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GALAXÍDHI is a charming port town appearing mirage-like out of an otherwise lifeless shore along the Gulf of Kórinthos, just 35km from Delphi. With your own transport, it makes an ideal base for visiting both Delphi and Ósios Loukás, and it’s also worth at least two days in its own right. Amazingly, given its size, Galaxídhi was once one of Greece’s major harbours, with a fleet of over four hundred two- and three-masted kaïkia and schooners, trading as far afield as the UK. But shipowners failed to convert to steam power after 1890, and the town’s prosperity vanished. Clusters of nineteenth-century shipowners’ mansions, reminders of those heady days, reflect borrowings from Venice, testament to the sea captains’ far-flung travels, and to their wealth. Despite some starts at gentrification, the town retains its authenticity, with an animated commercial high street (Nikólaou Máma) and a good range of places to eat and drink.

The old town

The old town stands on a raised headland, crowned by the eighteenth-century church of Ayía Paraskeví (the old basilica, not the more obvious belfried Áyios Nikólaos, patron saint of sailors). With its protected double harbour, the location proved irresistible to early settlers, which explains stretches of walls – all that’s left of ancient Chaleion and its successor Oianthe – between the two churches and the water on the headland dividing the two anchorages. What you see dates from 1830–70, as the town was largely destroyed during the War of Independence.

Nautical and Historical Museum

Just uphill from the main harbour is the Nautical and Historical Museum, whose galleries do a well-labelled, clockwise gallop round this citadel-settlement in all eras. Ancient Chaleion is represented by painted pottery and a bronze folding mirror, then it’s on to the chronicles of Galaxídhi – the place’s name from Byzantine times onwards – and its half-dozen shipyards, mostly alongside the northwesterly Hirólakkas anchorage. The local two- and three-masters are followed from their birth – primitive, fascinating tools for ship building and sail-making – to their all-too-frequent sudden violent death. Along the way are propeller-operated logs, wooden rattles to signal the change of watches, a bouroú or large shell used as a foghorn and – best of all – superb polychrome figureheads.

Beaches

Strolling or driving around the pine-covered headland flanking the southeastern harbour leads to tiny pebbly coves where most people swim. The closest “real” beaches are at the end of this road, or at Kalafátis just north of town, though neither is brilliant – harsh shingle underfoot and occasionally turbid water. With transport, head for better beaches at Ágios Vassílis (4km west) or Áyii Pándes (11km west).

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