the early archaeological research in the region, the myths associated with Boeotia and the cultural radiation of Boeotia from antiquity to modern times, with a special reference to the tragedies of the Theban mythological cycle. The gallery functions also as a short circuit for the visitor with limited time; furthermore, it leads to the covered archaeological site at the foundations of the Museum.

You can also visit parts of the ruins of Kadmeia ( Thebes’ acropolis), below the four millennial settlement of Thebes.

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6) Chaironea. The birthplace of Plutarch. A small city of Boetia with a rich history and known from the battle of Chaironea in 338 B.C. and the “ Lion of Chaironea”.

As other cities of Boetia, Chaironea’s history is tied with Thebes. Along its history many battles took place with the most famous being the battle of Chaironea in 338 B.C, between Philip II of Macedon and a coalition of various Greek states, mainly Thebes and Athens. During the battle, the elite unit of Theban soldiers known as the Sacred Band of Thebes was wiped out completely.

The battle was one of the most decisive of the ancient world. The forces of Athens and Thebes were destroyed, and continued resistance was impossible; therefore the war between greek city-states and the Macedonians came to an abrupt end.

In 1818 the so-called Lion of Chaeronea was rediscovered by English travellers. A funerary monument 6.1 m tall erected in honor of the Sacred Band of Thebes. The fragmentary monument was reassembled and installed in 1902 by a British organisation called the Order of Chaeronea atop a pedestal at the site of its discover.

The Archaeological Museum of Chaironea houses an important collection from the neolithic period, the archaeological findings of the Battle of Chaironea and funeral findings from the local area. Another important site is the ancient theatre at the end of the city. It is quite impressive, seeing the entire theatre carved out of the rocks of the mountain Petrarchos.

7) Livadeia. The city of Livadeia is never mentioned in any ancient text. It is however believed that it is the ancient city of Meidia that was later renamed as Levadeia or Livadeia.

Jupiter Pluvius – Ancient Greek city of Lebadeia (1819 by Joseph Gandy)

At first sight, the city of Livadeia is not attractive to the eye. However a stroll inside the city can make you change your mind.

You can visit the spring of Kria with its trees. You can also see there the theater of Kria made out of stone.

You can see the sources of Lethe (Forgetfulness, greek: Λήθη) and Mnemosyne (Remembrance, greek: Μνημοσύνη) from which the city is still supplying water from.

You can visit the ruins of the oracle of Zeus Trophonios, in the sacred groove which was open after the establishment of Christianity as the official religion and was shut down by a decree of Emperor Theodosius the First, concerning all the rituals and religions other than Christianity.

It is said that when entering with an admittedly surprising way (sunk into the ground by a hole), someone could travel to another underground world and could receive an answer to any question he had. To be able to enter into this world, someone had to live a few days as indicates by the priests. In general, persons entering there would come out the same way after 2 or 3 days. It is said they were always dizzy and could recover only by following the priests ‘ recommendations. It was forbidden to those who came back to talk about what they saw, heard or learned during their time in the other world under the threat of death. In Ancient times, “To descend into the cave of Trophonios” became a proverbial way of saying “to suffer a great fright”. This saying is alluded to in Aristophanes’ Clouds.

Most of the ancient monuments of the hill were destroyed by Catalan crusaders in order to build a castle with these materials.

The Clock Tower was build during the Frank occupation and was used as a light tower. In 1803, Lord Elgin offered to the city a clock so the regional lords not be disturbed, during his research and excavation of the Trophonios. The clock was put in the tower in order to be easily seen and is one of the main attractions of Livadeia.

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Departing from Livadeia we continue on our journey towards Arachova and Delphi.

Around 7 kilometres before Arachova is the settlement of Zemeno. It is located on the “Schisti Odo” leading to Arachova.

The road is famous for the battle between one of the most famous and reckless thieves in Greece: Davelis (real name Xristos Natsios). Against him was the local militia and part of the army under the orders of lieutenant Ioannis Megas (an ex thief!). During the battle both leaders were killed inspiring locals to create a song about their death. Today there is a monument dedicated to Ioannis Megas.

8) Arahova. The city of Arahova is the last stop before arriving in Delphi.

The village of Arahova experienced a development due to its proximity with Delphi and since the beginning of the 80’s due to the ski resort of Parnassos. Picturesque, Arachova is rich in history and offers many to the visitor.

The area of Ara­hova is full of an­cient set­tle­ments that date back to 1200 B.C. The mod­ern vil­lage of Ara­hova was built in 1300 A.D. At the time, Frank rule of Pho­cis and Boeo­tia was at its peak. A local no­ble­man and feu­dal lord by the name of De Nesle took steps to bet­ter or­ga­nize the area and brought the dis­persed set­tle­ments to­gether, where Ara­hova’s Agios Gi­an­nis is lo­cated today.

During the revolution in 1821 Greek militia fighters under Georgios Karaiskakis defeated the Ottoman army under Mustafa Bey at the 1826 Battle of Arahova. The next day 300 Turkish heads, among them the one of Mustafa Bey were displayed at the Plovarma. This act of barbarism was deemed necessairy in order to raise the spirits of the failing rebel troops and was represented as an act of rightful revenge for the massacre of Messologi. Karaiskakis credited this victory not only to the fighters but also to Saint George, protector of the city.

In Arahova another battle took place more recently during the Second World War. Greek rebels fought against German soldiers in September 1943 and resulted in the defeat of the German forces.

Apart from battle sites, Arahova has to offer also to the visitor a museum dedicated to local folklore, a Clock Tower and many shops and restaurants. Arahova was renowned for their wine “Brusco” as well as a traditional cheese: the formaella, with a fine and delicate taste.

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See our newsletter privacy policy here EditorDelphi TravelAthens to Delphi,Athens to Delphi map,travel to DelphiThe voyage from Athens to Delphi Since Ancient Greece until the 20th century, the main axis of transportation in Greece was the sea! The trip to Delphi had taken the form of a cruise, with the sightseers docking in the port of Kirra and continuing by feet until reaching Delphi....your guide for Delphi, the "Navel of the Earth"