Delos island boasts a history unlike anywhere else in Greece. A short boat ride from Mykonos gives you the opportunity to explore what the ancient Greeks called the birthplace of the immortals.
Delos Island is Special
Delos is one of the most fantastic archaeological sites in Greece — a unique and sacred uninhabited island of the ancients. If you plan for one cultural thing during your visit to Mykonos, I suggest taking time out to visit Delos.
The Cycladic islands got their name from the Greek word kyklos which means circle. What were these islands encircling? Delos. That was how important this island was in the glory days of ancient Greece.
Today, no other island on the planet boasts so many monumental artifacts and antiquities that hail from an era of fantastic culture and art. It took a bit of imagination to transform what was before me into the magnificent city it once was, but the elements were there.
Delos: The Birthplace of Immortals
Delos island was the mythical birthplace of twins Apollo, the god of light and Artemis, the goddess of the wilderness and fertility. Their birth rendered the island sacred meaning no mortal would ever be allowed to be born on Delos.
Life on Ancient Delos
Ancient Delos was not only a shrine to the gods but a sacred treasury and commercial center. The Ionians, who came in the 10th-9th centuries, established Delos as the place to worship Apollo. By the 8th century B.C. ancient Greeks gathered on the island to worship Apollo and Artemis — in a big way. Annual festivals meant incredible parties complete with feasting, dancing, singing and athletic competitions. By the Roman period, the island was very prosperous and utilized as an important port.
Delos Island Highlights
I had a few hours to walk among the ruins and figure out what was what. I didn’t have a guide to tell me some neat facts but had read up on everything instead. Next time, I will definitely take a tour to gain more insight. There was too much to take in really in a short amount of time.
Stoas of Delos
Covered walkways or porticos used by the public.
Agora of the Competaliasts
This marble circular building was located in the Agora of the Competaliasts, was dedicated to was dedicated to Hermes, the god of commerce. The agora was one of the main markets at the time where trade happened.
Ancient Theater of Delos and Residential Areas
An ancient theater on Delos island once accommodated 5,000 people. Also, check out the ruins of a wealthy neighborhood lied with what were once one- and two-story houses with beautiful floor mosaics. Most notable are the House of Dionysus, House of the Masks, House of Dolphins and House of Tritons.
Avenue of the Lions
This was the most recognizable sight of Delos island. They were plaster cast replicas; the real ones were displayed at the archaeological museum on the island. The neighboring people of Naxos created sixteen of these fantastic marble sculptures to guard the island.
The Archaeological Museum of Delos
Head to this museum to check out displays of antiquities, statues, mosaics and jewelry.
Gymnasium comes from a Greek word meaning naked. Men and boys stayed in shape at the Gymnasium on Delos, exercising in the nude. As one did during that time.
This was highest point on Delos island with several sanctuaries and beautiful views of neighboring islands.
The Sacred Lake of Delos
There was once a sparkling lake. A stone wall that bordered it still stands and revealed where it once was.
The Sacred Way of Delos
The path was once lined with gorgeous marble statues and monuments leading to the Sanctuary of Apollo.
Sanctuary of Apollo
The Sanctuary of Apollo was the most important temple. The House of the Naxians was build next to it. Beautiful marble and bronze structures and shrines occupied this part of the island in ancient times.
Sanctuary of Dionysus
Built in 300 B.C., the sanctuary had several monuments dedicated to Apollo, some obviously very phallic.
Fantastic Delos Island Facts
- Delos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The island is just 5 kilometers long and 1,300 meters wide.
- Delos island does not have a permanent population.
- Overnight stays are forbidden.
- Swimming is forbidden.
Delos Travel Tips
- Check the docks in Mykonos Town for updated departure times. There are several boats that leave for the island.
- The site is closed on Mondays.
- Bring some water, the café on the island may run out during the summer months. Pack a snack if you tend to get hungry.
- There isn’t much shade on Delos. Be sure to wear a hat. Bring sunscreen.
- Wear walking shoes and comfortable clothing.
- Four hours are allotted when visiting Delos. The last boat returns to Mykonos in the afternoon.
- You can hire a private guide or go with a tour group to learn even more about the site.
How to Get to Delos Island
Daily boats depart from the old port of Mykonos, weather permitting. The trip takes 20-30 minutes. Departures are at 9.00 am or 10.00 am or 11.00 am. The boats return at 12.15, 13.30 and 15.00.
Caique boats also link Delos with Platis Gialos and Ornos beaches, but allow for three hours on the isle.
Tickets are €15 to Delos island. You can buy them from the boat kiosks or from travel agents.
There is an admittance fee of €6 for entering the archaeological site.
During the peak summer season, boats travel to/from neighboring Tinos and Naxos island, as well.
How to Get to Mykonos (So you can get to Delos)
To get to the Greek islands, many international travelers arrive by air, usually with a change in Athens or another major city. There are some direct seasonal flights to certain island destinations too. You can find the best flight deals with Vayama.
Ferry: There are ferries to the Athens port of Piraeus and Rafina. Mykonos also connects with other islands including Santorini, Naxos, Paros, Syros, Crete and more. I highly recommend booking with Blue Star Ferries.
Getting Around Mykonos
There is a public bus that runs regularly in the summer. It is popular, however, to rent quads and scooters to get around easily. An international car rental company I can highly recommend is Avis Europe.
Where to Stay on Mykonos.
Check out my earlier post: Where to Stay on Mykonos
Have you ever been to Delos island?
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