You must see Mt Parnassus: a true wonder of the world

Mount Parnassus, a limestone spur in central Greece, north of the Gulf of Corinth, is one of the world’s most significant sites – and a ‘must-see’ for travellers interested in culture and history.

Towering above the ancient sanctuary of Delphi, the mountain plays a big role in Greek mythology.

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In addition to being sacred to the god Apollo, who often visited the nearby Oracle at Delphi, the mountain was thought to be the residence of the Muses and, as a result, the home of poetry and song. 

Even the name Parnassus, effectively means the mountain of the house of the God.

Over the centuries, Mount Parnassus has influenced many poets, writers and singers. For this reason, the name of the mountain (Mont Parnasse) was given to a quarter of Paris, France on the left bank of the Seine, where artists and poets used to gather and recite their poems in public.

Ruins of the ancient city of Delphi, which are visited by huge numbers of people each year, nestle into the south-western slope of the mountain – overlooking the coastal plain. 

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The phenomenal influence of this area in the ancient world – the Greeks called Delphi the centre of the world – resulted in its classification as a World Heritage Site.

Although Delphi is mostly known as the home of the Oracle, the city itself had much to offer. 

Every four years, the Pythian Games were held there and the ancient city also had an amphitheater, gymnasium, and other sanctuaries dedicated to gods and goddesses such as Artemis, Dionysus, and Poseidon.

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Mount Parnassus and Delphi are a comfortable day trip from Athens.

We travelled to the Greek capital courtesy of Scoot, which flies modern Boeing Dreamliners to and from Asia and Australia.

Greece travel

Review: Rocky mountain high at Delphi

I had no idea why I was going to Delphi.

To be honest, it just seemed to me like something everyone did when they visited Greece.

But, now that Scoot Airlines had opened a new, cost-effective service between Australia and Athens, a trip to all the wonders of ancient Greece – including Delphi – suddenly became a reality.

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In retrospect, I’m pleased we made the effort to take a bus 180 kilometres from Athens to the foot of Mount Parnassos.

And I understand why Delphi sanctuary and stadium are the second most popular attractions in Greece – behind the Acropolis.

For a start, the location is awesome – a modern town, the ancient ruins and a museum overlooking the Gulf of Corinth and the Phocis valley of olive groves.

The ruins hug the mountainside so tightly that they appear to have been carved into the earth.

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In ancient times, Delphi was considered the centre of the known world; the place where heaven and earth met.

According to mythology, Zeus sent out two eagles from the ends of the universe. The eagles met at Delphi, which therefore became the navel of the world.

As we walked through the sanctuary, the monuments included columns of the ruined Temple of Apollo, where the Oracle of Delphi resided.

This priestess was the most famous fortune-teller of ancient Greece, even though many now say that she was high as a kite on fumes rising from a crack in the earth.

Our path through the ruins wound on past a large theatre, the Athenian Treasury, Sibyl Rock and the Stoa of the Athenians – to name a few of the highlights.

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At the peak of the ruins, there is an ancient stadium, where the Pythian Games were held every four years. These Games were one of four precursors of the modern Olympics.

Male athletes at ancient Greek Games competed naked with their bodies oiled – and I suspect that Sue wanted to check that none had been left behind.

But the rocky path to the stadium had been worn smooth by footsteps over the Centuries – and, after several near-slips, we decided to call it quits and head for the museum.

After lunch and a beer at the nearby tavern, we headed about half a kilometre away to see probably the most photographed of the ruins of Delphi, the Tholos. This is a circular building that was constructed between 360 and 380 BC.

Then it was back to Athens, with a greater understanding of the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, and its significance.

Note: The writer was flown to Athens courtesy of Scoot Airlines.

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