You’re probably already aware that there’s a great deal of amazing things to do on Mykonos – from basking on beautiful beaches like Panormos to wandering the gorgeous winding streets of Little Venice, and spoiling yourself with sumptuous food and drink at a host of top quality restaurants and bars. But should you decide venture further afoot from Mykonos, you’ll realise there’s some magic to be discovered in day trips to her surrounding islands too. Last month we told you all about highlights you can enjoy on a day trip to the island of Tinos, and this month we want to let you know all about the historical marvel that is Delos.
Just a couple of kilometres to the south west of Mykonos, the island of Delos is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the world. What Delos lacks in size (it covers an area of less than 3 and a half square kilometres) it more than makes up for in stature. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990, the entire island is one big archaeological site, home to an exceptional collection of historic artefacts, and is a must see place for any ancient history lovers visiting Mykonos.
Owing to its historical, archaeological, cultural and sacred significance, Delos island is uninhabited. Fortunately, thanks to Mykonos’ great location, it’s really easy to get to Delos by boat. A public ferry journey to Delos takes around 20-40 minutes, but for a fully unique experience, those staying with us at Mykonos Panormos Villas have the opportunity to enjoy a special sailing boat tour to Delos from Mykonos! Be sure to check out our blog over the next few months for the full announcement of the details of the sailing boat tour package to Delos, which is just one of the extensive our extensive range of our tailor-made luxury villa services available to all guests who stay with us.
Delos is said to be the birthplace of the ancient Greek God Apollo and his twin sister Artemis. As the deities of the sun and the moon respectively, these Gods were greatly significant in ancient Greek culture, and Delos’ role as their birthplace and sacred sanctuary meant that it was rivalled only by Delphi as the most important religious site in Ancient Greece. The island can trace its inhabited history back to 3000 BC and its location at the centre of the Cyclades islands archipelago further helped to enhance its historical importance – as well as its role as a religious pilgrimage spot for the worship of many gods, it was the official meeting point of the Delian League, formed by the Greek city states during the Persian wars.
During the Roman era, Delos took on further significance still, as the island was transformed into a free trade port, becoming one of the most important commercial centres in the Aegean with a population of 30,000 who introduced new religions and cults from all over the world. Delos was attacked by Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus (an area around the Black Sea) in 88BC and also by pirates in 69BC. The island never recovered after the attacks, and with trade routes moving to other regions, Delos began a gradual decline.
Excavations on Delos first began in 1873 and are still ongoing today! The whole island is one archaeological site home to a wealth of outstanding historical treasures. These include the iconic Delos lions, synonymous with the island and featuring on many a postcard and tourist snap. The ones seen outside on the island are in fact replicas, with the originals safely on display in the island museum. Delos’ Agora of the Competialistswas an open space used by the Romans for a market and as a religious shrine, and is beside the Sacred Way, a wide road used by pilgrims during the Delian festival. It was once lined with statues and monuments, and leads to the Sanctuary of Apollo, one of the most significant sites on Delos, and once home to three temples. Other highlights include the Temple of Artemis, the Sacred Lake, and the Theatre Quarter and Maritime Quarter, home to some amazingly ornate mosaics.
There is an archaeological museum on Delos, displaying the island’s numerous archaeological findings that need to be carefully preserved from the elements. The current museum dates back to 1904, and last underwent significant alterations in the mid 1970s. As such it is not exactly the best showcase for some of the finest collections of ancient historical artefacts in the world. Fortunately, plans are currently in progress for a brand new museum in Delos fully befitting the island’s exceptional status and historical significance. The new Delos museum will be funded by the International Foundation for Greece, a non-profit organisation based in London. Founded by Aspasia & George Leventis, the IFG aims to support Greece through the current economic crisis. Working with the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Central Archaeological Council, the IFG has funded a plan for a brand new revolutionary state of the art museum on Delos.
This new museum will cover an area of some 5,000 square metres – enough space to show the current museum’s artefacts in all their glory, as well as safely housing historical items on the island that are currently exposed to the elements. In order to preserve Delos’ current magnificence and historical appearance, large portions of the new museum will be located underground, and those elements of the museum’s exterior that are visible will be carefully constructed from materials that complement the natural beauty of the island and the historic monuments. The museum will also be as eco-friendly and energy efficient as possible. The new Delos Museum will form part of a wider campaign by the IFG to add to Delos’ status as a great historical site by making it a significant cultural destination once more through the Delos Revival Project, and the support of IFG patrons Nikos Aliagas and Stéphane Bern. We’ll keep you posted about any updates on the new museum and the Delos Revival Project on our blog!
Delos really is a place you must visit if you have an interest in ancient history. It’s well worth half a day or a day of your holiday in Mykonos to set off and explore this magical place. So while you’re staying with us at our luxury villas in Panormos ask a member of our team about a day trip to Delos. They’ll be more than happy to help!
As Christmas approaches and the year draws to a close, we’d like to take the opportunity to wish all our friends and guests a very Merry Christmas and all our best wishes for a happy and healthy new year. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at our own little slice of Greek paradise in Mykonos in 2016!
Kαλα Χριστούγεννα και Kαλη Πρωτοχρονιά!