Olympic Holidays

The glorious windmills of Mykonos

The iconic landmark windmills that adorn the skyline of Mykonos

Come across any photographs of Greek windmills and they will almost certainly include the windmills of Mykonos. These iconic features of the Cyclades set above the island's main port are a byword for romantic Greek holidays.

They can be seen from almost every corner of Mykonos Town, staggered along the hillside ridge above the port and are the first sight to greet visitors arriving on the island by boat.

The seven windmills that grace the port town are the most famous but Mykonos actually has 16 of them, mostly erected by the Venetians in the 16th century when Mykonos lay on the important trade route between the great city state of Venice and the eastern Mediterranean.

Today they are little more than a tourist attraction but they were once vital to the island's economy. Ships carrying grain would unload their cargo here for the windmills to turn the grain into flour.

The inland windmills of Mykonos at Ano Mera mainly served the needs of Mykonos islanders while the windmills located above Mykonos Town in the area known as the Chora were traditionally used to grind the corn that was brought in by ships and along with lower windmills that run along the shore.

The powerful northerly meltemi winds provided enough power to drive the 28 windmills that once dotted the island landscape. They continued to grind corn through the 18th and 19th centuries before the industry went into decline.

Similar windmills are found throughout the Cyclades islands but Mykonos was the centre of trade. The windmills of Mykonos are all built to much the same design. Cylindrical in shape with cone roofs, small windows and whitewashed walls, they are the epitome of Greek rural vernacular architecture.

The cone straw roofs on top of the triple storied buildings were rotated to catch the wind and stand alone as housebuilding nearby was banned. Nearby buildings might have disturbed the airflow around the delicate cloth sails that drove the windmill and slowed down the grinding process.

Mykonos is fortunate in having so many surviving windmills. Those on many other islands fell into disrepair and ruin. Today a good number of windmills on Mykonos have been restored as tourist attractions or converted to other uses such as homes.

One of the most important is Boni's Mill located on the road connecting Chora with Ano Mera and which now houses the island's Agriculture Museum. Nearby is the Miller's House (To Spiti tou Mylona) which has a small threshing floor and the oven where bread was baked.

Today, the windmills of Mykonos are one of the most distinctive sights in not only the Cyclades but the Greek islands in general. Visitors looking for the best views should hop on a ferry as the sight of windmills along the skyline is best viewed from the sea.