Site Tour: Ancient Delos

  • Start & End Boat dock
  • Length Three hours

Excursion boats from Mykonos dock on a bay south of the tranquil Sacred Harbour. The narrow spit dividing the two bays was man-made. Follow the arrowed path past the ruins of the South Stoa, or portico, built after the mid-3rd century BC with 28 Doric columns, and used to house shops and workshops. Continue to the Sanctuary of Apollo, northeast of the harbour. The Sacred Way (a wide, paved path used by ancient pilgrims) enters the complex through the Propylaia, to a compound of magnificent temples and treasuries. Three were dedicated to Apollo: Temple of the Delians, Temple of the Athenians and Poros Temple. The Sanctuary also housed the classical treasuries and the Artemision, a sanctuary of Artemis.

North of the sanctuary is the much-photographed Terrace of the Lions. To the northeast, the now-empty Sacred Lake is where Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis.

Next, head south to the Theatre Quarter, where Delos’ wealthiest inhabitants lived in houses surrounded by peristyle courtyards, with intricate, colourful mosaics. The most lavish include the House of Dionysos, named after its mosaic depicting the wine god riding a panther, and the House of Cleopatra.

The theatre dates from 300 BC and had a large cistern which supplied much of the town’s water.

The House of the Masks has another mosaic of Dionysos astride a panther between two centaurs. The extraordinary mosaic at the House of the Dolphins incorporates lions, griffins and dolphins.

Mt Kynthos (113m) rises to the southeast of the harbour. It’s worth the steep climb: on clear days there are terrific views of the encircling islands. It also has monuments such as the Sanctuaries of Zeus Kynthios and Athena Kynthia, and the Temple of Hera.

Feature: Sanctuaries of the Foreign Gods

Delos was a place of worship for many cultures beyond the Greeks, and their temples are concentrated in the area called the Sanctuaries of the Foreign Gods.

Shrine to the Samothracian Great Gods Here people worshipped the Kabeiroi (twins Dardanos and Aeton).

Sanctuary of the Syrian Gods There are remains of a theatre used for mystical rites (some say ritual orgies) here.

Shrine to the Egyptian Gods Honoured deities including Serapis and Isis.