Center of The World, a Famous Oracle and The Pythian Games: Delphi, Greece

View from above the theater overlooking the temple of Apollo where the oracle made her prophecies.

We have been to The Center of The Universe in Wallace, Idaho USA. Now it’s time to visit the Center of The World in Delphi, Greece. According to legend Zeus sent two golden eagles free and where they met was the Center of The World. He threw down a stone on this magical spot. This stone is called the Omphalos and was supposedly covered in a woolen net topped with a pair of gold eagles. It was said to reside under the stone floor of Apollo’s temple with the Delphic Oracle.

The Omphalos on site in Delphi, navel of the world.
Resting in the Delphi Museum, a carved rendition of the Omphalos that some believe sat atop the pillar of Apollo’s three dancers (seen behind it).

Besides being the Center of The Earth, Delphi was home to the oracle whose prophesies helped shape history as we know it. The oracle, called The Pythia, would descend into a stone chamber below the stone floor of Apollo’s temple. There was a crack in the ground that emitted vapors. She would fall into a trance and Apollo would use her as an instrument to speak his prophesy, which would then be interpreted by the priests. The prophesies were scheduled for 9 times a year. Records show that some exceptions were made when self important rulers showed up and demanded a prophesy.

Painting of The Pythia, Delphi’s oracle.

Delphi also had a huge theater and further uphill a stadium where the Pythian Games were held every four years, only second in importance to the Olympic Games. The games included music and poetry as well as athletic sports and equestrian challenges.

The stadium at Delphi were the Pythian Games were held.

A short walk down the road are the ruins of a large gymnasium where the athletes trained. And just beyond that is the temple dedicated to Athena.

Temple dedicated to Athena in Delphi.

The price of your ticket includes entrance to the Delphi Museum. This museum houses the collection of findings that have been excavated at Delphi ranging from huge stone sculptures to tiny delicate offerings made from precious metals.

This sphinx topped a huge pillar near Apollo’s Temple.

We spent over 5 hours hiking around the sites and visiting the museum. Ian estimates that it was at least 4 miles. The valley views overlooked olive orchards stretching to the Gulf of Corinth. And of course we stopped to pet some of the famous Greek stray cats!

Gorgeous views of the valley below.
On the road to the ruins of Delphi.

Athens, Greece 2021

The Erechtheion,a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon in the Acropolis with vast view of Athens.

Athens is the capital of Greece and its largest city with a population over 3 million. There are records of human settlements here from over 7,000 years ago. Currently we find it to be a bustling metropolitan city with over 70 museums to see, international restaurants to try, old and new architecture and easily navagatable public transportation.

Traditional shoes for sale in the Plaka district.

A popular area to stroll through while shopping or to enjoy a meal while gazing up at The Acropolis is the Plaka district. We chose to stay nearby in the Koukaki district because it was more affordable, less touristy and had quiet walking streets with lots of green space.

Bouzouki, a traditional instrument in the lute family.
An enchanting alley in Plaka.


Our main reason for visiting Athens was to see the Acropolis. We were nervous when we read about 2 hour wait times for tickets. Ian did some research and discovered the smaller gate on the southeast side that supposedly had smaller lines. We also learned it’s less busy in the afternoon. When we arrived around 3 pm there were only a handful of people ahead of us so we practically walked right in! Of course Covid may have something to do with the smaller line.

The Theatre of Dionysus on the Acropolis hill.

The trek up was a bit sweaty with temperatures in the high 70’s and a steep climb with lots of steps. As you get closer to the top there is a lot of reflected light and heat from the white marble, so stay hydrated. We spent 2 hours exploring and taking pictures. The view from the top reaches the Aegean Sea.

The Parthenon, dedicated to Athena and constructed 447 BC-432 BC. Partially destroyed in 1687 and currently under reconstruction.


With so many museums to chose from and limited time we decided on a fun one (Museum of Illusions) and a cultural one (National Archeological Museum). Travel Tip: Currently (October 2021) museums require you to show proof of Covid vaccinations along with ID so be prepared.

Ian and I in the upside-down room at The Museum of Illusions.

The Museum of Illusions has a limited time frame of 50 minutes which was perfect for us. For 9 euro we had our minds tricked into seeing things in strange ways, had funny pictures taken and almost fell down in a vortex tunnel that seems to be spinning around but actually is not moving.

The National Archeological Museum with artifacts from all of Greece.

We decided on the National Archeological Museum because it’s the largest in the country and contains pieces from all over Greece. Tickets are 12 euro and we spent 3 1/2 hours. I could have stayed much longer but Ian was over it by then.

The Jockey of Artemision made of bronze in 150-140 BC. Rescued from an underwater ship wreck in 1926.
A statue of Athena that was the focal point of the Parthenon. Originally covered in gold sheets that were removed to pay troops in 296 BC.

Bus and Metro Tips

It’s very easy to get around Athens using public transportation. You need to head to a metro station (or use an automated kiosk which we couldn’t find) to get the ticket that works on both the city busses and the metro. There are several options from one stop to a 5 day pass. You cannot buy a bus ticket on the bus! You must get them from the metro station (or kiosk). There is also a tram but we didn’t try it.

Back to home base in the Koukaki district for fun cocktails after a busy day in Athens.

In conclusion, there is much more to Athens than ancient history and we barely scratched the surface. This is a thriving hip city with so much to offer. Cheers!

Nafplio, Greece 2021

The ancient land gate with Palamidi Fortress crowning the hill.

We reached Nafplio in the evening after an overnight ferry from Santorini and two bus rides. Our place for four nights (Dafni Pension) was situated at the back end of the old town, a 5 minute walk to Arvanitia Beach. From our balcony we could see the masts of ships in port, and Palamidi Fortress overlooking the town behind us.

Stunning view from Palamidi Fortress.

Nafplio is a walking town and cars and scooters are rarely seen on the narrow alleys except for those making deliveries. Mornings were quiet but the restaurants near the port were pretty hopping once the day tourists arrived from Athens.

A quiet alleyway in Nafplio.
Bougainvillea adds color to the charming streets.

Orange trees, olives, and eucalyptus trees are prevalent in back alley yards. Cats are found everywhere resting on benches and begging under tables. Wandering the streets we tasted gelato, greek salads, moussaka, and an orange cake made from phyllo dough, orange liquor and honey.

We learned that greek salad is comprised of vegetables, no salad greens!
Cocktail hour in Nafplio includes an artistic view.
A stormy sunset near the port.

We made Nafplio our destination but some visitors make it home base as they explore the many attractions in the area. We found plenty to do, such as visiting Palamidi Fortress and swimming at Arvanitia Beach.

We only had one hour to explore Palamidi Fortress but I recommend two if you want to see everything.

You can climb the 999 steps to Palamidi Fortress but I have a sprained ankle so we hired a taxi in the main square to take us and wait. It’s actually a large site to see between the views and touring the bastions. It was a prison after its life as a fortress and you can stand inside the cells and see the wooden beds with stones for pillows. The views over the beautiful town are spectacular.

The path that leads to warm and clear swimming waters at Arvanitia Beach.

We loved seeing canons dating from the 1300’s and stopping at a cafe to watch huge yachts sail by the Bourtzi Fortress built in 1473. A fabulous mix of old and new in a place we will return to.

One of ‘The Five Brothers’ canons that once defended the fortress.
Bourtzi Fortress
Goodnight Nafplio!

7 Great Things to do on a Long Weekend in Santorini, Greece 2021

Epic views from Oia on the Northern tip of the island.

We landed in Santorini jet lagged but bright eyed and happily met by the shuttle service at the airport. The quick ride was worth the 25 euro we paid not to deal with waiting for a bus that may or may not come. Our hotel, Argonaftes, has the most charming and helpful receptionist who gave us a map along with recommendations and a history of how Santorini was created. To briefly sum up, there was a giant volcano that blew up 4,000 years ago which created the caldera. Then a couple smaller volcanos grew inside the middle and those still go off once in awhile. Also, the lost city of Atlantis could be the Minoan civilization that was buried in that eruption. And you can see it (#4 Akrotiri)! Our first night was watching the tail end of sunset in Fira and having dinner.

Our balcony view at Argonaftes in the town of Fira.

1: Visit the cliffside village of Oia

The next morning we rented an ATV and headed north to Oia (pronounced Eee-ya). This is the most famous town with the white buildings cascading down the cliffside. There are cave hotels built into the limestone with aqua pools and sun bathers. Blue domed churches with charming bell towers dot the landscape and every tourist lines up for their Instagram photos on certain twisty corners.

Great photo opportunities in Oia.
Renting a scooter or ATV is a fun way to see the island.

2: Watch sunset from Fira

We could have done more on our first day but decided to take it easy and went back to Fira to watch the sunset over the caldera. Fira is the capital of Santorini and it’s very charming with lots of shops and restaurants and beautiful white buildings draped over the edge of the caldera.

Sunset in Fira.

3: Get a birds eye view of the entire island at The Monastery

The next morning we drove our ATV up, up and up to the highest point on the island. There is a monastery there with a small church you can visit. They sell pickled caper leaves, sun dried tomatoes, figs and other local treats. But the real draw is the 360 view of the island.

Enjoy the view of Santorini!

4: Visit 4,000 year old Akrotiri

Akrotiri was the site of the ancient Minoan civilization that was destroyed when the volcano erupted and it was covered with ash and mud. Some say this is the lost city of Atlantis. The mud helped preserve frescoes painted on the walls and there is pottery with the paint still visible. It’s fascinating and a bit eerie to walk through this site as you are mostly on the third level looking down into the homes and streets. It has only been 5% excavated.

Looking into the past at homes and storage vessels 4,000 years old.

5: Red Beach

Right around the corner from Akrotiri is Red Beach. A dramatic beach at the bottom of red lava cliffs with turquoise waters. We were too cold to swim in late September but there were plenty of swimmers and sunbathers enjoying themselves. You can take a boat to see White Beach and Black Beach from the dock nearby.

Dramatic volcanic Red Beach on the south end.

6: Wander the white alleyways of Pyrgos

Pyrgos is a traditional village with tight winding alleyways. Sometimes only wide enough for a donkey carrying someone’s luggage to their Air BNB! You’ll discover tavernas, restaurants and boutique stores tucked away and a few blue domed churches.

Medieval white alleys of Pyrgos
From this church in Pyrgos you have views over vineyards below.

7: Wine taste at Santo Wines

Our last stop was wine tasting at Santo Wines. You’ll pay 45 euro for the 12 tastes with cheese and nuts. But if you want the caldera sunset view and just a glass of their delicious wine its worth the wind. Try the island grown Assyrtiko that is indigenous to Santorini!

A windy and delicious toast to Santorini!

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, March 2021

Gorgeous views on a stroll through San Miguel de Allende.

San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful high desert city in north central Mexico. Located in the state of Guanajuato, it’s just an hour and a half bus ride from Leon.

There are lots of photo opportunities in San Miguel de Allende.

Great restaurants everywhere, beautiful parks and plazas. The only downside is that it’s known to be one of the most expensive cities in Mexico.

The meandering streets are delightful.

The best time to visit is during the week because an influx of young, wealthy Mexican tourists come to party on the weekend. Saturday night was like spring break with loud singing emanating from bars, lines out the door at restaurants and large crowds of semi naked young ladies taking selfies.

Saturday is very busy with tourists!
Pretty flower crowns sold in the plaza.

The rest of the week is more mellow and it’s easy to spend a day visiting the park, window shopping and just enjoying a stroll down gorgeous streets in perfect short sleeve weather.

Warm colors and warm weather in San Miguel de Allende.
Have dinner or a glass of wine on the plaza with this view!

Tolantongo Hot Springs, Mexico, March 2021

Dozens of pools with geothermal hot spring water and an epic view of the desert canyon await you.

Tolantongo Hot Springs are located in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. This awesome complex has caves, waterfalls, a warm blue river, dozens of cascading infinity pools down a mountain side and zip lines (for an additional cost). There are hotels, restaurants, bars, tiendas, and camping areas for a more budget stay. Entry tickets for the day are $7.50 US per person.

Even the bright blue river is warm hot spring water!

There are two halves of the resort. On the ‘Grutas’ side you’ll find the big waterfall, a huge cave, a tunnel, the long blue river, and camping areas.

The gruta (cave) has a natural spout in the ceiling where hot water is pouring out, along with other smaller waterfalls and a tunnel you can swim into.

The ‘Paraiso’ side has the small warm infinity pools on the mountain side, a suspension bridge, a tunnel, and zip lines.

Enjoy a soak in the warm spring water!

Travel Tip: Bring lots of cash! All those restaurants, bars and tiendas are cash only, and your room is too. Plus you have to buy entry tickets for both your arrival day and your departure day in order to get a room. So for us to stay 2 nights we had to buy 3 days of entry tickets.
For our departure we caught the 7:30 AM bus and they refunded us for the last day we didn’t use.

Inside the tunnel on the Paraiso side.

If you like hot springs this is a ‘Must See’ in Mexico!

Palenque and Cascadas Roberto Barrios, Mexico March 2021

Written by Ian Nutting, pics by Ocean
The rainy day added a mystical quality to our visit to Palenque ruins.

Palenque Ruins in the Rain

Palenque is one of the must see ruins in the Mayan world. It’s not as grand as Tikal, Guatemala, or with as large of a pyramid at Chitzen Itza in the Yucatan. But it’s location, setting and history make it a jewel. Misty green hills teeming with rushing creeks surround the ruins at Palenque. Howler monkeys provide their ghostly barks in the distance as you reflect on the civilization as it once was. It is located in the state of Chiapas, the southern most state in Mexico.

The Temple of the Inscriptions is a funerary tomb noted for it’s hieroglyphic inscriptions.

How we got there from Guatamala

We arrived after a long day traveling from Tikal, Guatemala. The route included a little known border crossing at El Ceibo in the very northwest corner of the Peten district of Guatemala. We crossed through slash and burn farming areas that border hundreds of square miles of jungle. Many other Mayan sites are presumed to be undiscovered. Because we were the only foreigners at the time, it took about an hour to get through the border. A more comfortable ride sounded nice today so we chose private transportation. We had a driver in a car on the Guatemalan side connecting to a mini van on the Mexican side. Door to door($50 p\p, 6 hrs.). You could use the local transportation with about 5 transfers ($20 p\p, 10 hrs.).

The pool at our jungle lodge, Kim Balam.

The Jungle Lodge

The town of Palenque is not terribly attractive. We opted for one of the jungle lodges that are scattered along the 3 mile stretch out towards the ruins. This provides you with cabana style accommodations while enjoying the jungle and wildlife. We stayed at Kim Balam that had a nice dipping pool and restaurant.

Tropical flowers and meandering streams at Kim Balam.

Bridges crisscrossed a stream that lead to different areas of the hotel. Peacocks and other little critters (like giant short haired guinea pigs) wandered about. Eerie growls are heard from the Howler monkeys in the distance or sometimes right overhead!

Cascadas Roberto Barrios has several gorgeous pools to swim in.

Cascadas Roberto Barrios

Our first day in the area we decided to head out to one of the several waterfalls located an hour or so away. Cascadas Roberto Barrios was the choice. We were blown away with the beautiful milky blue waters that flowed over hundreds of tiered pools. Cliff jumping, natural slides, rope swings, swimming behind waterfalls, you name it, picture perfect moments. You can book a tour at your hotel ($15) or use local transportation from the market for half price and stay as long as you like.

Lots of fun to be had at Cascadas Robert Barrios!

A Day Visit to Tremendous Tikal Ruins, Guatemala 2021

Temple II built in 700 A.D. on The Grand Plaza.

Tikal was the largest city in the Mayan world. An ancient city that took a thousand years to build and dates back to 200 A.D. It’s six square miles of paths through the wet, sticky hot jungle. We spent six and a half hours seeing the sights, and we didn’t see everything, so plan accordingly.

The paths of Tikal are currently empty except for tropical birds and monkeys in the trees.
A Keel billed Toucan we saw in the canopy above.

We felt like we had the place to ourselves because of Covid. The only sounds we heard as we walked were tropical birds and howler monkeys making their eerie horror movie sounds. Occasionally hard round fruits would fall onto the path, bitten by spider monkeys in the canopy above.

Temple I (aka The Big Jaguar) and a view of the North Acropolis to the left. I took this photo while standing atop Temple II.

There are some workers there, quietly digging the giant pyramids out of the jungle that covers them. Several sites have not yet been excavated at all and just appear to be large hills covered in towering trees and vegetation.

The temples poke out of the jungle below.
The smooth, giant rock ‘stele’ once portrayed colorful carvings of kings and gods.

We spent one night at The Jungle Lodge which is right at the entrance. This was a nice treat after walking and climbing stairs all day with a pool, restaurant and bar but it’s pretty expensive ($100 US per night). Another option is to stay in the beautiful island town of Flores, an hour and a half away on lake Peten Itza. We had a great hotel with a pool and several choices of restaurants within walking distance for just $55 US. We stayed there the night before we went to Tikal.

Rooms at Casona de La Isla in Flores are $55 and some have a lake and sunset view.
Temple V built between 550 and 650 A.D.

Tikal is truly amazing in size, height and grandeur. Add the feeling of being the original explorers finding these edifices hidden in the jungle and it’s an unforgettable experience. It’s a great time to visit!

Out and About in Antigua Guatemala, February 2021

The famous Santa Catalina Arch of Antigua built in the 17th century.

We arrived to Antigua before our room was ready so we headed next door to Antigua Brewing Company. Climbing the stairs to the shady terrace we settled into a flight of six house brews. Taking the first sips we heard exclamations from fellow patrons and looking up saw ash spewing from the top of Fuego Volcano!

View from Antigua Brewing Company of an ash cloud erupting from Fuego Volcano.
Zoomed in view of Fuego erupting at night, taken from our hotel roof.

There is plenty to do, see and eat in Antigua! You can find international and regional restaurants, breweries, and wine bars, some built within old ruins. There are gorgeous cathedrals and ruins of majestic buildings that were part of the old capital of Guatemala before the big earthquake hit in 1773 and the capital was moved to Guatemala City.

Beautiful buildings and tropical foliage in Antigua.
This convent became a prison in more modern times. Now it’s a ruin to explore.

You can spend hours just visiting the town square, feeding pigeons at the fountain and walking the colorful streets of Antigua.

The main plaza in Antigua with a volcano looming in the distance.
The Fountain in Central Park.

A popular hike to Pacaya Volcano is currently closed due to the volcanic eruptions. We took a trip around the volcano to the other side where we waited until nightfall to get some good pictures. The lava flowing down with occasional loud explosions of ash and lava was pretty magnificent.

Ash erupts from Pacaya Volcano.
It’s easier to see the glow from the lava once the sun goes down.
Beautiful, colorful Antigua Guatemala!

Serene Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala February 2021

The two volcanoes of Lake Atitlan.

Traveling is fun, but after five weeks it’s nice to have a little R&R so we headed to Lake Atitlan. Because the small community of Santa Cruz de Lago is a great place for relaxing we splurged on a private home rental at Los Elementos for $55 a night.

The lake front house rental at Los Elementos. Fantastic!

The volcanoes were hidden by mist for the first couple days which made their unveiling quite spectacular when the sky finally cleared.

Boat docks are the local’s driveways.

Many of the villages including Santa Cruz are only accessible by boat. You are let off at the main dock unless you can sweet talk (or pay) to be let off at a dock nearest to your accommodation. The lake front portion of Santa Cruz was about a mile long and getting around is solely on foot via boardwalks and paths meandering though tropical brush, in front of gorgeous villas, and up and down steps, across stone walls and so on. You pass romantic eateries, private homes and a slew of accommodations from upscale hotels and a few hippie hostels.

Along the trail from Santa Cruz to our house rental.

The expat community in Santa Cruz is remarkably welcoming. Alough it’s a quiet village we still found some nightly fun at a couple bars and even a rowdy game of pool.

The view from a hike over the hill to the neighboring village for lunch.

You can catch a ‘lancha publico’ boat to visit any of the other villages around the lake by standing on the nearest dock and waving your arms. We visited San Pedro, known for its tightly winding streets and hippie vibe.

There’s lots of street art in the maze of streets in San Pedro.
A refreshing michelada made with Guatemalan Gallo beer in San Pedro.

And of course swimming and kayaking are great ways to enjoy the beautiful lake!

Swimming off the dock at our house rental in Santa Cruz.