“The light of Greece opened my eyes, penetrated my pores, expanded my whole being.” Henry Miller
The Greek island of Mykonos (the island of light) is a whitewashed paradise in the Cyclades. According to Greek myths, the island was formed from the fossilised bodies of troublesome giants killed by Hercules and named after Mykonos, the island’s first ruler who also happened to be the grandson of Apollo. First put on the tourist map by the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis in the 1950’s it has continued to attract a steady stream of celebrities, royalty and wealthy globetrotters ever since.
With something for every type of traveller it offers history, culture, golden sandy beaches, retail therapy, traditional restaurants as well as glitzy high-end dining and glamorous, some may say wild, nightlife. Public transport is a bit hit and miss; buses are very cheap but don’t always run to schedule and with only thirty one taxis for the whole island they are irregular and pricey. The best way to explore is to hire an ATV, scooter or car that can be picked up at the airport or delivered to your accommodation.
Those looking to avoid the crowded beaches and streets should avoid the high season of July and August when prices and temperatures soar. As well as being famed as a gay friendly destination the island’s non-stop summer party scene has earned it the nickname of ‘the Ibiza of Greece’ and attracts performances from world renowned DJs. The quieter months of May and September still offer sunny weather without the intense heat and overall it’s less hectic and definitely more affordable.
Escape the busy areas and explore the North of the island but don’t expect a sunlounger on the beaches. Windswept due to it’s exposure to the dry and strong meltemi winds, we found the breeze a welcome respite from the heat. Offering pretty mountainous scenery and an abundance of nature it’s still in close proximity to Mykonos Town and is favoured by watersport enthusiasts.
Popular beaches include Agios Sostis and Fokos; both have naturist (sans clothes) sunbathing spots unlike Panormos and Ftelia where we stayed. Ftelia is certainly popular with windsurfers and kite surfers and has a hippy vibe. It’s a laid back place with a coffee bar on the beach and Ftelia Castaway restaurant up on the rocks that offers a varied mediterranean menu including huge, delicious pizzas. Alemàgou, the all-day beach bar and restaurant, is located at Tarsanas beach also in Ftelia, a self title boho haven that offers cabanas and a laid back ambiance.
Ano Mera village is the most populated area of the island and offers visitors a square filled with traditional tavernas. The monastery of Panagia Tourliani is situated here with it’s museum showcasing holy vestments (robes). The 18th century Paleokastro monastery sits on the hill above the village and is still a working nunnery, visitors can also see the remains of Gyzi, a Byzantine castle. In the northern most point lies Armenistis lighthouse, a scenic vantage point for watching the boats visiting Mykonos.
The picturesque Mykonos Town (Hora) is spread out over a series of narrow alleyways and cobbled streets that lead all to the harbour. The famous blue doors and windows are continually snapped as tourists pose in doorways or in front of the beautiful bright pink bougainvillea. Retail opportunities vary from tacky souvenirs, delicate white clothing and traditional leather sandals to high-end designer shops like Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Be prepared to go round in circles as you wander through the narrow passageways built as a maze by the locals to catch disoriented pirates.
The iconic 16th century windmills are a well-known landmark on the island, once used for agricultural purposes they now serve purely as a tourist attraction. While there are lots of these mills dotted around the island (sixteen in total) it’s the ledge above the town that has the largest cluster. Seven traditional white spherical stone buildings with pointed thatched roofs that feature on every postcard and souvenir.
On the water’s edge below the windmills sits the colourful buildings of Little Venice where an array of open-fronted bars fill up in time for sunset. It’s a perfect spot for a sundowner if you are lucky enough to find a seat, we chose Breeze Cocktail Bar but you are spoilt for choice if you time it right. Jackie O’ located on the waterfront by the church of Paraportiani is another great spot for a sunset cocktail, some dinner and late night dancing. Like its sister venue at Super Paradise its nightly drag-shows are the talk of the town.
Everyone descends on Mykonos Town for a choice of dining options for every budget and palette. The more traditional venues at the harbour serve gyros (greek kebab served in pitta) and Greek salads with plenty of feta and grilled halloumi. Delicious flavoured gelato, frozen Greek yogurt and crepes oozing with nutella can be found in the many dessert shops in the alleyways. For an unforgettable high-end Cantonese dining experience try Ling Ling by Hakkasan and for the most delicious alfresco Italian meal try Casa di Giorgio, I can thoroughly recommend the homemade pizzas and salads.
The best beaches on are on the Southern coast and offer protection from the winds of the North. The beaches attract the party crowd looking for fun in the sun and late night revelry. It’s also the place to find more naturist stretches, gay friendly beaches and fancy beach clubs like Nammos and Scorpio.
Paradise Beach is home to the Paradise Club which is the biggest on the island, a massive outdoor venue with three stages and a summer line-up of world famous DJ’s. Billed as the best club in Mykonos, Cavo Paradiso is just left of Paradise Beach on the edge of a 150ft cliff overlooking the sea. This half-open air venue features annually on the world’s best club lists, notorious for its techno beats and full moon parties, the fun starts late and continues until way after sunrise.
Super Paradise is a gay-friendly beach with beach bars and an upbeat atmosphere, Jackie O’ Beach Club offers live music and drag acts. Ornos is family-friendly beach while Agios Ioannis is beautiful but more secluded. Platys Gialos is a wide beach with lots of restaurants and from where you catch the water taxi to Super Paradise and Elia is the island’s longest beach.
Psarou Beach beckons the glam set to party at the Conde Nast World’s Best Beach Club 2017, Nammos Mykonos. Accessed via a steep windy road Nammos is an ideal place to spend a day (and evening) if your budget allows. Relax on a designer lounger, sip chilled wines and watch the VIP’s arrive by launch from their superyacht moored in the bay. Enjoy the very best hospitality courtesy of Nammos restaurant, smoke shisha and splash out on a private cabana complete with butler.
Paraga Beach, on the island’s sun drenched southernmost tip, is home to Scorpio Mykonos a rustic sanctuary that has been attracting the fashionable set since it opened in 2015. It’s back to nature theme does not distract from the luxury experience, Scorpio’s wild surroundings are extremely popular. The fun is centred around a Greek agora (gathering space) where it’s rural charm meets healthy Mediterranean cuisine, top class mixology and musical sunset rituals.
Boat trips are a popular excursion, cruise in a yacht to the archaeological site of Delos and the uninhabited island of Rhenia, sail the Southern coast in a Catamaran and snorkel in the azure blue waters or jump on a ferry to Santorini.
If you are planning a trip to Mykonos bear in mind that the island literally shuts down in October and awakens ready to party from May onwards. Book early for July and August if you are looking for accommodation during the party season; be prepared for bustling crowds and high price tags. Go in May or September/October when the weather is still amazing but the partygoers/cruise ships have dispersed somewhat.
Mykonos is an incredibility beautiful island, the beaches are stunning, the weather is glorious and the locals are pretty friendly. It offers great dining and nightlife experiences but its overwhelming popularity means you must be prepared to pay more than the less glitzy islands.
All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved.
For a comprehensive guide to all the Greek Islands visit santorinidave.com