Mykonos is one of the most famous Greek islands and has become widely known as the Ibiza of Greece. It gained a world reputation through the 1960s as a summer resort for hippies, artists, and the wealthy. Since then, it has also become a welcoming destination for the LGBTQ+ community. And this bit is clearly obvious.
Mykonos is full of traditional cube houses that have been whitewashed (typically with blue trim). Talking to the lady who ran our villas she advised that the island has a normal population of 11,500. During the day at least one cruise ship and any number of ferries arrive swelling this number to about 3 times that. She then told us that during peak season (July and August) that there are generally around 400,000 on the island each day.
Having taken a 40 minute ferry ride from Syros, we checked in and crashed for a bit as Jill was not feeling entirely well and after a nap we headed into the town. This involved about a 1200m walk downhill and we were right in the middle of everything. the first thing that you run across is a tiny beach in the heart of town (Chora) jammed with wildly inappropriately dressed people.
Probably a good time to pause and reflect upon some of the fashion choices that have become evident since our arrival in Greece. The first and most notable item is the track suit. Greek men happily sport these at every opportunity. The women however have taken it to another level with the revival of the velour tracksuit. These are worn with pride, usually 2 sizes smaller than they should be and in varying degrees of see through.
The next is the seemingly apparent lack of mirrors within houses anymore. Surely this is the case as there is no way some of these people would leave the house looking like they do, if they owned a mirror. Jill has now banned me from passing comment anymore.
Lastly, I am not sure where in the world has the highest concentration of botox and fillers, but this place must be a contender. The number of duck lipped women that we passed in an hour was simply astounding. Add to that the LGBTQ+ community of vain men and the place is awash with plastic people (as Jill likes to call them). And finally the current trend of having the biggest blackest eyelashes has left a whole generation with huge black caterpillars on their faces.
After the beach you hit the town centre proper. This is stunningly pretty but is a mass of tourist shops and (hugely) overpriced restaurants. They look amazing and are right on the water and certainly make the most of the beautiful weather with outdoor seating. But the prices are obscene for what you get. By way of example, the giros that we had been buying in Athens and Syros for 3.5 euro has now leapt to 15 euro. The real food was exorbitant.
The streets are narrow, the shops are funky and generally the vibe is good. Some of the tour groups off the cruise ships can be a bit ignorant but in shoulder season it was all still pretty manageable. Heading down and around past the old port you come to a quieter section which is the home of the Church of Panagia Paraportiani. It is located at the entrance of the Kastro neighborhood, right by the sea. The interesting thing about this is that it is actually five small churches, built on top of or next to the other.
From here you keep walking around the corner and hit a maze of restaurants running right along the water. Once you have zig-zagged your way to the other end you will find that you have just passed through the Little Venice of Mykonos. The tourist spiel tells you that it is one of the most romantic places on the island, replete with elegant and gorgeous old houses situated precariously on the edge of the land. All I found was a mass of humanity trying to squeeze past each other on a tiny alley between restaurant patrons. Once you get to the end, if you turn around, you do actually get to see the 6-8 houses on the water.
The construction of the Little Venice neighborhood is estimated to have taken place from the 13th to the mid-18th century. During that timeframe, the island was under Venetian rule.
As you pop out past the mass of people you come upon the island’s official trademark – the traditional windmills. They stand on a hill overlooking the harbour and can be seen from most places around town. There are 16 windmills on Mykonos, seven of these are on the hill near town. For the most part, they were built in the 16th century by the Venetians.
By this time you have ticked all of the tourist boxes (around town at least) and you are about an hour into your trip. There are a few other things around to see (such as the town Hall, and Museums – Agricultural, Archaeological, Folklore and Nautical) but from here on it is about wandering the streets or heading out of town to some of the beaches.
Having hit the main tourist spots, we stopped for a meal. Our last meal in Syros had been our most expensive in Greece so far. Our first meal in Mykonos blew that out of the water by adding about another 50% on top of that bill. And we had chosen one of the more reasonably priced restaurants in the back streets and not one of the ones on the water. The meal itself was lovely, but the tourist markup was massive.
The average water temperature on Mykonos ranges from 16C to 25C (60F to 77F), depending on the time of year, but reaches about 27C (80F) in August.
The majority of beaches on Mykonos are private. This does not mean that they are secluded but rather that you have to pay to use them. Being Australian the beaches pale by comparison to what we are used to (a common complaint) but they can still be nice nonetheless. We did not go beach hopping but for the sake of the blog I have included some of the more popular ones from the tourist spiels (most notably from www.mykonosbeachesguide.com).
Agio Stefanos – the closest major beach to the port, it offers shallow waters and romantic sunset views. Because of its central and wind-protected location, it can often be crowded with people of all ages, who relax as the ships go by.
Elia – is the largest beach on the island and nudity is common. It’s known as Mykonos’ “gay beach,” but it attracts all kinds of people. Much of it is taken over by umbrellas and sunbeds, but there’s a small section for those who prefer to lie in the sand.
Kalafatis – Popular among windsurfers and families, this is the beach for you if you enjoy water sports or are traveling with the kids.
Ornos – the most family-friendly beach in Mykonos and one of the trendiest for young people and couples. It’s a frequent stop for boats and yachts, and has many places to eat and drink.
Paradise is the famous party beach, filled places to eat, drink, and shop. Once a popular gay destination, it’s now largely straight, as the gay crowds currently prefer Elia.
Paraga – a party atmosphere during the day, it’s relatively quiet at night. The right side is more secluded and tends to attract naturists.
Psarou – this small beach is known to have some of the clearest waters and best sand in Mykonos, and for being a spot for celebrity sightings!
And the beach that they rated the highest was Platys Gialos. The tourist spiel claims that is is: Beautiful and with crystal-clear waters, Platys Gialos (sometimes spelled Platis Yialos) is the best beach in Mykonos. It’s a convenient starting point to discover other beaches, on foot or on an hourly water taxi, and home to some of the best hotels on the island, located right by the sand and facing the sea. It has restaurants and bars serving meals and drinks throughout the day. This is not a party beach, but it has a lively atmosphere. Parasols and loungers cover most of the sand, and the shallow water is perfect for refreshing swims.
Mykonos is a world for the vacuous, those that want to see celebrities (who regularly visit) and be seen by all. It was too touristy, too expensive, too full of drunk teenagers and too plastic for us. If we are brutally honest, neither Jill nor I really enjoyed Mykonos. While it is nice to be able to say that we have been here, I do not see a time when either of us would choose to come back.
That said, we do see the attraction and if you wanted to kick back and chill out, our hotel was ideal. Stunning views, relatively quiet, super friendly. It was just the inevitable forays into the tourism central that would keep us away. Our last day in town was spent kicking back at the hotel and generally just enjoying the view and the laid-back lifestyle.
Our time on Syros (ignoring the stairs) was much more enjoyable.