Parnassus Mountains

Central Greece and Thessaly

The Parnassus Mountains rise behind ancient Delphi and the mountain village of Arachova, and the Parnassus National Park is one of the two oldest in Greece.

The Parnassus Mountains of GreeceThe Parnassus Mountains

Behind Delphi rise the dramatic Parnassus Mountains. Their highest point is the 8,061-foot (2,457 m) Mount Liakoura, or Wolf Mountain. You are unlikely to see wolves today, as roads make the area busier and the top easily accessible, and skiers, hikers, and mountain bikers now flock here. Nearby Gerontovrachros, or Old Man's Rock, looms slightly lower at 7,989 feet (2,435 m).

Parnassus National Park

Much of the area is protected as the Parnassus National Park, established in 1938. This makes it one of the first national parks in the whole of Europe and, along with the one around Mount Olympus, the oldest in Greece. It is dominated by forested slopes of Cephalonian fir. Between the forests there are beautiful meadows, covered with alpine flowers in the spring. 

Only the occasional wolf makes a visit these days, when driven down by especially harsh conditions in the mountains, but there are foxes, badgers, squirrels, and even wild boars. The Parnassus Mountains are also home to several species of vulture and eagle, including golden eagles.

Golden EagleGolden Eagle

Arachova

Despite being only 7 miles (12 kms) from Delphi, with its coachloads of visitors arriving every day, this delightful little mountain village is little affected by tourism, apart from the occasional coach tour group stopping on the way to or from Delphi. Most tour buses don't bother as it means getting all the passengers off the bus and back on again, just a few minutes from doing the same at Delphi. And Delphi of course has its own souvenir shops.

Beyond those souvenir shops that line the main road, hoping to catch some of Delphi's tourist traffic, the traditional life of Arachova goes on. You'll see this if you spend a night or two there and see the villagers on their evening stroll, or volta. 

Arachova, near Delphi, in GreeceArachova

It's certainly worth staying here if you're touring by car and want to see Delphi. You can be there when the doors open, and you'll get more authentic accommodation and food in Arachova. Away from the main road you find narrow streets of traditional houses, and the tavernas serve hearty mountain food. The region is known for its cheeses, in particular, and robust wines. Roadside stores are filled with woolen rugs known as flokatis, excellent for hanging on walls to keep out the cold mountain air in winter.

From Arachova it's easy to get out into the lower slopes of the Parnassus range, either by hiring a local guide or simply by arming yourself with a good map. Always keep a watchful eye on the weather, which can change quickly. Let someone at your hotel know where you are going, and when you expect to be back.

Grass of Parnassus FlowersGrass of Parnassus Flowers

Delphi

Delphi, GreeceDelphi

The modern village of Delphi is another good base, not only for visiting the archaeological site (see our separate Delphi page), which is within easy walking distance, but for venturing into the mountains. Hotel and restaurant prices are a little higher than at Arachova.

Corycian Cave

A popular walk leads up to the Corycian Cave, which was once the scene of frenzied orgies when it was held to be sacred to Pan, the god of fertility. Today you'll need a flashlight, not for illuminating any such activity but rather to see the stalactites and stalagmites inside the cave and to read the inscriptions carved into the walls. Check weather conditions before setting off, and note that the cave is usually inaccessible from about November till April.

Skiing in the Parnassus Mountains

From about December to April the ski season is in full swing here. The main center is at Fterolakkas, a 15-mile (24-km) drive from Arachova. Here you'll find a restaurant and a chairlift to take you up to 6,200 feet (1,900 m), from where a ski lift takes you even higher up the slopes. Skiing takes place until the snows start to give way to the colourful wildflowers in spring.

You might like these other Central Greece pages...

  • Central Greece and Thessaly

    Central Greece and Thessaly has many Greek visitor attractions, like ancient Delphi, Meteora, the Pelion and Ossios Loukas monastery.

  • Gulf of Corinth Drive

    This beautiful drive along the northern shore of the Gulf of Corinth (Korinthiakos Kolpos), goes from Delphi to Missolonghi via Galixidi and Nafpaktos.

  • Delphi, Ancient Greek Site and Archaeological Museum

    Visiting the ancient site of Delphi and its archaeological museum in the Parnassos Mountains of Central Greece.

  • Volos and Pelion

    The city of Volos has several museums and is a major port, and also the gateway to the charming Pelion peninsula with its traditional villages and beaches.

  • Pindus Mountains

    The Pindus Mountains range runs along the border between Epirus and Thessaly, includes two national parks and some of the highest mountain peaks in the country.

  • Ossios Loukas

    Ossios Loukas is a Byzantine monastery that stands between Athens and Delphi and is the burial place of the Greek hermit, Blessed Luke.

  • Northern Greece Guide

    The Bradt Guide to Northern Greece is a detailed guide to Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Macedonia, Thrace, The Pelion, The Sporades and the rest of Northern Greece.

  • Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece

    Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and is in the Mount Olympus National Park in Macedonia, with Litochoro being the best base.

  • Meteora

    Visiting the monasteries of Meteora on the Plain of Thessaly, with hotels in Kalambaka and guided tours available.

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