The sacred island of Delos is a small rocky strip of land a few miles off the western coast of Mykonos. Delos is one of the smallest islands of the Cyclades but has always been considered by the ancients to be the hub of the archipelago.
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990, the island of Delos according to mythology was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis and today is a vast archaeological site full of important monuments that attract thousands of visitors every year.
Delos was an important religious and commercial center, thanks to its strategic location, the center of the sea routes. After having defended itself in the Persian wars, it fell in 454 under the Athenians. With the advent of Alexander the Great it gained independence again and its economic power. It was the pivot of the commerce of the oriental Mediterranean and cosmopolitan center.
The Romans also recognized the island the status of free port, but in 88 Mithridates, king of Pontus, attacked hard this Latin colony and twenty years later the pirates deported the few survivors as slaves. The island decayed and from the VII century it was completely abandoned. Only in 1873, thanks to the French school of archaeology, Greece allowed the opening of archaeological sites.
The island of Delos can be reached daily from Mykonos and in the summer period from the islands of Tinos and Naxos.
The archaeological site of inestimable value, second in importance only to Delphi, covers almost the entire island: from the port a majestic sacred way leads to the Sanctuary of Apollo, where there are temples and altars. To north there is the sacred lake, with the famous Terrace of the Lions, and the Agora of the Italians. Some of the houses still show magnificent mosaic floors. The monuments cover a span of time from the archaic period, through the classical age, to the Hellenistic period and are divided into 4 main areas: the maritime district, the theater, the Sanctuary of Apollo in the center of the site north of the port and the district of the Lion.
The island appears motionless in time and still similar to the original, also because a curious tradition, derived from a response of an oracle, wants that in this sacred place is not allowed to be born or die. Currently, only archaeologists are allowed to stay overnight on the island.
From the sacred port, docking place of the ancient delegations sent to religious ceremonies, passing near the houses of Dionysus, Cleopatra and the Trident, you arrive at the ancient theater. From here the view is divine.
In the house of the Masks and in the house of the Dolphins it is possible to admire wonderful mosaics. From here you reach the top of Mount Kynthos and you can contemplate the splendid landscape of the islands of Naxos and Siros to the North, Tixos to the South and Mykonos to the East. Descending, one passes the cavern of Heracles and the terraces of the foreign gods (Syrian and Egyptian). Further down is the house of Hermes with its large impluvium.
Near the landing stage, from the Agora of the Completaliasti one arrives at the quarter of the sanctuaries. Along the avenue of the Processions one sees the Stoà of Philip and the Agora of the Deli, a square-shaped market square. Crossed a square of blue marble you come to the house of Nassi, the colossal statue of Apollo and the keraton, altar in honor of Apollo, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Moreover, the sanctuaries of Dionysus and of the Bulls are recognizable. Before the agora of the Italians there is the Sacred Lake (drained in 1925). To the left is the main attraction of Delos, the terrace of the Lions, of which only the bases remain, having been transported inside the museum at the end of the route.
The entrance to the island of Delos is charged; there are several ways to visit it, buying the ticket for the ferry from Mykonos and then buy the ticket on site, with guided tours that include the entrance and a guide, or in combination perhaps with a cruise or a visit to Rhenia.
We recommend that you bring a hat to protect yourself from the sun during the queue at the entrance. The route is quite long and rich.
From Mykonos, the boat trip takes just over 45 minutes. It is possible to book the transfer online, thus avoiding the queues at the ferry ticket offices, but once you arrive on the island of Delos you will have to buy the entrance ticket.
The most common solution, the guided tour allows you to learn everything about the history of the archaeological site of Delos. Choose the guided tour that’s right for you, whether it’s a morning or evening tour, the ferry and Delos tickets are included and you’ll avoid all the lines.
If you don’t want to miss anything, choose a cruise departing from Mykonos to the islands of Delos and Rhenia, for a day of sea and cultural visits.
The island of Delos is part of the Cyclades archipelago and is located near the island of Mykonos, from which it can be reached by sea.