Looking forward to your next sunkissed escape into Greece? Are you yet to visit the Mediterranean’s hippest holiday queen? Read these intriguing facts about Mykonos and come prepared!
Superyachts, supermodels, superstars, exquisite fine dining and a nightlife scene that’s unrivalled in the world. Sure. But Mykonos is much more than people-watching, sandy beaches and the good life. With a history that is lost in the deepest recesses of antiquity, the island that never sleeps is steeped in legends and myths which have shaped it into one of the hotspots of the planet.
Did you know for example, that Mykonos’ iconic, whitewashed town was fashioned as a maze to deter pirate raids? Back when the notorious buccaneers used to own the oceans and the seas, they had made the island of Mykonos their popular hangout spot – and the locals did everything they could to stop it!
How about some background information for some extra inspiration before your visit? Read our collection of fun and interesting facts about Mykonos, and use this intel to impress friends and family on your trip to the island of the winds!
Amazing facts about Mykonos for savvy travellers
- According to Greek mythology Mykonos was named after its first ruler Mykons – himself no less than the grandson of the god Apollo. Mykonos was also the site of the battle between Zeus and the Titans. As the story goes, Hercules who fought on the side of his father, defeated the Giants and imprisoned them under the Mykonian rocky terrain. Purportedly they still remain buried there, at Houlakia Bay. In fact, the stunning beach of the San Marco, is protected by the Ministry of Culture so it is strictly forbidden for visitors to remove even a single pebble!
- Mykonos has 15,000 permanent residents in the winter – 4.000 of them are foreigners. In the summer though, the island hosts over 50.000 people in 1 day. Mykonos celebrates over 70 country fairs, 38 of which take place from June to September. There are 4 nudist beaches, 31 taxis, over 800 churches – 80 of them alone in Chora – and more than 200 bars and restaurants. Get ready for an experience-packed holiday!
- Mykonos belongs to the Cyclades complex, which consists of 33 islands forming a circle (“cyclos”) at the epicentre of which lies the sacred isle of Delos: the birthplace of divine twins Apollo and Artemis, and antiquity’s most cosmopolitan, commercial and religious centre.
- Stars and celebrities have been dipping their toes in the sands of Mykonos for more than 90 years. A poor and barren island until the early 20th century, Mykonos was “discovered” by famous artists, politicians and wealthy Europeans in the 1930s, thanks to the archaeological excavations in neighbouring Delos.
- Many aeons before this “re-discovery”, during the hot, sizzling summers of 250 BC or so, when the sacred island of Delos was the leading commercial and religious centre of the known world, Delians used to send their wives and children to stay in neighbouring Mykonos. The same pretty much stands nowadays for the spouses and offspring of wealthy Athenians. Back then, however, this summer commute took place for a reason that has nothing to do with holidays. Husbands and fathers simply wanted to protect the frailest members of their family, since Delos in its heyday attracted thousands of passing sailors and traders looking for a bit of “fun” on the side.
- From Paul McCartney to Elon Mask Mykonos is the toast of everyone who’s anyone. But its greatest celebrity is not even human. Throughout his long and prolific career, Petros the Pelican has been petted and cajoled by Hollywood stars and royalty and has even gone to New York for a filming project. As the story goes, during Queen Frederica’s Royal cruise to the Greek islands in 1954 a wounded pelican was found on Mykonos’ shores and nursed back to life by a local fisherman. The bird was named in honour of Petros, a Mykonian who bravely fought for his country’s freedom during World War II. The adorable animal soon became the darling of the jet setters – the likes of Jackie O – who were at the time starting to frequent the island. After the original Petros’s demise in a traffic accident in the 80s, America’s former first lady decided to donate another pelican to Mykonos. This tradition continues today.
- Mykonos’ characteristically rocky landscape is poor in flora – yet far richer in fauna than you might think. Its signature animals are the large, spiky lizards that lounge prettily on the rocks and the dry stone fences. Locals still call them “crocodiles”, like the Ionians who inhabited Mykonos used to do several aeons ago. In fact, the very species of the crocodile owes its name to this indigenous Mykonian creature: when the Ionians went to Egypt, they thought that animals swimming in the Nile looked like the lizards in Mykonos and therefore named them “crocodiles”, too.
- “Unless you have seen the houses in Mykonos, you can’t pretend to be an architect”. Le Corbusier fell in love with Mykonos’s pristine beauty which he exalted on every possible occasion. But actually, the trademark whitewashed houses of Chora were yellow, pink or blue until the 1930s, when former Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas decreed that for hygienic purposes all Cycladic residences must be covered with lime. Cholera was plaguing the country and lime was the most potent disinfectant at the time. The once colourful houses then turned white overnight under the watchful eye of the local policemen.
- Dotted with designer stores, gourmet restaurants and lively bars Chora’s trademark labyrinth streets are a delight to get lost in. Yet their characteristic maze-like form is attributed to Mykonos’ pirate days. Back in the 1700s, the island was plagued by ferocious raids. As a solution, the locals constructed these winding lanes to confuse marauders, and to detain them from finding their way into the heart of town.
- Mykonian pirates were not always bad, however. While they terrorised their enemies at sea, they also protected their kinsmen against the Turks and even provided them with sustenance. In fact, the last living Mykonian Pirate, Marmelehas, who took into buccaneering to avoid becoming enslaved by the Ottomans, was nicknamed “Robin of the Seas”, as he was actively helping orphans and widows.
More intriguing facts about Mykonos
- Little Venice is the postcard-pretty, seafront neighbourhood in town where the world’s jet setters rendezvous to play. The colourful rows of houses that evoke the famed Italian city attest to the island’s deep-rooted connection with La Serenissima. Mykonos was under the direct rule of the Venetians from 1390 until 1718 when it was conquered by the Ottomans.
- The 19m high Armenistis Lighthouse which was built in 1891, boasts stunning sunset views. The good news is that it’s an often overlooked attraction, so you won’t have to beat the crowds there.
- Mykonos has over 800 churches but the most famous is arguably the brilliant-white, asymmetrical and distinctly unique Panagia (Virgin Mary) Paraportiani. Constructed in various phases, from the late 14th to the 17th century, next to the entrance of the Medieval castle, it is actually five churches amalgamated in one. With Byzantine, vernacular, traditional and western influences, Paraportiani presents a very interesting architectural assemblage and is one of the most photographed landmarks in Greece.
Did these intriguing facts about Mykonos get your appetite whetted? Stay tuned to the San Marco luxury hotel and villas blog for more inside tips and info.