Delos island, light of antiquity, Apollo’s sacred island, Hellas Greece.
A key piece of the world’s cultural heritage and an archaeological site in itself
Greece. Aegean Sea. Apollonion light. On Delos, where Apollo was born, the summer sun reflecting off the marble and baked stones may be blinding, but for the Ancient Greeks it also symbolised the light of inquiry, reason and harmony. It radiated throughout Greece, making Delos the centre of an archipelago of islands arranged, as if magically, in a circle around it. Hence the name Cyclades.
What to do in Delos
A pilgrimage to the core of Greek civilisation
As you stand in the centre of this historic holy place, you’re bound to feel awe simply imagining how the Delians and their sanctuary could have the impact that they did. Take a good look. Spread out around you are the most famous monuments: the House of the Naxians, the Temple of Artemis, the Pythion, the House of Dionysos and the ancient theatre, the homes of the Delians and the temple of Isis.
There’s the Terrace of the Lions, with five of the marble lions that guarded the Sacred Palm that Leto, Apollo’s mother, held onto when she gave birth to the god of light. You are at the heart of the ancient cosmos.
One of the world’s finest collections of ancient Greek sculpture awaits you here. Since its inauguration in 1904, it has been among the most important in Greece. Its nine rooms house sculptures, mosaics, pottery, inscriptions, jewellery, funerary statuary and grave stones. Look for the torso of the Archaic kouros from the Sanctuary of Apollo, the statues of Dioskourides and Cleopatra as well as Boreas abducting the nymph Oreithia.
The Temple οf Isis
Inside, you’ll find the statue of Isis, patron goddess of sailors, and one of the most significant attractions on the island. The site stands out among temples to other foreign gods and can be found on the foothills of Mt Kynthos.
Originally made of wood, it was replaced by the stone structure seen today in the third century BC. It could hold 5,000 spectators in all and the entire area has archaeological remains, private dwellings from the time of Kleopatra and Dioscorides.
Hidden gems of Delos
Ascent to the hub of the Cyclades
The climb up Mt Kythnos, the highest point on this small, flat island, at just 133m, takes a mere 20 minutes. Steps carved by the ancients will lead you to the often blustery top, where you can see the islands that form a circle around Delos.
The birth of Apollo on Adelos, the invisible island
As mythology tells us, before the birth of Apollo, Delos was an invisible rock floating in the Aegean. The goddess Leto, pregnant by Zeus, was desperate to find a place to give birth but no one would take her in, fearing the wrath of Hera, Zeus’ jealous wife. Seeing her distress, Zeus sought help from his brother, Poseidon, the sea god, and asked him to anchor the floating invisible islet for Leto’s sake.
Poseidon obliged, tied it to the deep and named it Delos, “visible”. Leto leaned back against the slope of Mt Kythnos, holding onto the island’s single palm tree, delivered her son, the god of light.
Very close to Delos and Mykonos, this 14 sq. km island has a width of only 1km and is known for its many bays, inlets and deserted sandy beaches. There are five chapels and a number of dispersed farmsteads across the island. Most of them can be found close to the chapel of Agia Triada, by a stunning sandy beach.