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Last updated : Nov 2009
Piraeus, Cape Sounio, Ossios Loukas, Delphi and Mount Parnassus
Piraeus, Cape Sounio, Ossios Loukas, Delphi and Mount Parnassus - TravelPuppy.com
Piraeus

Lying at the innermost point of the Saronic Gulf just outside Athens, and connected to the centre by the metro, Piraeus is the city’s main port. Ferries leave on a regular basis for the Islands (see the information on the Greek Islands).

The area surrounding Athens, known as Attica, is characterised by tranquil beaches, and the pinewoods and thyme-covered slopes of Mount Parnes, Hymettus and Pentelico. As one travels northwest, towards the interior, the landscape combines fertile plains planted with cotton and tobacco, and rugged mountains with unspoilt villages and winter ski resorts.

Cape Sounio

69km east of Athens, crowning Cape Sounio is a towering promontory which dominates the landscape for miles around. Here stand the superb ruins of the Temple of Poseidon, built in the fourth century BC, commanding magnificent views over the sea and islands. The Apollo Coast, a highly urbanized tourist area stretching from Piraeus to Cape Sounio, is dotted with exclusive resorts such as Glifada (17km/11 miles from Athens) and Vouliagmeni (24km/15 miles from Athens), offering marinas, well-kept beaches, modern hotel complexes, seafood taverns and luxury-class restaurants and nightclubs. North of Cape Sounio is Rafina, Athens’ second port, with ferry connections to Euboea and some of the Greek Islands.

Ossios Loukas

Northwest of Athens, close to the town of Livadia, stands the wonderful monastery of Ossios Loukas. Within the monastery complex one can visit the 11th-century Church of St Luke, noted for its impressive Byzantine mosaics, and the 13th-century Church of the Virgin, built by Cistercian monks who occupied the monastery during the Middle Ages. Livadia, built into the foothills of Mount Helikon, was well-known in ancient times for the Oracle of Trophonios Zeus, the Springs of Forgetfulness (Lethe) and Memory (Mnemosyne) to the north of the town.

Delphi

176km northwest of Athens, Delphi can be reached by road via Livadia and Arahova. This is the site of the well-known Oracle, where rulers of ancient Greece came for many centuries for moral and political guidance. The complex of treasury buildings, plinths and the foundations for the 4th-century BC Temple of Apollo are set on the steep rocky hillside, overlooking olive groves and the Sanctuary of Athena, known as the Marmaria (marbles). A steep uphill climb from the Temple brings one to the theatre, offering stunning views over the entire site, and further uphill lies the ancient stadium. The Delphi Museum contains a brilliant collection of finds from the site.

Many visitors to Delphi stay overnight in nearby Arahova, a beautiful hillside town renowned for its cheese, formaela. On the other hand, a short distance southwest of Delfi, on the northern coast of the Gulf of Corinthia, lie the seaside towns of Itea and Galaxidi, offering hotels, restaurants and beaches. A regular bus connects Athens and Itea, passing through Arahova and Delphi en route.

Mount Parnassus

Close to Arahova, on the main road from Athens to Delphi, lies the southern slopes of Mount Parnassus, which towers 2457m over the Gulf of Corinth. Through winter (December to April) the mountain hosts many well-equipped ski resorts, and the area is quite popular with hikers during spring and autumn.