The small island of Delos has one of the most important archaeology sites in Greece. The only way to visit the site is to get a day return ferry from a nearby island (Mykonos, Paros or Naxos). There is no accommodation on the island. Thomas sets out all the information and tips you need to make your visit to this extraordinary archaeological site a memorable one, whether you are passionate about Greek history or just an incidental visitor.
PLEASE NOTE: Currently for September, October and November 2020 there is only ONE ferry departure from Mykonos to Delos each day: 10h00 departing from the Old Port in Mykonos. Then departing Delos at 13h00 returning to Mykonos by 13h30. Wearing a mask on the ferry is mandatory; read more about new measures being used to keep staff and visitors at sites and museums safe >>
The information on this page was last checked and/or updated on 3 September 2020.
I first visited Delos towards the end of summer in 1990. This was during my island hopping adventure that took me from Crete to Athens. The ferry ride to the island was as unforgettable as the archaeological site. The crossing was not smooth and I have been saved by advice I overheard on that day that I have I applied many times since: keep your eyes focused on the horizon. On my most recent visit, the beginning of summer in 2018, thankfully there was no need for this advice. While the archaeological site and its setting is every bit as spectacular as I remember it, getting to Delos however is now quite a different experience.
Walking through the Theatre Quarter.
Back in 1990 the boats were smaller and they ferried fewer visitors to the island. Now there are fewer crossings for tourists to choose from. And the ferries are substantially bigger, carrying around 200 or so people. While the experience of getting to Delos island has changed dramatically, I am not going to go all misty-eyed and harp on about how it was all so much better before. On the contrary. Despite having had to queue for 20 minutes to pay my entrance fee and even with so many more people on the island, I enjoyed this visit as much as I did my first. Delos is, and always will be, on my list of Top Ten places to visit in Greece.
In fact as I write this the day after my visit, I am seriously thinking about going again today. There are, however, a few things I would do differently. Certainly in terms of getting to the island. What follows then are my tips for making your visit an enjoyable and rewarding one – what I will do differently if indeed I return.
What is there to see on Delos?
The archaeological site on the island of Delos is the remains of a sanctuary to the gods Apollo and Artemis, and the city that developed around it. The on-site museum has one of the finest collections of ancient Greek sculpture, as well as displays exhibiting numerous artefacts recovered from excavations around the island. These artefacts give an insight into the daily life of the ancient inhabitants of the island.
Just three of the many statues on display in the island’s museum. From left to right: a fragment from the east pediment of the Temple of the Athenians depicting the Boreas abducting Oreithyia (5th century BC); Artemis killing a deer (2nd century BC); an actor from the stoibadeion (2nd century BC).
Did your know? A Few Key Facts About Delos
For an island that is no more than 5 kilometres long and around 1,300 wide the estimated population for 90 BC is 30,000. The population survey carried out by the Greek government in 2001 records 14 inhabitants on the island.
Although the island was largely a religious centre, it also had a thriving commercial port. An estimated 750,000 tons of merchandise passed through the port each year during the first century BC.
Excavations of the archaeological site started in 1872 by the Greek Archaeological Service and in 1873 by the École française d’Athènes. Archaeologists are still excavating today, although much of the work focuses on securing the site for the increasing volumes of tourists. Read more about the history of archaeological research on the island on the website of the French school in Athens.
As the island has been uninhabited since the 7th century BC, the integrity of the archaeological site remains largely intact. And restoration work on the buildings has not challenged the site’s authenticity, as has been the case elsewhere. For these reasons, as well as the historical and archaeological significance of the place in antiquity, Delos was placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1990.
How to Get to Delos
You can only get to Delos on a day trip by ferry from another island. Most commonly the point of departure is Mykonos, but there are also day trips from the islands of Naxos and Paros. There are no hotels or other accommodation providers on the island, the only inhabitants are the caretakers and archaeologists.
Try Something Different
If you have your own yacht, you can get yourself to Delos. Sail to the island, and simply pay at the ticket office to tour the site and museum. If like me you do not have your own yacht, for what seems to me a very reasonable price you can take one of a number of private cruises to the island – and even visit nearby Rhenia Island too.
From Naxos to Delos
At 8.45 am the ferry leaves the port in Naxos town and sets sail for Delos. You will have three hours to explore the island before heading to Mykonos where you have three hours to explore the old town of Mykonos. I can recommend visiting the Mykonos Archaeology Museum. This ticket only covers your ferry to Delos and Mykonos and return to Naxos. It does not include a guide, or the entry to the archaeological site and museum on Delos … click here for more details and to book online, in advance >>
From Paros to Delos
Get a transfer from your hotel to Parikia (the main port in Paros) for a 9.30 am departure for Delos. Here you will have three hours to explore the archaeological site and museum before setting sail for Mykonos. Again you get three hours at your leisure in the old town of Mykonos. For those passionate about archaeology, do not miss the Mykonos Archaeology Museum. The price of this ticket includes hotel transfers and the round trip to Delos and Mykonos from Paros. Not included is a guide, entry to the archaeological site and museum on Delos … click here for more details and to book online, in advance >>
From Mykonos to Delos
The ferry to Delos from Mykonos leaves from Mykonos Old Port – this is marked with a yellow map-pin (on the Google map, zoom out from Delos and you will see the yellow pins on Mykonos). There is a ticket booth next to the pier where the Delos ferry births. Here you can buy return tickets for €20 (this does not include entry to the site). Or, for a booking fee of €3, you can buy a ticket online, in advance. You have the added benefit of the ticket being fully refundable should you need to cancel (up to 24 hours). Click here to Book a return Ferry Ticket from Mykonos to Delos >>
Please note: These tickets do not include a guided tour of the island and archaeological site. If you prefer to have a guided tour, these are available for €50 – they include the ferry trip, entry to the site and the guide’s fees. See the section on Guided Tours below.
The Greek ministry of culture administers the tickets to the Delos site, but they are not related to the ferry company from Mykonos, so it is not possible to buy a ferry ticket with an entry only ticket without a guided tour. Unfortunately!
The Mykonos to Delos Ferry Schedule for 2020
Because of the current situation, for July and the foreseeable future there is only one ferry trip to Delos from Mykonos each day.
10h00 Departing from the Old Port in Mykonos. The return trip departs Delos at 13h00 and arrives back in Mykonos at 13h00.
It is still possible to purchase a ticket at the booth next to the ferries in the Old Harbour. Given that there is only one sailing per day and Delos is the most popular attraction – it is obviously advisable to book in advance. You can book online through a local travel company – Delos Tours, or GetYourGuide. Although the GetYourGuide ticket is €3 more, look carefully at the booking process and the Terms and Conditions. The Local travel company only give refund if the trip is cancelled 7 days in advance, while GetYourGuide will refund up to 24 hours in advance. Get More Information and Book Online >>
The ticket booth at the Old Harbour for ferry tickets to Delos (left) and the ticket office at the entrance to the archaeological site on the island.
Delos Entrance Fee
Unless you have reserved a guided tour of Delos that includes the entry fee, you are still required to pay to enter the site when you get off the ferry. As of 2020, the entrance fee for the Archaeological Site and Museum of Delos is €12 for an adult (if you qualify for a reduced ticket – that is €6, take your passport).
Guided Tours of Delos for Summer 2020
The guided tours of Delos cost €55 per person. Included in that price is a return ferry trip to the island from Mykonos, entry to the archaeological site and museum, and the guide’s fees. It is not possible to buy a ferry ticket and entry ticket without a guided tour.
For an extra cost you can include a transfer from your hotel/accommodation to the port. Guided tours are available in English, Italian, Spanish, German and French. Although do note, while there are daily tours for English speaking visitors, guided tours in the other languages are not available daily.
English Guided Tours are available daily at 10h00.
Book a morning guided tour in English here >>
Guided Tours in German are not currently available.
Guided Tours in Italian are available on Wednesdays on the 10h00 sailing. Prenota una visita guidata in italiano qui >>
Guided Tours in French are available on Thursday on the 10h00 sailing. Réservez une visite guidée en français ici >>
Guided Tours in Spanish are available on Tuesdays on the 10h00 am sailing. Reserve una visita guiada en español aquí >>
The guides follow a set route around the main features of the archaeological site, before leaving you at the museum to explore that yourself with ample time to see more of the site if you wish. If you do not know much about Greek archaeology and history, I strongly recommend taking a tour. The few people I spoke to all enjoyed the guided tour, coming away feeling their guides gave them a great introduction to the history of the site. The guides will take you to the highlights and explain what otherwise looks like a pile of rocks. While standing around listening to a guide in the heat of a summer’s day is not always a great way to visit an archaeology site, as you have limited time on the island, a guide beats reading a guidebook or the text-intensive information panels.
A big plus with taking a guided tour is that you do not have to wait in a queue once you reach the island to buy an entrance ticket.
The queue for the ticket office on Delos for those who have not booked a guided tour.
Self Guided Tour of Delos
You do not have to take a guided tour. In which case, purchase your ferry ticket at the booth on the pier (or at any of the travel agents in Mykonos) for €20 and then pay a further €12 at the site ticket office when you arrive on the island. A total cost of €32. Or, if you are on Paros or Naxos, the €50 to cover the ferry ride to Delos and the €12 entry fee to Delos.
If you choose this option, I recommend being ready to get off the ferry as soon as it docks. Ferries from Mykonos and Naxos/Paros arrive around the same time and all those people who are not booked on a guided tour are then required to queue for a ticket to enter the site. You can wait up to 30 minutes if you are last off the boat. So as the boat nears the island, stand at the back of the boat and be ready to be one of the first off the boat. And then hot foot it to the ticket office. There is no time to be taking in the atmosphere once your feet are back on terra firma and taking photographs. Do that after you have your ticket.
To stay ahead of the groups being led by guides, I headed straight to the museum. There were only two other people going round the galleries at the same time as I did.
Guidebook & Pamphlets
For anyone wanting a good book on the site and museum, I recommend the book Delos: monuments and Museum by Fotini Zaphiropoulou (2016). It is an excellent account of the island’s history and archaeology, with excellent photos. It is available in the souvenir shop on the island for €15, or in many of the souvenir shops in Mykonos for €10. The latest edition can be bought on both amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.
A free pamphlet, Delos, is available at the ferry ticket office on Mykonos and the site ticket office. This is a basic leaflet. And while it does have a map, it is a simple one; but enough to get around the site and see some of the main features.
The best, and also free (although definitely worth a few Euros!), leaflet I found was in the archaeology museum in Mykonos: A Tour of the Archaeological Site of Delos. This not only has an excellent map, with nearly 100 features marked, it also has three suggested routes, taking an hour and a half, three hours and five hours. The pamphlet also has a good line-drawing showing a reconstruction of the sanctuary and ancient town. From this you get an excellent idea of just how extensive the ancient town was at its height.
Self Guided Walking Tour of Delos
Without a guide and going it alone is a brave move, particularly without a map. Although there is a map at the entrance to the site that shows three suggested routes (as noted for the pamphlet mentioned above), this is only followed through with colour coded arrows. These are incomplete and I gave up trying to follow them. If you want to follow these, you really do need to get a copy of the pamphlet A Tour of the Archaeological Site of Delos, freely available in the archaeology museum in Mykonos. These are good routes, but I feel they segment the site too much.
The route I recommend is as follows. And can be done as quickly as slowly as you wish. I would get ahead of the guide-groups and head straight to the theatre. And then follow a circular route around the main section of the site. This route, with the museum, can easily be done in three hours. If you stay longer than three hours, you could easily add on a climb up to the Sanctuary of Zeus and Athena, or walk on to the Gymnasium and Stadium.
1. Agora of the Competaliasts
2. The house of Dionysos
3. The house of Cleopatra
4. House of Trident
7. The house of masks
8 The house with the dolphins
If you are going to climb up the hill to the Temple of Hercules (9) and the Sanctuary of Zeus and Athena (10), this is the point when you would do it.
11. Temple of Hera
12. Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods
13. Sanctuary of the Syrian Gods
14. House with the Hermae
Museum/Cafe and souvenirs
If you have time, you could go and see the Gymnasium (15) and on to the Stadium (16) and the Stadium Quarter (17), returning back to the main site via the Synagogue (18).
19. Sacred Lake
20. Wall of Triarius
21. Lake Agora
22. Lake Palestra
23. Granite Palestra
24. Lake House
25. Naxian Lions
26. Temple of Leto
27. Agora of the Italians
29. Minoan Fountain
30. Monument of Carystuis
31. Stoa of Antigonuas Gonatas
33. Stoa of Artemision
34. Temple of Artemis
35. Colossus of the Naxians
36. Mycenean Ruins
37. Temple of Apollo
38. Temple of Athenians
39. The Delians Temple of Apollo
40. Base of the Colossus of the Naxians
41. Sacred Way
42. Portico of Philip v
43. South Portico
44. Sacred Port
45. Commercial Port
Is Delos Worth A Visit?
Besides being one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece, Delos is a wonderful island to visit. Whether you catch the ferry to Delos to take in as much of its cultural significance as you can, or go to experience for yourself one of the most evocative heritage sites in Greece, you will not be disappointed. The island of Delos truly does have something for everyone visiting Greece.
For those passionate about Greek history and archaeology, you may want to know why the archaeological site of Delos is so important? There are at least three broad reasons why the site is culturally significant.
First, architecture on Delos had a great influence on the development of architecture elsewhere during the Greco-Roman period. Second, from the 3rd millennium BC to the 7th century AD the island was an important place for the civilisations of the Aegean. For example, from the 7th to the 1st century BC, Delos was the site of one of the most important Hellensitic sanctuaries. Until at least 316 BC every four years in May the island hosted the ‘Feast of the Delians’, which was one of the major events of the region on a par with the the Olympic and the Pythic Games. Finally, Delos is directly associated with one of the main myths of Hellenic civilisation: it was on the island that Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis.
Added to the historical significance of the place itself, is the archaeological importance. For the casual visitor, if you are going to visit an archaeological site, you can’t do much better than Delos. And certainly, there is nothing else to see on Mykonos. Not only is the archaeological site an outstanding example of a religious sanctuary and a complete Mediterranean port and settlement, the preservation and authenticity of the site is quite exceptional.
Added to all this, the ferry ride from Mykonos to Delos is only 30 minutes, which is in itself an adventure for some. And considering three hours is the longest time you will have to stay on the island, both lovers of archaeology and Greek history and incidental tourists are catered for. Three hours is ample time to explore a lot of the site, and also a enough time to marvel at some of the highlights and enjoy a cool frappe or freshly squeezed ice cold orange juice with a spectacular view before heading back to the contemporary world.
Online or Virtual Tour of Delos
For those of you who can not get to Delos for whatever reason or those who are researching an upcoming trip to Delos – why not take a virtual tour of the archaeological site online? I recommend starting with the the two YouTube videos below. The first is a short clip (only two and a half minutes), the second is longer at just over 23 minutes. Whereas the first is a spectacular editing of drone footage, the second is short documentary created in 2015, directed by
Andonis Kioukas and narrated by the Greek-French actor Georges Corraface. Both videos have their place in creating your own virtual experience, wherever you are. Also thoroughly enjoyable preparation research for anyone planning a
Start with the shorter clip, if only to get a feel for this wonderful site. Then, I recommend watching the second video.
Having got a feel for the island, you can then explore the various features that interest you using the Google map above. First turn the map to satellite view (top left). This will give you an aerial view of the island, which you can zoom in on. Click and drag the yellow pegman (lower right) onto the map – drop it onto any of the blue dots that appear. These are 360° panorama photographs taken at the marked location. My numbered and named markers will help orientate you within the site. Unfortunately, Google has not produced a streetview walk through of the archaeological site; hence the lack of blue lines for those who notice they are missing.