Mykonos and Delos – Cyclades, Greece

White, White Cubist Homes Against a Blue, Blue Sea

Mykonos has long been Greece’s lively party island, and its image as a des­tination of attractive poseurs and young, dance-till-dawn Eurotravelers either lures or discourages potential first-timers. Chora, the postcard capital, is clean, blindingly white­washed, and well maintained.

Cosmopolitan clubs, gay bars, and wonderful (often nude) beaches populate a barren island where few of the old Greek traditions remain. The charm of the dry, rugged landscape dotted with retired windmills, some 400 churches, chapels, and shrines and the main town’s stacked sugar cube houses with splashes of sky-blue doors and domes and brilliant red and pink bougainvillea can be all but obliterated by the high-season crowds.

The warren of narrow streets was meant to defy the wind and confuse pirates, who plagued Mykonos in the 18th and 19th cen­turies; they still bemuse nonislanders, who enjoy getting lost among the tavernas, upscale bou­tiques, and Mykoniot homes.

The resident peli­can is a tame but curmudgeonly mascot who parades the waterfront and seems to have the run of things. The smallest of the Cycladic group, Mykonos is a mere 10 by 7 miles. You can escape the cruise ship crowds by heading to a secluded beach 2 miles out of town and check­ing in to the intimate Kivotos Clubhotel, Mykonos’s best. Or hop on a boat to the neigh­boring island of Delos.

The small, windswept island of Delos was the mythical birthplace of Apollo, god of truth and light, and his twin sister, the moon goddess Artemis. By 1000 B.C. the Ionians had inhabited the island and made it a religious center.

Strategically positioned, and protected against attack by its sacred status, Delos flourished as the Aegean’s major seaport and slave-trading center before gradually being abandoned around 70 B.C. Almost the entire island—a mere 1.5 square miles—is one large open-air archaeology museum, covered with ancient ruins, mosaics, and, in the spring months, wild- flowers.

Excavations begun in the late 19th century continue today. Its most photographed site is the famous Terrace of the Lions, where five of the original nine white-marble beasts (circa 7th century B.C.) remain. You may recall having seen one outside the entrance to Venice’s Arsenal; Greece is still trying to get it back.

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