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Delos Island

The tiny, uninhabited island of Delos is one of the most important archaeological sites in the whole of Greece . Located in the middle of the Aegean Sea, Delos became the major religious and commercial centre of the ancient Greek world. This was the mythical birthplace of the god Apollo and his twin sister Artemis - a once magnificent showcase of temples, shrines and sanctuaries, the remains of which make Delos one big open-air museum.

The island lies at the heart of the Cyclades - the archipelago takes its name from the fact that it encircles sacred Delos ("kyklos" is the Greek word for circle). It's just a few kilometres off the south west tip of the frantic party island of Mykonos but the two are worlds apart. Mykonos is famed for having one of the wildest night scenes in the Mediterranean whereas Delos sends its day trippers packing before the sun goes down. There's no holiday accommodation here and freelance camping anywhere within this World Heritage listed site is strictly forbidden .

Star attractions include the Sanctuary of Apollo with its three temples dating from the 6 th and 5 th centuries BC. To the west of the sanctuary lies the Sacred Lake where Apollo was reputedly born after his mother Leto fled the jealous wrath of Hera, wife of Zeus. Leto fell pregnant by the king of the gods but was forced to scour the Aegean for a safe place to give birth to her twins after her all-powerful paramour ruthlessly dumped her. Zeus allegedly spied on the birth from the peak of Mount Kythnos in the south of the island. If you have the stamina to climb to the 113-metre summit you'll be rewarded with magnificent views of the archaeological site and the surrounding islands .

Standing guard over the Sacred Lake are nine replicas of the famous marble lions, which were a gift from the people of Naxos in the 7 th century BC. Five of the original lions can be seem in the island's archaeological museum which houses a fascinating collection of exhibits including 7 th century BC statues, reliefs, masks and ancient jewellery .

Other attractions include the amphitheatre, built in 300 BC to accommodate 5,500 spectators, and the nearby theatre quarter where the island's wealthiest inhabitants built opulent houses with grand, colonnaded courtyards.

At the Sanctuary of the Syrian Gods you can see the ruins of a theatre where audiences used to watch ritual orgies. Many of the ruined buildings scattered around the four-kilometre square sight contain elaborate, well-preserved mosaics painstakingly uncovered by the French Archaeology School which is still at work on Delos having started excavations in 1873 .



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