Olympic Holidays

Delos island of the gods

The islet of Delos, near Mykonos, is considered to be one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in the whole of Greece and it is probably one of the most visited too.

Delos was considered the birthplace of Greek gods Apollo and Artemis and the island became the sacred centre of a major religious cult between 900BC and AD100.

The island of Delos lies about 10 kilometres south-west of Mykonos and it is a vast open-air archaeological site. The island pulls in thousands of day trip visitors each year, mainly from Mykonos but also from several other islands in the Cyclades as day trip boat excursions to Delos are hugely popular with holiday visitors.

Regular archaeological excavations have been carried out on Delos since 1873 and in 1990 UNESCO put the whole of Delos island on its World Heritage Site list.

Treasures on the island include the famous Terrace of Lions, carved marble animals that once lined and guarded the Sacred Way; the Sacred Lake is where Apollo is supposed to have been born; the Minoan Fountain was carved into the rock and it was fully reconstructed in 166BC, several market squares, or agora, (Delos was once one of the biggest slave trade centres in the Mediterranean); temples to various gods and some quite magnificent private houses dating from the 2nd century AD.

The entire island is strewn with the foundation remains of buildings, marble statue fragments and pillared wall sections and, not unremarkably, Delos is considered one of the most impressive and extensive archaeological sites in the whole world.

Many cultures have left their mark on the island of Delos, with shrines to Egyptian and Syrian deities among those built to the Greek gods.

Many sections of the residential area are remarkably intact given their age and the streets are clearly outlined. Mosaics remain on the walls and floors of some of the more opulent houses and Doric columns still stand that once supported the upper floors of homes and religious buildings.

Boats leave Mykonos every day (except Monday) for trips to Delos. Visitors only get a four-hour stay on the island, hardly enough to enjoy more than a fraction of the treasures here so, if you want to make the most of the island it's probably a good idea to book a couple of trips. The Delos island museum houses many of the most important sculptures.

Windmills of Mykonos

Well, you can hardly miss them as they line the hillside overlooking Mykonos harbour and have been the island's signal landmark since they were first built in the 16th century.

The island's strategic location on a major sea trade route from Venice to Egypt and the need to refine grain for the ships en-route coupled with year-round winds made Mykonos the perfect location.

There were once more than 20 on the island but only seven remain today and they continue to be a great tourist attraction. Today's windmills at Kato Myloi are located south-west of Mykonos Town between the picturesque Alefkadra and Niohori areas of the town.

They are well preserved and well-kept, standing in a neat row overlooking the harbour and the sea. They are one of the most distinctive sights, not only of Mykonos but of the Cyclades islands in general and their trademark picture is known all over the globe.

Church of Paraportiani

There are more than 70 churches on the island of Mykonos but the church in Paraportiani the best known and, like the windmills, has become a trademark of both Mykonos island and the Greek islands in general.

It is found at the entrance to the central harbour and is actually five small churches in one, four at ground level and the fifth built on the roofs of the others. More sculptural than architectural, the resultant building has an organic whole that defies its separate parts.

The name 'paraportiani' means 'inner door' and the church was once a doorway set in the medieval stone wall that once circled the area. Building on the first church began in 1475 and the others were added over time with the last completed in the 17th century.

Museums of Mykonos

Mykonos has a wide selection of museums in Mykonos Town although the buildings that house them are not particularly attractive.

Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum of Mykonos is located near the harbour and has a good collection of sculpture, ceramic and jewels from excavations on Mykonos and Delos. There is a big collection of amphora and typical Cycladic figurines. The museum is best known for its collection from vases, which includes one from the 17th century that portrays the Trojan Horse.

Folklore Museum

The Folklore Museum of Mykonos is in a former sea captains mansion house near the castle and the Paraportiani church. It is worth a visit just to see the huge collection of keys, but there are also traditional costumes, embroidery, photographs and furniture. The museum also houses an archive of historic manuscripts in its small library.

Aegean Maritime Museum

Located in the resort centre near the region called 'Three Wells' this museum documents the naval history of Mykonos. There are models of all manner of boats and ships, from rowing boats to pre-Minoan sailing ships as well as lots of maritime instruments. It also has an idiosyncratic collection of banknotes features sailing ships and there is a good collection of maps as well as reproductions of ancient gravestones, carved with sea-themes. You can also see the mechanism of the old Armenisti Lighthouse and, in summer, a traditional sailing vessel belonging to the museum, the Evangelistria, is moored in the old harbour and open to visitors.

Lena's House

The house of Lena is an authentic traditional Mykonos house of 19th century and opens to visitors from April to October. You can find it near the Maritime Museum in the 'Three Wells' area and it is a Mykonos house just as you would have found it with original decoration and traditional furniture.

Agricultural Museum

The Agricultural Museum of Mykonos is an outdoor museum near Ano Mili where you can see the old island threshing machines, a well a baking oven and many of the implements used in farming. It is next to the Boni windmill which is considered the best example of 16th century windmill to be found in Greece and it's kept in very good condition.