In the mountain range of Parnassus sits the picturesque town of Arachova. Located about a two-hour drive from the center of Athens, Arachova is a popular destination for weekend getaways, especially in the winter time as it sits at over three thousand feet above sea level. The town is reachable by bus, departing from main bus terminals in Athens for a reasonable cost. The charm and history of the town makes it worth visiting all year round though. The significance of the town is noted in one of the most celebrated texts of all time: Homer’s Iliad. The mention centers around generals Epistrophos and Schedias from local towns around Arachova and their involvement in the Trojan War.
Although its ancient origins are impressive, the modern 20th century history of Arachova is also notable. In 1826, following the beginning of the Greek Revolution and fight for freedom from the oppressive Ottoman Turks, various battles took place there.
Determined to fight for his people and their liberation, general Georgios Karaiskakis led his troops from Athens north into the mountains of Parnassus, intending to meet the Turkish forces head on, without fear and despite the losses in the months preceding this. The battle took place in November as winter was creeping in and as the Turks continued to try to suppress the Greek Revolution. As the Turkish forces came into Arachova from the north, they were met with the Greek opposition. A violent battle took place around the now famous church of Aghios Georgios. After six days of battle, the Greeks were successful and Arachova was free. Due to the incredible symbolism of the church and the fact that it was the fearless General Karaiskakis’ first namesake, there is a celebration each year on the saint’s feast day. A monument dedicated to General Karaiskakis stands proudly next to the church.
The beauty of Aghios Georgios church is not only found in its symbolism and history. The church sits towards the back of the small town, touching the base of the mountain that shields it. From its marble courtyard you have a view of the whole town and the endless mountain ranges in every direction. A clock tower stands in the center of the courtyard and the whole scene seems like a fairytale. To honor the sacrifices of our ancestors, two metal cannons are on display pointing out into the distance.
If you are the traveler who searches for the perfect view, then you will also enjoy the Arachova Clock Tower. You will find this on the main road leading into the town, called Livadias-Amfissas. The clock tower and its adjoining building are built next to another architecturally impressive church, the Naos Isodion Theotokou, at the center of town. From here you will also see views of the whole town and all the mountains that surround you. You also get a perfect view of the famous bridge in Arachova. It is a portion of the main road that is built on what resembles an old aqueduct, except now it is lined with large red doors. It is the popular image used to represent Arachova to travelers, with the bridge and the towering mountains in the background.
The main road Livadias-Amfissas is where all the action is, with restaurants, bars, and shops, some of which have an amazing view of the mountains and valley from the inside. You can find treasures like handmade gifts and even a local crystal shop offering healing stones for all your troubles. Arachova is a popular tourist stop and weekend getaway destination, so it has plenty of hotels and apartments to rent from. Although certainly worth the visit in the warmer months, Arachova is generally a winter destination. Nearby, there are three popular ski facilities located on Mount Parnassus.
The area around Arachova on Mount Parnassus is classified as a Wildlife Refuge, which adds to the beauty of the place because of the untouched nature and environment.
If you continue west on the main road and out past Arachova you will reach one of the most renowned ancient sites in all of Greece and perhaps the world. In just a fifteen-minute drive, you will arrive at the site of Delphi. This ancient site was the home to the all-seeing oracle Pythia. This place was so significant to our ancient ancestors that they believed it to be the very center of the world. The ruins of Delphi are a valuable treasure to the world and are a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built here thousands of years ago is the Temple of Apollo, the site of the Oracle, and the Ancient Stadium of Delphi and theater, among other ruins. At the road entrance to the historic site, you will see the Archeological Museum of Delphi.
Legend has it that Zeus discovered Delphi to be the center of the world after setting two eagles free to the east and the west, and they crossed paths over the site of Delphi. From then on, this place would be sacred ground and the scene of worship for generations. As in ancient Olympia, in Delphi there was also a celebration of athletic games every four years. They were done in honor of the god Apollo and his slaying of the serpent Python,’ who originally guarded the site. The Pythian Games were considered one of the four original Panhellenic Games and laid the foundations for the Olympics we celebrate today.
The significance of Delphi was focused on its status as the center of the world. Greek city states honored this by obtaining the eternal flame of Apollo burning in his temple, and bringing it back home with them. The oracle of Delphi was a vessel for the guidance of Apollo. The god would choose an old woman with a humble past to be his voice. Through the ages, the oracles who shared the wisdom of the gods would sit over the opening in the Earth at Delphi and be intoxicated by the fumes of the Earth before sharing their message. The wisdom of the oracles was sought in times of great struggle or transformation.
Next to the archeological site is a small town also called by the name Delphi. Here you can find some traditional tavernas as well as accommodation, if you are searching for an even smaller town vibe from its neighbor Arachova.
This mountain getaway is an experience many travelers do not know exists. Away from the islands and commercially booming tourist sites are these ancient villages and mountain towns. Arachova has significance in the fight for a free Greece and continues to wow its visitors in both the winter and the summer. Close by, Delphi is a reminder of the richness of Greek history and the stories and myths that we still speak of today, millennia later. So, what will you ask the all-seeing oracle on your next trip to Delphi and Arachova?