Mykonos and Delos lie side by side in the Cyclades chain of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. They could not provide more of a contrast – yet together they provide the quintessential Greek experience.
Mykonos is a touristy party island. You can, however, easily look beyond this veneer to discover her charm. The whitewashed Cycladic architecture revealed itself strikingly in the morning sun as my ferry arrived. A taxi maneuvered its way through the narrow streets to my hotel, barely missing a moped or two.
The latter is the preferred means of transport around the island and can be rented cheaply, but I preferred to stroll through the unique, narrow streets and back alleys to take in the beauty of the island at my own pace. One can find solitude on these hikes, particularly during the off-season. The maze of passageways throughout the islands was deliberately conceived to confuse the pirates who routinely invaded Mykonos centuries ago.
Some of the iconic highlights of Mykonos include her windmills and the latest in the generational line of pelicans named Petros, the official mascot of the islands.
Delos, by contrast, is more attuned to those with an interest in the rich history of Greece. It can be reached as a day trip from Mykonos. (You can’t spend the night, as there are no accommodations.) The island was a banking and trading center in the ancient world and is a treasure trove of ruins and artifacts dating back thousands of years.
Amidst the layers of history there are statues, ruins of ancient Roman houses, temples to Isis, Athena and other Greek gods, and a theater. The floor mosaic of dolphins and the Avenue of Lions are two of my favorite spots on the island. There is also a very good archaeological museum that helps place everything in context. A lone palm tree designates the legendary spot where the god Apollo was born.
The weather on the islands can be windy and hot. On the first day my ferry was scheduled to leave from Mykonos the trip was cancelled due to wind – it’s wise to allow an extra day or two in Mykonos if you’re planning on visiting Delos. Don’t forget to bring water.
The Greek Islands have been a fascination of mine for years ever since I read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology as a child. This visit to my first two Greek islands, Mykonos and Delos, did not disappoint.