Visiting Delos
Archaeological Site
on a Cruise to Mykonos (Greece)

Ultimate guide to the archeological site of Delos for cruise travelers to Mykonos port: how to get to there on your own and all major highlights.

Update: May 23, 2023

According to ancient mythology, Delos (often referred to as Dilos) was the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo, god of the sun, light, harmony, and beauty. The archaeological sanctuary located on the island is considered to be one of the most important historical sites on earth. The island itself is uninhabited but available for visitors Tuesday – Sunday.

Photo of Panoramic View in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Panoramic View, Delos - Mykonos

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After a 30-minute boat ride you can visit this wonderful island and its many sites, or choose to climb Mount Kynthos for a majestic panoramic view of the other surrounding islands. You do have the choice of obtaining a map and self-guide yourself or join a group for a narrated tour of the many archaeological sites on the island.

Monuments and Landmarks in Delos

The cruise traveler will find that the Archaeological Site of Delos is vast and that many of the Monuments are spread out. Even with a map, sometimes is not easy to really find where these are located.

Agora of the Competialists

Photo of Agora of the Competialists in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Agora of the Competialists, Delos - Mykonos

Photo ©

When you visit the island of Delos, upon disembarking the boat, you will find just left of the harbor the first major monument, Agora of the Competialists. This monument was built back in the 2nd century BC when the city thrived under Roman rule. The Agora is associated with the Greek god Hermes, who is the patron saint of travelers and commerce.

The Competialists were, in fact, freeman and merchants who held festivities annually at this crossroad. Surrounding this monument were the many merchant stores of both Romans as well as liberated slaves, who both worshiped these gods. If you look closely, you can see the post holes in the stone pavements, where the merchants would erect poles and attach their awnings for shade.

Sacred Way

Photo of Sacred Way in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Sacred Way, Delos - Mykonos

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The Dromos or Sacred Way is a 45-foot paved road, once lined with monuments and statues, leading to the Sanctuary of Apollo. Generals and kings of the day donated the many statues that lined this walkway, but all that remains today are the large marble blocks they once stood on. You will notice on the left side of the road, a gift to Apollo from once ruler of Cyclades, Phillip V of Macedon back in 200 BC. Still standing today, with once 16 gray columns, only one remaining, you can still see the dedication inscription.


When you arrive at the far end of the Sacred Way, you will be standing at the Propylaea, which back in time were monuments of white marble forming a gateway of four Doric columns with three portals.

Photo of Propylaea in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Propylaea, Delos - Mykonos

Photo ©

Sanctuary of Apollo

Photo of Temple of Apollo in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Temple of Apollo, Delos - Mykonos

Photo ©

Once one of the great temples of Greece on the island of Delos, where a great statue of Apollo and a grand marble building stood, is now 33 pounds of marble on the ground. Still, today, when you visit this ancient site, you can feel the awe of what was once a very sacred and important place in history. The great temple of Apollo, which was created around 477 BC, was removed and reassembled in Athens around 454 BC, and not fully completed until around 200 BC. In 417 the people erected a bronze palm tree in honor of a palm tree that stood over Leto at birth. There is actually a reference to the bronze palm tree in Homers “The Odyssey”.

Sanctuary of Dionysus

Next to the museum, you will also find the Sanctuary of Dionysus (aka Monument of Carystius), built back in 300 BC. Be prepared for a sight to remember as it consists of several monuments, which were dedicated to Apollo celebrating the winners of chorus competitions at local festivals. Each has been decorated with a large phallus, which represents the main activities that occurred during the Dionysian festivals. Also find a representation of a bride's journey to home of new husband.

Avenue of the Lions

Photo of The Lions of the Naxianss in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

The Lions of the Naxians, Delos - Mykonos

Photo ©

Originally there were nine or more elegant Naxian marble lions that stood in the Avenue of Lions”. Today what you view are replicas of those lion statues, however, you may still view five of the originals here in the museum, and one transported to the Arsenal in Athens and appears over the main gate. These lions were built and dedicated to Apollo back in 600 BC by the inhabitants of Naxos.

Sacred Lake

Just north of the Sacred Bulls you will find the Sacred Lake right next to the tourist pavilion. This is where the sacred swans and geese belonging to Apollo were, the same that are credited with powers of oracles. Until some time ago there was a palm tree in honor of Leto and the birth of her twins but now is just a small forest.

Photo of Lake House in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Lake House, Delos - Mykonos

Photo ©

The Maritime Quarter

What you will discover in the Maritime Quarter near the harbor is what was once the main residential area of town. During the peak of prosperity, you would have found beautiful mansions and beautiful villas here, adorned with colorful mosaics and stone.

Photo of Poseidoniastes Establishment in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Poseidoniastes Establishment, Delos - Mykonos

Photo ©

You can still see today the remains of what were some of the grandest homes of the Roman and Hellenistic periods. You can actually still view the ancient cisterns and sewer systems used during those times. Walk the palace courtyards and you view today mosaics and images of Dionysus riding a panther.

Theatre Quarter

Photo of Theatre Quarter in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Theatre Quarter, Delos - Mykonos

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The Theatre Quarter is located in the Residential Quarter and was surrounded by the bankers and merchants of wealth at the time. It was built in the 3rd century and incorporates an arched cistern that during the time delivered water to the city.

The theater would seat 5500 attendees and was the location for many chorus competitions during the festivals held on the island. This area held the elegant homes, which were one and two stories and usually built around an inner courtyard. Springtime the area is beautiful with abundant wildflowers.

Photo of Theatre in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Theatre, Delos - Mykonos

Photo ©

Mount Kinthos

Photo of Mount Kynthos in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Mount Kynthos, Delos - Mykonos

Photo ©

Located at the highest point on Delos is Mount Kinthos, and is reached by a path that is taken from within the Theatre Quarter. The impressive flight of steps leads you up over 360 feet to the pinnacle and center of the island. From here you can on a clear day view Mykonos, Siros, Tinos, Naxos, and Poros. Legend has it that Apollo was born on these slopes.


Located just east of the stadium, you will discover the remains of what is considered the oldest synagogue in the world today. Located by the sea you can visit the remains of this synagogue built during the 3rd century BC by the Phoenician Jewish community.


Photo of Museum in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Archaeological Museum, Delos - Mykonos

Photo ©

What you will find in the Site Museum is a collection, which included the original lions removed from the Terrace of the Lions for preservation. In this museum are many of the archaeological finds from the sites here on the island. Included are masks, monuments, statues of women and men, reliefs, vases and much more.

Most of these are from Roman, Hellenistic, Classical and Archaic periods in history. This is also somewhere that you can get a snack or drink as it does contain a small bar and restaurant.

Photo of Museum in Delos, Mykonos, Greece.

Interior Museum, Delos - Mykonos

Photo ©

Brief History of Delos

The island itself was once known as Quail Island or Ortygia, and the archaeological finds located on top of Mount Kinthos prove that Delos had been inhabited back in the 3rd millennium BC. Having no real resources to sustain inhabitants, the island was used as a religious center around 1000 BC and considered to be a sacred island. This island remained independent until around 166 BC when the Romans gave it to the Athenians.

Later the island was declared an “international” harbor by the Romans, which then led to an increase in population. An island of some importance and growth, still retaining the religious status, with many fine statues and buildings, it soon lost its importance.

Delos fine stone buildings were transferred to other islands for new structures, and many of the statues can now be found in present-day museums. Back in the time around 400 BC, the island flourished with inhabitants from Egypt, Syria, and Rome, and trade flourished, as did slavery, which lasted many years.

Then in the year 88 BC, an attack on the unprotected island, led to the entire population of more than 20,000 people to be either killed or sold as slaves. A little too late, the Romans built defensive walls around the city in 66 BC, but history shows that it was indeed way too late, as the city was no more.

Over the years since then, looting and destruction of this once thriving trade island by the rulers of the Eastern Mediterranean (Turks, Venetians, pirates and the Knights of St. John) very little. Even as late as the 17th century, marble was removed from the island for a collection of Charles I.

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