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Naxos to Delos Day Trip

Naxos to Delos Day Trip

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If you were enamored by the Acropolis and blown away by Pompeii, a Naxos to Delos day trip might be the next port of call on your ancient odyssey.  

Delos is an island and archaeological site in the Cyclades archipelago of Greece. It’s the mythological birthplace of Apollo, the god of the sun, prophecy, music, poetry, and healing. His twin sister, Artemis, the moon goddess, was also born on Delos although the cult activity focused on Apollo. Their mother, Leto, was also worshipped.

The island was a major pilgrimage center and trading port during the first millennium B.C. and flourished during the Archaic and Classical eras.

It diminished in the third century A.D. after trading routes changed and was eventually sacked by pirates and abandoned. The entire island was designated an archaeological and UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. 

It’s not possible to sleep on the island but you can spend a day in Delos while vacationing on the nearby islands. It’s easiest to get there from Mykonos but Naxos is another option if you prefer to base yourself on this laid-back Cycladic island.

If you’re a fan of history, you’ll also find that Naxos is more to your liking than the party-centric Mykonos. And, after a day in Delos, you can look forward to unwinding on the beautiful beaches in Naxos.

This guide explains how to get from Naxos to Delos independently or with a tour. 

Best time for a Naxos to Delos day trip

Delos is open all year. The summer hours are 8 a.m. until 7.30 p.m. while winter is until 3 p.m. 

Ferries to Delos from Naxos (or other islands in the Cyclades) require a boat change at Mykonos. There are more services in this island cluster from the middle of May until the end of October. 

However, it’s still possible to visit during the low season as boats continue to operate and the sanctuary remains open. 

Winter isn’t a bad time to visit Delos if you want to avoid the crowds and don’t mind cooler weather conditions. Greece certainly isn’t one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in winter but it’s more pleasant without the crowds. 

stone lion at delos in greece.

The terraceof the lions is one of the most famous monuments in Delos.

How to get to Delos

Delos is only accessible via boat. Mykonos is the closest large island and is the main gateway to Delos. However, you can still plan a Delos day trip from Naxos and other Cycladic islands. It’s much easier to do this during the summer months. 

As the Cyclades are located in the Aegean Sea, you can start your trip with two or three days in Athens and then commence on an island-hopping trip. 

How to get from Naxos to Delos 

The Naxos to Delos ferry route requires changing at Mykonos. You’ll need to take a boat to Mykonos, disembark, and pay for a separate ticket on the Delos boat. High-speed boats between Naxos and Mykonos take as little as 25 minutes. Slower (and cheaper) sailings take 1 hour and 40 minutes. 

You can search and book ferries on FerryHopper. However, tickets for ferries to Delos from Mykonos are easier to buy at the harbor as these boats are run by local operators.

However, it’s possible to buy tickets online with GetYourGuide. This roundtrip boat transfer to Delos Island from Mykonos Island will give you peace of mind during the high season.   

Alternatively, you can take a Naxos to Delos day trip with a tour company. These usually include a stop at Mykonos as well as time to explore Delos. 

This Delos and Mykonos full-day boat trip from Naxos does exactly that! You’ll sail across the Aegean Sea and disembark at Delos where you’ll spend three hours exploring the ruins. It’s not a guided tour so you’ll set your own pace and linger as much or as little as you desire. However, there is the option to join a tour group upon arrival. 

After that, you’ll hop back on the boat and alight at Mykonos for a further three hours of free time. 

Tours from Naxos to Delos and Mykonos are usually available from mid-May until the end of October.

grassy field with a hill in the distance and ancient greek ruins scattered around the field.

Visiting in Spring is a wonderful time to come before the big summer crowds but still enjoy good weather and flowers in bloom everywhere.

How to get from Mykokos to Delos

Ferries to Delos depart from the old port of Mykonos in Chora and take 30 minutes each way. Tickets are sold in person at the port. 

Sailings to the island generally depart between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. in summer while the last return leaves at 8 p.m. The latest timetable will be advertised at the port and your hotel should be able to check the current sailings. Note that sea conditions and those pesky Meltemi winds can impact boat departures. 

It costs around €22 ($24 USD) for an adult return fare. 

If you would rather take a tour, they start in April/May ahead of the high season. This archaeological site of Delos guided day trip is inclusive of return travel, skip-the-line admission, and commentary on the island. You can pay a little extra for hotel pick-up in Mykonos.   

Another option is to book a Mykonos to Delos and Rhenia islands cruise. This starts with free time to explore Delos before a snorkel and swim stop at Rhenia. A full barbecue meal is served onboard the boat and you have the option to upgrade to a guided tour of Delos.  

How to get around Delos

Delos is a tiny island and you’ll explore the ruins on foot. It’s around 3 miles (5 km) in length and less than a mile in width. As a comparison, it’s a similar size to Central Park in New York City. 

The main archaeological site is located in the northern part of the island close to the port. The southern regions are inaccessible to tourists. 

greek ruins with marble pilars standing in a row with pieces of stone on the ground around them.

I enjoyed exploring the ruins and then visiting the museum so that I could learn about all that I had seen. The museum is also a great place to cool down if you are visiting during the steamy summer months.

How long to spend on Delos

A trip to Delos certainly can fill a full day, especially if you’re planning a Naxos to Delos day trip as you’ll need to factor in travel time. Although you can comfortably see the entire sanctuary in 3-4 hours if you’re an avid historian. 

If you are visiting from Mykonos, you could plan to spend a half day on the island. Aim for a minimum of two hours to make the most of the trip. 

It’s also possible to visit Delos from Mykonos in the evening. You can spend a day on the beach and book a Delos archaeological site guided evening tour. This is a wise idea for summer as you don’t want to be roaming this exposed island during the hottest part of the day. 

Is Delos worth visiting?

Delos is absolutely worth a visit if you are planning on a Greek island hopping in the Cyclades. It’s such an easy day trip from Mykonos you’d almost be crazy not to go. A Naxos to Delos day trip does require more time and effort. 

If you already took a day trip to Pompeii in Naples, Italy, or visited other Greek archaeological sites like the Apollo gate in Naxos, you’ll love the experience of a day in Delos. The island will have particular appeal to history fans, especially those with an interest in Greek mythology. 

Note that many of the temples stand in ruins. However, you’ll see what the excavations tell us about life on Delos as well as the cult of Apollo. Plus, the island scenery is phenomenal. 

Is Delos worth visiting with kids? Possibly, although they might not find it quite as stimulating as other ancient archaeological sites in Greece and Italy. 

ruins made of marble pilars and sculptures without a head on a naxos to delos day trip.

Exploring Delos is a great experience and easy to do as a day trip from Naxos or Mykonos.

Things to do on a Naxos to Delos day trip

Admission is €12 ($13 USD) and payable at the ticket office on the island. This includes entry to the museum. If you want to explore independently, you can go ahead. Otherwise, you can pay a little extra to join a guided tour. 

Here are the main things to see during a day in Delos. 

1. Terrace of the Lions 

When you think of Delos, the Terrace of the Lions is probably the first image that bounces into your mind. This is a path flanked by replicas of marble lion statues carved in the 7th century B.C. The original statues are displayed in the island’s museum, which you’ll get to visit during your Naxos to Delos day trip. 

2. Temple of Isis

This sacred Doric temple was built in the 2nd century B.C. in the foothills of Mount Cynthus. A statue of the goddess stands inside and protects sailors. Isis is the patron deity although Serapis and Anubis were also worshiped here.

3. Ancient Theater of Delos

The theater quarter is the oldest part of the sanctuary. The theater would have originally been built from wood before being upgraded with stone.

In its heyday, the theater accommodated more than 5,000 visitors. The House of Cleopatra stands near the theater and would have been one of the largest residences when Delos was at its peak. 

4. House of Dionysus

This house was built in honor of the god of wine and contains an incredible mosaic showing the deity riding a tiger. It’s possible to enter the ruins for a closer look at the intricate details. You’ll also spot the cistern which is interesting to see!

5. House of the Masks

This house and peristyle courtyard contain even more wonderfully preserved mosaics. Another illustrates the god Dionysus and others are performance masks and mythological sequences. It’s thought to have provided lodging to actors. 

6. Archaeological Museum of Delos

The museum is open between March and November. It exhibits ancient statues, vases, mosaics, and everyday objects excavated from Delos and the Cyclades. It’s a window into the daily goings-on during the Classical and Hellenistic periods.

7. Sacred Way

The Sacred Way leads you from the port to the Sanctuary of Apollo. It would have been lined with decorative porticoes but now only the plinths remain. 

At the heart of the sanctuary, you’ll find the remains of the Temple of the Delians and the Temple of Artemis alongside several other ruins. These would have been the most important temples on the island.

8. Mount Cynthus

Mount Cynthus is the highest point on the island of Delos. It’s located on the eastern side of the island, close to the theater district. You’ll reach the summit in around half an hour – it’s a little steep and prone to wind but the views are exceptional. Decent footwear is required, which brings us to the final segment.

words inscribed into stone in Greek letters.

Delos is home to some of the most magical ruins I’ve seen outside of mainland Greece.

What to take for a day in Delos

Besides a small gift shop, there are no shops or restaurants on Delos. As such, you’ll need to carry everything with you that you might need for the day.

Start by picking out the best bag for Europe travel and filling it with the following essentials. 

  • Water: The island is very hot during the summer months and you’ll be walking a lot during your Naxos to Delos day trip. Remember to take a reusable water bottle to Greece. Not all water is potable in the Cyclades but you can reduce plastic waste by refilling at the drinking springs on the islands. Otherwise, there’s no better time to try out the revolutionary Lifestraw water bottle.
  • Food: It might be useful to take some little containers if you’re staying in self-catered accommodation in Greece. These collapsible silicone food storage containers make it easy to take a packed lunch or restaurant leftovers out on day trips. This guide has tips on where to stay in Naxos across hotels and apartment rentals with kitchens. 
  • Sunhat and sunscreen: Essential! Pack a sun hat that covers your neck and that won’t blow away, this wide fedora is a practical choice for exploring the archaeological island. Even a baseball cap will do and might be more practical. You’ll also need to wear sunscreen. Badger is a great brand as their mineral sunscreen is free from synthetic ingredients and is reef-safe.
  • Suitable footwear: Wear comfortable, breathable sneakers or walking sandals with arch support. Most of Delos is rough terrain. You’ll need a practical pair of shoes for an action-packed Greek vacation exploring sanctuaries anyway.