Mykonos is a world class destination. It is Greece’s party island! Here you’ll find the international jet set mingling with the rest of us and not being given special treatment, whether seeking an umbrella on the beach or a table in the trendiest restaurant. Mykonos combines its gorgeous beaches with dazzling Cycladic architecture and an endless variety of places to stay and things to do.
You have to go to Mykonos at least once in your life. Only if you can’t bear crowds or the idea that the island has been transformed into one big entertainment centre would you be justified in not going. But visiting the Greek islands without seeing Mykonos is like travelling to the United States and bypassing New York.
Mykonos, one of the northeastern Cyclades, lies in the centre of the Aegean and is home to 9,300 permanent inhabitants. Its climate is typically Mediterranean, with mild, fairly dry winters and blustery north winds in summer that make the heat more bearable. An island of low hills, it is stony and arid with very little vegetation.
For centuries Mykonos lived under the shadow of its neighbour, Delos, which in antiquity was the most sacred island in the Greek world. In our own day, it is a major archaeological site. In the past, travellers used Mykonos as a base for visiting Delos, until they were eventually bewitched by its own charms and natural beauty. It gradually began to be known abroad and the rapid growth of tourism soon made it an international summer resort. Now, the tables are turned and Delos is in the shadow of Mykonos.
Today the island is exceptionally well equipped with facilities for tourists and offers an enormous range of entertainment possibilities. Most of its beaches are among the most beautiful in Greece. And among its habituates are some of the planet’s most famous personalities, not a few of whom have built lovely vacation homes. From the architectural point of view, only the Hora (main town/port) is of particular interest. Nevertheless, Ano Mera, the island’s sole village apart from Hora, and the new, small summer settlements built on protected coves, are worth a look. These include Ornos and AiGiannis, with its restaurants, hotels and bars, Agios Stephanos, Tourlos and Platys Gialos.
The island took its name from a legendary ancient hero called Mykonos. Like most of the Aegean islands, it was a member of the 1st and 2nd Athenian Confederacy. In 166 BC the Romans conquered the Cyclades, after which Mykonos enjoyed a certain prosperity, which came to an abrupt end with the destruction of the sanctuary on Delos by Mithridates (88 BC). After the fall of Constantinople to the Franks, the Venetians governed the island (1207-1537) until it was devastated by the notorious Turkish admiral, Khaireddin Barbarossa. During the Ottoman occupation, the islanders were engaged in shipping and trade and dabbled in piracy on the side. Led by the heroine Manto Mavrogenous, they sent their experienced crews to fight in the war of Independence. After the liberation of Greece, in the early 19th c., the Mykonians rebuilt their merchant fleet and slowly began to grow wealthy. The replacement of sails by steam nipped their economy in the bud and many islanders were forced to emigrate in order to survive. Mykonos was one of the first Greek islands to attract tourism in the mid 50s and has held its popularity ever since among sophisticates.
This is a gem of a town, a prime example of Cycladic architecture. Even the noted architect-town planner Le Corbusier admired its harmony and the artistry of the self-taught master builders who constructed it over time. Today a listed settlement, it consists of narrow, whitewashed alleyways, tiny churches, white houses with brightly painted woodwork and marvellous windmills.
The pelican you’ll see eating fish in the port is one of a series named Petros; he’s the island’s mascot.
The main street, Matogianni with its chic shops, cafes and bars, is where the island’s pulse throbs. Apart from the attractive things you’ll see as you stroll around the Hora’s winding lanes, you’ll also have the chance to shop or window shop in the fabulous, but pricey, boutiques, which carry all the most exclusive name brands. Among them are the outstanding Greek jewellers.
By day the pace in the Hora is slow and calm. But once the sun sets, the picturesque alleys fill to bursting with the people who come to Mykonos just to check out its celebrated nightlife.
The beaches of Mykonos rank among the best in the Aegean, in Greece, and perhaps in the world. July and August are surely the worst time to visit them, but in June and September, you’ll find the weather better and the crowds reduced. Some may even be deserted. Most of the best beaches are on the south coast, sheltered from the prevailing northerly winds, the “meltemia”. You can get to these beaches, including Paranga, Paradise, Super Paradise, Agrari and Elia, by caique from Platys Gialos.
Discover the Hip side of Greece