Mykonos & Delos, A Divine Contrast
Mykonos, island of sun, playground of diversity, beacon of Epicurean delights could not be further from the historic ruin of nearby Delos. Zeus surely must have laughed as he tossed the islands of the Cyclades into the sea. In his all-knowing power, perhaps he saw the future of Mykonos and placed Delos nearby as a means of perspective about keeping life in balance.
Delos is an easy day trip from Mykonos. Tickets can be purchased at the small ticket office near the dock near the Town Hall, or you can purchase pre-packaged guided group tours through various travel agencies on the island. (See IF YOU GO below for details about ferries between the two islands, best time to visit and other information).
Along Matoyianni Street on Mykonos, crowds throng through boutiques and shops, stop in small cafes and take in a life which, with the rising of the moon, becomes more and more frenetic as music pulses from innumerable night clubs and bars.
In stark contrast, Delos remains a holy and silent place, known as such millennia before the Greeks attributed Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis, as having chosen the island as the birthplace of these twin gods. The extensive ruins on Delos are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While a guide can be of assistance in understanding all of the precincts of the island (Theater, Mount Kynthos, Harbor and others), my experience has been that a good guide book is great reference and allows you to retreat from the more popular sites to gain a more profound sense of this island’s history.
From the Sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos atop Mount Kynthos, you can see Mykonos in the distance. Winds blow constantly at the summit, carrying scents of sea mingled with the dust of ruins. Visitors cannot help but think of the many thousands whose have walked upon, who once inhabited, the island. The ruins are expansive, unforgettable. The Avenue of the Lions, the Temple of Dionysus, and numerous remains of millennia are more than worth the trip. Four to five hours is more than sufficient time to explore the ruins, visit the small archaeological museum and then return for some relaxation before dinner back on Mykonos.
Sunset from tables along the sea in the Alefkandra Quarter of Mykonos, known as the Venice of the island, is a wonderful way to begin an unforgettable evening. As I have watched the moon rise above the Aegean, however, my thoughts drift to Delos. Across the darkening sea do the ghosts of gods, the remains of those before, listen to the sounds of life which one were theirs? Do they not wish to be on the island Zeus placed so enticingly close? Or is Zeus laughing, the silence of the island a stark reminder to those across the bay?
Mark Gordon Smith is the author of several books about Italy. He is currently working on his third travel memoir. His company, Private Italy Tours LTD, offers small group explorations across Italy and Greece. www.private-italy.com