Mykonos’ nickname is The island of the winds. Tourism is a major industry. Widely known for its nightlife, Mykonos is called “Ibiza of Greece” for its summer club scene which attracts very large numbers of tourists every year.
Archaeological findings suggest the presence of the Neolithic tribe Kares on the island in 3000 BC, but the first real settlers seem to be the Ionians from Athens in the early 11th century BC. There were many people living on the neighbouring island of Delos, just 2 km (1.2 miles) away, which meant that Mykonos became an important place for supplies and transit. It was, however, during ancient times a rather poor island with limited agricultural resources and only two towns. Its inhabitants were pantheists and worshipped many gods.
In Greek mythology, the Mykonos was named after its first ruler, Mykons, the son or grandson of the god Apollo and a local hero. The island is also said to have been the location of a great battle between Zeus and Titans and where Hercules killed the invincible giants having lured them from the protection of Mount Olympus. It is even said that the large rocks all over the island are the petrified testicles (or, in bowdlerized versions of the myth, the entire corpses) of the giants; this portion of the myth is the source of the slang term “stones” attested in most major European languages.
The island spans an area of 85.5 square kilometres (33.0 sq mi) and rises to an elevation of 341 metres (1,119 feet) at its highest point. It is situated 150 kilometres (93 miles) east of Athens in the Aegean Sea. The island features no rivers, but numerous seasonal streams two of which have been converted into reservoirs.
The island is composed mostly of granite and the terrain is very rocky with many areas eroded by the strong winds. High quality clay and barite, which is a mineral used as a lubricant in oil drilling, were mined on the eastern side of Mykonos until the late 1900s.
Mykonos gained the nickname “Capri of Greece” because of its numerous beaches.
It produces 4,500 cubic metres (160,000 cu ft) of water daily, by reverse osmosis of sea water in order to help meet the needs of its population and visitors.
The island has a population of nearly 12,500, most of whom live in the main town of Chora
The sun shines for up to 300 days a year. It rains between February and March. This arid climate produces sparse vegetation. Vegetation grows around the beginning of winter and ends in mid-summer.
Although temperatures can rise as high as 40 °C (104 °F) in the summer months. Average temperatures are around 28 °C (82 °F). Winters average temperatures of 15 °C (59 °F).
There are two seasonal winds in Mykonos. The one in winter arrives from the south and is sometimes accompanied by electrical storms. The Sirocco, a famous southern wind, carries sands from the deserts that border the Mediterranean. In the summer a cooling wind comes from the north, and the Meltemi, during July and August.
Municipal Library – an 18th-century mansion housing over 8,000 volumes and a vast collection of 18th- and 19th-century photographs, documents and Cycladic coins and old seals as well as sketches and books from the personal library of American artist John Ratekin. The Municipal Library is located on Ayia Kyriaki Square in the main town of Chora.
Petros the Pelican – an old celebrity of the town’s waterfront, “Petros” has been the official mascot of Mykonos for over 50 years. He took up permanent residence on the island after a storm in 1954 and after his death the islanders elected a successor to carry on his legacy until today.
Mykonos windmills – The windmills are a defining feature of the Mykonian landscape. There are many dotted around the island, but most are concentrated in the main town of Chora. The famous “Kato Mili” in Chora (Greek for lower mills), stand in a row on a hill overlooking the sea to harness the strong northern winds. Capped with wood and straw, the windmills were built by the Venetians in the 16th century to mill flour and remained in use until the early 20th century. Many have been refurbished and restored to serve as homes to locals and vaults to numerous Mykonian heritage documents.
Little Venice – rows of fishing houses line the waterfront with their balconies hanging over the sea. The first of these was constructed in the mid-18th century. They originally belonged to rich merchants or captains and the little basement doors that provided direct access to the sea and underground storage areas led people to believe that the owners were secretly pirates. Some of the houses have now been converted into bars and cafes and little shops and galleries. Little Venice is considered one of the most romantic spots on the island and many people gather there to watch the sunset. The area attracts many artists who come to paint the picturesque coastline.
Armenistis Lighthouse – is a testimony to Mykonos’ maritime history, as well as a fully functioning lighthouse. It is located in Fanari, which means lantern in Greek, 6.5 km (4.0 miles) from Chora.
Tria Pigadia – are three identical wells standing in a row in the middle of the main town, Chora. They were built in 1722 to provide the town with water. Unlike most modern wells which are over 30 metres deep, the Tria Pigadia are only 5–6 metres deep as they were dug into sand where water was more easily accessible.
Archaeological Museum of Mykonos – was built in 1905 to house the findings from the Putrefaction Pit of 425/426 BC, discovered in 1898 on the islet of Rheneia by D. Stavropoulos. It is one of the oldest museums in Greece and was designed by Alexandros Lykakis and funded by the Ministry of Education and the Archaeological Society of Athens. The land as donated by the Municipality of Mykonos.
The original Neoclassical building underwent refurbishments and expansions in the 1930s and 1960s and the large eastern room was added in 1972. The museum contains artefacts from the neighbouring island Rhenia, including 9th- to 8th-century BC ceramic pottery from the Cyclades and 7th- to 6th-century BC works from other areas in the Aegean. Its most famous item is the large vase produced in Tinos, showing scenes from the fall of Troy.
Aegean Maritime Museum – was founded in 1983 by the Mykonian George M. Drakopoulos and it opened in 1985 with the goal of preserving and promoting the study of Greek maritime history and tradition, in particular the evolution and activities of the merchant ship in the Aegean Sea. Drakopoulos has been awarded with the Athens Academy Award and with the World Ship Trust’s award for Individual Achievement for his work with the museum. The museum was the first in Greece that rescued and restored living historical exhibits to operate as they were originally designed and built. In addition to original pieces, there are also replicas of famous historical ships and collections of coins with nautical scenes from the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD and a variety of elaborate shipping instruments.
Folklore Museum – the oldest house on the island houses a collection of 19th-century furniture, jewellery, ceramics embroideries, marble sculptures, tombstones and a variety of other trinkets. The museum also pays tribute to Mykonos’ traditional nautical roots with models of 19th-century Mykonian ships, maps and an anchor and canons used during the Greek War of Independence.
Lena’s House – this 19th-century traditional Mykonian residence belonged to a wealthy shipping family and the original furniture is still preserved. The house now operates as a museum.
Agricultural Museum (also known as the Bonis Mill) – old tools and machinery are displayed in one of Mykonos’ famous windmills and, located above the main town of Chora in Ano Myloi (meaning Upper Windmills), it offers a spectacular view.
And what about Delos (the rocky island near Mykonos)?
The small, rocky, dry island of Delos, which supposedly was the birthplace of Apollo, holds the biggest and the most important archeological site of the Cycladic islands. It was thought to be in the middle of all the other Cycladic islands, and it was heavily populated in its days. Now it has no hotels, no restaurants and no inhabitants. You can only visit it during the daytime on a daytrip. In the evening it is ‘closed’. Except for on mondays you can choose from a number of small boats going up and down in between Mykonos-town and Delos to have a look. There’s also a morning-boat to Delos leaving from Platis Yialos. Make sure you have a book or a guide or some kind of map, so you know what you are looking at. If you don’t you’re looking at old stones. Delos is a Greek island in the Cyclades archipelago. It is very close to the island of Mykonos, of which it lies southwest. Delos is small and elongated, about 5 km long and up to 1.3 km wide, the soil is dry and the highest point is the 113-meter-high hill Cynthus.
The myth of Delos
The Greek supreme Zeus didn’t bother with the laws of the marital fidelity. No woman – man or goddess – should feel secure for his advances, of course, to great annoyance of Hera, his proud and jealous wife. Thus on a certain day Zeus also had his eye on Leto, daughter of the titanium Koios. In order to escape the suspicion of Hera he had himself and his beloved in a couple of quails. But the jealous Hera had seen through this, and she had the pregnant Leto constantly chased by the snake Python.
Nine months later Leto was looking for a quiet place to give birth. But all countries where flowers and shady forests grew were afraid to give hospitality to Leto, because they might be punished by the vengeful Hera. Eventually Leto ended up on the barren, rocky island of Delos. Because the island, which previously was called Ortygia, then was not locked in the Aegean Sea, they offered Leto sanctuary on one condition: the goddess had to make sure that the child that she would give birth to would not dispise its birthground. Leto swore the expensive gods oath that her child would make its birthplace rich and powerful, even though it was not fruitful or sweet on delos.
Then began the labor Leto gave birth to divine twins: Apollon, the god of light, and his sister Artemis. Delos got a permanent place in the Aegean Sea, and as a tribute to his children Zeus created a circle of islands around his homeland making Delos the center of the Cyclades. It grew into a major pilgrimage, and out of respect no one was permitted to die or be born on Delos. Pregnant women and the sick were not allowed to enter the island.
Apollon and Artemis themselves would however leave the island. Apollon first of wanted to take revenge on the tormentor that his mothers’ life sour: he went to search Python and killed the monster in the place that would later be called Delphi, and which would become the most important sanctuary for Apollon in the antiquity.
The history of Delos
Archaeological finds at the Cynthus Hill point to an early settlement of the 3rd millennium BC. The island was already a religious centre. Before 1000 BC Greek-speaking immigrants already introduced The worship of Apollon, which gradually made the pre-hellenistic worship disappear.
The actual history of Delos begins in the 6th century BC When Pisistratus conquerded the island for Athens conquered, in order to control the Cyclades. After him the island was temporarily in the possession of Polycrates of Samos. After the Persian Wars Delos was the seat of the Delian-Attic sea-treaty.
Apart from the religious significance, Delos was also very important on the economic front due to its location and the expansion of its commercial port. It had always been a slave market and a major marketplace for grain in the Aegean region.