Many visitors to Greece find themselves at one point or another on the island of Mykonos. One of the most famous of the spellbinding Greek islands, Mykonos is known for its jet-setting clientele, fabulous beaches and wild parties.
Nearby this fashionable island though is a smaller, but much more important sister island that many people miss, even though it’s at the heart of Western Civilisation – Delos.
When I was a freshman in college I was forced to take Economics 101, a class I came to truly despise. One of the highlights though was a historical look at economics through the ages, which is when I first learned about the Delian League, and the strange island of Delos. Formed in the 5th century AD, the Delian League was a collection of city-states.
The members met on Delos, and the island was home to the League’s famous treasury. Delos also played a key role in Greek mythology as the traditional home of both Apollo and Artemis, making it an important pilgrimage and trade site for centuries. Today it’s hard to imagine that this small, dusty and mostly barren island at one time was one of the most important places in the world, but it was.
Visiting Delos is easy and makes for a great day trip from Mykonos. It can be done in just a few hours, so cruise ship passengers can add the trip to their list of must-do activities. Ferries leave throughout the day from Mykonos and the round-trip costs around 40 Euro, which includes the entrance fee to Delos itself.
As I disembarked from the ferry, the waves of heat hit me and the dust swirled as I tried to figure out where I was. When I visited, there was some visitor information, but not a lot, and the map included with the entrance fee was adequate, but not great. Be sure to spend a few minutes getting better acquainted with the map before deciding what to do.
There are two main walking loops. The first is 2-3 hours long and includes most of the highlights of the island, ending at the archeological museum. The second walking tour is much longer and will take most of the day, but you will get to see everything the island has to offer. However, there are no trees and little shelter from the harsh sun so if you do take the longer tour, make sure to bring along water, hat and sunscreen. I opted for the shorter path and after an hour or so of walking, I was beat. It was hot in a way that only Greece in the summer can be and there’s wasn’t a tree in sight to offer any relief.
After finishing the walk around the ruins, I decided to seek some relief in the small archeological museum. A chain smoking museum attendant warned me not to use flash photography, a stunning rule since I’m pretty sure smoking isn’t good for the relics either!
The museum was underwhelming and I soon found myself at the massively overpriced café enjoying an equally overpriced glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. As I sat there on the verandah sipping the pricey juice, I glanced out across the fields dotted with broken bits of columns and plaster and began to wonder. I wondered what it must have been like to live here when Delos wasn’t just active, but one of the most important cities in the world. I could almost see the merchants hauling amphora of wine and olive oil to sell in the agora and rich politicians arguing in the public forum.
That’s why I think some people are disappointed with Delos; it’s not at all what they expect. Instead of well done replicas or appropriately interpreted museum displays there’s just a lot of rock and ruin and not much else. But that’s why I love Delos. I love the fact I can stand on a windswept hill, look off at the sea in the distance and get a real and honest appreciation for the might and importance of Greek civilisation and what islands such as Delos mean to the history of the world.
Matthew Long, travel blogger, writer and photographer isn't your average travel blogger. As Editor-in-Chief and creator of Landlopers.com, Matt shows people that it's possible to have a job and family and still see the best the world has to offer. Matt shares his travel tips and expertise so that you can get out and explore the world - one adventure at a time. Matt is a Lonely Planet Featured Blogger as well as a contributor to many other travel sites and publications. Matt's site is listed as a top travel blog by many companies including Viator Travel, easyJet and Washington Flyer. Follow him on twitter.
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