Explore the Glamorous of the Greek islands – Mykonos.
Circling around the granite island of Mykonos in our cramped Airbus, we caught sight of the landmarks easily in the cloudless skies. The historic windmills that once milled wheat, the whitewashed buildings shimmering in the sunshine, the chaotic Paraportiani church, the rocky promontory of Little Venice. It looked stunning.
Whatever problems Greece may face with its economy, there’s always hope when you’ve got islands like this.
After landing, we flagged down a cab at the tiny airport just outside of Mykonos Town (or Chora as it’s known to locals) for the short journey to our hotel, the Mykonos Theoxenia. Nestled on the cliffs just behind the windmills, it didn’t look much from the outside but made up for it with beautifully designed rooms, a warm welcome and a peaceful pool area. Just the place to relax for a few hours after a long flight.
Mykonos – one of the Cyclades – is the glamour island. Expensive yachts, elegant bars, trendy restaurants and high prices give the game away. It’s also the gay capital of the Greek islands and some of its beaches throb with parties and clubbers, gay, straight, rich and not-so-rich (I hesitate to say poor). But not everything involves taking out a second mortgage and you can find plenty of peace and quiet too if that’s what you want.
Mykonos Town (pictured here) is a pretty place, built up around a small harbour that was home to a thriving fishing fleet before over-fishing took its toll. It’s easy to lose yourself in the narrow alleys and little squares, among the white-painted buildings. Residents take pride in their homes, many of which have outside wooden stairs to the floors above – stairs that are painted in bright colours, draped in flowers and climbing plants.
Turn a corner and you could find a little cafe or bar, a gallery and even Petros the pelican – the island’s famous mascot – being led around by his keeper.
But you’ll find very few decent beaches around town. For those, you’ll need to venture elsewhere using one of the taxis, bus services or small boats that chug along the coast regularly from the capital. Whatever way you go, you’ll soon find that this is a pretty barren island in parts, exposed as it has been over centuries to harsh winter winds. Giant granite boulders dot the landscape along with farm buildings, the occasional village and holiday development.
The big name (and often nudist) beaches are Paraga, Paradise, Elia and Super Paradise, the latter two being particularly popular with gay visitors and some with pounding music from the beach bars. Agrari is a few minutes away from Elia but not as built up. Panormos and Agios Sostis are quieter but you won’t be able to get to them without a car or taxi. Kalafatis is good for wind surfing. Other decent beaches are at Platis Yialos, Ornos, Kalafati and Agia Anna but the truth is that there are plenty to choose from, some of them small, remote and only reachable by car.
Come evening, Mykonos Town comes alive and visitors flock to Little Venice (or Alefkandra) to see the famous sunsets. We’re joined by holidaymakers from the latest cruise ship to call – and they seem to arrive every day. We walk down through the crowds, past the windmills and the awful car park that sits before them. We join the strollers down Enopolon Dynameon Street, home to several local museums including the Aegean Maritime and the Folk Museum.
Back at Little Venice – a place where the women of the island used to wash clothes – we find a bar, pay far too much for a beer or two and ponder the choice of restaurants. You can eat on the main tourist drags and around the harbours but, as with the bars, you’ll pay a lot more than you will in the quieter parts of town. You’ll pay the most anywhere around Little Venice but do try the local sausage – louza loukaniko – as well as the seafood. As far as bars go, you’ll be spoiled for choice whether you’re gay, straight or indifferent.
One day we get on a boat to the uninhabited island of Delos, a place where Apollo and Artemis were born according to Greek myth. There are endless and fascinating archaeological remains if that’s your thing as well as great – and sometimes steep – walks. But it’s pretty exposed so take plenty of water, sun screen and a hat. There are also boat services to Tinos and Naxos.
Top tip: If you hire a car in Mykonos, don’t even try to drive it into the centre of town. It’s much easier to park on the outskirts and walk in.
Getting to Mykonos and other handy info:
We travelled in mid to late May when things were still pretty quiet on the island but the weather was perfect.
Mykonos doesn’t have to be expensive. There are budget hotel options and camping sites – many of them with good reviews such as the Tagoo and the Milena. And eating where the locals do outside of the main, touristy part of town is a lot cheaper.
- Most flights to Mykonos are in the summer season only although Aegean Airlines flies year-round to Athens.
- Otherwise, search with Opodo or UK – in Australia, Canada or the USA
For accommodation ideas and reviews look at Hotels.com or TripAdvisor
- Among others with flights and/or holidays are easyJet, Lowcostholidays.com and Thomson Holidays