When food is really done well, every morsel is so dense with layers of flavor that just a few bites can remain forever etched in the consciousness. The same is true of destinations, and the Greek islands can be included in this category.
On the last day of June, we ventured to one of those spectacular morsels of Greece, the small island of Delos. This was my second time on the island, and it was a far better experience than one years earlier, when I had insufficient clothing to protect from the sun and heat, insufficient shoes to walk, and an insufficient traveling partner who was not much keen on exploring that day.
Delos is a small island near the center of the Cyclades archipelago, with an oversized place in history. The island is the mythological home of Apollo and Artemis and is now home to one of the most important archaeology sites in Greece. While it is not in possession of the kind of iconographic ruins one finds in Rome or Athens, the island is undeniably a stunning place to visit in its own right.
To get to Delos, we take a ferry from Tinos to Mykonos, and then connect to a small boat to Delos. Delos has no real inhabitants and the only major structure outside of the harbor is a small but impressive archaeology museum. The rest of the island is a wild fantasyland of ruins amid the dry Mediterranean landscape. Most other visitors remain in or close to the museum and cafe, which means that wandering even just a little off the main path leads to an exhilarating sense of freedom and adventure among the labyrinth of partially unearthed ruins that fill the island.
In the blasting wind, we climb to the highest point, and can see much of the rest of the archipelago. The views are more than worth the short trek.
We stumble upon a decrepit amphitheater, just as we notice that the last afternoon boat off the island will be leaving shortly. We literally run back to the boat, hopping over fences along the way, getting a nice jolt of adrenaline in the process.
The trip back is a thrilling ride through the rough Aegean waters. The boat is quite full with travelers of all stripes, including several of the ubiquitous hard-partying Mykonos-types, including one attempting to sleep in sweatpants, a hoodie, and large sunglasses. Every few minutes she would roll over on the bench, check her phone, readjust and go back to feigning bored obliviousness behind her shades, despite the fact that the boat was lurching through massive swells in the choppy Aegean sea, and swaying enough to incite at least one traveler to rush to the back deck in a, gratefully successful, effort to avoid vomiting.
It is to Mykonos that we return in the early afternoon. I have only once before been to Mykonos, and then only for a few hours. This time we explore more of the main town, stopping to eat and people watch. I realize that I have not given the town and island their proper credit before. There are hidden gems and ways to find enjoyment, but it remains true that the same extreme tourist kitsch dominates the atmosphere to the point where it feels overwhelming. For the first time this trip, the natural splendor of Greece is obscured by the throngs of party-seeking humans. We do manage to enjoy some good food though, and then get back on a ferry to the calm isolation of Tinos.
Previously: Greece Travel Diary Part 3 – Santorini