The island of Mykonos is one of the most picturesque - and popular - of the Cyclades archipelago, situated between Tinos and Naxos. During the peak season the island's local population of 5,000 inhabitants is swelled by a factor of ten or 15. Many visitors arrive at the island from Piraeus near Athens from where there is a daily ferry service, or by air from the Greek capital city. The picture-postcard main town of Mykonos is a maze of narrow streets lined with pretty white-washed houses and shops. Nearby are several splendid beaches.
The history of civilisation on Mykonos is not well chronicled, although the generally accepted view is that the island was first colonised by the Ionians and later developed by the Athenians. There followed a relatively prosperous period under Ptolemy and again under the Romans. Little knowledge exists of the island's fate during the Byzantine era and the next major landmark appears in 1537 when Mykonos was under Turkish rule.
This heralded a period of great riches and influence for Mykonos, thanks to considerable commercial maritime activities, becoming by the end of the 1700s one of the most powerful islands in the archipelago. The island also became a regular target for pirates, thus Mykonos came under the direct defence of the army, which maintained a presence until independence in 1821.
The architectural highlight of the capital town is Panaghia Paraportiani church, a magnificent combination of Byzantine and western features. The church, with seven chapels around a square, is located in the picturesque hillside Kastro area, originally fortified by the Venetians. Indeed, the area below Kastro is called Venice after the houses seemingly built on the sea. At another square, according to tradition, any woman who drinks from each of three fountains will marry within a year.
Another popular building is the local art museum which includes a collection of furniture, religious icons, sculptures and musical instruments. An archaeological museum has exhibits from the ruins of Renea. Grilled fish is a highly recommended Mykonos speciality.


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