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Hiking to the Corycian Cave

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The Corycian Cave (Korýkio Ándro) plays a significant part in Delphi mythology, since it was sacred to Pan and the nymphs, and they were the presiding deities of the oracle during winter, when Apollo abandoned the spot.

Allow a full day for this outing (4hr for ascent to cave, 3hr 30min back to Dhelfí – consult The Mountains of Greece), and take ample food. To reach the trailhead follow signposting up through Dhelfí village to the Museum of Delphic Festivals. Continue climbing from here to the highest point of the fence enclosing the sanctuary ruins. Where the track ends at a gate, take a trail on your left, initially marked by a black-and-yellow rectangle on a white background; these, repeated regularly, indicate the trail is part of the E4 European long-distance route.

Initially steep, the way soon flattens out on a grassy knoll overlooking the stadium, and continues along a ridge. Soon after, you join an ancient cobbled trail coming from inside the fenced precinct – the Kakí Skála, which zigzags up the slope above you in broad arcs. The path ends an hour-plus above the village, at the top of the Phaedriades cliffs. From one of several nearby rock pinnacles those guilty of sacrilege in ancient times were thrown to their deaths – a custom perhaps giving rise to the name Kakí Skála or “Evil Stairway”.

E4 markers remain visible in the valley ahead of you as the principal route becomes a gravel track bearing northeast; ignore this and follow instead a metal sign pointing toward the cave, taking the right fork near the Krokí spring and watering troughs, with a complex of summer cottages on your right. This track, now intermittently paved, passes a picnic ground and a chapel of Ayía Paraskeví within fifteen minutes. Continue for some forty minutes beyond the chapel, heading gently downhill and passing another sign for the cave, until you emerge from the fir woods (2hr 40min from Dhelfí) with a view east and ahead to the rounded mass of the Yerondóvrahos peak (2367m) of the Parnassós massif.

Another fifteen minutes bring you to a second chapel (of Ayía Triádha) on the left, with a spring and picnic ground. To the left rises a steep ridge, site of the ancient Corycian cave. Persevere along the road for five more minutes to where a white bilingual sign indicates a newer path, marked by orange paint splodges and red-triangle signs. After forty minutes’ climb on this, you meet another dirt road; turn left and follow it five minutes more to the end, just below the conspicuous cave mouth at an altitude of 1370m.

In ancient times, the cave was the site of orgiastic rites in November, when women, acting as nymphs, made the long hike up from Delphi on the Kakí Skála by torchlight. If you look carefully with a torch you can find ancient inscriptions near the entrance; without artificial light you can’t see more than 100m into the chilly, forbidding cavern. By the entrance you’ll also notice a rock with a man-made circular indentation – possibly an ancient altar for libations.

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