Delos is an uninhabited island full of ancient ruins of temples, a market, a theater, many mansions, houses, etc. It is considered as the sacred place of the ancient Greeks and it is one of the sunniest areas in the world. Due to the increased sunshine it is a place of high concentration of cosmic energy. No wonder it was considered sacred by the ancients and it still gives you this kind of feeling.
Delos has been active from the prehistoric years and according to mythology it is the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo.
Delos has served as the center and the Treasury of the Athenian Alliance during the 5th and the 4th century BC. It served as a strong commercial and religious center, recognised even by the Romans. Later it was abandoned by its inhabitants and the ruins where constantly looted by pirates.
The archeological interest about Delos started around the end of the 19th century, when excavations started by the French Archaeological School of Athens. These excavations are still in progress and have revealed a wide series of monuments and artefacts.
what do I need to see in Delos
The Temple of Apollo is certainly the most important monument, since Delos has been widely acknowledged to the ancient world because of that Temple. It covers a large area close to the ancient port and around it there are series of smaller Temples (of the Delians and the Athenians), altars and markets with shops.
The Museum is full of statues, artefacts and other exhibits from the excavations, mainly from the archaic and classical period. Most exhibits are very impressive and it is definitely worth visiting. The visit to the museum can also be seen as a break from the typical walk around the ancient ruins scattered on the island.
The Sacred Lake district is next to the area of the Temple of Apollo and this is where you will find the road of the Lions. The Sacred Lake is dried due to health reasons but you will manage to identify it due to the palm trees that exist on the side. Further down you will series of houses (mansions), each one with its fresh water well under the floor. At the far end of the Sacred Lake district you will see the Gymnasium and the Stadium.
On the other side you will visit the Theater district which, apart from the Theater, has a large number of houses (villas) with magnificent mosaics and some frescos. Especially the House of Dionysos, the House of Triena and the House of Dolphins, named by the respective mosaic themes.
This area is probably the most densely populated area of the city. Some of the houses have been rebuilt using most of the original structural elements. It is suggested to walk around the area and visit as many as possible and then head towards Kynthos hill.
The area of Kynthos hill is full of temples and as you move on towards the top of the hill you get a better view of the island and the extent of the ancient city of Delos. In that area you will find the temples of Isis (probably the best preserved), Hera, Zeus and Hercules. You will also find a temple dedicated to Syrian gods, others to Egyptian gods and one to gods from Samothrace (Greek island in the NE Aegean).
This area gives a nice overview of the religious mix of ancient times and the various influences that Delos had over the centuries. The choice of Delos as the religious center for so many different religions of the Eastern Mediterranean is another proof of the island sacred character.
On top of Kynthos hill, apart from the excellent view, you will find the Temple of Zeus and Athena.
Delos is one of the most unique places, left intact since ancient times. When you visit you will feel the energy and the old glory of Delos.
More information on Delos from wikipedia, here.
hints & tips about Delos
- The only inhabitants of Delos are the guards of the ancient ruins and the museum.
- You cannot stay at Delos after dusk. Camping or staying during the night on the island is prohibited. Of course no cars or other means of transportation are available on the island.
- One marble Lion from the road of the Lions was stolen at earlier times and is now in Venice.
- You should be very well prepared for your daily trip to Delos. Since you will have to walk too much around the island you have to wear the appropriate shoes and clothes.
- It is advisable to have water with you, although you will find water, coffee and refreshments at the Museum.
- In order to get the best view of Delos you should climb up Kynthos, the highest hill of the island. The view is magnificent and you will have the chance to see more ancient temples up there.
- If you happen to get up there of a clear day (which is mostly the case) you can see other islands such as Mykonos, Paros and Naxos.