Delos for the day. This is what we found.
Looking for a change of pace from bustling Mykonos? Consider a day trip to Greece’s open-air archaeological museum, Delos, the island of the immortals. Accessible only by boat, the island’s forbidding landscape is both sacred and holy; its authenticity is exceptional.
Getting there is easy. Head to Mykonos’s Old Port and buy your return ticket from Delos Tours booth located at the entry of the pier. Cost 20 euro per person. The boat is smooth, fast, and comfortable.
The day we visited Delos we were pleased to see that, along with our fellow boat passengers, we were the only tourists on the island. An added bonus, we were anticipating paying 12 Euro per person entry fee but, as luck would have it, it was World Museum Day. Free entry to Delos and free entry to the museum. The only downside, the gift shop and cafe were closed.
If you’re passionate about Greek history Delos Tours provides an informative overview of the island’s history. In a nutshell, Delos’s ruins feature traces of settlements from pre-Hellenic tribes dating back 3000 BC. Around 1500 BC the Minoans made Delos their home. From the 5th to the 7th century Delos became the centre of political alliances, first under the Athenians, then the Ptolemies of Egypt followed by the Macedonians. After 166 BC Delos became wealthy under the protection of Rome and prospered as a free port. Much of its profits came from the slave trade. For 700 years Delos flourished until in 88BC Mithriades VI, the Syrian king of Pontus, destroyed the island. For two millennia, Delos was invaded and looted; ancient marbles were pillaged and used for buildings on nearby islands. The island has been uninhabited since 7th century BC.
Imagine all that history wrapped up in one small island! Having been to several archaeological sites around the world, we found the authenticity and preservation of the Delos site impressive.
We were there September 28, 2019 and it was hot. Really hot. This is what we found:
- The island is only 3 km2 but the archaeological site is expansive. Head to Cynthus mountain’s summit first. It’s quite a hike but worth the climb to gain 360-degree views of the sea and islands nearby. The stairway to the summit is very steep in parts so make sure you’ve got your climbing shoes on. The loose rocks and rubble make the steps quite slippery in some areas.
- On entry you are given a free pamphlet which features a map. It is simple and easy to use. I later discovered there is a free leaflet – A Tour of the Archaeological Site of Delos – available from the archaeology museum in Mykonos, which is apparently very good. However, we found the pamphlet from Delos more than adequate as there is signage additional throughout the site.
- It is possible to see the 28 key sites on the island. Apart from the summit, archaeological standouts for us were the Lion Terrace (Naxion Lions), amphitheatre, the House of Dionysos, the House of Cleopatra, and the museum. Remember the marble structures are badly eroded due to the harsh elements, but you can easily imagine what Delos must have been like at its peak – quite the city!
- The museum is small, but it houses an interesting collection of objects discovered during excavations.
- How long should you stay? We stayed for three hours which was ample time to explore most of the site.
- The island is barren and rocky. There’s nowhere to sit in the shade unless you head to the museum and sit under the veranda entry. Bring a hat. The sun is unrelenting most of the year.
- Take your drink bottle with you. The shops, including a basic café, were shut on the day of our visit. (We always carry a bottle of water wherever we go.)
- Hungry? Take some supplies of food too. When open, cafes, especially in out-of-the-way locations, are often expensive.
- There are no hotel facilities on the island. In fact, no accommodation for tourists, full stop.
Delos Tours Round Trip Ticket by boat from Mykonos to Delos return 20 Euro pp. The ticket booth is located at the entry to Old Port pier where the boats and smaller ships dock. It is an easy walking distance from Little Venice.
From Mykonos 10:00 & 17:00
From Delos 13:30 & 19.:30
Tuesday to Sunday
From Mykonos 09:00 – 10:00 – 11:30 – 17:00
From Delos 12:00 – 13:30 – 15:00 – 19:30
Half Day Guided Tours 50 Euro pp includes boat ticket, entrance fee + certified guide
Daily departures 10:00 – 14:00 & 17:00 – 20:00
Schedule & costs were correct at the time of our trip. Log onto Delos Tours to check for updated schedule and costs.
Disclaimer: the writer is not an historian. The information pertained in this story has been gleaned from firsthand experience as a tourist to the island and articles that she has read.