Mykonos is the travel destination embodying the most popular triptych of a Greek summer in the most obvious way; sun, sea, and nightlife. If you approach Mykonos island after dark you may be disoriented, as the lights spreading everywhere make it seem like a port on the mainland. This impression is even stronger if you happen upon one of the floating cities, the modern 800-2,500 person cruise ships, which often transport the wealthier tourist to Mykonos.
MYKONOS TOWN (CHORA)
The Hora of Mykonos has been a favorite destination worldwide since the 50’s. Mykonos’ town has been constructed around the mediaeval castle of the old town, which is situated on a rocky area by the sea, on the east of the island. The buildings, which are constructed according to the Cycladic architectural style, have a special urban planning interest. The maze-like, small streets with a lot of outdoor stairs at both sides, the countless, picturesque churches, the windmills, but most of all, the sever harmony and the white color, give a unique result and an unbelievably beautiful aesthetic unity. The west side of the settlement, which is built literally on the sea, is equally, if not more, interesting. This part of Mykonos’ town, due to its construction singularity, is called “Little Venice”.
There are five (5) museums in Mykonos the Archaeological Museum, the Popular Art Museum, Lena’s House, Boni’s Windmill, and the Aegean Maritime Museum. There are also an Art Gallery and a Library. The visitor in Chora can choose where to go many among the restaurants, bars and clubs. Let’s not forget that Mykonos is well known for its nightlife and no matter what time of day one wanders around, it is certain that one will be impressed and enchanted by its beauty. The unique experience of wandering around Chora’s cobblestone streets will always be strongly on the visitor’s memory.
Despite the tourism, enough residential elements are vibrant in Mykonos. Mykonos attractions, the endless narrow alleys, the windmills, the whitewashed ledges, the blue and red domes –allhere. The cube houses still play on blue and white; they make for a harmonious yet repetitive whole, given the extend of residential development. The trademark of Mykonos' Hora, an image famous around the world, is Kato Myli, the windmills on the low hill of SE Hora. In the Town of Mykonos, besides the shops where the pulse of European Fashion beats, it is worth seeing the neighborhood of Alefkandra and enjoying the sunset from Little Venice –another world famous image in photographs and postcards- and the City Hall, housed in an elegant building with obvious classical influences from 1780. Next to City Hall is the neoclassical building of the first public elementary school, built in 1857. Right in front of the sea is the small church of Aghios Ioannis of Kadhena(1700). Near City Hall you will see the Folklore Museum, while three other very noteable museums operate in the town of Mykonos –Archaeological, Maritime and the Agricultural Museum- Boni Windmill.
One of the most photographed Christian monuments in the country is behind Little Venice; it is Paraportiani Church of Mykonos which, in essence, is a complex of five smaller temples –four at the base and one sitting atop the other four as dome. The oldest is Aghii Anarghyri (14th century), while the others where completed in 1920. The name “Paraportiani” derives from the small gate (paraporti) of the medieval castle next to the temple. In Hora, the metropoilis of Zoodhochos Pigi or Meghali Panaghia is also pretty; it is built prior to 1650, as attested to by its Byzantine icons. The bishop’s throne and the Venetian wood-carved iconostasis are exceptionally crafted. South of town, is Vrysi, near the hotel “Tharroe”, a domed tomb dating to the Mycenaean period (14th cenruey) has been found. On the busiest street at the most central part of Mykonos town, next to cafés and restaurants you will also see Tria Pighadhia (Three Wells), the water supply for the entire Mykonos' Hora in the 18th century. About 5 km north of Mykonos Hora (Town), on the NW cape of Armenistis, it is worth visiting the Lighthouse of Mykonos (1891). The lighthouse ison a 19m-tall tower, while its old mechanism is exhibited in the courtyard of the Aegean Maritime Museum of Mykonos.
The most important archaeological position on the island of Mykonos is at the Hill of Paleokastro, in Panormos bay; there are remains of an ancient wall and buildings, as well as pottery from the Geometric, Archaic and Hellenistic years, right under the Venetian Gizi castle, above which the 18th century convent of Paleokastro rises. This is where the second archaic city of Mykonos is thought to have been located. A bit further north along the coast, in Ftelia, traces of Neolithic settlement dating to the 5th millennium BC have been found. The most picturesque village in Mykonos, Ano Mera, as well as the Monastery of Panaghia Tourliani (1543) around which the settlement was built later, are nearby. Tradition has it that the iconostasis, alter and icons of the main building were crafted in Florence, Italy. You will see several traces of ancient square or round towers all around the countryside of Mykonos, which are thought to have been a part of the island’s defensive strategy. You will see such structures behind Platys GHialos in Portes, named after the three shiseled granite monoliths once comprising the tower gate, the tower of Linou, with traces of a fortified enclosure and two Early Christian chapels. At cape of Tasranas, on the SW coast, on the peninsula Dhivounia or Dhimasto separating the beach of Aghia Anna from the beach of Kalafatis, traces of a prehistoric settlement have been found.
Among the beauties of the island, one can single out “Houlakia” beach where one finds very big pebbles, the granite formations with strange shapes in the south (Halara, Plintri, Lino, Agios Lazaros), the magic capes between cute, little bays (Drapanos, Divounia), the abrupt coasts in the north (Fanari, Panormos), the red rock in Tragonissi, the austere landscape in Aleomantra etc. This rocky terrain of Mykonos has impressed our ancestors so much that they connected the island with the myth of the Hercules’ fight with the Giants.
In Chora alone and in an era of 1km2, there are more than sixty(60) churches, with a special aesthetic interest, whereas in the whole island all the small and bigger in size churches, especially in Chora, have been pronounced to protect religious monuments. Yet, all the churches, even the simpler and more secluded ones, equally deserve the visitor’s attention. Their number – “they were as many as the days of the year” until the Second World War – impressed the older travelers and it is one of the island’s trademarks. The proportion is almost one church every ten inhabitants. All these churches symbolize the high religious feeling of the people and many of them owe their existence to an old family vow (ex-voto). Most of them are small and simple, with one aisle and covered with tiles in a red-brown color. Some are very old but the majority dates back to the 17th, 18th and 19th century. They comprise interesting and representative samples of the Greek (popular and other) ecclesiastic art. Apart from the churches, Mykonos has many monasteries. The monasteries of Panaghia Tourliani (16th-18th century), of Paleokastro (18th century), of Aghios Georgios in Ambelokipos, in Ano Mera, and of Aghios Panteleimonas (17th century) in Marathi