Delos: A Greek island that doubles as an open-air museum

delos

Every summer, for the last 15 years, I spend most of my time on a Greek island, while working on my computer with sea or mountain view!  A privilege, of being self-employed!

Many times I visit the island of Syros and Hermoupolis city, also the capital of all the Cycladic islands. I love Syros because of its cultural life and music, something I am always attracted to. A stone’s throw away you can see the famous Mykonos island. Although Mykonos is usually too crowded and touristic to my likes, I love to go for a day-visit from time to time,  trying to also visit Delos. Delos is a Greek island but at the same time an open-air museum.
While in Mykonos, you can take the 30-minute ferry to explore the tiny – and peculiar – island of Delos. So, I hope you can visit soon, or otherwise learn a bit more with this article.

 

If you prefer to read this article in GREEK, then click on the button below.

 

Delos; Its ancient history

Located right in the heart of the Cyclades island complex, Delos became a blooming political and commercial center between the 7th and 12th century BC. However, due to its rough landscape and lack of natural resources, it was abandoned by the early Middle Ages.

The ancient Greeks believed that Delos was the birthplace of Artemis, the Goddess of Hunting, and Apollo, the God of Light. As a result, they considered it to be one of the most sacred places in ancient Greece. Based on the modern findings, alongside Artemision, the Temple of Artemis, the island had not one, but three temples dedicated to Apollo!

The name Delos and some Greek Mythology

The name Delos derives from the ancient Greek verb “δηλόω” (dēlóō) which translates as to show, to make apparent, known, clear.

When Leto, one of the female Titans, was pregnant with twins Apollo and Artemis, she was mercilessly chased by Hera. Hera was angry at her husband and father of the twins, Zeus, and was trying to take vengeance on his lover instead. As Leto was about to give birth, Zeus intervened and saved her by offering her this island which magically appeared in the middle of the Aegean Sea, Delos.

Nowadays, this old story ties up nicely with the landscape of Delos. The island has very low altitude and can sometimes be hard to be seen from a distance.

Modern times

Nowadays, Delos does not have any permanent residents, which comes as a surprise compared to the other Cyclades islands. Even though it is considered a place of great historical and archaeological importance and is also a UNESCO world heritage site, visitors usually stop shortly while island-hopping to see the ancient ruins and the museum, take in the place’s rich history and then move on to their next destination.

The rocky, sun-drenched island is an open-air museum that features antiquities from the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods.

If you visit, make sure to see the following sights:

Terrace of Lions

Also known as the “Avenue of the Lions”, this is one of the most photographed spots in Delos. Out of the initial nine marble lions, only five remain and are safely kept in the Delos museum – the ones displayed outdoors are actually replicas. These lions date back to 7th century BC, when they were gifted to Apollo from the local people.

 

Sacred Lake

The Terrace of Lions overlooks to the Sacred Lake. According to Greek mythology, this is where Leto is believed to have given birth to Apollo under a palm tree. Unfortunately, today the lake does not exist any longer as it had to be drained due to an outbreak of malaria in 1925.

 

Temple of Isis & The Archaeological Museum

Even though Isis was originally an Egyptian goddess, she was eventually worshipped by both Greeks and Romans. This explains the presence of this temple which dates back to the 2nd century BC and is dedicated to her.

About a 10-minute walk to the north of the Temple of Isis you will stumble upon the Archaeological Museum of Delos. Its finest items might now be in the National Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, yet it is home to an interesting collection of findings, nevertheless. A lot of the statues, mosaics and frescoes that you will see outdoors around the island are actually replicas; the originals are kept in the museum, where they are protected from the weather conditions. The museum is open on all days besides Mondays and the entrance fee is €5.

 

Hiking Mountain Kythnos

If you’re up for a steep climb that is going to reward you with beautiful, panoramic views of the entire island, then you need to take a hike to the summit of Mountain Kythnos. From the top, on a clear day you’ll also be able to see as far as the nearby islands – to the north, Tinos; to the east, Mykonos, to the south, Naxos; and to the west, Syros.

 

Click here to take a look at some photos of Mykonos and Delos

 

How to travel to Delos

There are everyday ferry trips from Mykonos to Delos, assuming that the weather allows it. The Aegean Sea is known for its strong winds after all! The ticket prices are usually about 20€ per person for adults (return ticket). The ferry departs from the small port opposite the church of Agios Nikolaos at the Chora, i.e. the main town of Mykonos. You can buy tickets at the ticket counter right in front of the docks up to 15 min before departure.

 

General Times
(Note: they can change any moment and need to be checked a day before)

Tuesday – Sunday

Departure from Mykonos:  9:00 – 10:00 – 11:30 – 17:00
Return from Delos: 12:00 – 13:30 – 15 :00 – 19:30

 

Monday

Departure from Mykonos:  10:00 – 17:00
Return from Delos: 13:30 – 19:30

 

There are also several companies offering organized Delos tours.

www.delostours.gr/en/
www.greek-islands-ferries.gr/ferry_dilos

 

Are you in the mood for a quick getaway to Delos, while learning Greek?
Then you can book a Greek Language and Culture course on the island of Syros with Omilo! Have a look at their website with all the info, dates and prices

1-week courses in Syros

2-week courses in Syros

Do you want to see more pictures of Delos and Mykonos Island? Then click below.

 

 

 

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