If you were to picture Mykonos in your mind’s eye, you would likely conjure up images of cool waters, a salty sea breeze, and white Mykonos windmills gracing the rocky landscape. Here’s a quick guide to the history of the thatched structures, where to see them, and the best time to go!
Mykonos lies in the Cyclades, a group of clustered Greek islands centred around the once thriving isle of Delos (a place which, in antiquity, was thought to have been the birthplace of Apollo). So-called because the Cyclades form a circular shape, some of the most popular of the collection of islands include eternal Santorini, and of course, historic Mykonos.
A quick history of the Windmills on Mykonos
Once upon a time, much of the industry on Mykonos was focused on grain production, specifically wheat. And today, although Mykonos is probably best-known for its nightlife (and strong winds), some of the ancient mills still exist as a testament to the rich past and history of the island.
The windmills were first constructed by the Venetians at some point during the 16th-century. Like many of the islands in modern day Greece, Mykonos once lay on an important trade route and its windy weather was perfect for operating windmills.
In use for centuries, the windmills ceased to mills grain at some point during the 20th-century when grain production became less valuable. Now, much of industry in Mykonos and Mykonos town (which is also known locally as ‘Chora’) is focused on tourism.
Now, sixteen windmills survive on Mykonos. Of these, seven are located within Mykonos town and five are concentrated on a straight strip of land which sits high above the crashing waves below and the pretty district of Little Venice a few hundred metres away.
The 5 together are known collectively as ‘Kato Myloi’ (lower windmills) and offer beautiful views of the island. Within the main harbour, the Bonis Windmill now houses a local museum dedicated to the history of the Mykonos Windmills, as well as that of agriculture in the area. Though privately owned, the oldest windmill on the island is Geronymos Mill and dates back to the 18th-century.
Just below the windmills, the picturesque houses that form ‘Little Venice’ lay alongside the glittering waters and are best viewed at sunset. As you may well have guessed, the bars, bistros, cafés, and houses which sit on this area of Mykonos are so called because they (very mildly) resemble the Italian city of Venice.
And the Venetian connection doesn’t end there. Instead, during the 14th-century, Mykonos lay under the direct rule of the Venetians. This carried on right up until the 18th-century when the island fell into the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Many of the buildings within Little Venice were actually built during the Middle Ages and were once the preserve of wealthy merchants and sea captains.
How to visit the Mykonos Windmills
The windmills are best seen during golden hour, preferably sunset. Should you opt to rise early and visit the mills at sunrise, you’ll likely get fewer people within your photos. However, sunset presents the real draw as the sun sets on the horizon of the Aegean Sea, producing beautiful colours and a sky to remember for days and weeks to come…
Elsewhere in Mykonos town, small fully pedestrianised streets are populated by doorways and staircases painted in pops of colour as plenty of cats roam about freely. Truth be told, you could easily spend a couple of hours meandering the narrow lanes and allowing the town to reveal itself to you.
While the windmills themselves lie just above Mykonos town and are fairly easy to visit, Mykonos can be a little harder to reach in an affordable way due to the astronomic cost of air travel within Greece. As such, one of the best ways to see iconic Mykonos sights such as the windmills, waterfront bars, and Little Venice is island hopping (yes, this surprised me too!)
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I visited Mykonos with Celestyal Cruises but all opinions, photos, and words are my own! (We’re still aboard the cruise so look out for more Mykonos and other Greece related content soon!)