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Mykonos Cruises

Mykonos, Greece

About Mykonos

A member of the sun-splashed Cyclades—a central Aegean archipelago consisting of more than 200 islands—Mykonos epitomizes the romance and splendor synonymous with the Greek Isles. Admired for its striking whitewashed buildings with signature cerulean accents and its pristine golden beaches, the once-humble fishing island is now a playground for the glitterati, renowned for its luxury boutiques, high-end restaurants and sophisticated, indefatigable nightlife.

Inhabited since the late Neolithic period, Mykonos was settled by Athens-based Ionians in the 11th century BC. The island was ideally situated to service Delos—the sacred island, hallowed in Greek mythology as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis—as a supply station. And as its neighbor developed into one of the region’s most important trade and commercial centers, Mykonos grew and prospered, too.

Following the decline of Greek civilization, Mykonos became part of first the Roman Empire, then the Byzantine Empire. When Constantinople fell in 1204, the island came under Venetian rule, and remained so until 1537, when it was conquered by the Ottomans. Although the Turks granted limited self-governance, the fomenting Greek nationalist movement erupted into rebellion in 1821. By helping to keep the Ottoman Navy at bay, the nautical-minded Mykonians played a key role in the success of the Greek Revolution, also known as the Greek War of Independence.

Post-independence, however, Mykonos’s economy began to decline. It wasn’t until the 1930s, when wealthy Europeans discovered the idyllic island as a seaside playground, that its finances began to improve. Today, tourism is booming, thanks in large part to Jackie Onassis, whose high-profile visits during the 1960s brought the island international attention and acclaim.

Mykonos Lifestyle and Culture

Mykonos, the island’s eponymous main town, lies on the western coast. As is traditional in Greece, it is called Chora, the Greek word for “town,” to distinguish it from the island. A labyrinth of steep, narrow and winding cobblestone lanes, its seemingly haphazard layout is in fact intentional, devised by ancient Mykonians to blunt the force of Aegean winds.

Chora’s undulating streets are lined with quintessentially Aegean architecture. Gleaming, white flat-roofed buildings boast brightly painted doors and shutters. Blue, red and green balconies overflow with fragrant fuchsia bougainvillea. The serpentine pathways lead to charming squares lined with cozy cafés and terraced restaurants, and lead back to the harbor, where colorful fishing boats bob alongside sleek yachts in tranquil turquoise water.

Mykonos Sights and Landmarks

Though diminutive in size, Mykonos is home to more than 400 churches. Among the most impressive is the Panagia Paraportiani, or Church of Our Lady. This imposing alabaster structure dates back to 1425 and consists of five smaller, conjoined churches. Four form the ground level, while a dome-shaped fifth graces the top. Each bears its own distinct architectural style.

Another picturesque corner of the island is Mikri Venetia, or Little Venice. Here, rows of whitewashed houses abut the Aegean, their wooden balconies stretching out above the azure waters. Cafés and restaurants flank the adjacent shore, offering ideal spots for sipping ouzo and savoring the scenic views—which just might include a glimpse of the island’s official mascot, Petros the pelican.

Perched high on a cliff overlooking Little Venice are the Kato Mili, the island’s iconic thatched-roof windmills. Constructed by Venetians in the 1500s, they harnessed powerful northern winds to grind wheat. This milled grain played an integral role in the island’s economy, as ships plying the Aegean stopped in Mykonos to stock up on paximadi (ship’s biscuits) from local bakeries. Active until the 1960s, the well-preserved windmills today serve as private homes and storehouses for historical documents.

Mykonos Entertainment and Activities

The Kato Mili may be closed to visitors, but the harbor front Archaeological Museum of Chora welcomes guests—and offers an illuminating look at the region’s history. Established in 1902, its small but splendid collection includes early Cycladic statues, Rhenaian funerary urns, and Delosian pottery and religious artifacts.

Opened in 1985, the Aegean Maritime Museum celebrates the nautical history of the Cyclades. Located in the Tria Pigadia district, its exhibits include models of ships that have sailed these waters from the pre-Minoan to modern eras. You can also browse navigational instruments and ancient coins with maritime motifs.

A truly unforgettable encounter with Hellenic history can be had on the neighboring island of Delos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the most sacred sites in Greece, the small, uninhabited island is rife with archaeological treasures, and excavations are ongoing. Highlights include the Temple of the Delians, dedicated to Apollo, the Sanctuary of Dionysus and a pride of famed lion statues guarding the now-dry Sacred Lake.

Mykonos Restaurants and Shopping

The cuisine of Mykonos reflects the abundance of the Aegean, with fresh fish, prawns, calamari and octopus featuring prominently on local menus. Traditional Greek meze, or appetizers, like dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and saganaki (fried cheese) are also ubiquitous, as is heartier fare like moussaka, eggplant and minced beef with Béchamel, and pastitsio, a lasagna-like dish.

For authentic Greek cuisine, visit Nikolas Taverna, an island fixture since 1967. This unassuming, family-owned restaurant on Agia Anna beach also serves up Mykonian specialties, including louza loukaniko, smoked pork sausages flavored with fennel and orange peel; kopanisti, a peppery goat’s milk cheese; and kremidopita, a savory pie made with phyllo dough and onions.

Or dine with the locals at Kiki’s, a rustic, cliffside taverna overlooking Agios Sostis Beach. A truly hidden gem, the eatery has no sign or telephone. Open daily for lunch only, Kiki’s is known for its pork chops grilled over a charcoal flame and flavorful sides, including lentil salad, grilled feta and artichokes with lemon.

Matogianni Street, Chora’s main thoroughfare for shopping, has everything from small souvenir shops to art galleries to designer clothing boutiques. Quality goods crafted by local artisans abound, including leather sandals; handwoven scarves and tablecloths; gold and silver jewelry in Hellenic, Byzantine and contemporary designs; and plates, bowls and household items made from olive wood. Reproductions of ancient Cycladic sculptures are also popular, and can be found in shops throughout the island.