Mykonos is one of the most popular Greek islands for vacationing Europeans. This is due to its warm weather and its world famous beaches. Mykonos sits at the center of the Cyclades archipelago that runs up the eastern side of the Greek mainland. Mykonos is roughly 33 square miles in size and rises to an elevation of 1,119 feet. The population is a little over 10,000, with most living in its main town that referred to as Chora. Chora in Greek means “the Town”, with its official name being Mykonos, following the Greek practice of naming the major town after the island.
Archaeological findings have shown that the first residences of Mykonos were a Neolithic tribe known as the Kares, dating at about 3,000 BC. The first real settlers were the Ionians, who came from Athens in the early 11th century BC. Although the Ionians lived on Mykonos their major population was on the island of Delos, a short one mile away.
When you see photos of Mykonos you’ll most likely see its windmills. These windmills, standing in a row on the hill overlooking the main town are its defining feature. However they were not built by the Greeks, but rather the Venetians when they controlled Greece in the 16th century AD. The windmills today are still used to mill flour, with some even used as homes or for storage.
The harbor has been called little Venice, with its rows of fishing houses, there balconies hanging over the sea. The streets of Mykonos are bright and pleasant with colorfully painted doors and trim on white washed building.
To be honest the one stop on our tour that I was lest interested in visiting was Mykonos. For me the tour was visiting the ancient Greek sites and all that I knew of Mykonos up till then was the beaches and windmills. . Then I found out about the Island of Delos, the largest Greek archaeological site in the world. Delos is one of the most important historical and mythological sites of the ancient Greeks.
This island is believed to have been the birthplace of the Greek gods Apollo, and his twin sister Artemis. Because of this myth it was one the most sacred places in ancient Greece, right up there with Delphi and Olympia. Delos was so important that it was mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. Delos was also a successful seaport, being at the center of the Cyclades archipelago, for ships traveling between Syria and Egypt.
The first to settle the island were a people known as the Carians. These people were later expelled by the legionary King Minos of Crete. Delos was already a famous pilgrimage site by Homers time. The site was a major cult center spanning time between 900 BC till 100 AD. To make the island purer for worshiping the gods in the 6th century the Athenians, who controlled the island, had all the graves dug up and moved to another island. As these “purifications” expanded no one was allowed to die, or even be born on Delos.
Since Delos is a few miles from Mykonos you need to take a high speed ferry to get there. What awaits you when you arrive is a massive ancient ruined city spreading out as far as the eye can see. Ancient streets with shops along them, columns were temples stood, mosaic floors and statuary everywhere.
In the 8th Century BC close to 25,000 people had lived on Delos, even though it had little natural resources and is barren for the most part. In the first century BC the island was attacked many time and the shipping trade routes, so important to the island people changed, and since Delos did not have a self-supporting community it became uninhabited.
Today excavations at Delos are among the most extensive in the entire Mediterranean. Many of the artifacts found there are ether on display at the islands museum or at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
What really catches your attention on the island the rocky Mount Kynthos.
In ancient times there stood a temple to Zeus on its summit. Although the hill is not that tall (367 ft.) its rockiness and the steep trail adds to the challenge of climbing to the top.
But is it well worth the effort, from there you can not only see the massive archaeological site below, but also the far off islands of Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Syros and Rhenia.