If you haven’t started planning your spring break, you should be! Neighbor to the sacred island of Delos, Mykonos is more than just a resting place for travelers on their way to see one of ancient Greece’s most holy sites. This rocky outcropping with sandy beaches and vibrant beaugavilla shares deep ancestry in Greek history.
Settled by Phoenicians, Egyptians, Minoans, and then Ionians, its tapestry is woven by many cultures. More recently, it was ruled by the Byzantines in the 13th century, the Venetians in the 14th (who built fortresses), and the Ottoman Empire at the height of its expansion up until Greek liberation in the 18th century.
From empire to empire, the Cyclades have been passed around. On one little island, you can get a glimpse of all of it!
1. Bonis WindmillOne of the first
features you can see from the plane or boat is the line up of Greek windmills.
On a prominent hill above the Chora (town in Greek), the white towers with
their thatched rooves and tiny windows stand sentry over the harbor. They were built by the Venetians 800 years ago! Of course, they’ve been remodeled.
Bonis windmill ground wheat, an important source of income for early inhabitants, but is now the Folklore Museum of Mykonos, though still functional. If you visit in September during the Harvest Festival, expect to eat great local food and revel in Myconos folklore.
2. Panagia Paraportiani
This stark white, plaster building is unique due to its asymmetrical architecture. Its name means “Our Lady of the Side Gate” as the main entrance is on the side of the once neighboring Kastro (castle). Speaking of castles…
3. Kastro Gyzi
A medieval castle built by the Venetians after the fall of Constantinople. The Ghizi family ruled Mykonos (and Tinos) until 1390 when the Ottomans acquired the island. On a hill north of the second largest town in Mykonos, Ano Mera, the ruins sit among the lush grass, its walls of intricately stacked stone cresting in and out of the hillside.
The once heavily fortified castle came into disrepair during Ottoman rule. Indeed, Mykonos from the 14th-19th century was heavily occupied by pirates who staged raids across the Aegean.
3. Monastery of Panagia Tourliani
There are nearly 250 churches on the island. This monastery has survived since 1542 when it was built by two priests who originally named it after the Presentation of the Virgin Mary. The local Greeks thought otherwise and renamed it Tourliani after the beautiful dome (tourlos) when it was renovated in the 17th century.
Nowadays, the monastery is the patroness of the island and is celebrated on August 15th, the biggest festival on the island! It’s close to Chora and makes a quick day trip from the local hotels.
4. The Island of Delos
It’d be an atrocity not to mention Delos. To reach it, you must take the ferry from Mykonos. The neighboring island is less than one mile away and is one of ancient Greece’s most sacred sites.
The birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, it’s been a temple, agropolis, and the center of the Roman Empire’s slave trade. Its iconic Terrace of Lions faces the small pool that once housed Apollo’s swans and geese; colonnades of lost temples scatter the microscopic, mile-long island.
Fun Fact: in the 1st century, the oracle at Delphi declared that no one to be born nor die on the island due to its sacred importance and had all bodies buried there exhumed and removed. So, watch your step on those steep paths!