Delos: A day trip to Apollo’s birthplace
We had no real preconceptions of what Delos would hold as an ancient relic. We were astounded at the size of the site and how much was maintained both with the outside buildings and the artifact museum. As the mythological birth place of Apollo, it was a must see.
Getting to Delos
Go early. A Barren island, Delos gets hot, there isn’t much shade, and it takes a while to walk around the town. Bring water, sun screen, and a hat. There is a small cafe at the Delos museum.
Regular boat rides from Delos Tours starting from 9am from Mykonos. You can book online or at the ticket kiosk at the port. Tickets go fast in high season so always good to plan ahead. €20 per person for a return ferry ticket. We booked online for the 9am ferry with a 12pm return. Sailing takes 20-30 mins depending on sea conditions.
Once the ferry docks at the port, there is a short walk to the Delos archaeological site ticket office. This includes the museum. €12 per person.
Is it worth it?
We know it sounds expensive but we found it a fantastic step back into the ancient world. You can get guided tours as well but we chose to follow the map and guide ourselves.
Delos archaeological site
Delos goes way back to at least 3000 years BC. Alleged birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, this is also a hugely important historical site in Greek mythology. The place thrived for millennia with ideological influence from many people and places With the Romans came the expulsion of most of the island’s inhabitants, around 166bc, when they opted to give the Athenians control. The soul was lost to a slave trade haven.
Being brutally assualted in 88BC and 69BC by Mithridates and the kingdom of Pontus expedited the slide to decline and eventual abandonment. All good for us in the modern world as we get to see a very good glimpse into the past.
There is so much to see so we’ll give a quick run down of a few of the highlights. Plenty to see so visit yourself and take in the delightful view of our ancient world.
Marketplace of Competaliasts
The marketplace is basically the first area that one comes across from the port and was the trading hub of the island. From here we took an anticlockwise direction to go round the town.
House of Cleopatra
We headed into the urban area. Following the streets, we passed by many houses, small and large. One such ample sized house was that of Cleopatra, the wife of a prominant Delos man, Dioskouridis. Replica statues of the pair stand where the originals would have.
The House of Dionysos
Another replica, the original is protected from the elements and tourists in the island’s museum, is the wonderful mosaic floor in the house of Dionysos. Tall pillars stand around it in what must have been a fabulous villa. The mosaic depicts the godlike Dionysos, winged, and riding a ferocious tiger.
While these are ruins, long lost to the history of a living civilization, one could still wiff the ghostly reality of habitation wafting through ones senses.
Great craftsmanship was used to build these much needed structures to catch, store, and ultimately feed water to the town. It’s ability to still hold water today is testiment to the build quality. Strategically placed in front of the theatre, water was channelled from the cavea (seating area) and into the covered Cistern.
Theatre of Delos
Civilization and artistic culture and entertainment is entwined. A focal point for the community, this theatre could hold 5000 people for concerts and dramatic plays.
House of the Masks
Partly restored and possibly used as a hotel back in the day, the House of the Masks gives an insight into life on Delos. These days it’s inhabitants are tourists and hiding lizards.
The House of Dolphins
Another fantastic mosaic showing cultural diversity. This one depicts the Phoenician goddess Tanit. Minds open to other cultures allow for a stronger understanding of neighbours.
Temple of Isis
Heading up the hill we climbed to the top of the town, with great views over the settlement, and covered the Sanctuary of the Egyptian and Syrian god’s. This includes the Temple of Isis. A road of statues and temples led us towards our descent for the museum.
A lot of the artifacts have been brought inside to protect them from the elements and the hoards of tourists. We liked Delos for the freedom to walk amongst the buildings. Therefore, it’s understandable that some of the real artifacts have been brought into the museum and replicas have been put in their place outside.
The mythical birthplace of Apollo and Artemis is intentionally dry now. It was drained to prevent desease in the 1900s. The place is marked by a wall and plenty of greenery. A spiritual place.
Plundered over the years, the remaining Lions are a fantastic sight to behold. Strong and protective, they were a gift from the Naxians in the 7th century BC.
Temples of Apollo and Artemis
Well, if the god and goddess were born here then it makes sense that their temples would be central to Island life. Not much left of the grand structures. With the floor plans, one must imagine the ornate structures that dominated Delos life for centuries.
The Sacred Way and the Propylaea
We finished where many start, on the integral road of Delos. The sacred way and propylaea was a statued arcade that led to the temples of Apollo and Artemis. The bustling life along here would rival major city avenues around the world. The heartbeat of Delos.
Exhausted, we headed back to the port and our midday ferry back to Mykonos and the land of the living. It’s a simple affair these days. Just used to ferry us tourists in and out.