Updated: February 18, 2018
The mythical birthplace of twins Apollo and Artemis, this Unesco World Heritage Site on the small island of Delos is one of the best-preserved and most important archaeological sites in Greece. First settled by the Greeks around 3000 BC, the island became a shrine to Apollo around 800 BC and a thriving, multicultural centre of trade in the centuries that followed, with Syrians and Egyptians adding shrines of their homeland gods to the existing Greek ones. Under the Romans, Delos became a duty-free port and important slave market, but the island’s importance diminished as trade routes shifted and by 300 AD the island was languishing in obscurity, used as a hideout by pirates. Delos is accessible by boat from Mykonos. Use your imagination to transform these extensive, well-preserved ruins into the gleaming city that once stood here.
As you make your way around the ruins from the Sacred Harbour, where the tour boats dock, sights not to miss include the Sanctuary of Apollo, lined with the remains of three temples dedicated to the god, the Artemision – a sanctuary of Artemis, Apollo’s twin sister, and the Terrace of Lions, lined with the much-photographed replica lion statues. Nearby is the overgrown Sacred Lake where Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis after hiding from the wrath of Hera, Zeus’ wife, Zeus being the twins’ father.
In the Theatre Quarter, formerly home to Delos’ wealthiest inhabitants, spot the mosaic depicting the wine god Dionysos riding a panther at the House of Dionysos, and another superb mosaic featuring lions, dolphins and griffins at the House of Dolphins. If you have time, it’s well worth climbing Mt Mynthos for great views of the surrounding islands and to visit the Sanctuaries of Zeus and Athena.
Mykonos to Delos
There are four boats daily from Mykonos Town (Hora) to Delos during high season, with departures from 9am to 5pm. Return boats run between 12.15pm and 8pm. There are fewer boats from November to March. Buy tickets from the kiosk at the southern end of Mykonos Town harbour. When purchasing tickets, find out which return boats they’re valid for.
Visitors to Delos are given a map outlining three self-guided walking tours. Depending on which one you opt for, these take from 90 minutes to five hours, so decide in advance how much time you’d like to spend on the island.
You can purchase detailed Delos guidebooks both at the Delos ticket office and in book stores on Mykonos. Guided tours can be booked at the same time as the boat tickets (adult/child €50/25 including boat, entrance fee and guide). Wear a hat, sunscreen, and good walking shoes. The only place to eat is a basic café at the Delos museum; it’s worth bringing a picnic lunch and plenty of drinking water.
Mykonos to Delos Tours
Great tour of Delos with professional guide. Leaves from Mykonos Town. If you’re staying at one of the beach towns select hotel pickup/dropoff as it makes the tour much easier. There’s also a private tour option for groups of 2 to 10.
The Delos tour is great if you’re into Greek history but can be a little dry if you’re not. To make the day more interesting for those not excited by Delos than do this tour. It takes you to beautiful Rhenia island for swimming, snorkeling, and a bbq lunch (onboard). Then to Delos for a guided tour when the island is usually much quieter than in the morning. Highly recommended.
If you’re on a cruise and have a limited amount of time then do this Delos tour which will pickup and dropoff at the cruise ship port in Mykonos.